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Hope-Giving Love

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 11, 2024 9:00 am

Hope-Giving Love

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 11, 2024 9:00 am

At some point or another, we’ve all asked the question, “Where was God when my life went wrong?” You might have even been angry with God. But as Pastor J.D. continues our series called, Come Back to Me, he’s helping us wrestle with those doubts and find the hope to carry us through the painful seasons.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. For those of you who feel like God is nowhere to be found, for those of you who feel like your situation is hopeless, for those of you who are angry or maybe even worse numb toward God, I want you to find hope. I don't want to give you a pep talk. I want you to find real hope that is expressed in times like this. Welcome to another week here on Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and apologist J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. You know, at one point or another, we've all asked this question. Where was God when my life went wrong? Maybe it was when you lost a job or your marriage fell apart or a loved one passed away.

Chances are you might have been pretty angry with God. Today, Pastor J.D. helps us wrestle with those doubts and find the hope to carry us through these types of painful seasons. It's part of our teaching series called Come Back to Me. Remember, you can catch up on previous messages by visiting But for today, we're turning to the Old Testament book of Habakkuk to learn about a love that brings hope. Let's join Pastor J.D.

now. Habakkuk is the fourth in our series of five minor prophets that we are looking at. Habakkuk lived and prophesied around the year 600 B.C. It was a time when things were unraveling fast in the southern kingdom of Israel, which is called Judah. If you know anything about Israel's history, they've gone through a civil war. The northern kingdom and the southern kingdom had split. The northern kingdom had a series of really, really bad and rebellious kings.

And so they were carried off into exile by Assyria in 722. But then after that, Judah began to enter its own series of bad political leaders in a time of spiritual decline. And so God had sent a drought that devastated the land to the point that their fields were producing little to no fruit. Their cattle had all either been starved to death or been stolen.

Habakkuk will describe the situation himself in chapter 3 verse 17 in terms that are very dire. He says, though the fig tree should not blossom, there are no fruit in the vines. The produce of the olive will fail. The fields yield no food.

The flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls. Things are as bad in Judah and in Israel as they ever have been. But the point was the region of Judah was undergoing a starvation level social collapse.

Think Europe after World War II or something like that. In addition to that, the Babylonians presented a looming threat and God had told Habakkuk and other prophets that Babylon would soon invade the southern kingdom. They would destroy it and they would carry the rest of the survivors away captive. And so Habakkuk understandably looks at God and says, God, how are we going to make it? Which leads to a second question that Habakkuk asked through this book. And that is, God, where are you?

I thought you loved us. Listen to Habakkuk's opening statement. Listen, see if you relate to this. Oh Lord, how long shall I cry for help?

You will not hear. How long will I cry out to you? Violence is being done toward me and you don't save. Why do you look idly at wrong? You see that word idly? Do you ever feel like that in relation to God? Like God seems to just sit idly by while you suffer and sometimes you even say, God, are you even there?

I'm not even sure I'm praying to a God that's listening. Sometimes life feels like you're in the middle of a really depressing TV series. You ever get into one of those shows where everything's going wrong and you start to wonder, how can this show possibly ever turn around and end up with some kind of happy ending? But then you think you've got faith. You're like, surely the writers will come up with some way to pull it back around at the end and it'll all make sense.

But then you wonder like, what if they don't? And you wonder, maybe there's no happy ending. Maybe there's no resolution to this.

Maybe there's nothing that comes out of the pain for good. There's no redeeming purpose on all that's happened, which leads to a third question that Habakkuk asked, that we ask, God, how was this fair? Babylon, who was going to cause Israel all these problems, was a much more wicked and godless nation than Israel was. So Habakkuk asked, God, how is it fair that we go through this while Babylon gets off scot-free? Listen to what Habakkuk says here in chapter one, it's bold. You who are purer eyes than to see evil.

You can't even look at wrong. So why do you look idly? Again, that word, why do you sit around and look at traitors and remain silent? While the wicked people swallow up the man who is more righteous than he, do you ever feel like that?

