What In The World Can We Do?
What is the most difficult experience that you have ever had?
For some it might have been the death of a spouse, or of a child, or of a parent.
For some it might have been violence committed against them.
For some it might have been being ignored, rejected by someone you love;
For some it might have been a sin that you committed, and you are suffering the consequences.
When those difficult things occurred what were your thoughts toward God?
Did you pray?
Did you pray with in anger?
Or did you pray with a broken and repentant heart?
Habakkuk's reaction to his despair and discouragements is found in 3:17-19.
We can learn how he comes to the conclusion that despite of poverty and despair that
the Lord is everything he needs.
The Book of Habakkuk can be a great encouragement to those who are discouraged
about their present problems and their future prospects.
It can help us to change our attitude from one of pessimism and despair to hope and rejoicing.
The question is whether we will listen to God and trust Him to do what is best for us.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 is a passage that provides us great hope.
But to understand those verses we must see the depth of despair that faced Habakkuk.
Habakkuk 3:16 says: "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."
Habakkuk sees God who is pure and holy as a consuming fire.
In chapter 1 he cried, God, why don't you give us justice! Punish these evildoers!
But here he sees the enormity of that punishment.
He sees the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
And he trembles.
Habakkuk's reaction to this warrior God is incredible.
He has just complained to God about what he sees and he has received answers that are
beyond his ability to fully comprehend.
Then, he sings a song of the power of His God and His body can take no more.
He heart pounds, his stomach trembles, his lips quiver and his bones ache in pain,
and his legs shake beneath him.
Now notice his change of attitude that he has toward his God.
Now it is that of surrender and complete trust in God.
Now Habakkuk says that he will wait patiently for the day of God's judgment to come on his enemies.
That knowledge will sustain him.
He knows that God is good and absolutely just.
He also knows that God will not desert them in the destruction nor will He allow the enemies to escape
from His divine judgment and punishment.
Remember the Babylonians are not trembling.
It is Habakkuk who is trembling with fear over the mighty power of God.
Even though God will also bring His judgment upon His people, Habakkuk has found the faith
to understand that God's grace will sustain him through it all.
This is how the righteous live by their faith.
So God has allowed Habakkuk to see that this coming event would also bring terrible problems
to the faithful.
Seeing all this Habakkuk says in 3:17-19:
"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.
The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like the feet of a deer,
And makes me walk on my high places."
What in the world can someone do when faced with such horrible events?
What would sustain Habakkuk when the Babylonians come to destroy the city?
What would sustain the faithful remnant of the people of God when everything apparently was lost?
Saying: " Well, there is no use crying over spilt milk, and there is no reason to get alarmed over it
or get excited because we cannot do anything about it."
That's not the answer.
The answer was not to exercise psychological detachment.
It was not to say: "The best thing is not to think about it?
Just watch TV or a good book, and don't think about it.
The answer was not to attempt to be courageous.
There is nothing about Habakkuk that was an exhortation to courage.
There is something infinitely greater than just making a mighty effort of the will,
and saying: "I'm not going to wimper or cry, I am going to be a man."
Habakkuk did not use any of these methods.
Habakkuk said that his belly trembled, and his lips quivered at the voice, and rottenness entered
into his bones.
Psychological methods differ greatly from the spiritual method.
It can be cruel to a person who is in a state of uncontrolled fear to tell him,
"Pull yourself together".
If he could, he would, and the trembling would stop.
But Habakkuk is unable to control his physical reactions.
He cannot stop his trembling even if he tried.
What happens when a person loses everything? (Verse 17)
What happens when things go bad, and you lose everything?
Habakkuk is overcome by the vision that God has given him of the judgment upon Babylon
and the distress that His people must go through before that happens.
Habakkuk describes a situation where everything that could go wrong went wrong.
Have you ever experienced that?
Blow after blow hits you.
What can go wrong next?
How do you react when things go wrong, and your world falls apart?
What do you do when everything falls apart?
Are you affected by circumstances?
How do you react when things go wrong?
How do you react when your important relationships are strained?
How do you react when you lose your job after many years of service?
How do you react to financial pressure, to sickness, and to an unexpected disappointment?
Do you go to pieces and blow your top?
Remember, Habakkuk had just had a revelation of terrible coming judgment and war,
and the mountains were shaking, the seas were roaring, and the order of the heavens was disrupted!
These were going to be devastating circumstances!
Although Habakkuk was left trembling, though he knew that terrible times were ahead,
his faith was completely unshaken.
He had unswerving trust in his God in whom his salvation was assured.
Devastation was going to strike Israel whose life and economy was based upon agriculture.
Every area of productivity is stricken.
Habakkuk 3:17 says, Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines.
The blossoms on the fig tree and the grapes forming on the vine refer to those things
and they were hoping they could count on them for the future.
The blossoms were a symbol of hopes to come.
It is just a blossom, just a flower, and yet it is a tangible sign that the figs and the grapes are coming.
But in this verse says that there is no hope for the future.
The fig tree does not bud.
There are no grapes on the vine.
There is no visible sign that these things will ever come to be.
