Remember and Rejoice
Why does God allow bad things to happen? Habakkuk discusses the doubt and pain we feel when things go horribly wrong. But it ultimately explains why God allows us to experience pain and suffering.
Why does God allow bad things to happen? Habakkuk discusses the doubt and pain we feel when things go horribly wrong. But it ultimately explains why God allows us to experience pain and suffering.
Just to catch you up, there has been a real turn in Habakkuk. The book starts out with Habakkuk having some massive problems with how God is governing, particularly the nation of Judah. God responds that He’s going to handle things. And then Habakkuk doesn’t like how God is going to handle things. So really, your first full chapter is Habakkuk arguing with God and God gently answering Habakkuk. And then you’ve got God beginning to explain to Habakkuk the difference between discipline and wrath. When you are God’s covenant people, when you are God’s chosen people, then you sit under discipline, not wrath. It’s when you are outside the kingdom of God that you sit under wrath. So God unpacks this idea to Habakkuk, because the Chaldeans are coming to discipline Judah and Habakkuk doesn’t like it. He thinks the Chaldeans are far more wicked than they are, so it doesn’t make sense that God would use something more wicked
than they are to judge them. So this is his argument against God. But God cuts through the argument by speaking very directly and very honestly to Habakkuk and gently rubbing his head going, “Oh, you just have no idea what you’re talking about. You don’t even know what’s going on behind you right now. You’re so limited in scope, you’re so limited in what you know. Of course this doesn’t make sense to you. Of course you’re confused by this. All you can see is right now. You don’t even know that you’re on a planet. You don’t even know what’s going on on the other side of this globe, because you don’t know that it’s a globe. So of course you’re confused.” So God shows Himself to Habakkuk in a really high-end, cosmic way, and then Habakkuk’s horizontal theology goes vertical. And so not only does he worship God for what God can do, but now he begins to worship God for who God is. And for the believer in Christ, we do both. We don’t do one
or the other. We do both. We worship God for who He is, and we worship God for what He has done for us in Christ. And that’s what we talked about last week.
So what we talked about last week and what we’ll talk about today is all part of a song. It’s a weird song. I’ll give you that. In Habakkuk 3:1, that last word “shigionoth” is a stringed instrument. So that means all that we read last week, all that we’ll read this week and all that we’ll read next week was set to music, which is why it’s so strange. Let’s pick it up in verse 4. “His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power. Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels.” Can we all agree that that’s a weird line for a song? I don’t know that we do that anymore. Has anybody in here ever sang a song about pestilence in church? “Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels. He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. Was your wrath against the rivers, O LORD? Was your anger against the rivers, or your indignation against the sea, when you rode on your horses, on your chariot of salvation? You stripped the sheath from your bow, calling for many arrows. You split the earth with rivers. The mountains saw you and writhed; the raging waters swept on; the deep gave forth its voice; it lifted its hands on high. The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear. You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger.” This is a strange song, is it not? Let me finish and then I’ll tell you what he’s talking about. “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. You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret. You trampled the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters.”
This is a very intense, driving song. And here’s all he’s doing. The Chaldeans on the brink of invasion. Because remember that God has not relented. Habakkuk says at the end of chapter 2, “Surely You’re not going to do this. You’re
too holy to do this.” Remember what God says? “Hey, get your calendar, and if you think I’m moving too slowly, just keep your calendar open. Because it’s coming. This is what I’m doing.” So with the Chaldeans approaching, with Habakkuk clearly knowing that God is about to sift Judah in an extremely painful way, Habakkuk is singing a song about the path of faithfulness of God. In verse 5, you have God appearing to Moses, veiled in power. You start getting into verse 6 though 15 and over and over again you have these reminders of God’s faithfulness. Who parted the Red Sea to deliver God’s people? God did. Who stopped the river Jordan so God’s people could go through? God did. Who drove out the giants in the land of Canaan? God did. And Habakkuk is remembering that being delivered from slavery and being brought into the Promised Land was God. God did that. God created that. God enabled that. They didn’t have the power. So when he talks about pestilence and plagues, how did they get out of Egypt? Did they rise up and battle the Egyptian army? No. Do you guys not know the story? Charlton Heston? Plagues of frogs, blood, darkness, the cattle die and then the firstborn sons die. Pestilence and plagues. “By pestilence and plague, You brought us out.” He parts the Red Sea, He parts the Jordan River and then He drives out the giants in the land.
