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Valley Baptist Church streams Sunday sermon

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Posted at 10:16 AM, Mar 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-22 13:16:49-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Valley Baptist Church streams Sunday sermon, see sermon below.

Today is a new experience for us as a church
It's the first time ever that we have not met
physically together on a Sunday morning
But it's also the first time for many years that
we've all been meeting at the same time together
Because we've never been able to build a building
large enough to hold all of Valley Baptist Church
This is a new experience for me as a pastor
Not having anyone physically in front of me
and simply looking at a camera
So if my eye kind of wanders away from the
camera,
you'll recognize that this is really new for me
I just want to lean in and listen
I want you to just pretend that it's me and you
and that I'm talking to you today as your pastor
We're going to look at a passage from the OT
we're going to work through it verse by verse
We're interrupting our series on the Gospel of
Matthew
For the next few weeks we're going to have a
series
That I'm calling "Living by Faith During Tough
Times"
That's where we are today
This pandemic is a reminder to all of us of our own
mortality
It's also been a huge wake-up call for our culture
Of how little control that we really have as humans
And how much control that God has
So I hope that you'll grab your Bible
and open it to the OT
Little book of Habakkuk
It's a small book and hard to find
If you find the Gospel of Matthew and go back
a few pages, Habakkuk is near the end of the
OT
And when you get there,
you may have to blow the
dust off the pages
Because it's probably been a while since you read
this book
I know most people have never read it
Habakkuk was a prophet,
the prophet that no one seems to know
But his book contains a powerful message
That is actually extremely relevant for us
So join me for this message that I'm calling
Pain, Pandemics and Faith
What if you could ask God anything that you
wanted?
What if God were put on the witness stand
and He was bound to answer any question?
Most people would say they have pent up
questions for God
Questions like why does God allow evil
or suffering or a coronavirus
Habakkuk dialogued with God
In fact, his book at times reads more like
an interrogation of God
The prophet asks questions and amazingly, God
answers
The book is not very familiar to us
So we ask how could this be relevant for us today
Well Habakkuk asked many questions that we are
asking
Most prophets of the OT addressed the nation
on behalf of God
Habakkuk addresses God on behalf of the nation
Most scholars think the name Habakkuk means
"struggler"
If that's true, he certainly lived up to his name
He struggled to comprehend
what was happening in his world
The book grapples with the deepest of all
questions, why?
Why is there suffering? Pain? Evil? Pandemics?
Why does God allow disease? Death?
Why doesn't God DO something
about our personal suffering
and about what we're facing as a country and
world today?
The message of Habakkuk is relevant today for all
of us
Because it deals with the problem of pain,
the inference of his questions is important

