“Worshiping God Anyway” (Habakkuk 3:16-19 sermon)

On November 5th of last year, a killer shot 46 people people who had gathered to worship at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, just southeast of San Antonio. The pastor, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife were out of town that Sunday, but their daughter Annabelle was in the service and was killed by the shooter. At a news conference the next day, Pastor Pomeroy said, “Christ is the one who’s going to be lifted up. That’s what I’m telling everybody. You lean into what you don’t understand. You lean into the Lord … Whatever life brings to you, lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding. I don’t understand, but I know my God does. And that’s where I’ll leave that.” And a few days later the church was having services, with their minister of music leading worship from a wheelchair, still recuperating from his injuries.

That pastor, and that church, exemplify the true Christian spirit. Having endured some of the worst that life can throw at you, they didn’t give up on their faith; instead they decided they were going to worship God anyway. 

That’s the kind of spirit we see in Habakkuk this morning. He’d gotten about the worst news you could get about his future. And yet it didn’t turn his gaze from God. He shows us how he was committed to worship God anyway.  

I.  An Unavoidable Calamity

:16 “I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us.”

Sometimes we might wish we knew the future, but Habakkuk shows us here why God doesn’t usually allow us to know. As a prophet, he KNEW what was going to happen to his country. 

Habakkuk lived about 700 years before the time of Christ, and it was one of the most difficult times in Bible history. The chosen people of God in Israel & Judah had turned away from God’s word, and had been practicing idolatry and all kinds of other sins for generations, and despite God’s warnings through His prophets, and many chastisements for their sins, they continued in them, and had not turned back. God is a very patient God, but as Psalm 103 says, “He will not always strive with us; He will not keep His anger forever.” And after several hundred years, God’s patience had run out. He told His people through several of His prophets, including Habakkuk, that judgment was coming on their land, and that their cities would be destroyed, many of them killed, and others carried away into captivity into Babylon, the nation God was going to use to punish them. 

So Habakkuk the prophet KNEW what was coming; he KNEW that Babylon was going to invade; He KNEW that many of his people were going to perish in the judgment that was coming; that his country was going to be devastated, and thousands, perhaps himself included, were going to be carried off as slaves into a foreign country. He knew that an “unavoidable calamity” was coming upon him and his people.  

If we could see into the future, many of us here today might see similar things:

— we might see God’s judgment come upon OUR land in the not-too-distant future, just like it did upon Judah. We’ve allowed literally millions of babies to be slaughtered in the wombs of their mothers through abortion. We’ve turned away from the scriptural foundations of our country for generations, just like Israel did. And can we think that the outcome is going to be any different for us than it was for them? No, I promise you, just like Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” If our country doesn’t turn back, we WILL face a judgment just like Israel did. It will be an unavoidable calamity.

— And then there are other calamities that will come upon some of us individually as well. If we could be see into the future like Habakkuk could, we might see ahead for some of us: lost jobs, bankruptcies, auto accidents, broken homes, lost children, lost health, and dashed hopes. And YES, some of those things will happen to us even if we are Christians.  

Let me be clear: just because you are a believer in God, it does NOT mean that everything the future holds on THIS EARTH is going to be rosy for you. If someone tells you that, they are a false teacher and a liar. 

Habakkuk was a man of GOD. And yet he said I just have to sit here and wait quietly for the people to come who are going to invade our country and kill and ravage us. What an awful situation to find yourself in. Don’t you dare tell Habakkuk that he’s going to live his “best life now” with material prosperity! He knew he wasn’t.  

See, there are false teachers today who proclaim a “word faith” that basically teaches that you are a “little god,” and that just like God, whatever you say will come to pass. So they would say things like, “I’m not claiming that sickness.” Or “you just need to claim your healing;” or “don’t say bad things will happen, you’re bringing it upon yourself.” These folks might look at Habakkuk, a prophet of God, and say: “Don’t say the fig tree won’t blossom; don’t say there will be no fruit on the vines; don’t say there will be no cattle in the stalls. Don’t say that, and it won’t happen.” But this teaching is not biblical and it is FALSE teaching. Habakkuk was a man of God, and he knew the truth. He knew that there was indeed an “unavoidable calamity” coming upon him and his country, and nothing that he could speak one way or another was going to change it. 

Don’t buy into that false “word faith” teaching. There are unavoidable calamities which WILL come upon us in this world:

— Jesus Himself said, “In this world, you will have tribulation.” 

— Paul said in II Corinthians 4:16 “our outer man IS decaying.” Our bodies ARE going to deteriorate; they will get sick, and they will die. And Paul said we are going to experience persecution: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus WILL be persecuted.” 

The Bible never says Christians are never going to have any problems in this world. In fact, it pretty much promises that we WILL! 

— Some difficulties come upon us because of our own direct sin. (We read this week about King David, who brought great tragedy into his life, and it was a direct consequence of his disobedience to God. Some of us are experiencing the same thing in our own lives. You’ve had calamities happen, and you know why they’re there; you admit it; you know you brought it upon yourself.