Remember Jericho? So Joshua resumes control and then comes to God’s people and says, “Um, how many warriors do we have?” Do you remember how many warriors they had? None. They had nobody experienced in combat. “What about weapons? Do we have weapons?” Some guy holds up his trumpet. So Joshua is like, “Okay, how many of those do we have? Here’s the plan. We’re going to march across the Jordan. I know it’s high tide and looks impossible to cross, but God’s going to get us across. Once we get across into Canaan, we’re going to surround Jericho and we’re just going to walk in a circle. We’re going to blow our horns, and then we’re just going to leave. And then we’re going to come back the next day and do it again. And the next day, we’re going to do it again.” Now I feel like I’m a man of faith, but in that meeting I would have gone, “I’m not trying to question your military strategy, but I feel like we’re about to get drove. They’re going to be dumping oil on us and slinging arrows down on us. Let’s be more like the Navy SEALs. Why don’t
we go in there all covert? Why don’t we dismantle and get in there from the inside out?” Joshua is like, “No, get your trumpet. Do we have banners? Let’s get banners and trumpets. Let’s go.” And then what happens? The walls come tumbling down.
So Habakkuk is point is, “You did that. We didn’t do that.” All this threshing the nations and churning the waters, this is an illustration, this is pointing back to God’s faithfulness to His nation in some of the darkest times in their history like Being brought out of slavery and having to do battle against nations that are far more powerful than you are. In fact, there’s even a reference in there when God stops the sun for Joshua. If you don’t remember the story, God tells Joshua to destroy the Amorites. He told him not to just kill them, but to kill anything they owned and not to touch any of their wealth or any of their houses and burn it all to the ground. In essence, God says, “If they have a dog, kill the dog. If they have a cow, kill the cow. Kill everything.” And so that battle begins. Israel is far outnumbered, but they press the Amorite soldiers and have them on the run. But the sun begins to go down, and so Joshua, fearful that he’s not going to be able to complete the task that God had given him, asks God for a few more hours of sunlight. And God gives it to him. How crazy is that? “Okay, three more hours. Finish it.” And he finishes wiping out the Amorites. Habakkuk makes a reference to this when he says, “ The sun and moon stood still in their place.” Habakkuk, in his impending despair, is remembering the faithfulness of God in dark days past and is rejoicing in God’s faithfulness.
Now here is one of the things that is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. On the Evangelical conscience, there is this idea that when things really fall apart, we should just be glad about that. It comes of as trite and fake and “Oh, isn’t God grand.” And I want you to watch Habakkuk here, because he’s going to be straight with us. Verse 16, “I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me.” Now, I want to say this to you as often as I can to try to dispel the illusion of control. But there is no one in this room whose life can’t be altered forever by simply answering their phone. In the last ten days, here at the Village Church, there have been two young men under the age of twenty-five who have died in tragic accidents. But not your house, right? You’re not getting
that call. I’m not getting that call. That’s a call other people get. I’ve said that to you around six-hundred times in my eight years here, and in the last ten days, it was those two families’ turn to get that call. None of us in here are safe from that call. You can be as controlling and manipulative as you want to be. You can buy your kid a tank, never let them leave the house without bugging them, you can do all that and still you don’t control. And for those of you who have already received that call, you know what it means to not be able to stand, to have your legs give out from underneath you, to feel like rottenness has entered into your bones, for your lips to quiver, to be overwhelmed with sorrow. This is what Habakkuk says he’s feeling. This is not spirit sprinkle, “Yea Jesus!” It’s not. “Rottenness has entered my bones.” He’s really honest.
But look at this next line. It’s so key. “Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.” So remember God told him, “This is what’s going to happen to Judah,” but then all of chapter 2 is how He’s going to destroy the Chaldeans. So Habakkuk here is saying, “Do what You’re going to do. I know You are for us. I know You love us. I know You’re leading us to what we ultimately need and that in the end justice will prevail.” And he rests in that, despite the fact that the Chaldeans are coming.