People of faith are not exempt from pain or
Pandemics.
In 1992, our family vacationed in the Florida Keys
My children, to this day, will tell you that was their
favorite vacation
We rented a condo and a boat
And we spent every day out on the reef fishing
and diving off a platform of a lighthouse
As we returned to fly out of Miami
We came out of the Keys right ahead of Hurricane
Andrew
We stopped to eat lunch in a little town called
Homestead, FL
Later when we were home, we watched the news
of how Hurricane Andrew had destroyed
the town of Homestead
There was one house that stood in a sea of rubble
of other houses
A hurricane is not like a tornado
that can skip a house or skip a block
With a hurricane, if one house is destroyed,
usually the house next to it is as well
On that day, I watched as someone from CNN
interviewed the owner of this house that still stood
The owner said, well I built this home
not according to the local code
But I built it according to the Florida state code
He talked about how that code required 2 x 6's
instead of 2 x 4's
And how the code said that if you built it this way,
my house could withstand a hurricane
And I thought about how difficult
it must have been to build a house for a storm
When the sun was shining, and the sky was blue
But that's life
We all should be building for the storm
Because we all face storms
Some are financial, some are emotional,
some are physical, some are pandemics
If we face a crisis and we do not have
a firm foundation, then our life crumbles
Like a house in a storm
We know very little about the man Habakkuk
There's no narrative or story line of his life to
follow
His was a theological crisis in his mind
How he viewed God is what was at stake
Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah,
the boy prophet
Jeremiah had a pessimistic message of judgement
His message was the Babylonians are coming, the
Babylonians are coming
He warned Judah that they would be destroyed
by the Babylonians,
or as they are sometimes called, the Chaldeans
The people held Jeremiah in derision
They said, Listen, we live in Jerusalem
That's the City of God
That's where the temple is
God will never allow us to be destroyed
Habakkuk's book is not a book of warning like
Jeremiah's
His prophecies did not deal with what was going to
happen
or when it's going to happen or even how
He wrestles with the deeper question of why?
Why is there evil? Why is there pain?
Why is our nation in such spiritual declension?
Why is the only remedy left judgement?
And then he wrestles with the hardest of all
questions
Why do the wicked seem to prosper
and the righteous suffer?
Why is there so much injustice in the world?
Maybe we'd better set the historical context
In Judah there had been a great spiritual revival
Under the boy king Josiah
He was one of the few good kings of Judah
Under Josiah, they cleaned out the temple
that had been used for storage
And they rediscovered the Word of God
As they read the moral law,
a wave of revival washed over them
They tore down the altars of Baal
It was a time of spiritual fervency
But now in the cycle of life,
once again there was spiritual declension
Judah had drifted away from God
At the same time, there was the political
and military rise of the Babylonians
Assyria had dominated the world
The Assyrians were in what is modern day
northern Iraq
Mosul or ancient Nineveh was their capital
Assyria had destroyed Israel, the ten tribes to the
north
Nahum the prophet had prophesied about
judgement coming to the Assyrians
Judgement happened
The Tigris River overflowed and caused a breach
in the wall of their capital city
The Babylonians who were in modern day
southern Iraq came in the breach in the wall
and conquered them
So then the Babylonians became the only world
superpower
They attacked their neighbors one by one
and they fell in a domino effect
They were militaristic and imperialistic as a people
Theirs was a cruel culture
They would murder the men and rape the women
of those they conquered
They led the young people away in chains
They burned the cities
They desecrated the religious shrines
Eventually Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians
As Jeremiah had predicted
The temple was destroyed and the people were
taken away into captivity or slavery
Jeremiah walked through the streets of Jerusalem
like a war correspondent
Jerusalem had become a ghost town
Once a busy, busy city, the streets were empty
Jeremiah steps over the bloated bodies of the dead
And he writes the little book of Lamentations
He says, cry loud, see how the mighty have fallen
He sees the judgement of God fleshed out
God had taken Judah to the woodshed
and they had paid for their disbelief
Habakkuk saw all this coming

Habakkuk 1:1
The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw.

The first two chapters of his book are a dialogue
with God
He asked first, why do prayers go unanswered?
Most of us would like to ask that of God
Sometimes we pray consistently even passionately
And God does not answer, or at least not in the
way that we want
Habakkuk 1:2-3
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry,
And You will not hear?
Even cry out to You, "Violence!"
And You will not save.
3 Why do You show me iniquity,
And cause me to see trouble?
For plundering and violence are before me;
There is strife, and contention arises.

Habakkuk brings his complaint to God,
not against God
It's not so much a prayer as a cry of distress
He says there's violence
The Hebrew word is a strong word
Usually reserved for rape or some awful atrocity
Habakkuk is not talking about the Babylonians
He's talking about the wickedness of Judah
He sees the sin of his own people who have drifted
from God
There is murder, injustice, oppression, a wicked
king
Just a few years before there had been a great
revival
Now he prays and there is no answer
Have you ever felt like that?
Have you ever cried out to God in pain and God is
silent?
Have you ever felt like you're a child at the bottom
of the stairs crying out to your parent and the light
is turned off and you're alone?
That's how desperate Habakkuk was as he asked
the question, why?
It's okay to ask why
The question of why assumes that God is,
that He exists
It also assumes that there's a purpose in life
and what we're seeing doesn't seem to match
what we know of God
The OT is full of people that took their pain
and even their anger to God
Jeremiah of the same time period
Said, God you have deceived me
You called me to declare your message but it's all
doom and destruction, it's all negative
Jeremiah said I wish my mother's womb had been
my tomb
That's pessimistic
Elijah the great prophet at one time said,
Lord take my life
Moses said at one time, I wish I were dead
Jonah said the same
It's not that these men were suicidal
How do we know that they said this?
Because it's recorded for us
It's their innermost thoughts; their prayers
It's important when you hit bottom
who you're talking to
That it's not just your friends or your therapist
but it's God
We know that God is good and God is great
And yet Habakkuk says there's violence
and injustice in my culture
God why aren't you doing something about it?