— But then there are other calamities that happen to us that are NOT a direct result of our sin. It is just a consequence of the general effect of sin in our world. We read a few days ago where Romans says “the whole creation groans and suffers pains” because of the fall that creation experienced when man sinned. There IS suffering in this world. People DO get hurt; people WILL get sick; people suffer; people die; there is unavoidable calamity in this world. Even for Christian people, no matter how holy you are or how faithfully you serve. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There is “unavoidable calamity” that comes, even on God’s people. 

II.  An Unwavering Commitment 

But the remarkable thing here is, that in the face of this unavoidable calamity, Habakkuk had an unwavering commitment. He said, though all this was going to happen; though this people would arise who would invade them, he said:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom

And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail,

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls,

YET I WILL EXULT IN THE LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”

THAT is an unwavering commitment to God by Habakkuk. He said, I know these hard times are coming where we are going to lose all of our material blessings, food, cattle, and so on (and notice he did NOT say, “I’m claiming blossoms on the fig tree … I’m claiming food in the fields …” No; he knew the calamity was coming, and nothing he could say or do would stop it. But that was not the end. “YET”; he said — and how important that “yet” is! — “YET I will exult in YHWH; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” Despite all he knew he was going to go through, his commitment was to worship God anyway. 

THIS is what God wants to see from us as His people. Do you ever wonder what God is really looking for, when He looks down on earth? What does He like to see? Psalm 147:10 says “He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man.” That tells us that God doesn’t delight in the things that we do. 

See, we human beings take pleasure in things like animals and sports, don’t we? And there is nothing wrong with that, I don’t think. We’ve got folks here like the Reeds who love horses; horses are graceful and strong creatures, and so many people delight in them. That’s a great thing.  And I know that we also have a lot of football fans, who are SO glad that Labor Day Weekend is here and that it is FINALLY football season, AMEN?!!  We take pleasure in things like sports and animals — and I think that’s ok, as long as we keep them in their proper place.  

But Psalm 147 says God doesn’t delight in the strength of the horse; He doesn’t take pleasure in the legs of a man. God does not get His delight from watching horses or football games like we do. So what DOES He delight in? Psalm 147:11 goes on to say, “YHWH delights in those who fear Him; those who wait for His His lovingkindness.” God is delighted when He sees us — sometimes even in very difficult and painful and trying situations, when a lot of people would give up — just “waiting on Him;” looking to Him, and deciding to worship Him anyway! That’s what He loves to see!  

This helps explain a lot of things. It helps explain why, in Job 1, God told Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job?” See, God didn’t delight in the “chariot races” or the Olympic wrestling championships He could’ve see on Mt. Olympus back in the days of ancient Greece.  Instead, what God delighted in was in how Job respected Him, and worshiped Him. THIS is what God is looking for in mankind:

— God delights to see the kind of commitment that Job had, that even when he was smitten from his head to his toes, he said: “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him,” anyway!  (Job 13:15)

— God loves to see the kind of response that David had in Psalm 22, when he was suffering so much that he would call out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me.” He was finding no deliverance, but he would still say in :3, “YET You are holy” and he would still worship Him anyway!

— God loves seeing His children, like Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah say, “Our God is able to deliver us from your fiery furnace O King, BUT EVEN IF He doesn’t, we will not bow down!” We are going to worship HIM, anyway!  

— God loves it when His people like Paul and Silas in Acts 16 get thrown into prison on mission in a foreign country, and yet at midnight they are singing praises to Him anyway!  

THAT is what gives God pleasure; when He sees us glorify Him, even in our worst situations, by choosing to worship Him anyway. 

I have mentioned before the German Pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was thrown into prison for his Biblical beliefs, and who was eventually murdered for them by the Nazis in World War II. While he was in prison there in Germany, he wrote to his fiancee, Maria Von Wedermeyer, and spoke of how “Stifter once said, ‘Pain is a holy angel, who shows treasures to men which otherwise remain forever hidden.’ He wrote that   through (pain) men have become greater than through all joys of the world.’ He said, ‘It must be so and I tell this to myself in my present position over and over again … But it needs to be overcome every time and thus there is an even holier angel than the one of pain, that is the one of joy in God.” (Bonhoeffer letter to Maria Von Wedemeyer, quoted in Metaxas, p. 495)  Bonhoeffer wanted his beloved Maria to know, that there was something greater than his pain: and that was his “joy in God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s circumstances were about as bad as you can get in this world; but he was committed to worship God anyway. 

See, whenever you & I have sickness or pain or great trials, and we decide that we are going to worship God anyway, God is glorified in that. It shows the world that our God is greater than our pain; He is greater than our trials; He is greater than the loss of things that most of the world think you have to have in order to be happy.  The Bible says God gets a bigger joy out of seeing us respond like that, than we get when we watch our horse races or our football games. When like Habakkuk, we face unavoidable calamity, and say, “YET I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation”, THAT thrills the heart of God, when we decide to “worship Him anyway.” 