Now I’ve told you as often as I can that the Bible is not about you. It’s not a self-help book. The Bible is one story. It is God reconciling to Himself all things in Jesus Christ. That’s the story of the Bible. It’s not about you. And when you try to interject you into the story, you miss the point because you always put yourself in Christ’s role, not yours. David and Goliath is not a story about you overcoming the major giants in your life. Because that would make you David, and you’re not David. “Well you know my boss, such a jerk. Give me my sling. I’ll overcome this. . .Financial times are hard. I’ll take care of that.” You’re not David. You are the cowardly Israelites over in the corner going, “What are we going to do? He’s talking so mean to us.” Jesus is David, slaughtering the giant of sin and death. You’re not the point. He is the point. So what do you do in a text like this where there is no Christ character? In places like Habakkuk 3, where we don’t see a direct example of Jesus, what you do see is a gospel rhythm get established, a way of living for those of us who are in Christ regardless of circumstances. That’s what we see in chapter 3.
So I’ve been here long enough to know that, out here today, there are those of you who are doing great. You’re single and doing single well, you’ve got your Bible and your journal open and you’re trying to take notes. You are loving the Lord right now, walking in community well. For some of you, your marriage is great. You’re at the beginning where you haven’t realized that there are going to be issues. You’re deeper in where you’ve worked through some of those issues, and you’re in a good spot right now. And then there are others of you who are not in a good spot. You’re just not. You’re not handling your singleness well, you don’t have your eyes where they need to be, you’ve got some sort of functional messiah in a man or woman that you’re going to marry. Maybe your kids are crazy. But you’re here, playing the part and smiling. Some of you have learned to play the game enough that you’re Bible and journal are open and you’re taking notes, despite the fact that you are in a dry and weary land. You guys are who I worry about the most. When you learn how to play the Bible Belt game and your heart is far from God, you have doomed yourself to surface level stuff. So really what we can pull from this text has implications for all of us regardless where we find life right now. So whether everything is well, there’s money in the bank, we love our spouses, are content in our singleness, our kids are doing well or our kids aren’t doing well, there’s not money in the bank and we’re filled with a lot of happiness. I didn’t use the word “joy,” because, for the believer in Christ, joy should be transcending thing, which means it should not be affected by circumstance. Happiness can be stolen from you in a second. You can take happiness from me in a second, but you can’t take joy. Those things are different. They are not the same thing. So the pattern that is established in Habakkuk that has implications for all of us is really this rhythm of remembering and rejoicing. And the gospel rhythm that you and I need to find our lives in tune with is really that rhythm of remembering who God is, what God has done, what
He has accomplished on our behalf and then rejoicing in that. And you will find that a firm foundation regardless of circumstance. It’s when you forget that you get yourself in problems and when the weight of the world feels crushing.
So I want to tell you three things that I think you always have to remember and rejoice in. There are far more that you should, but I just want to do three things. They won’t be any real surprise to you, as they are things I talk about all the time. Here’s number one. Remember and rejoice that God saved you. Now is said that correctly. God saved you. It is unbelievably imperative that you understand that you did not save you. God saved you. I know some of you right out of the gate are like, “That’s not true, Matt. I heard a message, walked down the aisle, shook the pastor’s hand an said a little prayer. That’s when I became a Christian.” No it’s not. I’m not saying that’s not a powerful marker for you, but do you know what motivated you to get out of that seat? Do you know what motivated you to come down that aisle? The Holy Spirit opening your heart to the reality of Jesus Christ. So that might have been some catalytic moment, but you were converted to Christ in that chair. If not, then we’re no different from witches. You come up and we repeat an incantation and that gets you into the club? No, you got up out of that seat and came down that aisle because the Spirit worked on your heart. God saved you. You don’t save you. This is not your act, not your work. This should be fresh news to those of you who find it impossible to measure up to God’s standards. Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” All day long, you’re going to hear me say this to you. Did
you come here or were you brought here? You were brought in. So you were brought near. And were you brought near because God looked down and was like, “Look at all that skill. You’re on My team”? No, you were brought near by the blood of Christ. It is the blood of Christ that enables you to come near to the Father. God saved you. You didn’t save you. You didn’t start to get up in the morning and read your Bible, stop saying cuss words, start doing things that you were supposed to do to get in. That wasn’t the ticket. You got in by the blood of Jesus or you’re not in.
