We are looking at waiting, and in particular how you wait for the Lord to come through for you. Last week we discovered that waiting is a part of life, and it is also a part of growing in maturity in Christ. Want to grow into a mighty man or woman of God? Then you will have to face the issue of waiting on the Lord, and waiting with the right attitude!
In our Bible readings this week we looked at Job. He was a righteous man, and did nothing to deserve the pain thrust upon him. And sometimes it's like that for us… we don't get what we deserve, sometimes bad things happen to good people, and that's how life and sin in the world is. I noticed that Job’s wife couldn't handle it… she said,
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”
But Job would not, because integrity was all he had left! He refused to curse God, even though he was confused at what had happened, upset and probably angry. What keep him going through this horrible time? What kept him believing God when those around him failed? How, in the midst of loss and disaster, could Job keep trusting God, no matter how long or how painful?
Job had a healthy faith. Job’s faith was based on the God he knew and trusted, not on circumstances, not on friends and not on his wealth and success. That's a healthy faith! Now let's look at someone else who complained, cried out, but developed a healthy faith…
I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.
So Habakkuk is a prophet, and he sees the invasion of the Babylonians coming at them like a freight train. Just as Jeremiah lamented this same situation in last week's reading, Habakkuk is seeing it coming. He is on the watchtower looking out at impending disaster , and he's not silent.
He'd been complaining to God for 2 whole chapters now, saying things like,
So the law is paralysed, and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.
He accused God of being unjust in judging His people. Especially that He used the evil, perverted and utterly ruthless Babylonians do so! He said, “OK, were sinful, but they are worse, so how come they get to conquer us when they're far worse?”
And that's a valid question, right? How come what You promised me is taking so long? Why am I in weight watchers when that horrible person over there seems to have it all, and they're not even honest or a Christian?
Interestingly, in verses 1 and 2, “and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the Lord answered me:” those two words answer are different in the Hebrew. The Lord’s answer means “to reply, to pay heed to,” but Habakkuk’s answer means “to turn back, to retreat.” So like we discussed last week, the prophet made his complaint, had his rant, but then retreated or turned back to receive the Lord’s answer. There's a lesson here… plenty of people rant and rage, but few go to the next phase of stepping back and listening for God's answer, then trusting Him.
So if you are waiting, it’s frustrating, right? It's long, it hurts, you feel like you're in limbo, in a holding pattern, or even going backwards. Like Habakkuk you're mad, you think God is being unjust, you see ungodly people prospering when you're not, so you cry out and complain … and that's OK, because as I said last week, God is big enough and He can handle it. But when you're done ranting and complaining, it's time to retreat from your supposed moral high ground, sit back and listen.
I CAN’T HEAR YOU, GOD!
Now ceasing the rant and actually listening is particularly hard in the 21st century. Never before in history has morality been challenged like it is today. As a society, on issues of morality, we have not a clue.
Not so long ago abortion was rare, gay meant happy and trans was a type of fat you don't want in your diet. Now our society protects the rights of criminals, but sanctions and even funds the murder of babies. The media wants to redefine what a marriage is to make it something our fathers and grandfathers would never recognise.
We don't know who we are, we don't even know what gender we are, who we should marry or what we believe about pretty much anything. And whatever we believe is likely to change next week. How do we hear God in a moral landscape that is twisted and shifts like sand in the wind?
We have one authority, one moral compass folks… the authority that doesn't move every year, doesn't change based on what 60 minutes thinks, isn't subject to Facebook trends or afraid of social media, the authority that doesn't use cute slogans to justify seismic changes in morality, the authority that never changes and lasts forever… the Word of God!
If you are waiting and waiting and have no answers, by all means cry our to God and tell Him how you feel, but then retreat or step back, open His Word and pour it into your life. The Bible reading plan is working for so many here, so if you're struggling to wait, don't get mad, don't get discouraged, get into the Bible, get into prayer and listen, obey and serve.
