From Fear to Faith (Habakkuk Sermon 9 of 9)
June 23, 2002 | Andrew Davis
Joy in Suffering, Trials
I. An Age of Fear
We're looking this morning at Habakkuk 3:16-19 and with it we complete our study in the book of Habakkuk. It's an absolute delight to open this text to you today. This is one of the most incredible texts in the Scripture for daily instruction in righteousness, and I need to hear what I'm about to say and to live it out as much as any of you do. Back in 1983, we went to a Campus Crusade for Christ national gathering, Kansas City, KC'83 it was called, and professor Howard Hendricks from Dallas Theological Seminary was there, and he told a story that stuck with me ever since, and I thought much about it. He said he was walking across the seminary campus there, and saw a Christian young woman who seemed distressed, a little bit troubled, and he went up, he knew her from one of his classes, and he said, "How are you doing?" And she said, "Well, I'm doing okay under the circumstances." He said, "Under the circumstances? What are you doing under there? A Christian should never be under the circumstances." That's the message of our text today, isn't it? A Christian should never be under the circumstances, but rather over the circumstances by faith in the living God.
I liken it to being on an airplane. I remember we were waiting, I don't know the city, but I know that there was a driving rain, it was windy and there was some doubt as to whether we were going to take off. I think Americans have the sense that we have a God given right to travel no matter what the weather. But there we were on the airplane and we were thinking, "You know, we've got to take off and if we don't take off, you know what we're going to do, we're going to give this airline a piece of our mind," as though they somehow control the weather and the laws of physics. But finally, permission was granted and we started taking off and we went up through all that weather, the wind, and we were being buffeted, but then at a certain point, we just broke through the clouds, have you ever done that before? And it was just a brilliant sunshiny day above that cloud cover. And it seems to me that that's what the prophet Habakkuk is enabled to do by faith here. He breaks through the clouds and sees again the sovereignty of God that rules over all things, and sees again the salvation that God is giving him by faith, simply by grace as a gift, and everything gets put right again.
We're talking this morning about a secret that very few Christians have learned. I don't know many. It's a secret, the apostle Paul calls it in Philippians 4, "I've learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Whether well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Do you live your life that way? Have you learned that secret of being content whether the fig tree is filled with figs or whether there are no blossoms on the fig tree. Whether the olive vine is or olive tree is filled with olives, or there's no olives on the tree, whether the grapevine is succulent, filled with purple or green grapes or whether it's barren. Can you praise God no matter what? Can you be content in God your Savior? Paul said, "The secret is I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
Not that he didn't practice what he preached, he did. I think about a time when he and Silas were sitting in a jail in Philippi. It was middle of the night, pitch black, I imagine, because when the jailer came in, he had to bring in lights so that he could see in there. So they're sitting there in the dark, it's murky, it's probably damp, maybe some vermin running around, and there are Paul and Silas, they've been beaten for their faith in Jesus Christ, persecuted because they brought the message of salvation to that city. And they were beaten, and they were thrown in jail. And they were singing, they were singing praise songs to Jesus Christ. Do you live your life that way, or are you under the circumstances?
That's what we're talking about today. And if you live your life under the cloud cover, under the circumstances, then Habakkuk 3 has a message for you today. Habakkuk travels a journey in this book from fear to faith and from faith to joy in the sovereign Lord. Let's travel it with him. If you can't say that you live in constant dependence by faith on Jesus Christ, so that no matter what God brings your way, no matter what your circumstances, you are rejoicing in Him; if you don't live your life that way, then Habakkuk 3 has something to say to you today. It's a joyful message, is it not?
Now we live, I think in America, uniquely, I think, in this time, at least in our recent experience, in an age of fear. September 11th, I think, woke a lot of people up. I think many of you will always remember where you were when those towers melted down and fell. I know I was right here in the parlor, we were watching on television, it was shocking to me to see it. And I think the reason that September 11th was so shocking to Americans is that we're not used to war being fought on our soil the way that Europeans or Asians might be, we're not used to it. World War I left Europe looking like a lunar landscape, it didn't touch us. World War II came home only in Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, and the Aleutian Islands, for the most part we were unscathed. Other wars have been fought in distant lands but we're not used to it right here. And so it was shocking to see an act of war done on American soil, where American citizens perished. Even more shocking is the sense of the every day nature of the daily life that the people who died were living, they just went to work and suddenly they were gone and their building was melted, it disappeared.