Have you had hopes and dreams for the future, but you had no visible signs that they would
You may have felt like asking: God, please just give me a sign, some hope that things are going
to change, and something to hold on to?
If so, you can know to some extent how Habakkuk felt.
But Habakkuk would tell us, when you have nothing to hold on to for the future,
hold on to God, and that will be enough.
Habakkuk says, trust God no matter what.
Though I have no visible sign of hope for the future, nothing tangible that I can see
or touch or grasp, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Verse 17 goes on to say, Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food.
The olive crop and the fields refer to those things they were trusting in the present.
They were a symbol of their present means.
But the olive crop fails.
They had planted and cultivated the fields, they had worked the land and tended the crops,
and when it was time for harvest, and the crops had failed.
The fields produce no food.
All that work, all that effort, and it all comes to nothing.
This is what is happening to many today.
You get laid off after years of faithful service to the company.
You lose your job and have no current source of income.
You invest much of your money in what you believe is a money-making stock, and the stock goes down.
You put the best years of your life into a relationship with another person and the relationship is broken.
What do you do when all that you are counting on is gone?
What in the world do you do when you suffer such bitter disappointments in life?
Look again at the list that Habakkuk mentions.
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls.
The sheep and cattle refer to those things they were trusting from the past.
They were a symbol of their reserves.
But now they have no reserves on which to depend.
There are no sheep in the pen.
There are no cattle in the stalls.
We could put it today's terms by saying that there is no money in the bank.
There is no more equity in the house.
Your friends and family have helped you all that they can.
Your credit cards are maxed out.
Your physical strength is tapped.
Your reserves are all used up.
What do you do when you have nothing to fall back on?
Habakkuk is telling us to trust in God, and He will hold us up.
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
It is easy to trust in God when the fig tree is budding and there are grapes on the vines,
when the olive crop succeeds and the fields are producing food, when you have plenty of sheep
and cattle in reserve.
Are you trusting in God at those times?
Or, are you trusting in the things that you have?
This was the question Satan asked God about Job.
Does Job trust you because he trusts you, or because you have blessed the work of his hands?
Job showed his continuing trust in God even when God removed the blessing,
and Job continued to trust him come what may.
We are having to face the same question.
Do we really trust God, or do we only trust Him when we have His blessing on our life?
I read somewhere where someone put that question like this:
"Which would make you feel more financially secure having a million dollars in the bank
or having a God who promises to meet your daily needs?"
Just think about that question.
Then, be brutally honest.
If the answer is the million dollars in the bank, then you are not trusting God.
You know that the million dollars could be gone tomorrow.
But, if the answer is having God who promises to meet your daily needs,
then no matter what your situation, you can feel more secure than the person who has
the million dollars in the bank!
That is trusting in God no matter what happens.
The crops, both annual and perennial; the animals: sheep and cattle; grain, grapes,
olives, figs will all be destroyed.
For all who relied on this for their livelihood and their lives, this was going to be hopeless.
For a nation whose hope was in this world, and in their own production -- this is the end!
But Habakkuk's hope is not in this world or in material things,
His hope is in God and only in God.
That hope will never fail regardless of any external circumstance.
So Habakkuk is saying: Even though I've lost everything, and even though I will have no income.
That is like what we might say, When I lose my job and the unemployment insurance runs out.
When I can't work and am denied my disability claim; when the bills come in but there is no money
in my checking account, and I do not have one cent.
So, Habakkuk's situation is worse than anything we can imagine.
Remember in Judah there were no social services,
There are no homeless shelters, there are no food stamps and there are no relatives that
you could turn to for help because they had also lost everything.
For Habakkuk no income means starvation.
It means death first for the weakest in the family, the old and the young, and eventually for everyone.
That's what Habakkuk faced.
Habakkuk will trust in God, and rejoice in Him.
He knows that he will suffer hunger when God's judgment come upon them,
yet, he will still rejoice in God.
He says that his joy is In the God of my salvation.
We remember Job when he said: Though He slay me, I will hope in Him
When Job learned that all his livestock and all his wealth, and all of his children
were taken from him, he responded by saying,
Naked I came from my mother's womb, naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21).
When his wife told him to curse God and die, he responded by saying,
Shall we only accept good from God and not adversity? (Job 2:10).
It is easy to worship God when life is good and everything is going well.
Life is good when you are healthy, your friends are near, and you have money in the bank.
It is much more difficult to worship God when you are sick, lonely and poor.
We decide whether we are going to rejoice or become depressed.
How can we continue to praise God when things are bad?
The answer is to praise God for who He is, and in doing so we can praise Him in any situation.
If our relationship with God is dependent upon what He gives us, then, when He takes it away,
our worship was never really for Him, but it was for the things He has given us.
We are to praise God for what He has done, not only for what He is doing today.
We praise God for not only what He has done, but what He will do.
So, when we wonder what in the world can we do when things go bad, we can remember
His faithfulness in the past, and His promises to be with us in the future.
We can rejoice, because He is the same God.
If our goal is to be successful, we will not praise God when we don't make it.