Habakkuk 1:4
Therefore the law is powerless,
And justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.

It's astounding that a Jew who held the Law
in such high esteem
Would say to God that your Law is not working,
that it's powerless
That would say the world is out of control
Well God answers Habakkuk, not the question
of why is there evil or suffering
But the question of what are you doing God

Habakkuk 1:6-10
6 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans,
A bitter and hasty nation
Which marches through the breadth of the earth,
To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.
7 They are terrible and dreadful;
Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves.
8 Their horses also are swifter than leopards,
And more fierce than evening wolves.
Their chargers charge ahead;
Their cavalry comes from afar;
They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat.
9 "They all come for violence;
Their faces are set like the east wind.
They gather captives like sand.
10 They scoff at kings,
And princes are scorned by them.
They deride every stronghold,
For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it.

Habakkuk has asked God what are you doing
because it's obvious the Babylonians are going to
attack us
And God says I'm raising the Chaldeans up
to attack you
God is saying this is no accident of history
that they are coming in power
I've raised up the Chaldeans or the Babylonians to
judge Judah
It's like Christians who pray in America
because of the drift of our culture
there is inclusivism, pluralism, universalism in our
culture religiously
Christians pray, God why are you allowing
abortion, the perversion of same sex marriage
And what if God says I'm raising up an enemy
to crush your nation?
We would be absolutely shocked by that
Now I'm certainly not saying that that's
what this pandemic is about
No one can speak for God in the same way
that Habakkuk did in his day
He gives an awful description of the Babylonians
They scoff at kings
Their horses are swifter than leopards
We know that they would put disposed kings
in cages for public exhibition
We know later when they conquered Judah they
took the king
Tied him up and killed his children
right in front of him one by one
And then they took a hot poker and burned out his
eyes
So the last thing that he would ever see
and remember in his mind was the death of his
own children
They were an awful, perverted culture
Now before, God had used Israel to judge
the culture of the Canaanites
Now God is using the Chaldeans to judge them
This answer confused Habakkuk
as it would confuse any of us today
He says, why would you do that? They are worse
then us
And they certainly were
Habakkuk 1:12-13
12 Are You not from everlasting,
O Lord my God, my Holy One?
We shall not die.
O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment;
O Rock, You have marked them for correction.
13 You are of purer eyes than to behold evil,
And cannot look on wickedness.
Why do You look on those who deal treacherously,
And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours
A person more righteous than he?

Habakkuk is arguing, it can't be what it seems
We will not die
It'll be the Chaldeans, God
This suffering doesn't fit his theology
or his view of the character of God
He describes his understanding of God,
you are from everlasting
You're so holy you can't even look upon sin
His heart, though, erupts and says why then
do you hold your tongue?
Habakkuk is trying to defend God
There's evil in the world and yet God is
omnipotent; He can do anything
How can you reconcile those two things
Rabbi Kushner in New York years ago when his son
died
Wrote a runaway best seller titled
"When Bad Things Happen to Good People"
In the first part of the book he asks the right
questions
The questions of evil and tragedy
But in the end he got the answer wrong
He came to the conclusion that God is powerful
and that God is good
what Scripture teaches
But there's evil in the world so those two things
cannot be reconciled
His conclusion was I have to either give up
the idea that God is all powerful
or give up the idea that God is good;
He cannot be both
So he concluded that God is good
but that God is powerless in the face of
a pandemic or pain or human suffering
That's what happens when we try to defend God
It's ridiculous that a New York rabbi
or a bearded prophet in the Old Testament
Finite beings would try to defend an infinite God
Habakkuk tries to find a purpose in pain
Why is there disease, death, tragedy, suffering?