And so I think we live perhaps in an age of fear, and therefore we need the message of Habakkuk to tell us how to make a journey from fear to faith and from faith to abiding joy in the Savior. During the Cold War, we lived in fear, but those fears were never realized. We thought about the A-bomb and the H-bomb that Russia and China possessed, the ICBMs, and then there was the Cuban Missile Crisis, but of course, it never came to our soil, we aren't used to it, but we lived in fear. But this is a new era, isn't it? Media brings fears right to our doorstep. Do you watch the local news? I don't watch the local news too much anymore. But some people can testify to that, and it's just one grief after another brought right to your living room. You can share somebody else's suffering. How much more the National News and CNN and C-SPAN and the Internet, just bringing grief from all over the world, right to your doorstep, and with it the attendant fears, will we survive? Will we live? Will anthrax rule the nation, run roughshod over us? Will we all perish? It's an age of fear. And I think as we look at that, we need to know how to conquer fear through faith in the eternal God.
Now, fear is a devastating psychological force, is it not? It's something that many people face. The Bible mentions fear over 250 times. Some fear is good, some fear is necessary. Proverbs 9:10 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." So the fear of the Lord is a good thing. Proverbs 16:6 says, "Through fear of the Lord, a man avoids evil." And so through fear we turn away from and shun evil. Even more, we become concerned about our eternal souls through fear. Luke 12:4 and 5, Jesus said this, "I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who can kill the body and after that can do nothing to it. I'll tell you the one to fear, be afraid of the one who, after the body is killed, has the power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him." Now, this is the advice of Jesus, the Son of God, "Fear God who has power to throw you into hell, and fear the torments of hell for they are eternal."
So like I said, there are some fears that are necessary and good. We'll talk more of that later on. But much fear is just simply from the devil. It's just a waste of time, it's a waste of energy and strength, and our strength to serve God is simply sapped through this fear.
And I think one of God's greatest gifts is freedom from fear, amen? The ability that we have through faith in God to say goodbye forever to foolish fears and anxiety. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Freedom from fear, it's a gift from God. Or Psalm 27, "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear. Though war break out against me, even then will I be confident." David, king David, had learned the secret of deliverance from fear.
The Message of Habakkuk: A Journey from Fear to Faith
Now, the book of Habakkuk has a message of a journey from fear to faith. In Habakkuk Chapter 1, Habakkuk looks around at his own culture. It's about 500 years before Jesus was born, came into the world. The Jews had run to the end of their string, they had disobeyed God through idolatry, they'd broken the covenant. God had been patient, He had sent them prophets and warnings through the prophets again and again, but they would not listen. And the time had come for judgment. And so He announces the judgment through many prophets, He announces it through Ezekiel, He announces it through Jeremiah, and He announces it here through Habakkuk. But Habakkuk begins deeply interrelated with it. He's praying over his people, praying over his culture, he sees that they're wicked, he sees that they're evil. They're using their positions of power to dominate the poor. They are evil people, and he says, "How long O Lord, are you going to make me look at injustice and you do nothing? Your law is broken every day, and the courts are paralyzed, the law doesn't seem to be able to do anything. How long is this going to go on?" And so he prays in this way and there's a sense of fear, "What is happening? Our culture is falling apart. And God, you just seem to do nothing, you don't care, you don't move."
God answers the prophet, He speaks to him. Our God speaks. He speaks to the prophet and He says, "I'm not going to do nothing forever, because I'm bringing the Babylonians. They're a ruthless and impetuous people. They are powerful militarily, and they're going to sweep across the whole earth, they're going to seize one country after another, snatch them up like eggs from a nest, they're going to collect them all. And they're coming here, and they're going to destroy this country, they're going to tear down the walls, they're going to burn the king's palace, and they're going to burn the temple. The house of the Lord will be destroyed because of the sins of the Jewish people. They're coming."
Well, this is what I call out of frying pan into the fire. Habakkuk originally complaining about the wickedness of his own people, but at least they were Jews, at least they understood the Word of God, at least they were somewhat worshipping the true God even if they added idolatry along with it. But now these people are just simply pagan, they're just idolaters, they're wicked Gentiles, and you're going to use them to destroy your own people? It doesn't make any sense. God, your eyes are too pure to look on evil, you cannot tolerate wrong. Why are you tolerating these idolatrous people? They're sweeping across the world and you're doing nothing about it. You've made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler. And the wicked, powerful foe, he can do anything he wants with them, where are you God? And why are you doing this? He says, "I'm going to stand and wait for an answer."