Why is it that this person seemed to get off and they didn't go through what you went through and you're the one who was trying to be faithful and you're the one who was trying to do things right, but you seem to be the one that's experiencing all the hardship? Those are three questions that I would think that every single one of us ask. I certainly have asked those at multiple points in my life. The book of Habakkuk is unusual in that it's not a sermon written to the nation, like most of the other prophets, minor prophets gave. Instead, this is a conversation between Habakkuk and God that Habakkuk wrote down later for us. In the book, Habakkuk is going to present a series of complaints. After he gives his complaints, he's going to say like what he says in chapter two, I will take my stand now at my watch post and station myself on the tower, and I will look out to see what God will say to me.

I will look to see what he will answer me concerning my complaint. Then God's going to give him an answer, and then Habakkuk is going to argue back with God, and then God's going to answer him again and flex his cosmic muscles a little bit, and Habakkuk is going to shut up. As he does, he's going to offer one of the greatest statements of faith ever recorded in the Bible. The shape of Habakkuk's book is supposed to teach us something.

It's supposed to show us what the internal growth of faith in our hearts looks like. You see, several portions of your Old Testament are like this, and a lot of times people don't realize that as they read it. On certain books in the Old Testament, rather than just telling you what God says, what the writer does is he opens up his heart and lets you learn from his faith struggle. Habakkuk's book for that reason is at times uncomfortably candid. I mean, he'll say things, and honestly, you'll be like, can you say that to God?

And you can learn a lesson from that just right here at the beginning. God is okay with your struggles, and he is okay with your questions. When Habakkuk questioned God, God didn't snap back with, how dare thou talk us to me that way, thou worm. Habakkuk? No, no, he actually seems to welcome Habakkuk's questions.

I mean, think about it. God even saw fit to record this in the Bible, so it's preserved for future generations so that we could learn from his questions and learn to see faith developed in our hearts the way that it grew up in Habakkuk's hearts. You see, doubt is one of the most common tools that God uses to drive us deeper into faith. It is true that doubt can drive you, and this has happened with some of you, doubt can drive you backwards into despair and unbelief, but it's also true that you're never going to take a step forward until you pick that foot up. And so what God does is he sends situations into your life, situations like what Habakkuk went through, where you say, God, I don't understand this, and that is God's tool to drive you deeper into faith. Doubt happens when the superficialities of your faith meet the realities of this world. And it's not that there are questions that cannot be answered, it's that there are questions of faith that your experience simply hadn't gone deep enough with God, and God needs to rattle you to get you to go deeper with him so that you can see that he's deeper and better than the pain, he's broader and more wise than the question you're asking, and he's more joyful and more secure than anything you're hoping for in life.

Habakkuk's faith was fragile, as is many of our faith, and God was trying to strengthen it, and that's what you're going to see happen in this book. I remember years ago I read this story about a missionary named Alan Gardner. He was an English missionary, one of the very first, he got shipwrecked off a remote island off the coast of South America en route to be one of the first people to start a new mission work on the continent of South America. Well, after his ship got shipwrecked, they tried to stick it out, and they tried to wait for somebody to come and rescue them, but nobody came.

And finally, they died of starvation before his ministry ever really began. Several months later, the rescuers finally discovered where they had been shipwrecked, and they discovered the body of Gardner with his personal journal was tucked underneath his body. And so when they pulled it out, they noticed the last thing inscribed in it was Psalm 34 10, those that seek the Lord will lack no good thing. And underneath that verse was this final phrase, I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God.

And there was the pen just kind of lying there beside it. It was the last thing that he'd written, one of the last thoughts he had before he died. Now, most of us hear that. I read that, and you think goodness of God? How would you talk about the goodness of God at a time like that? Is that what you would have been thinking about? And wouldn't you have been saying things to God like, God, I'm scared, I'm angry, God, why have you forsaken me?

