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March 2009

Living by Faith in Turbulent Times

Even as the financial situation continues to worsen, many people are looking for things to keep their spirits up, and also to keep their sense of humor! I heard of a man who went to his bank yesterday to withdraw some money from the ATM, and instead of giving him money, it asked for a loan of $20! It helps to keep smiling. ALSO, once upon a time people robbed banks, (bank-robbers) but to day we have banks robbing people! So the shoe is on the other foot.

This morning I want to share with you the story of a man who also lived in desperate times. There was one big difference; his life and that of his countrymen were at stake. The story is about the prophet Habakkuk who was a contemporary of Jeremiah.

This really is a fascinating story told in a book with only 3 chapters. In the first chapter we find Habakkuk complaining to God about the greed and disobedience of Israel, and asking why He hasn't done something about it. When God answers that He is going to allow His people to be punished by the Babylonians, Habakkuk then asks, "Why are You allowing your disobedient people to be punished by such a wicked nation as the Babylonians?" Isn't this just like us. We ask God for something, and then when He does it His way, we complain and ask Him why didn't He do it our way! It must make God smile at times at our double mindedness.

In chapter 2 and verse 2, God speaks: "Write down what I say". (When God tells you to write something down, you had better do it because you can be sure it is of the utmost importance.) He then tells Habakkuk that while the unrighteous live in their pride, greed and arrogance (sound familiar), 'the righteous or just shall live by faith'.

These are the words taken up by the apostle Paul in the book of Romans where he teaches we are saved by grace through faith. "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The just shall live by faith'." On reading this verse, Dr. Martin Luther's eyes were opened to the truth on the gospel, which in turn led to the Protestant Reformation.

I believe God was also telling Habakkuk that because he would not understand what God was about to do, he was to live by faith.

God tells us in Isaiah 55:8; "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways". We do not always understand the ways of God, we often do not understand His dealings either with us personally, or with the nations, and this is when living by faith is so important. Grace accepted by faith results in faithfulness.

This amazing conversation between God and Habakkuk reaches right down to our own day. In chapter 3, we see Habakkuk remembering how God has dealt with nations and His people in the past. He now believes God will show the same mercy, justice and faithfulness to all who live by faith, because He is our Eternal Father.

This financial crisis has not caught God unawares. He is working behind the scenes to bring about good for His people. I believe He is using it to 'wake up' His people. He is trying to tell us not to hold too tight to our possessions, as they will, sooner or later, disappear. He is trying to teach us once more the importance of 'living by faith'.

Habakkuk closes his book with a Psalm. The hymn begins with a picture of devastation, but closes with words of triumph. In essence he says, though the world turn upside down, I will trust in the Lord.

-- Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines,

-- Though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food,

-- Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, (In to days language it means though we lose all our worldly possessions)

Yet I WILL exult in the Lord, I WILL rejoice in the God of my salvation. For the Lord God is my strength. Habakkuk 3:17-19.

He resolved to rejoice, not in the situation, but in the Savior who would always be His strength. I pray that this will also be our experience as we go through these turbulent times.

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