Colossians 2:13-15, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh,. . .” I just want to stop here. I don’t know if you’ve been around a lot of dead people. They don’t do stuff. Selah. “. . .God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Now, you were dead in your trespasses and sins. Ephesians says the same thing. You are dead. When you are dead, you do not choose life. Life has left you. You are dead in your trespasses and sins. God makes you alive in Jesus. Now how does He do that? He takes what brings about death (sin) and He cancels the record of debt. It’s important to note this. You didn’t write the check. You don’t get in by writing the check. “Well I really screwed up a lot, so let me do some good deeds here. I fed the poor, so there’s a down payment. I bought a Jesus t-shirt. There you go on that. I put that fish thing on my car. There’s that. I’m not doing that anymore. . .” You don’t get in like that. Those checks would bounce. So God cancels the record of debt. You don’t pay it back. It’s canceled. You don’t owe. It’s what Hebrews means when it says He turned off the altar. He is no longer accepting any offerings or sacrifices for sin, because He’s already paid for it in full. He canceled the record of debt and made you alive in Christ.
Now I love that last line in that text that says, “He puts to open shame the rulers and the principalities.” That’s a reference to demonic creatures. And I know we’re in the West and we want to pretend that stuff is not real, but in the Scriptures and in our experience here as your pastors here, there are demonic activities still very much functioning. Really the sole weapon they have is lying. They just lie and get us to believe lies. And those lies lead us into dark places. Here’s what the text just said. A couple weeks ago, we were doing baptisms, and the girl who was baptized before my daughter gave this testimony of being sexually abused by a family member who was a deacon at a church. And then another family member did the same thing, which led her into a life of deep darkness, depravity and choosing to be abused by people. In fact, in her testimony, she said, “There are men with a radar for women like me.” She talked about how she had been abused and had just surrendered herself, thinking that she deserved that abuse somehow. Those are dark lies that she has believed. Who is whispering those lies to her? The authorities and principalities of this fallen world. And then yet in the middle of all those lies, being led down dark and deplorable, unspeakable paths, Jesus intervenes. Do you know what’s crazy? She gets in the water in front of a thousand strangers and shares her darkest moments. Do you know what happened in that moment? Jesus just said, “See? I’m better, bigger and stronger than this.” Jesus is glorified in the salvation of those who are broken and feeble. What the devil meant for her destruction, God now uses for His glory, for the edification of the saints and for those who would sit in this room today and go, “The cross would never
work for me. I am too far gone. I have not been perfect enough.” And yet you have a young woman in the water saying, “No, He works.” And that’s how He puts to open shame the rulers and principalities of this earth.
So we remember and rejoice that God saves us. This is God’s idea. He rescues us. He delivers us. He comes and grabs us. We’ve got to remember and rejoice that this is not our idea. My idea was drunkenness, women and money. That was my idea. And I thought for a long time that that was a great idea until, by no invitation of mine, God showed up, let me know that my ideas were dumb and that He had better ideas and led me into those better ideas, to redeem those things. So we remember and rejoice that God saves us. I think that’s imperative. It’s going to tie with these other two.
We remember and rejoice that God is sovereign over all things. Now, we did two sermons in the Habakkuk series on God’s sovereignty, both of which were lengthy. So I want to just frame this phrase into an implication that you’ll understand. We remember and rejoice that God has not abandoned us to our circumstances, regardless of what those circumstances are. It doesn’t matter how dark the night is, we have not been abandoned to wrestle with sin, we have not been abandoned to deal with dark days and we have not been abandoned to walk through hard things on our own. Let me unpack this, because this is going to get us into an area of theology that I think a lot of us are weak or at least weirded out by. Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” So you’ve got this promise upon the ascension of Christ, “Go live missionally, focus on Me, be about what I am about and I will always be with you.”
