Do you ever look around at the superabundant injustice, violence, hatred and, well let’s just be honest, stupidity and wonder how you could ever make a difference in the world? Is there any hope, really? Millions of refugees in camps, torn from their homelands by murdering terrorists, tens of thousands of children dying of starvation and countless young girls and boys being hooked on drugs and sold into slavery for sex… God where are you?!
I recently came across an author to whom I can wholeheartedly relate. His name is Habakkuk (Gotta love that name, Man!) and he wrote a book called Habakkuk. Do you see the originality oozing from this guy already? Seriously, though, in the beginning of his book he cries out “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?... Violence….Destruction…justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous…the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he…mercilessly killing nations forever?”
We understand this, don’t we? Habakkuk is exasperated and (I love this…) says he will climb up into a watchtower and wait on God to answer all of his grievances. I can see him standing there, arms folded, staring into the sky. How often do we actually stop to listen, expecting an answer, after griping to God? Maybe we should do that more often, because God decides to answer Habakkuk!
Among many other things, God says about the wicked man “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”
What?! I understand the part about the wicked man not having an upright soul. But “the righteous shall live by his faith.” What does thaaat mean, honestly?! I have always heard that, you just gotta have faith, Man! Please explain that. Where does one get faith? How do I know if I have it, much less live by it? What is faith in the first place?
Let’s do what I always do when I am confused…find an ant bed, poke a few sticks in it and watch the ants clamber over each other. (It is actually therapeutic. Just be sure not to sit too close) Ok, after that does not help one bit, I do the next best thing, look up the original Hebrew and Greek for faith. This leads us to words like trustworthiness, security, persuasion, trust, faith, belief, conviction and, my personal favorite (because I am going to use it to make a point here) TRUTH!
So why do we need faith? And what does this mean, the righteous LIVE by faith.
At the core, faith is about truth. No one wants to believe a lie, or do they? Do you?
What does it mean when you say you trust in something or someone? That they will be true, not deceive us or fail us. I trust this bridge to get me across the river. I trust this money to keep me comfortable. I trust this girl not to break my heart. I trust in my abilities to get me what I want. I trust my friend not to steal or lie to me.
Why this obsession with Truth? What is so bad about being deceived? Lied to? How does this make you feel?
Jesus said something very profound about this. In John 8:31-32 Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
The people said “We are already free, we are not slaves. What are you talking about, Jesus?”
Then listen, Jesus said this (John 8:34) “Truly truly I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”
Who here has ever practiced sin? Raise your hand. Remember, there is a camera on your phone or computer. I can see you. (Creepy, I know) ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The Truth that Jesus was talking about is what we call the gospel, or good news that God is a just God, (Remember Habakkuk wondering about justice?) who demands payment for any sin or wrongdoing. None of us can make that payment. Because the payment is one’s very life.
Sin is simply going our own way instead of God’s way. God’s way leads to peace and joy. Our way leads to destruction. But God loves us and does not want us to be punished. So, He came to earth as a man, Jesus Christ, to give His life for ours. He deserved no punishment, but took ours so that we may have a right relationship with God once again.
He came to purchase any and every slave (That means every person. That includes you!) out of sin.
So how does this tie in to Faith???
Well, there is a lie out there that God does not exist (a whole other topic!), just do what you want, or try to be good if that makes you feel better.
But the truth is that one day we will all have to stand in front of a Holy God and be judged for all that we have done and even said. He will ask for an accounting of our life. If you know Him, then you will say “I am a sinner. If it was not for your Son, Jesus Christ, paying for my sins then I would be guilty, but He has washed me clean”. And God will exclaim a hearty “Welcome”. But…and it is a BIG BUT (Get it, big butt!!! Sorry I could not help it! I have a bad habit of making lame jokes at serious moments.) Ahem, but…If you do not know Him, He will command you to leave his presence and you will be sent to a place called Hell. In other words, we cannot save ourselves.
This is the Truth that Jesus proclaims. And the Truth will set you free.
This ties back to our friend, Habakkuk. God tells him that the righteous LIVES by his faith. That means that our actions, thoughts and words are determined by what we trust to be true.
Turn away from your sin. Confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is your Savior. Then live in faith that you have been set free.
So you see, it is the object of your faith that is important. Not the intensity of your faith.
It doesn’t matter how intensely you trust in a rotten log. It will not get you safely across the river. Money comes and goes, girlfriends and friends can let you down, our own abilities can fail. I will even tell you this, I trust in God more than I trust in my wife. Because only then can I be the husband that she needs. I want the same for her. I want her trust to be in Jesus more than me, because I am going to mess up and I want her to be stable in God when I fail.
Faith is like the roots of a tree. You can’t see them. But if they are true and strong roots we WILL bear fruit in our lives as a tree bears fruit. Fruit of love, patience, gentleness, self-control, kindness, just to name a few...But if the root rots away, if we have trusted in the wrong things then our lives will also rot. (God talks about this in Habakkuk chapter 2)
Bearing fruit is evidence of a strong root. Bearing fruit is natural and good. But sometimes something comes along in life and cuts you down so low that you think it is all over. This is when you find out whether you have trusted in truth. THERE IS A WALNUT STUMP IN THE FRONT YARD AT THREE CIRCLES. I cut this tree down two years ago. The fruit, the branches, the trunk are all gone and it is still trying to send up shoots. WHY?
Faith in Jesus is not a feeling. It is like the stars. You cannot see them during the day, you may even feel like they are not there. But when darkness of life comes, they shine.
Faith is not a way to get what you want. It is a way to have joy through anything that happens, trusting in the one true God, who loves you deeply. So deeply that He died for you.
Why would you have faith in anything else?
Now go read the last few sentences of Habakkuk’s book (3:17-19). Yes, you have to open your Bible.