I was just trying to do what you wanted. You see, Alan Gardner knew the secret that Habakkuk knew, and that's what I wanna share with you, because it's a power that will not only give you strength in these kinds of tragic moments, it's a strength that will literally infuse into your life a supernatural strength for every moment. It's what we sometimes refer to as the power of hope.

And it is the most powerful, most shaping force on the planet. I think I've shared with you before, there was a legendary experiment conducted at Johns Hopkins University several years ago, in which a researcher was trying to determine how long rats could swim before they drowned. And what he discovered was if you just took rats and threw them in the water and let them swim in a bathtub, they could only make it about 10 minutes before they gave up strength and they drowned. But he discovered that if during that 10 minutes, look at this, if during that 10 minutes, he simply picked them up and lifted them out of the water for five or six seconds and then put them back in. If he did that three times in the first 10 minutes, then the rats could swim, listen to this, for more than 60 hours.

I mean, do you get that changing? No factor except the introduction of hope gave the rats the ability to swim more than a hundred times longer than they were able to without it. Well see, my purpose is to give God's summit church rats hope so that you can keep swimming. For those of you who feel like God is nowhere to be found, for those of you who feel like your situation is hopeless, for those of you who are angry or maybe even worse, numb toward God, I want you to find hope.

I don't want to give you a pep talk. I want you to find real hope that is expressed in times like this. And it's the perfect opportunity for you to get quick and honest answers to your most pressing questions. Whether you're seeking guidance on theological issues, relationships, or ethical dilemmas, Pastor JD offers biblical wisdom and practical advice that you won't want to miss. You can listen to the Ask the Pastor podcast on slash podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Or we're also now on YouTube so you can watch along with JD and the show host Matt. Just subscribe to at j.d.grier.

Don't wait any longer. Sign up for the Ask the Pastor podcast today and continue to grow in your faith with Summit Life. Now let's return to our teaching.

Once again, here's Pastor JD. So let's start with first of all Habakkuk's complaint there in chapter one. Habakkuk's question you realize is really an age-old problem. The world doesn't seem like it's being ruled by a good, all-wise, all-powerful God. Philosophers call this the problem of evil.

And they trace this question all the way back to a 5th century BC Greek philosopher named Epicurus. And basically Epicurus said it this way. If God really is all powerful, he could stop all the evil. And if God is really all loving, then he would want to stop all the evil. So the fact that pain and suffering and injustice and evil run rampant on the earth means that God is either not all powerful or not good. My shortened version of that that I always say is if he's good, he would.

If he could, he should. Since he doesn't, that means he isn't. It's an age-old problem, but here we see that Habakkuk framed it long before Epicurus did, which by the way, to me is a comfort because we're not asking new questions. We haven't philosophically stumbled on something that is a blind spot in the Bible. The earliest Bible writers are asking that question. I don't see how a good and wise and powerful loving God is actually ruling the world. That's Habakkuk's complaint.

Here is God's answer. It's going to be a little bit in chapter one. Then later in chapter two, it's basically got four components.

I'll show you the first component. God says chapter one, verse five, he says, look among the nations and see, wonder and be astonished. I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if you were told. In other words, I'm doing something absolutely amazing through these things. Habakkuk, I got a much bigger plan than you realize. In the invasion of the Babylonians, I'm going to set up a situation that will more clearly reveal, display the rescuing work that my son is going to do when he saves the earth. That is beyond anything you could understand at this moment to the point that you wouldn't even believe it if I told you, but it's going to lead to my glory and it's going to lead to your ultimate salvation.

That's the second thing. Chapter two, verse 14, for the earth, he says, will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. This bigger thing that I'm doing is I'm covering the earth with the knowledge of my glory, which may not seem to you like it's as important as having heard in your stalls and your crops growing, but that is going to be ultimately your salvation and a lot of other people's salvation.

This turn of events is going to lead to a lot more people coming to know me. Third part of his answer, chapter two, verse four, the righteous shall live by his faith. In other words, Habakkuk, if you're going to walk with me in the world, it's going to have to be by faith, which means that you're going to acknowledge that there are a number of things that you're probably not going to be able to see yet. That's what it means to walk by faith. You walk by faith, not by sight. When you're walking by sight, it means you don't have faith.