What does God see when He looks on your going through your trial — maybe the one you are in right now?  Can He look down from heaven and say to His angels: “Have you seen my servant _____ ?” Could God put YOUR name in there, because He sees that you are committed to worship Him, “even if,” the worst things happen in your life?  Do you have that kind of “unwavering commitment” like Habakkuk had, to worship God anyway?   

III.  An Overcoming Strength

But listen: God does not just sit up there in heaven as a spectator and leave us to do the best we can on our own to try to get through our trials. 

The story of the Gospel is that He came down from heaven in Jesus Christ, to die for our sins on the cross, and bring us to Himself, so that even though we are sinners, and will have a lot of troubles in this world, that we can know that one day we will escape this world, and will be with Him in glory forever.

Last Tuesday I went with Alan & Ann to visit one of our senior adult ladies who is homebound, Margaret Jordan. Margaret has some pretty serious physical problems, but while we were there I appreciated how Alan said, “Now, Margaret, we’ve talked about this before: you are ready to meet the Lord, aren’t you?” And she said “Oh yes I am.” Margaret is 87 years old! But she’s ready to be with the Lord. She talked about some of her relatives who’ve gone to heaven ahead of her, and how she’s ready to go when her time comes.  

So if like Margaret you know Jesus as your Savior, then you always have something to rejoice about — even when you are sick or have great trials in your life — because no matter what happens to you here, you have something greater waiting for you in heaven. As we read a few days ago in Romans 8, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which is to be revealed to us.” We have unimaginable, eternal glory to look forward to in heaven!  

But not only does God give us a great hope to look forward to, He also gives us an indomitable strength to help us get THROUGH whatever we face while we are here on earth. 

Habakkuk said that here. Right after he said in :18 that he would exult in God even in his trials, he then said in :19, “The Lord YHWH is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” 

He’s saying, not only am I committed to praise God through this, but He will be my STRENGTH through this. “YHWH is my strength.” 

When he said, “my feet are like hinds’ feet,” a “hind” is a female deer. The deer is known for its nimbleness and grace, and its ability to keep its footing even in a high, precarious place. So when he says “God, you’ve made my feet like hinds’ feet,” he’s saying, You’ve given me the ability to somehow keep my balance in this unsettling, difficult situation! 

He’s saying, God is with me; God is strengthening me; He is stabilizing me in this time.  

And He will do that for us today, too, who will really commit our lives to Him, and truly make Him the center, and Lord of our lives.  He will be with us, and strengthen us, and help us. We don’t have to go through things on our own. We just read where He said in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 

He’s saying, I will be with you in your trials: He’ll be with us in the fiery furnace; He’ll be with us in the lion’s dean; He’ll be with us in the storm. 

Please hear me: God DOES NOT promise that you will not have troubles and difficulty here on earth. In fact, He pretty much promises that you WILL! But He says, if you will commit your life to Me, I will be with you, and I will strengthen you, and help you through those times — and when they’re finished I’ll bring you to My glory.  But He’ll strengthen us and be with us until that day.   

CONCLUSION:

As I was scanning Facebook one morning last week, I saw that one of our ladies, Peggy Allen, shared this very scripture we are looking at this morning, and she made some comments about them. She wrote:

“No matter what you are going through today let the LORD be your strength. Habakkuk 3:18 &19  ‘yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my Salvation! V19 The sovereign LORD is my strength!’” 

Some of you know that Mrs. Peggy lives in great pain, virtually every single day of her life. She has pain in her neck and shoulders that despite several operations, makes it difficult to sleep, or do anything. She can’t even take most pain medications, so she just has to suffer with it. She is here for worship on Sunday mornings when she can be, and when she isn’t, we know she is just in too much pain to be able to come that day. Whenever you’re in church, and look over there and see she’s not in her spot on Sunday morning, whisper a prayer for her. 

But Peggy knows what Habakkuk is talking about, when she says: “Let the LORD be your strength.” “Yet (even despite her daily pain) I will rejoice in the Lord.” Virtually every single day, you see Peggy put up a post on Facebook from her daily Bible reading. See, she is seeking God every morning. She HAS to — when you’re in pain like that, you HAVE to seek God; you have to seek His help. And God does help her: “the sovereign LORD is my strength.” God does strengthen her. So many days, despite her pain, she makes crafts — some of you may have seen pictures on Facebook of the crafts she makes, or you might have seen them in the shop — she sells them at The Tea Tree in Glen Alpine, where all the proceeds go to local missions. 

But see: THAT is what Christianity is all about right there. Despite what the televangelists will try to sell you, Christianity is not about always getting healed from every illness. That doesn’t always happen in this life, and anyone who tries to tell you that, no matter how well-intentioned they are, is a deceiver. Christianity is not all about endless prosperity and healing here and now. Habakkuk shows us that, and if we’re wise, we’ll listen to him. What it IS about, is a committed belief in God through Jesus Christ, that says, “YET I will exult in the Lord” even when the fig tree doesn’t blossom, and there is not a fruit on the vines. And it’s about knowing that He will be with you, and will be the strength you need to carry you through the toughest of times you can face, until He brings you to glory.  

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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