Habakkuk 2 is the answer in four parts. He speaks, God does, and He says, "Write this down for it speaks of the end. This is the way I will behave to the end of the earth, the end of the world. So write it down so that generation after generation can come and read it and understand what I am doing in history." Answer number one, the Babylonians, they're going to get it in the end. The Babylonians are going to be destroyed. And so, look at Verse 16 that we just read. He gets the message, doesn't he? Concerning the Babylonians, he says, "I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones and my legs trembled," there's the terror, the fear. "Yet, I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us." That's the Babylonians. So they're going to get it, they're going to get destroyed. Answer number one.
Answer number two; they're going to get destroyed by another people who are themselves going to build an empire, they're going to raise up towers and mighty structures, and they're going to build, and they'll rise for a while, the Medes and the Persians, they'll have their day in the sun. But in the end, all human empires, all the rising and falling of the world, it will all amount to dust in the wind. The Lord Almighty has declared that the labors of the nations are only fuel for the fire, that they exhaust themselves for nothing. Why?
Because number three, "I'm building my own kingdom," says God. "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." Everywhere, people will see my glory, and they will worship me, and they will love me, and they will glorify me, and all of my competitors will be gone. Just one kingdom left, the kingdom of God. "Well, what about the individual sinner? What about somebody like me?" Says Habakkuk. "What about this woman or that child or that man over there, what about them?" "Well, I've got that covered too," said God. Habakkuk 2:4, "The righteous will live by faith." "Individual people can enter my kingdom through faith in the eternal God. Simply by faith, they can enter. But if they do not enter they will be destroyed with all of my enemies." That's what He says. So that's the answer, Habakkuk 2.
Habakkuk 3 is Habakkuk's prayer of faith in response. And it's delightful, you see his journey from fear to faith. Now, as we look at this journey we begin to realize that fear is a common experience even for the most powerful people of God.
II. Fear and the Heroes of the Faith
Even the mighty heroes of the faith have demonstrated fear. You shouldn't wonder that fear comes into your heart, that you're afraid perhaps of the future, anxious about financial difficulties, relational problems, even Islamic militants coming and destroying new buildings on July 4th, or who knows what you're afraid of? Shouldn't surprise you that you have fears as part of our earthly situation. Psalms 103:13 and 14, God says, "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him, for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we're just dust."
We're just dust, we're given to fear. Abraham was, you remember the story of him in Gerar? And he looks around, he says, "It's a godless place that I'm at here, and I've got a beautiful wife, and I'm in trouble. So I think I'll lie about her and tell everybody that she's my sister." It's a good idea, right? And so he tells the king that "This beautiful woman here is my sister." While the king prepares to take Sarah from Abraham as his wife. Abraham is in major wimp mode here, saying nothing, doing nothing, and why? Because he's afraid. He says it very directly in Genesis 20:11, he said, "I said to myself, there's surely no fear of God in this place and they will kill me because of my wife." He's afraid.
And then there's Isaac, who goes to Gerar in his time, and does the exact same thing. Chip off the old block, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And so he does the exact same thing with the king of Gerar who was alive at his day. He said, "I'm married to a beautiful woman Rebecca, and they're going to kill me, I'm afraid of them. So I think I'll say she's my wife. My dad taught me that one." Fear. What about Job? Job was overwhelmed with waves of fear and terror. Job 13, "Only grant me these two things O God, and then I will not hide from you, withdraw your hand far from me and stop frightening me with your terrors." That's Job. Moses was afraid of being discovered after he murdered the Egyptian. He hid the Egyptian in the ground. He looked left and right before he killed him, he was afraid. And then he fled for his life. Many times he was afraid of the Jewish people that he had led out of Egypt. He was afraid again and again. Fear was part of Moses' life.
David was terrified frequently and the Psalms are filled with evidence that David wrestled with fear all the time. 1 Samuel 21, he said this, "That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish, king of Gath, but the servants of Achish said to him, 'Isn't this David, the king of their land? Isn't he the one they sing about their dances, "Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands"?'" Verse 12, "David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish, king of Gath." So he's terrified. So he pretended to be a mad man, he pretended to be insane, and he let his drool come down his beard, and they let him go, "I don't need any mad men in my kingdom." All of that motivated by fear.
Even the mighty prophet Elijah, after he took on the prophets of Baal, we've been studying it on Sunday evenings, 450 of them, courageous, bold, powerful, stands there, after all that's done, Jezebel sends word, said, "You killed my prophets, I'm going to kill you by tomorrow." And he was terrified and fled for his life, ran all the way to a cave somewhere. Even mighty Elijah, given to fear.