If our goal is to be wealthy, we will not praise God if we are poor.
If our goal is for power, we will not praise God when we have none.
But if our goal is to simply be close to God, then, we will praise Him no matter what happens.
Praise Him, Praise Him
"Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Sing, O Earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
Hail Him! Hail Him! Highest archangels in glory;
Strength and honor give to His holy Name!
Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children,
In His arms He carries them all day long.
Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness;
Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song!"
-- By Fanny Crosby
And like Habakkuk, we will grow in our faith, and we can be thankful even for difficult times
because they will have brought us closer to God.
This is how we, as Christians, differ from the world.
When the worst comes, we can do more than just " put up with it."
We can rejoice in our Lord for we are " more than conquerors through Christ."
We are to rejoice in the Lord and we are to joy in the God of our salvation.
We must remember that God never changes.
Circumstances change, but God never changes.
We can always depend on Him in desperate days.
We can always trust Him when troubles come
We can always count on God!
We may not always know what He is doing as Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us:
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways, says Jehovah.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts."
We may not know of His plans, but we know that we can always trust Him to do what is right.
We may not always understand His plans, but we can trust Him to do whatever is best for us.
The story of the king and the cannibals has a message that will enlighten us.
"A king had a close friend with whom he grew up.
One day the king and his friend were on a hunting expedition.
The friend would always load and prepare the guns for the king.
In preparing one of the guns, the friend apparently did something wrong,
for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off.
Examining the situation, the friend remarked as usual, This is good!
To which the king replied, No this is not good! and had his friend arrested and put in jail.
About a year later, the king was hunting in a dangerous area inhabited by cannibals.
He was captured and taken to their village.
A stake was placed in the ground, and he was tied to it, and wood for the fire was stacked
around him they prepared to cook him for their supper.
As one cannibal approached the stacked wood to ignite it, he noticed that the king
was missing a thumb.
These people were extremely superstitious, they would never eat anyone who was less than whole.
So, the king was untied and was free to go.
As he returned home, he remembered the event that had taken his thumb,
and he felt remorse for his treatment of his lifelong friend.
He went immediately to the jail and told his friend,
You were right.
It was good that my thumb was blown off.
The king went on to tell his friend about his experience with the cannibals.
He finished by apologizing to his friend for sending him to jail for so long.
It was bad for me to do this.
No, his friend replied, as usual, This is good.
The King replied: What do you mean, 'This is good'?
How could it be good that I sent you, my friend, to jail for a year?
If I had not been in jail, the friend replied, I would have been with you!
We must learn that God's way is always best even though we might not think so at the time.
For our God is so awesome, so great, so sovereign, and so powerful that in every circumstance
of life, we can always say, This is good!
For His plans are going to be completed; His plans will not be thwarted no matter what comes.
In words that are slightly different that is exactly what Habakkuk has said in the
final three verses of his small book.
So, no matter how things may appear, God is still in control.
He always knows best and He always does what is right.
I believe this, and I can include 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 in my life.
I can rejoice evermore.
I can pray without ceasing.
And I can give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning me.
Habakkuk has also learned that God was his strength!
God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer; he makes me
tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. (Verse 19)
Habakkuk now understands, and he is singing.
Whatever may come, he will continue to trust in God, even in the most terrible storms.
He will be secure and happy, even as his nation falls and everything he knows is gone.
He knows that even in the darkest hour, God will always remember the righteous.
Whatever is in the future for our own nation, we must always remember that
Like Habakkuk, we must choose to live in faith, not fear.
We must read, and reread the promises of God.
We must memorize, repeat, and even sing those words of promise that will remind us of eternal truths.
That last passage in Habakkuk should be our declaration of faith.
We will praise God even though the stock market falls.
We will praise our God even though earthquakes, fires, and hurricanes bring destructive disasters.
We will continue to praise our god even though our bills are getting higher and our income is getting lower.
We will praise our God even though our good health declines.
Yet, we will rejoice in the Lord, we will be joyful in God our Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is our strength.
The Lord is my strength to go on when I am exhausted by the journey.
The Lord is my strength to go up and climb mountain peaks when I am not sure I can
take one more step.
The Lord is my strength to go down when the valley seems so dark and foreboding.
The Lord is my strength to sit still and wait for His answer to my prayers.
My Heavenly Father Watches Over Me!
"I trust in God wherever I may be,
Upon the land or on the rolling sea,
For, come what may, from day to day,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
He makes the rose an object of His care,
He guides the eagle thru the pathless air,
And surely, He remembers me,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
I trust in God, for in the the lion's den,
On battlefield, or in the prison pen,
Thru praise or blame, thru flood or flame,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
The valley may be dark, the shadows deep
But O, The Shepherd guards His lonely sheep;
And thru the gloom, He'll lead me home
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
I trust in God, I know He cares for me,
On mountain bleak or on the stormy sea;
Tho' billows roll, He keeps my soul,
My heavn'ly Father watches over me."
-- Words by W.C. Martin, Lyrics by Charles Gabriel
Sermon prepared by Dr. Harold L. White from many resources