We read earlier the first 3 verses of Habakkuk 2, but let's take a look at verse 4…
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
So the first 3 verses lead to the 4th, which says the righteous shall live by his faith, and the Hebrew word for faith here is MUNA, which means “firmness, moral fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness.” How interesting… in a world where morals are discarded, where nothing is stable and everything seems wrong and unjust, Habakkuk says the righteous, which is you and I , shall live by firmness, moral fidelity, steadfastness… by healthy faith!
If you are waiting today, if you feel unjustly treated or like God is taking too long, this morning I want to build healthy faith into your life, because the righteous live by faith!
FAITH TO LIVE BY
Faith is a term that some in the church have tried to hijack! Some teach that we can choose the promises we want, forget the conditions and simply try to muster all the belief we can that God will prosper and heal and save and bless us. That He'll give us what we want when we want if only we can summon a mustard seed of faith.
We live in a consumer society, where the slogan “What's in it for me” is the basis of nearly every action and transaction. Church, consumer faith is not faith at all. So many have had their faith in God destroyed because they were taught to believe God for something He never promised in the first place.
We don't need consumer faith, we need healthy faith, the faith that sustains you when times are hard, when the road is long, when the wait is painful beyond measure. Healthy faith that moves mountains isn't wasted on trivial pursuits and consumer goods, it's the faith that us centred not on me and my wants and my desires and my welfare, but on Christ.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Trust here means to find refuge in, to be secure, to trust, to hope and to have an unshakable faith in God. Regardless of circumstances , if our minds are on God, our trust is in God, our faith is in God, we cannot be shaken!
So what is this healthy faith, the faith by which the prophet says the righteous live by?
HEALTHY EMOTIONS AND HEALTHY FAITH
2 Timothy 1:7
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.(sound mind)
God’s Word promises that His children can have power, love and a sound mind, although the way some Christians carry on you'd be excused for thinking that a sound mind wasn’t part of the deal! The foundation of a sound or self controlled mind is healthy emotions, and the healthy faith that we are to exhibit grows from healthy emotions, which are constantly under attack by our society.
Think for a moment about how your emotions play into your faith. You feel great and you have faith. You feel down, sick or discouraged and your faith wanes. Modern consumerism plays on emotions, our TV and videos tug at our emotions and people are more emotional about even small things now than ever before. Get on Facebook and you will often see a raw flood of emotion which years ago people would never reveal! The anonymity of the internet makes people say things they would never say to your face!
Healthy faith is not just trying to believe, not just a feeling, it is a way of life! It builds healthy emotion, not the other way around. Our faith is never independent of our emotions, but it must not be controlled by our emotions. Let your emotions stem from a healthy faith, not the other way around. Healthy faith not only loves God, but trusts Him enough to wait patiently, yes there's that word again, WAIT. Let's have a look at what healthy faith and therefore healthy emotions look like in our modern culture…
1. HEALTHY FAITH FOSTERS SELF WORTH
Many Christians feel they are not worthy, despite receiving forgiveness for their sins and knowing that Jesus loves them and shed His blood for them on Calvary. Having a health faith in God helps us to see ourselves as God sees us, as valuable, lovable, forgiveable and changeable. We begin to see that we are not an evolved ape, not a product of chance, but that we are created in the image of God, and that we are chosen to be princes and princesses…
1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
He chose you, He adopted you, He gave you His Spirit. Healthy faith takes its eyes off perceived circumstances, off what you think, off how you feel and you begin to see all things, including yourself, as God sees you.
2. HEALTHY FAITH MANAGES ANGER IN LIFE’S STORMS
Life is full of troubles, and even if we have faith we face storms of various kinds. Whether it be relationships troubles, divorce, rebellious kids, sickness, finances, stress or anything else, without a healthy faith you are thrown around, you're on an emotional rollercoaster and so many are destroyed by the emotional price these stressors exact.