Now, it’s how God is with us that most of us don’t have a framework for most of the time because of charismatic excess. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Now, here’s what has happened to most of us. Because of charismatic excess, the Holy Spirit has been moved to the outside of our theology, kind of like the crazy uncle that shows up drunk and makes things weird at family reunions. So we don’t know anything about Him really. We treat Him very differently than we do the rest of the Godhead. Like when people start talking about the Spirit, they’ll say things like, “Yeah, I’m open but cautious.” Nobody says that stuff about Jesus. “So are you a believer?” “Yeah, I’m open, but I’m just cautious.” “Tell me about God the Father.” “I like God the Father, but sometimes things just get weird and I’m not comfortable with Him when He does this, this and this.” But we do think that way about the Holy Spirit. Three chapters in Galatians deal with walking in the Spirit. If you’ll watch the life of Jesus, Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit to fulfill a promise made in Isaiah 61, He is driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the Devil,
He overcomes the temptations that befell Israel and Adam and succeeds where they failed so that we would have an empathetic, then He returns from the wilderness filled with the Holy Spirit, He begins ministry empowered by the Holy Spirit where He proclaims the good news of the kingdom, He drives out demons and He does miracles. The Holy Spirit is the fuel that makes the car run. And when you have no understanding of the Spirit of God outside of what you’ve seen on TV at 1:00 in the morning, it makes you a bit nervous about it. I contend that a lot of us lack power and fuel in our Christian walks simply because we don’t understand the role of the Spirit in our walk. If the Spirit empowers Jesus, how much more do you need Him? If Jesus is using the power of the Spirit to be obedient to God, how much more do you need Him in order to be obedient to God? But that’s not what we do, is it? We go, “We’re Americans. We don’t have no Spirit on us. Just look at this chest and these abs. I’ve toned these things. I’ll handle this.” That’s us. That’s our Western thinking. You don’t even know how subtly He moves you in the day. Look at how we operate. You will go, “You know, I shouldn’t treat my wife that way. I should treat her this way. . .You know, I shouldn’t handle this situation that way. I should handle it this way.” You’ll think that, and then who will you give credit to? Yourself. Do you know who the Bible gives credit to? The Holy Spirit, not you. The Spirit living in you testifies to you that you are a child of God and prays for you in your weakness.
Let’s look at some more. Galatians 5:15-17, “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” So how many of you would say, “I’ve got a consistent sin that haunts me. I have seasons where I have victory over it, but in the end it always sneaks back in and gets me”? I think a lot of you are owned by sin because you’re not using the sword of the Spirit, but you’re trying to open-hand slap a bear. It just makes it angrier. You can subdue it for a while maybe, but eventually it’s going to devour you. The Bible calls it a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. You don’t open-hand slap that. You put it to death. How do you put it to death? The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. It’s not just you memorizing some texts about lust, memorizing some texts about fear, memorizing some texts about anger. That’s bullets, but you need the gun. So if you watch Jesus in the wilderness, He
is believing the promises of God in Deuteronomy and is empowered to do so by the Holy Spirit. So you need the Spirit’s power to believe in the promises of God to overcome temptation, not your grit, not your will, not your flesh. Flesh begets flesh. You need the Spirit to overcome the flesh. And that’s the point of Galatians 3-5.
So we rejoice and remember that God saves us, we rejoice and remember that we have not been abandoned in any circumstance and then we rejoice and remember that God started this, therefore God will finish this. How many of you have just absolutely failed at something before? So here’s what happens to us. If you believe you save you, then of course you’ve got doubts about whether or not you can carry that on to completion. But if God saved you, then God has the ability to carry on to completion because God does not fail. That’s why it’s so imperative that you get and understand that salvation belongs to God and if you have it, it was given to you by God. “Salvation belongs to our God” is what Revelation would say. Let me give you some texts. Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God began it. God will finish it. So I try to say to you all the time that God is never surprised by you screwing up. That has never taken Him aback. You can’t wear Him out. He does not grow weary. It wasn’t like He was trying to carry you to the finish line of salvation and then just finally stopped and was like, “You know what, man? I can do everybody else, but you’re just too heavy, man. . .and a bit of an idiot. So I’m out. I’m going to pull back the atoning work of Christ just for you. I’m repealing it.” So right now you might be asking, “So you can’t lose your salvation?” I’m absolutely saying you can’t lose your salvation if you were ever saved. You see, the question isn’t, “Can you lose your salvation?” The question is, “Were you really converted? Were you really given a heart of flesh?”
That brings me to the next verse. Ephesians 1:13-14, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” If our hearts have been made new, if we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, then we might stumble about, we might have bad days, but we never turn our back on Him. Again, where people do that, they reveal that Jesus was not their Savior but rather a means to another end. It’s the Parable of the Sower. Jesus throws the seeds, some on the path that are snatched up by the birds. Jesus would explain to
the disciples later on that that snatching up is the enemy, demonic forces snatching up the truth, perverting the truth and twisting the truth so that what they believe in is incorrect. Some fall on the rocky soil and sprout up very quickly, and then the sun comes and scorches them up and they disappear. Jesus says they have no root. They have no real understanding of the character and nature of God. So they go, “Yeah, I’ll take Jesus.” But as soon as it gets hot, they don’t want any part of Jesus because they thought that Jesus was going to bring them Spring days. And instead they got Summer days, and now they’re frustrated because God brought them Summer and not Spring.