Habakkuk 2:1
I will stand my watch
And set myself on the rampart,
And watch to see what He will say to me,
And what I will answer when I am corrected.

Habakkuk goes up on the upper wall, the ramparts
I've walked on the top of the wall around the city
of Jerusalem, the old city, it's called the ramparts
On the ramparts he demands an answer
He tells God I will not leave until you answer me
why this is happening
Habakkuk 2:2
Then the Lord answered me and said:
"Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.

God says, okay I'm going to answer
You better get it the first time
I'm going to give you the answer
Write it down and write it so big
that a man running can read it
Do you ever wonder why there's suffering,
injustice, evil?
Here is the answer

Habakkuk 2:4
"Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.

The just shall live by his faith
That's it? That's it.
You see, God did not answer the question why
Why is maybe too complex for us to comprehend
God's ways are above our ways
We never see the entire human narrative
at once so how could we understand what God is
doing
In the nations and in the generations to come
It's like a child that says why, why, why daddy?
And finally the dad in frustration says
because I said so
Does that mean there is no reason or explanation
No
It means that the answer is too complicated
for a child to understand
Our lives are so intertwined, if God told us what
He's doing in the complexity of the human race,
we would say huh?
Suffering is like a pebble that causes a rippling
effect through our lives and all that we are
connected to and our children's children
Maybe the suffering that we go through doesn't
just change us, but it changes and transforms the
next generation
It comes down to a matter of trust,
the Father knows best
Habakkuk was asking the wrong question
The question should not be why is there
suffering but what should my response be?
God is good and God is great
and yet there is evil and pain in the world
The question then is how should I respond
God says you should live by faith
You say, well that's simplistic
Yes, but that's the answer
God is bigger and better than us
Most books on suffering are worthless
Because they try to answer the question of why
but God does not say why
We try to give reasons when we should be looking
for results
We try to show purpose in suffering
when we should look for benefit
God does not always fix the problem of pain
God uses pain to fix us
In the NT God shows all kinds of benefits
related to suffering
Sometimes there's chastening,
that suffering comes as a result of our own sin
That God is using it to correct us as His children
We have stood at the fork in the road
and we have chosen the wrong road
and He gently pushes us the other direction
Sometimes suffering is to conform us,
it's a pressure to mold us to be like Jesus,
to set proper priorities
Sometimes it's to comfort, that as we go through
suffering we minister to others
if we don't waste our sorrows
But those are not reasons for suffering,
they're results
Those are not the purposes of suffering,
they are the benefit
That's a description of how God uses suffering
to shape us in our faith
The psalmist wrestled with this issue of suffering
In this case it was not David but Asaph
Psalm 73:1-5
Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.
5 They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.

The psalmist makes a basic affirmation,
God is good to those of a pure heart
That's an affirmation that all of us would make
That if you serve God, God will be good to you
But that does not always appear to be true
in our culture, does it?
The psalmist saw the prosperity of the wicked
and the suffering of the righteous
And he was perplexed by that
Psalm 73:12-13
12 Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who are always at ease;
They increase in riches.
13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.
The wicked are prospering, they are at ease
And those who serve You seem to do it for nothing
What good is it to be a person of faith?

Psalm 73:16-17
16 When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me-
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.