What happens to you in life is not nearly as important as how you choose to react to it. Emotionally healthy people keep a balanced and measured perspective on their difficulties and can respond appropriately. People who fire up, rant rave, write abusive letters, vent their spleen on Facebook or cut others off are generally emotionally unhealthy.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Healthy faith in Christ creates healthy emotions and this gives rise to healthy relationships. It also enables you to face and conquer events and stresses that others fall apart under, because when healthy faith meets troubles or attacks it responds rather than reacts. A reaction is immediate, emotional, usually disproportional, and causes inflammation of the situation. A response is delayed, measured, thought through and defuses the situation.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
This does not mean that healthy faith never gets angry. I’m sure Habakkuk, Job, Jeremiah, Paul and everyone else in the Bible felt anger, but as Paul says,
Be angry and do not sin;
When properly directed, the energy that anger creates can be very constructive.
Anger makes a poor master, but an excellent servant. Emotionally healthy people direct the energy created by anger into constructive activities. If they get angry, they might go for a walk and cool down instead of reacting and saying what can never be retracted or doing things that can never be undone. Anger in my life often gives rise to determination, and that's a great use of a potentially destructive emotion! Wise people with a healthy faith put anger to work for them.
So when your faith is healthy, it is not that you never get angry. It's how you respond that reveals the state of your faith! Healthy faith weighs and measures its response. It doesn't react to little things but keeps its eyes on things above!
3. HEALTHY FAITH REDUCES FEAR OF THE FUTURE
Fear is an ever present emotion in our world. Fear of terrorism, fear of financial collapse, fear of failure, fear of loss… for some folks, fear paralyses their life, and we are seeing more phobias and mental illness than ever before.
Fear of change is a huge fear to many, and a healthy faith lessens one’s fear of change. To live is to grow, so to resist change is to resist growth. Emotionally healthy people are not afraid to change if it means growth, because their healthy faith is grounded not in what they know and are comfortable with but in Christ, and in reaching their potential in Him.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Healthy faith has no fear for the future, change or otherwise, because real faith is based not on circumstances, not on what might happen, not on fear of loss if we change, but on the Word of God, which never changes!
This church has undergone many changes, and continues to change. If that upsets your apple cart I apologise, but it's not going to stop, because I am going to continue pressing into the Lord and changing where I believe He calls us to change. If that's a problem, I love you, I want to guide you through the changes, but I'm not going to stop obey God to appease you! Change is inevitable if we are to grow, change is growth! Healthy faith does not fear it!
4. HEALTHY FAITH MODERATES STRESS AND TENSION
We all face stress and tension, and it's not all bad! Believe it or not, stress and tension are essential for excitement, motivation and growth in life. With a healthy faith, you can trust more and worry less. With a healthy faith, we recognise that our earthly possessions will perish in time, so why waste time now worrying about them? Those with healthy faith and thus healthy emotions spend time on what is of eternal significance, such as relationships and learning about or serving the Lord.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Worrisome people are overwhelmed by earthly things, but those with a healthy faith realise that earthy things have little eternal significance, therefore they worry less about them! If your eyes are in the eternal, your faith is healthy. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and the things of earth grow strangely dim, as does its worries and stresses!
5. HEALTHY FAITH FINDS JOY IN GIVING
People grasp things. People want things, and take them where they can. It's human nature. Giving is contrary to human nature, but an essential part of Christian living. Most people always put themselves first, what they want, what they think and where they're going. We call it, “Looking out for number one,” and it is part of business, commerce and even social security, where all anyone thinks about is what benefits they can get.
Healthy faith doesn’t take, it gives rise to a generous spirit, because a healthy faith believes God's promise, whether you have riches or not…
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
A healthy faith is generous with both time and money, because we realise that as we give, far from losing something, we are placing ourselves in the way of God’s blessings, and God, who cannot lie, will see His promise fulfilled in us!
And if you're waiting right now, don't fret and don't grasp. Have a generous spirit, have an open and kind heart and keep giving, keep serving and keep blessings others around you.
6. HEALTHY FAITH IS BIBLICAL
Emotionally unhealthy people usually isolate themselves from other believers, or chase after experiences that are without Biblical support and are harmful to healthy faith. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, our Coast is full of people chasing experiences and cheap parlour tricks rather than the faith the Bible talks about.
