Where is God?

July 13, 2020

Habakkuk 1:1–17

The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

 In verse 3, notice it says, “Why do you make me look at injustice?” But the word injustice is a pretty general word. It means evil or sorrow or grief. What he is saying here is, “Why have you put me in a position where all I see is evil?” In Ecclesiastes 9, there’s a very interesting verse that goes like this: “As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.”

The good King Josiah, who was the ruler of Judah just before Habakkuk, gave people the hope that there might be good times coming for the country, but his sons were terrible kings. There was moral corruption and injustice inside the society. That’s the reason why Habakkuk says there in verse 4, “Therefore the law is paralyzed …” That is, God’s law is not being obeyed. There were military threats outside, and therefore, what you had now were evil times.

What he sees are not only evil times, but God not seeming to do anything about them. He says, “Lord, why aren’t you listening to me?” in verses 2–4. “Why aren’t you doing anything? Why do you do nothing? Why do you tolerate all this? Why do you let this happen? Why are you absent? Why have you abandoned us?”

Habakkuk observed the conditions around him and he made an assessment about God based on what he saw. How many of us look at our conditions today and make the same kind of assessment?

We are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. People are literally hiding in their homes and our political leaders are enforcing restrictions like never before in history. We see political divisions and unrest on the news 24/7. Protests that are prelude to lootings, anarchy in the streets, tearing down monuments by mobs, violence against police officers… murder, robbery, theft are all on the rise in our major cities. We live in very dangerous times.

But God is going to teach us something through this man Habakkuk. What was true of his time is true of our time. There are things happening in our world we do not understand. That’s what we see: evil times, God not there. “God abandoned us.” That’s what Habakkuk saw, and today that is what we see too.

God placed this little obscure book of Habakkuk in the Bible to give us encouragement for times like these.



Dynamic Hope

July 9, 2020

Philippians 1:19-24

Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

Hope is never an escape from reality or from problems. It doesn’t leave us idle, drifting or just rocking on the front porch. Hope is dynamic, it will put us in gear. When the people who were persecuting Paul were trying to decide whether they should punish Paul him or put him to death, Paul presents them with an incredible dilemma. Let me try and paraphrase his argument:

“If you kill me I will be happy, for then I can be with my Lord and savior, so go ahead and kill me. But if you let me live I will also be happy, for then I can continue to share the gospel, which is what I am called to do. If you choose to punish me then I will rejoice because I will be suffering for my savior who suffered and died for me.”

I don’t think they knew what to do. They hated Paul and tried to do the thing he least wanted, but they could never understand how he could be so bold in the face of danger. The hope Paul possessed was dynamic and not passive.

When faced with peril we do not shrink back and cower in fear. Hope does not operate that way. Hope does not say, “oh well, at least I will have joy one day…” but rather hope accomplishes in us fruitful labor, no matter what the circumstance we face.

When faced with death we are comforted because of the hope we possess. We have a future inheritance as the children of God. We shall see the face of Jesus.

When we are in the midst of suffering we experience the power of hope, a moment by moment awareness of the presence of Christ as he comforts us and gives us strength to endure.

 

Dynamic hope moves us forward. It would be easy to be depressed and anxious about the circumstances we find ourselves in. Hope gets us moving. Hope reminds us that although there may be many things I can’t do because of my circumstances, here some things I can do… I can praise God for Jesus.  I can share my hope with someone else. I can encourage others with my story. I can pray like never before when I am close to God because of my suffering. And I can know, like Paul, I am still in this world not for my sake but because I have something of great importance to offer someone else.



Our Living Hope

July 8, 2020

Ephesians 1:13–19

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. 15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

What defines this incomparable great power for us as believers? How can we live a life that honors God when we are faced with so many distractions and temptations? How can we have joy in the midst of pain and suffering? What great power allows us to choose holiness over sinful temptations? It is not simply the idea of hope, it is a person. Jesus is our living hope.

He was pierced for us. He was crushed. He was forsaken. He was whipped. He was nailed. What got him through it?

Hebrews 12:1 says it was the joy that was set before him so he endured the cross. What was it? It tells you right there. It was for us. In Isaiah 53 it says he was crushed, he was oppressed, he was afflicted, he was pierced, but the results of his suffering he shall see and be satisfied. One of the great lines in the Bible. He lost everything, yet he thought it was worth it because of the results. What are the results? We are.

To the degree you realize you were his living hope, to that degree he’ll become yours.

To the degree you’re melted by the thought that what got him through his suffering … The only thing he didn’t have before he suffered that he did have after he suffered … I mean he had the universe. He had everything. The only thing he didn’t have was you.

Therefore, you and I were his living hope. That’s what got him through it. If he loves you like that, if he values you like that … To the degree you realize you were his living hope, to that degree he’ll become your living hope.

And when I go through suffering I will keep my eyes on Jesus because he is my hope. When I am tested I will keep my eyes on Jesus because he is my hope. When I am tempted to give up because the road gets tough, I will keep my eyes on Jesus because he is my hope. He gave up everything for me, therefore I can endure anything for him.

 




Daily Devotions 2020