The problem of pain is answered not just by the power of God but in the presence of God

The sanctuary was not just a place,
it represented the presence of God
The answer to suffering is in our connection to God
God is the creator but also a loving father
Job suffered horribly, perhaps more than any of the Old Testament
And he questioned God about that suffering
But the closer he got to God,
the less questions he had
We need to stop looking for reasons
and look for results
Stop trying to figure out the purpose
and look for benefits
What does pain leave in its wake?
Often it leaves our heart tender towards God
God told Habakkuk the answer is
the just shall live by his faith
That little verse becomes the core of the entire
New Testament
It's quoted three times in three different contexts
in the New Testament
It's arguably the greatest light coming out of the
Old Testament
And yet it came in the darkest hour of suffering
The 3 NT quotations give us our application

Romans 1:17
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

The just shall live by faith

This is the thesis statement, the heart of the
book of Romans
It is about how a person is justified
or made right with God
We are saved or made right with God not
by the keeping of rules or not by our good
works
Salvation is not something we achieve it's
something we receive
When we acknowledge that we have sinned and we
cry out to Jesus
His righteousness is imputed or transferred to us
And our sin is paid for upon the cross
That's not something that we can do in and of
ourselves
Isaiah said all of our righteousness, even the good
things we do
Are like filthy rags in the sight of God
We are spiritually bankrupt without Christ
Now the emphasis or the accent in the book of
Romans
On the just shall live by faith
That's how we're justified
It is by faith, not good works
This phrase occurs again in Galatians
Galatians 3:11
But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith."

The just shall live by faith

This verse is not about salvation, but sanctification
It's not about our way to God,
but our walk with God
The emphasis is not upon just, but upon live
How do you live the Christian life?
We are justified and made right with God by faith
That's not a matter of self-effort or trying harder
It's not rules but it's a relationship
It's not about keeping a list of do's and don'ts
It's about trusting God to be forgiven
But then we live the Christian life by trusting God
We live the Christian life by staying connected
to God and reading His Word and in prayer
In publicly worshipping Him and privately
worshipping Him

Hebrews 10:38
Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him."

The just shall live by faith.

In Romans, the emphasis is upon the word just
In Galatians, the emphasis is upon the word live
The emphasis in Hebrews is upon the word faith
He is introducing Hebrews chapter 11
That's the greatest chapter in all the Bible on faith
In fact, it's sometimes called the Hall of Fame of
Faith
It's about people of the OT who lived by faith
It's not about what they did for God
It's about what God did for them
They faced affliction, persecution, death
but they lived by faith
So why do good people suffer?
I don't know
I don't see the purpose but at times I see the
benefit
I don't see not the reason for suffering but at
times I do see the results in people's lives
As a pastor, I see a lot of suffering
I sometimes see a couple that once loved each
other
And now people that loved one another
have become bitter enemies and even say
they hate one another
I've dealt with hundreds of women who have spent
a lifetime coping with abuse that they received
as a child or adolescent
I've sat in the emergency room in dark times in
people's lives
I've held the hands of many people as they died
I've stood at a number of Christless graves where I
could give no hope to those standing by for their
loved one
Historically I don't know why God has allowed so
much suffering
Why did God allow a madman like Nero to light his
gardens
With the burning bodies of young Christians
who had been dipped in tar?
In the Middle Ages in the days of the Reformation
Why did God allow good men, godly men
to be burned at the stake
As their own children hid behind their mothers
and watched their daddies die horribly?
I don't know why
But God knows and that's enough for me
Habakkuk concludes his book in the way
that we should conclude our thoughts today

Habakkuk 3:17-18
17 Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls-
18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk lived in an agrarian society
And he said what if there's no fruit on the vines?
What if the olive trees fail?
What if the flock is lost from the fold?
What if all of our finances and all of our future
seems to collapse?
Habakkuk said, yet I will rejoice in the Lord
That's how we must face this pandemic
If a loved one is taken away
and our hearts are broken in grief
Yet we will rejoice in the Lord
If we lose virtually all of our retirement
and our future looks bleak
Yet we will rejoice in the Lord
If we ourself face a terminal illness
that decimates our body
Yet we will rejoice in the Lord
Job says though He slay me, yet I will serve Him
Yet, yet, such a small word
But yet that's where faith is found