It's been true also in church history. Some of my greatest heroes of the faith have given in from time to time to their fear. Even Athanasius who stood against the world, Athanasius against the world, even he gave into fear at certain key points of his life. Martin Luther, standing courageously against the powers of the Catholic Church, testifying to justification by faith alone. "Here I stand, I can do no other." He needed a day to think about it. It's true. When they asked him, "What is your answer? Will you recant?" He said, "Let me think about it for a minute, I need a day to pray." Granted, day to pray, came back strong, but he needed some time to pray it through. Question he was worried is, "Am I the only one that's right, can it really be?" It was almost humility that led him to fear, but he had to pray.
And then there's a story of Charles Spurgeon, the first time that he stood up in front of a huge outdoor crowd, like Whitefield and Wesley used to do. Big huge assembly of people, his wife is sitting right in the front. He's about to preach, and he calls for one of the... One of the helpers comes and says something, and they go down and he talks to his wife, and the two of them leave. Goes on and preaches the message, she never came back. Someone came and said, "What did you say to that man?" And he said, "Well, she was sitting in the front, was looking so nervous that I started to become afraid, so I needed her to move because I wouldn't be able to preach if I kept looking at her face." And so Susannah Spurgeon went off because of Charles Spurgeon's fears. Even the most mighty give into fear.
III. Worldly Strategies for Overcoming Fear
Well, the world has all kinds of strategies for overcoming fear, doesn't it? What are some of the strategies that the world looks to? Well, determinism is one of them, it's a philosophy that says basically, there's nothing we can do about it, everything's set by fate. And so why fight it? I might as well just be resigned to it, I'm just going to give in to it. The problem with that is it leaves you bitter and hard and cold, you hate life. That's not the Biblical answer. What about detachment? James Montgomery Boice put it this way, "I don't want to think about such things. Every time I think about them I get depressed, when I think about my own personal future, when I think about the future of the country, the stock market depresses me, international news depresses me. The best solution is not to think about these things at all." Detachment, staying away from it all.
Or how about distraction? I think this is America's number one choice. This is our number one selection in this. The idea is that we're going to seek escape from the problems through distracting ourselves. We're going to reach out for entertainment, we're going to flock to the movies, we're going to rent videos, we're going to distract ourselves from the problems. Or we're going to go shopping. We're going to distract ourselves with shopping, and not because we need to buy something, but because we want to spend the day at the mall. It's a beautiful place, it's cool, air conditioning, we get out and we just distract ourselves from our life's problem. And when you go, are you alone? No, the place is filled with other people who are just shopping, distracting themselves. Or sports. Sports is primarily distraction from life. People are able to get away from their things and focus on something that they really know in their heart of hearts doesn't matter, although people do lose perspective, soccer fans will overturn cars and burn them and all that, but they lose perspective. At any rate, it's a distraction, sports are a distraction, "I'm not going to think about my problems."
Computer games, video games, vacation. Get away from it all. Well, what's the "it all" you're trying to get away from? It's your circumstances. You don't like your job, you don't like where you live, you don't like your neighbors, you're in financial problems, so you overspend and go on vacation. All of it for distraction, "Get me away, I don't want to think about it." And then, sadly, alcohol or drugs is a form of distraction, getting away from it, an addiction to something because they can't face their circumstances.
And then finally, determination. This is the kind of rah-rah motivational thing where you're going to go hear a speaker who's going to tell you, "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you got to be tough, you got to be strong. Only the strong survive, you got to get going." Almost like you're a football team. Have you had any of these motivational speakers? The British call it "having a stiff upper lip." The Greeks called it stoicism. "We're going to face our problems like men and like women, we're not going to wilt, we're going to be strong."
None of these things lead to ultimate success in facing fear, none of them, only faith does.
VI. Habakkuk’s Example: From Fear to Faith
So Habakkuk gives us the example from fear to faith, and from faith to lasting joy. Now, what is Habakkuk's strategy for that? Well, what does he do in Chapter 3? Look at the subtitle at the beginning of chapter 3, what is it called? It's a prayer, is it not? And so Habakkuk resorts to prayer. He was a man of prayer. Prayer is the beginning shot in the battle against fear. You get on your knees and you begin to pray to God, and you ask Him for help. And so he prays, he's a man prayer. Now, this isn't anything new. Chapter 1 is filled with his prayer as he's saying, "How long must I call you for help but you do not listen?" So he's constantly a man of prayer, but here he's resorting to prayer, he's turning to God in prayer.