In this church, if it's not in the Bible it won't fly at all! I'm all for everything the Holy Spirit has for us, and I too am praying for manifestations of the Spirit, but I'm praying for salvations, healings and miracles in people's lives, not weird gold dust, angel feathers and aberratant behaviour.
Mankind seeks sensationalism, we almost lust for signs, but Jesus faced this too..,
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Paul told Timothy that he needs to examine everything Biblically…
2 Timothy 3:14-15
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Healthy faith is built on the Word of God, not on sensationalism or cheap entertainment.
7. HEALTHY FAITH GROWS YOU IN GOD
Healthy faith always continues to grow in the things of God. Healthy faith grows in the knowledge that God is love, and that God's agenda is to grow us to be like Him.
Unhealthy people see God as threatening, overbearing, restricting and controlling. Some see Him only as the God of judgement, destroying the wicked, punishing believers when they step out of line, and if you really know God you'd realise nothing is further from the truth!
1 John 4:16
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Healthy faith grows to know a loving, caring, beautiful Father who is for you, not against you…
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Yes God gets angry, yes God disciplines those He loves, but He is always loving, and healthy faith grows that love. And the more you know that God is love, the more that in turn grows your faith!
8. HEALTHY FAITH IS BALANCED
Work life balance is part of healthy faith and an emotionally healthy life. In Genesis 2:15 God gave people work, but in Genesis 2:2 and Exodus 20:8-11, God made provision for a day of rest. God gives us work and He also gives us play, so a healthy balance is an essential part of a healthy faith.
God gave people work in Genesis 2:15. He also gave them play, for He designated one day in seven for rest and worship (Gen. 2:2; Ex. 20:8-11). By keeping this balance, emotionally healthy people learn to work hard and rest well.
So now we know what it looks like, how can you attain healthy faith?
RESTORING EMOTIONAL HEALTH THROUGH HEALTHY FAITH
People who feel emotionally unhealthy are often internalising the pain of past or present situations. It is possible to help heal these unhealthy thoughts and feelings. There are four steps for them to follow to help “pray through” the process.
1. BE HONEST WITH GOD
Just as Habakkuk was honest, and Jeremiah was honest, tell God your feelings of hurt, fear even anger. He knows it all anyway, so get it off your chest. And when you're done, retreat as we saw Habakkuk do and listen to God, believing that He will answer you. Habakkuk 2:1
2. CONFESS YOUR UNHEALTHY THINKING
Unhealthy feelings give rise to lack of faith, and, call it what it is, its sin. If you had a rant and got it off your chest, if you are fearful or angry or stressed, just confess it and move on. 1 John 1:9
3. ASK GOD FOR A NEW WAY OF THINKING
Your faith will not grow if you don't change the way you think, to make it more like Christ’s.
So how do you change the way you think? It's easy to say, but hard to do. You stop putting things into your mind that drag you down, and instead you put the Word of God into your head instead…
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
4. THANK HIM FOR IT
Join with Jeremiah and thank God for His steadfast love. It's new every morning for you, so thank Him for it…
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
If you want to impress God, have a healthy faith! Hebrews 11:6 tells us that faith pleases Him, and in the Bible you will see time and again that God rewards faith.
We've been sharing on waiting for God, and the way you can do this is to foster healthy faith in your life. Many of you here have been waiting, and waiting for a long time for God to do as He has promised. But all of us here need to develop a healthy faith, and none of us have arrived. Faith is like a muscle, you develop it by using it, so ask God for the opportunities to stand in faith!
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
PRAYER OF FAITH
In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Dear Lord, see me through these hard times. In these troubling times, I am filled with unspeakable fears. I reach out my hand to you now, And ask you to walk besides me.
I cannot carry all my burdens, But I know you can, and will. Please walk beside me. Please guide me. Please help me hold on strong, Through the trials and storms.
Help me hold on to my faith, In even the darkest hour. Stay with me Lord, And show me Your way. In your love and Holy Spirit I abide. Amen.