When you're walking by faith, it means by definition, there are certain things you can't see. Fourth component of his answer, verse 20 of chapter two, the Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the earth keep silent before him. Let all the earth keep silent before him. The last thing God does is he gives Habakkuk a vision of himself sitting high on a throne above it all.

And he says, Habakkuk, if I'm still on my throne, then you can trust me with unanswered questions. Let's go philosophical for a minute if we could. Is it possible for a good God to allow something painful when he could stop it? There's a little philosophy book I'm reading right now that presents this scenario. So imagine a commando in World War II who gets dropped behind enemy lines and he poses as a German officer so he can get into a concentration camp and plant a bomb that will destroy the gas chambers. Now imagine that as he is mingling with other German officers, he sees a soldier preparing to execute a prisoner. Now that is an evil he could stop by simply shooting the soldier, right?

But at what cost would it come? He might save one person, but his mission is to save many, many more lives would be lost in the long run if he prevented the individual death, but didn't stop the gas chambers from destroying thousands. So is it possible for a good person to allow something evil even though he or she could stop it?

Yes, of course it is. He might allow a lesser evil in order to prevent an even greater one. See my point is simply this, is it possible for a good person to allow something painful to happen if they know something better will come out of it?

And the answer of course we all say is yes. Well then is it not possible that a lot of the pain that God allows us to go through on earth might also be like that? Might it be that our pain in our lives will yield a greater and happier eternity?

That's what God says there in chapter two, my glory, my knowledge of my glory is covering the world. And there's going to be something better that comes out of this, but you probably wouldn't be able to understand it if I explained it to you because it's just beyond the perspective of what you can see, which is also a question people ask. They say, well, but I can't see any good coming out of this.

Maybe if I saw the silver lining or I saw the rhyme or reason, I'd be able to endure it better. Well, just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't happening. The way I'd illustrate it is this, if I asked you right now at your campus, is there an elephant in the auditorium? You could pretty quickly look around and with a reasonable amount of certainty say, nope, there is no elephant. If you can't see one, it's reasonable to conclude that the elephant is not there in the auditorium that you're sitting in. But if I said to you, are there any lice in the building that you were sitting in? Well, you could take a quick look around and say no. But if you say no, just because you can't see one, then that confidence might be unwarranted. The person right in front of you, right? Just a foot and a half in front of you could have a head full of them. By the way, the next person that reaches up and scratches their head is going to be really, really suspicious.

So suspend that for just a minute, right? Just because you can't see it when it's something like that, your eyesight is just not good enough to be able to perceive things that might be there in the hundreds. The point is understanding all of the purposes of an all wise God might be more like locating fleas than spotting elephants. It's like John Piper, a pastor who's preached here before, said, at any given point, God is doing about 10,000 different things in your life and you are aware of about three of them.

The vast majority of them, you're just not quite aware of. And faith, it trusts God with that. Is God on his throne? That's the fundamental question we got to answer, which then leads into Habakkuk's great statement of faith, which is, like I said, one of the greatest ever recorded in the Bible.

There's life giving hope. He starts in verse one, chapter three, verse one. Oh Lord, I've heard the report about you and your work. Oh Lord, do I fear your work?

I'm thinking about you, who you are, and I'm also thinking about the things that you have done. See, in the next 15 verses, he's going to recount the Exodus and it's poetic language, but if you look at the imagery, the metaphors, it's very clear what he's talking about. The Exodus was the Old Testament's ultimate picture of salvation. They hadn't experienced the cross yet, so when they thought about salvation, they thought about the Exodus.

Look at the different phrases that it uses. His brightness was like the light raised flash from his hand, which is a clear reference to how God revealed himself at Mount Sinai when he descended there and he met with Israel. Before him went pestilence and plagues followed at his heel, a reference to the 10 plagues that he used to shake Egypt so that he would liberate Israel. The mountain saw you when they arrived. The raging water swept on.