Some fall among the weeds and they’re choked out. What happened here is they went, “Isn’t Jesus great? Look at that BMW!” And all of a sudden, Jesus becomes a means to something else. So it’s something else that is your god, not
Jesus. You’re simply trying to use Jesus to get what you really want. That’s idolatry. So it becomes not, “Can you lose your salvation?” but, “Were you ever really saved?” That’s the question. Because if you truly have, you don’t lose it.
Let’s look at one more text. Romans 8:28-36, “And we know that for those who love God. . .” Now I just want to stop. Are these promises for everyone? No. So as much as we want the promises that we’re about to read to apply to all humanity, they simply don’t. They are for those who love God. And the next line is going to be pretty important too. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” So it’s important to note that it works for good for the purposes of God. Again you’re not the point. The more you think you’re the point, the more joy you cost yourself. Because you elevate yourself to a position that you can’t stand in. You’re not the point. God is the point. Jesus is the point. The purposes of God are the point. For those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes, all things work together for good. So to make it blatant and hard to hear, brain cancer for
me was for my good, according to the purposes of God. Do I wish we would have gone another route? Absolutely. Am I growing a bit weary of poisoning myself once a month? Absolutely. Am I looking forward to that being over, whatever that means? Yes. But biblically and with the Spirit inside of me, for my good, for the purposes of God and the fruit that it has born in the last year and a half, it has been well worth the pain, anxiety and fear, which are very real.
Verse 29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” That is a spectacular verse. Those whom God predestined He called. Those whom He called He justifies. Those whom He justifies He glorifies. You’re on the couch eating chips. You have done nothing. I moved from California to Texas because the United States Navy thought it would be a good idea for our family to be in Texas. Upon moving to Texas, I get plugged in football next to a guy named Jeff Faircloth who had the courage to share the gospel with me. I’m standing in front of you today because God had predetermined to call me through Jeff Faircloth and several other circumstances unto Himself, to justify me by Jesus Christ and is in the process of glorifying me. Do you know what I did? I got in the truck and drove with my family to Texas. Again, you’re not the point. You are not driving this. He is. And Him driving this is our motivation to walk in the blamelessness He’s already given to us.
Let’s keep reading. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” If you ever doubt God’s love for you (and it’s easy to do), all you have to do is look to the cross. He who did not spare His own Son to purchase you will also give you graciously all things. Now all things according to whose purpose? His. So we’ve got to stay straight on that one. We don’t have any prosperity sneaking in here.
Now listen to verse 33, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” Now I want to stop, because once again this is heavier stuff. On any given day, all of us feel as though a charge could brought against us. Like if I have to stand in front of a Holy God and someone there knows everything I’ve ever thought, the motivations of my heart, how my life has played out in the secret places, I’m nervous. Because I am guilty. I’m nervous if I have to stand in front of God and have the accuser go, “He didn’t love You with his whole heart. Look at how he treated his wife on this day. Look at this block of his life, how he walked in foolishness. Look at how often he was nervous, ashamed or doubted Your power. Look at how often he questioned Your authority.” I’m guilty of all of those things.
But look at the next line. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” So we love courtroom drama in the U.S. Every show on television is about doctors or lawyers. There is not a show on that is not about doctors or lawyers that I’m aware of, unless you go cakes and fashion these days. We are a culture captivated by justice, and the scene that just got painted here was of a courtroom where I am absolutely guilty, charges have been levied against me
and yet Christ goes, “Oh no, time has already been paid. This is a double jeopardy situation. He doesn’t have to pay for that. It has already been paid for. He’s free.” And the gavel slams, and I’m set free.