He's also turning to God in worship. Look at Verse 1. I bet you just skipped right over Verse 1, didn't you? Frank, did you skip over Verse 1? That's a musical term, isn't it? I don't know. Chapter 3 Verse 1, "A prayer for Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth." I don't know what that means, okay? But at the footnote it tells us that it's probably a literary or musical term. Look at Verse 19, very last phrase, "For the director of music on my stringed instruments." You see what he's doing there? He's set up a piece of corporate praise. He's set up some praise. He's written a praise song, he's written a hymn, he's written a song. And why? Because he's going to worship God, he's going to turn toward his heart. Now, there's no sense in going and leading a whole group of people to worship if you don't worship on your own yourself, that you don't worship God, you can't export what you don't produce in your own nation. And so he's got to start by trusting in God, he's got to start by worshipping. So it all starts in his private prayer closet, he's going to worship God, he's going to honor Him.
And how does he do it? Well, he meditates on God's past actions. Throughout all of Chapter 3, as we saw last time, he's meditating on God's mighty actions in the past, what God has done for his people. With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, He led them out of Egypt, and He led them through the Red Sea. All of those great miracles that God had done. He's meditating on Scripture, he's thinking about doctrine, folks. Let me tell you right now, you want a solid basis for your battle against fear, a solid basis for joy, it is doctrine, it is Biblical teaching. Didn't Jesus say so? "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rains came, and the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rains came, the streams rose, the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
Doctrine is the solid rock. "Heaven and earth," Jesus said, "Will pass away, but my words will never pass away." And yet Christians are weak in doctrine these days. They're weak in the Scriptures, they don't know the God that they should know well. They don't know Biblical doctrine, Biblical theology, they shy away from it, sometimes even make fun of it. But then when the wind comes and the streams rise, the house falls because it's built on sand. You build on the word of God, and that's what Habakkuk did, he thought back to what God had done in the past, His great and mighty actions in the past. And then he patiently submitted to what God was doing. Look again at Verse 16, he says, "I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us." He accepts what God is doing, he's not going to fight against it. He says, "Our country is going to be destroyed, I accept it."
And then he chooses joy by faith, and he relies on God for constantly renewed strength. Look at this incredible hymn of joy. "Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pens and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The sovereign Lord is my strength, He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights." Look what he does, he starts with a joy that originates in God Himself. It's not a joy under the circumstances, folks. Your circumstances are going to be good and bad, they're like the stock market, and maybe they're better than the stock market, I don't know, but they wax and they wane. God has actually not promised you that every day would be sweeter and brighter than before materially, that you would have nothing but sweetness and success, and that if you're not having success in your life it's because of a lack of faith or sin in you. He's not promised that at all, that is not the Christian life. Rather, He's seeking to put your joy on a solid rock that doesn't move, and that is God and God alone.
"I will rejoice in the Lord," he says, Verse 18, "I will be joyful in God my Savior." He never changes. And by the way, was God deserving of praise when you got the thing you hoped for? The job, the child, the raise, the house, the success, whatever it is, did He deserve to be praised for that, yes or no? Yes He did, for every good and perfect gift comes from God. Let me ask you a question, does God ever change? Is He a changeable God or is He the same today as He was at that day that He deserved to be praised? He never changes. Your circumstances may be down, you may be suffering, you may be struggling, but God hasn't changed a bit from the last time you felt like praising Him. And so he moves to a joy that originates in God Himself.
Secondly, a joy that transcends even extreme circumstances. "Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, there are no sheep in the pen, no cattle in the stalls." You know what this is, this is drought and famine. This is starvation, folks. Are you facing anything like this? Are you facing the invasion of another country into your country, so that everyone will die by the sword, famine or plague, is that what you're facing? That's what Habakkuk was facing, and he said, "Even so, I will rejoice in the Lord. I'll be joyful in God my Savior." It is a joy that transcends even extreme circumstances, it's a joy that focuses on salvation. "I'll be joyful in God my Savior." Well, salvation from what? For Habakkuk, the easy answer is salvation from the sword of the Babylonians. And that was part of it, but not ultimately. The salvation he's thinking about is salvation from the wrath of God. Salvation from hell, salvation from judgment.
