One of the most persistent questions that Christians ask is about the apparent ‘prosperity’ of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous. We want to believe that there is a direct line of cause and effect – if we do good things and live in obedience to the Lord, that He will spare us pain and difficulty. We wonder, or at least I do, why He allows those who are cruel and oppressive to flourish, why He does not strike them down in judgment! Following the same impulse, we are often too quick to judge those who suffer, concluding that they must have done something to ‘deserve’ it or that their faith was flawed so that they are unable to access God’s provision or power. Our logic says, “If you are suffering, you must have created the circumstances that are causing it.” Sometimes that is true. However, when we dig deeper, we often cannot see an immediate ‘cause and effect.’ We find only mystery.
Habakkuk, the preacher who was a contemporary of Jeremiah, living in Jerusalem about 600 years before the time of Jesus, wrote about living by faith. He pondered the question of fairness and God’s will, wondering why Judah could ignore her God and not be punished. When the Lord showed him that the Assyrians would come and conquer Judah, he wondered why God would use a nation even more wicked than Judah to bring correction to His people. From his prayers and thoughts came a little book that shines bright for us with a message capsulated in this passage – “the righteous will live by his faith— the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Habakkuk 2:4,20, NIV)
How often have we prayed something like this, or at least felt these thoughts rising in our minds? “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.” (Habakkuk 1:2, NLT) Living in faith is not easy and it never has been! He continues his prayer for understanding this way. “God, you’re from eternity, aren’t you? Holy God, we aren’t going to die, are we? God, you chose Babylonians for your judgment work? Rock-Solid God, you gave them the job of discipline? But you can’t be serious! You can’t condone evil! So why don’t you do something about this? Why are you silent now? This outrage! Evil men swallow up the righteous and you stand around and watch!” (Habakkuk 1:12-13, The Message) I feel his emotions, don’t you?
How, then are God’s people different, are we just left to struggle with our emotions, giving up to ‘fate’ and resigned to endure as best we can? That is an incomplete understanding of faith.
The submission that grows out of faith is not the same as throwing in the towel and walking away from the fight! Faith leads us to acceptance of God’s will and to hope that is anchored securely on His assurance that justice will be done. Jesus said it simply this way – “The first will be last, the last will be first.” How will this be? He teaches that “All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:32-34, NLT)
My late father often reminded me of the importance of faithfulness with this homely little phrase – “Remember, son, God’s payday is not necessarily this Friday.” Both reward and judgment are sometimes out of sight in our limited vision, but they are assured by the eternal purpose and promise of our Father!
The 3rd chapter of Habakkuk is rich with meaning and encouragement. He writes the words that reflect our earnest hope to see things made right and our determination to wait on the Lord. Take this word from the Word today to heart and pray for faith to grow strong, faith that stabilizes you, that keeps you serving, loving, and looking for the Kingdom to come.
O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid;
O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years!
In the midst of the years make it known;
In wrath remember mercy.
A Hymn of Faith
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
Habakkuk 3:2; 17-19 (NKJV)
Blessed assurance Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation purchase of God
Born of His Spirit washed in His blood
Perfect submission perfect delight
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy whispers of love
Perfect submission all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest
Watching and waiting looking above
Filled with His goodness lost in His love
This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
Fanny Jane Crosby | Phoebe Palmer Knapp
© Words: Public Domain