And then look at what comes after this. “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised. . .” So how do we know that the check Jesus Christ wrote didn’t bounce? Because He was raised from the dead. So if Jesus isn’t raised from the dead, maybe we still owe a little bit. Maybe we’re on layaway and something else is coming. We know that check cleared because Christ raised from the dead. And if you follow the text, He’s sitting next to God right now doing what? Praying for you and me. We’ve talked about this. There are certain people I just feel are really dialed in to God more than others. Like when certain people say, “I’m praying for you,” I’m like, “Maybe, maybe not.” But then there are other people who are like, “I’m praying for you, Matt. I really am.” And I know they are, and it’s probably at 3:00 in the morning next to a candle. You want that guy praying for you when things go dark. I love that. And it excites me when certain people say, “Man, I’m praying for you.” But the thought that Christ Himself is making intercession for you means that you’re not an afterthought in His mind. He didn’t pay for you on the cross and it’s, “I’ll see you when
you get to heaven.” He’s interceding for your regardless of circumstances. In fact, Hebrews would say you have an empathetic high priest who, especially in your dark circumstances, is interceding on your behalf.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” Again, you’ve got to get out of your head that following Jesus means no difficult days. It’s not true. It has never been true. He just used the words “distress,” “famine,” “persecution” and “sword.” What you get in the gospel is God, and God is sustaining enough to walk us through any circumstance. The good news of the gospel isn’t that you get money, a hot spouse and long life. The good news of the gospel is you get God. You get reconciled to God, and He’s enough. He’s the treasure, He’s the gold and He’s what we’re after. That’s what you get, and that’s what we rejoice in, that we get God. So yes, there will be distress and tribulations. I already told you we’ve had two young men die in accidents this week. You don’t think those families are in tribulation this week? You don’t think those families are in distress? You’ve got to clean out a room. You’ve got to look through pictures. In once case, you’ve got to minister to the wife. You don’t think that’s distressing? Those are godly people.
The good news we read in verse 37. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come. . .” I love that Paul always throws something like that in. In case you think of something in a thousand years, he still wants to have it covered. “Nothing in your past, nothing right now and just in something shows up in a couple thousand years, that either.” “. . .nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So, if we put all three of these together, what we’re talking about is the life that can’t be shaken.
I was reading Ian Murray, who wrote a biography of Jonathan Edwards. In that biography, he tells the story of a deacon who wrote a blurb about Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards is a very famous character in American history. He was a brilliant theologian, and he was fired from his church. So that always makes pastors a little nervous. If they can fire Edwards, they can fire anyone. If Edwards isn’t save, no one is safe. So they fired Edwards, and one of his deacons wrote years later in his journal that he watched Edwards that week and he didn’t show the slightest bit of concern over the fact that they had removed him from his position of power, they had removed him from his ability to make money and they had removed him from his position of authority in that town. They removed him from all of that, and he just seemed like an untouchable man. Now how is that possible? Because he knows who he belongs to. He knows that God began it and God will finish it. And he knows that God has never abandoned him regardless of circumstance.
If you’ve ever really read Paul in the letters in the New Testament and marveled at his freedom, you know what I’m getting to here. You can’t do anything to Paul. If you put him in prison, he’s just going to convert your guards and all the prisoners. If you try to kill him, he gets giddy about going to heaven. If you just beat him and try to make an example of him, he doesn’t consider the suffering of this day even worthy to be compared to the future glory. He’s grateful that you’re allowing him to suffer for the name of Christ (Philippians 3:10). What do you do to that man? You can do nothing to him. He rejoices in death, he rejoices in life and he rejoices in tribulation. You can’t touch him. He’s free. He’s free because he knows who he belongs to, he’s free because he knows God has not abandoned him and he is free because he knows that God began this and God will finish this.
And if you can remember and rejoice in these things, if you can establish that gospel rhythm, you’ll be unshakeable, even in what Ecclesiastes 12 calls “the dark days that will be many.” But we have a way of being forgetful. We have a way of very quickly forgetting who is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. We have a way of very quickly feeling abandoned. We have a way of very quickly feeling like it’s up to us to bring this thing to completion. We are very quick to slam our foot on our gas pedal over and over again with no power of the Holy Spirit in the hopes that the car would move. And may He who is rich in mercy save us from all of that.
Let’s pray. “Father, I thank You for these men and women. I thank You for this great book of Habakkuk as we’re getting ready to wrap it up and land the plane. I pray that You would make our hearts glad for Your sovereign covering and sovereign power over our lives. We thank You that You, in Your mercy, through no merit of our own, have tuned in our hearts and minds to You. I pray for my brothers and sisters that are in this room who maybe feel like they’ve gone too far, that this great gospel is not for them or that they are the one person who has more power than Your cross, the one person who has gone beyond Your ability to save. I just pray that You would break through that nonsense in a very powerful way. Some of us are in tough spots right now. Help us to remember that You haven’t abandoned us. Help us remember and tune our eyes into, tune our hearts into the fact that You are here, that You are not far off but that You’re here. And would You help our hearts and minds remember what they’re so easy and quick to forget. We love You. Help us. It’s for Your beautiful name I pray. Amen.”