Look again what it says in Verse 13, "You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one." Another word for anointed one is Messiah. "You came out to save your anointed one, your Messiah, you came out to save Him." Well, how did He save the Messiah? Well, He saved his ancestors. From the descendants of king David, there needed to be a lineage down to Jesus, and so there had to be a continuing Jewish history. We talked about this last time. Ultimately, it all points ahead to Jesus, doesn't it? God my Savior is Jesus. He is the Savior, that's what His name means, salvation comes from Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And so I'm going to be joyful in the salvation that comes from God free of charge, a salvation given to me simply by faith. The righteous will live by faith, simply by faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross, I have eternal life. And so that's a joy that nobody can take from me. It's a permanent joy and it transcends circumstances.
It's a joy, ultimately, that scales the heights. Look at Verse 19, "The sovereign Lord is my strength, He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He enables me to go on the heights." One of the challenges of the Christian life is you can be feeling good on Tuesday afternoon and feeling terrible on Wednesday. You know what I'm talking about? Suppose you have a trial so severe that it just doesn't go away once you come to the new insight you think God wanted you to learn through it all, right? It's so big that it's going to be there the next day. Do you need strength to rejoice in the Lord again tomorrow? And how about later that day, do you need strength again from God to rejoice in Him? "The sovereign Lord is my strength." For abiding joy… Every time those anxious and fear thoughts come in, the Lord responds, the Lord stands at your side, He is actually with you, giving you strength for an abiding joy that transcends the circumstances. You got to be a battler, a fighter, a warrior for joy, because it's not going to come easily. Your circumstances will still be there a day later, a week later, a month later if they're serious. And the Sovereign Lord is my strength, and He gives me a joy that scales the heights.
It's almost like a mountain goat, do you see that? "He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He enables me to go up in the heights." I think about like the Alps, the Matterhorn or one of those ridges, and there's this mountain goat running with confidence, and there's a chasm on the left and the right sufficient to dash into pieces, but it's confident, because it knows where to go, running a straight line, and the view is spectacular, isn't it? To be up there, up in the heights, thinking about the Sovereign God, thinking about His joy, His power, His prophecies, the future you have in Christ, heaven, face-to-face with God, nothing can turn me. God gives me strength to scale the heights. And I don't know what I'm going to eat when that comes, when there's no figs, and no grapes, and no olives, and no sheep, and no cattle, I don't know what I'm going to eat, God does. He feeds the birds, He takes care of me, but I know my Savior. I know what God has given me in Christ.
Do you have that kind of a joy? Have you made the journey from fear to faith and from faith to abiding joy that God sustains day-by-day? It's right here in the text.
V. Application: The Daily Triumph of Faith Over Fear
What application can we take from this? First of all, let's talk about some things we should not fear. You should not fear circumstances if you're a Christian. Do not fear financial trouble, do not fear disease, do not fear accidents, do not fear any earthly circumstances because your life is not here anyway. You're not to fear those things. You're not to fear frowning people who don't like you or turn away from you if you're a faithful witness for Christ, don't fear them. There's nothing to fear. Pity them but don't fear them. You're not to fear future evil of any sort.
There are some things we should fear. If you're not a Christian, if you've never trusted in Christ, you should fear Judgment Day. Because our God is a law giver and He keeps careful records of all the things that we've done to transgress His commands. If you're a non-Christian, you should fear Judgment Day, fear wrath, fear hell, yes, fear Him who can cast you to hell, fear Him. We start at complacency, don't we? We start at confidence, comfort, we feel easy. And then grace moves us to fear. "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved," said John Newton in amazing grace. Grace teaches you first to fear Him who can throw you to hell and then relieves those fears through faith in Christ. So then we move from fear, from complacency to fear and then from fear to faith, trusting in Him, and then from faith to abiding joy, through prayer, through meditating on Scripture, through staying close to Him moment by moment.
There's one last thing I want to say, who did Habakkuk write chapter 3 for? Did he write it for himself? No, he'd already worked all this out, he wrote it for us, he wrote it for his own people. "For the director of music on my stringed instrument," he said. Every word of Scripture is important, don't skip even those weird things at the end. He wrote it for us so that we would sing and trust Him. He wrote it for his people. Why? So that they would have faith. Why was faith important for his generation? The righteous will live by faith, they need to trust in God or else they'll be swept away in judgment. And so he was evangelizing his people by writing that, and he's writing to us too, that we would have an abiding joy in God and not be under the circumstances. Do you trust Him today? If you're here today and you've never given yourself to Christ, can I ask you, don't leave this place without trusting him. Don't leave this place with an accounting of sin still on your record. Trust in Christ. Come and talk to me after the service, come and talk to me about your soul. If you're already a Christian and you know that your life is not characterized by an abiding faith-filled joy, repent, turn again to God and realize that He's given you everything you need for permanent joy both in heaven and on earth.