The deep gave forth its voice and lifted its hands on high. That's a reference to the splitting of the Red Sea that brought them through. And then again, when he split the Jordan River to take him into the promised land, the sun and the moon stood still in their place at the flash of your glittering spear. That's a reference to when Joshua told the sun to stand still so that God would enable them to fight and win the battle. You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed.

You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. That's a reference to when God brought the most powerful man in the world, Pharaoh, to his knees by killing his oldest son and bringing the entire empire of Egypt to its knees. So he meditates for 15 verses. He meditates on the Exodus and that meditation is going to remind him of several things. First, in reality, here's what he comes up with.

And this is really important, even though it's kind of hard to grasp. So first is we are not really innocent people who are suffering. In the Exodus, God was delivering his people from slavery and their captivity in Egypt was a picture of the self-imposed slavery of sin. You see, God didn't create us to suffer.

We as a race brought that on ourselves by rejecting God, a rebellion that all of us in the human race have participated in. All of us have said, God, I'd rather rule my life the way I want to see fit than how you want to see fit. Now, let me be really, really clear here.

I don't want anybody to get confused. I am not saying that particular bad things in your life are happening directly because you sinned at some point as if God is saying, hey, you did this when you were in high school and I'm going to pay you back for that directly because of what you've done. I'm not saying that. And scripture never tells you to think that way. What I'm saying is that suffering in general exists in the world because the human race sinned, a rebellion in which we all participated in, which means that none of us can ever really point our finger at God and say, I don't deserve any of this. Our sin warranted eternal death.

So the fact that you woke up this morning and experienced sunshine on your face and breath in your lungs is a bestowal of mercy. In Luke chapter 13, there's one of Jesus's most politically incorrect stories. There was evidently in Israel at the time, there'd been a tragedy where this tower had fallen over and it killed 18 Israelites. And so the disciples, when they get Jesus alone, they're like, hey, Jesus, was this like God pain? Were these more wicked than other people in Israel? Like there were 18, especially bad people and God happened to see them all the same place at the same time and thought now's my chance and push the tower over on him.

Is that what was going on there? Now Jesus's response, again, it's jarring is Jesus said, no, no, that's not what was happening. But I tell you the truth, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. In other words, the question is not why did the tower fall on those 18? The question is why didn't the tower fall on you? That's the question. You see, we come to God with this question of like, why are bad things happening to good people?

And God says, well, actually the whole world was under the condemnation of death because of their sin. So the question is not, why do bad things happen to good people? It's why are good things still happening to bad people? You need to reverse that question.

R.C. Sproul, the theologian was one times asked, why do bad things happen to good people? He said, well, when I meet a good people, I'll let you know. And so what Habakkuk does is he just reflects on the fact that, yeah, this world is in the condition it's in and we experience a lot of the suffering because the human race is sin and it's the natural result of our sin. Our sin deserves death. So every good gift from the sun shining and the breath in our lungs to salvation through Jesus is an abundance of God's mercy.

We have much to be thankful for today, wouldn't you agree? You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer. One of the things we're passionate about at Summit Life is providing gospel-centered resources to help people become disciples, grow as disciples, and then make disciples. While you're visiting, you can check many of them out there, including Pastor J.D. 's blog, his podcasts, the full preaching catalog, his daily devotionals, our weekly newsletter, and much, much more. But some of our favorite resources are the ones we curate specifically for our gospel partners and financial supporters each month. This month, we're offering Come Back to Me, a devotional and scripture guide, which coincides with our current teaching series right now on the program.

Come Back to Me is a great way to take your study of all 12 minor prophets of the Bible deeper than ever. We'll send you this valuable study guide when you donate $35 or more today to support this ministry. Join with us by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or you can always give online at That's Your support is essential to our mission, and we're so grateful for every contribution. I'm Molly Benovitch, inviting you to join us Tuesday for the conclusion of today's message in Habakkuk, right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-11 12:21:45 / 2024-03-11 12:32:53 / 11

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