Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Blessed Be The Name

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says suffering makes us grow.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That doesn’t mean we cry and we pray to the Lord, “Oh, please bring on sufferings in my life.” You don’t need to ask for suffering. God will bring that. He knows we need adversity. He knows that’s how all things grow. But what you can choose and what you can pray to have is this choice to rejoice in your sufferings.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 29.

"Blessed be the name of the Lord." That isn’t just a lyric from a catchy praise chorus. It’s a statement of faith delivered by a biblical character going through incredible suffering. Today Nancy will explain how to respond to life’s greatest trials with the attitude, “blessed be the name of the Lord.” She’s continuing a series called, Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith.

Nancy: Many of you have heard the story of John Newton who lived in the 1700s. He was a former slave ship captain who was converted at the age of 23 and ultimately became a pastor, a poet, a hymn writer. He’s best known for which hymn? "Amazing Grace." It has become immortalized.

John Newton met Mary Catlett when they were both still teenagers, and he was unconverted. Then in his early 20s, he came to know Christ. His life was transformed. About two years after his conversion, these two who had fallen in love as teenagers were finally married.

Mary and John loved each other passionately, and they had an extraordinary marriage by all accounts. Newton could never imagine living without Mary, so he always assumed that he would die first.

However, Mary was stricken with cancer. After a long struggle, she finally died on Wednesday night, December 15, 1790, with her husband standing at her side holding a candle in his hand. They had been married for 40 years, and it had been an incredible marriage.

The following Sunday, just four days later, John Newton went up to the pulpit of his church in London. I’m sure, as you can imagine, his congregation must have been wondering what will he preach? His beloved Mary has just died. What text will he choose? What will he preach on today?

Newton chose as his text on that Sunday a passage that he had reserved throughout his ministry to use on this occasion. It’s from the book of Habakkuk. Here was his text:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

Newton was saying, "I choose joy. I choose to rejoice. Not in my circumstances," because for the time being his circumstances were horrible, "but I choose to rejoice in the God of my salvation."

Now we’re talking about this paragraph at the end of Habakkuk, about joy in the midst of adversity, in the midst of loss. Here’s a man, a prophet of God, who had seen the wrath and the judgment of God. God had told him the Babylonians are going to come. They’re going to chasten the Jewish people. You’re going to be taken into captivity. There’s a lot of adversity ahead. Habakkuk knew that.

He also knew that not even just what was ahead but right then that God’s people were in a backslidden condition. Things were very negative, very hopeless, very difficult around him. Having learned that "the righteous shall live by his faith," Habakkuk determined not to let his emotions or his circumstances run his life. He determined that he would choose to rejoice in the Lord.

We talked about this in the last session, but I want to just follow through on this theme of joy. I debated whether to just save some of this and do another whole series sometime on joy, which we’ll probably do, but there was too much here to do to just talk about joy for one day.

We talked for days and days in this series about the judgment of God and the wrath of God and the chastening of God. I think I don’t want to move too quickly past the joy that springs up from within us when we walk by faith and we choose to give thanks in the midst of difficult circumstances.

How do you get that kind of joy? The kind of joy Habakkuk had. The kind of joy that John Newton had preaching his wife’s funeral and preaching on joy. We know that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, that God gives joy. You can’t manufacture true joy. As we walk in union and communion with the God of all joy, the God of all peace, and the God of all grace, it’s His joy that will spring up within us.

We can manufacture happiness by controlling our circumstances to some extent, but when you can no longer control your circumstances and your happiness runs out, will you still have joy? You can have if your life is rooted in God.

Yet in spite of the fact that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, something we can’t manufacture, there is a sense in which we see in this passage in Habakkuk that to have joy requires a choice. There’s an act of our will involved. "I will rejoice,"Habakkuk says.

He doesn’t say I feel like rejoicing, but he’s saying, "I choose as an act of my will, as an expression of faith based on what I know to be true of God and His ways, I will rejoice. I’m choosing the pathway of rejoicing."

The apostle Paul understood that kind of joy. He understood making that kind of choice. He knew what it was like to make that kind of choice, the choice to choose gladness. So to the Philippians, Paul said, "I choose to rejoice in the Lord no matter how bad my circumstances may be. Yes, the Romans have put me in this prison. They’ve got me under lock and key. I have no freedom as far as the world considers freedom, but I’m not going to be a miserable man. I’m going to rejoice in the Lord."

You read this all through the book of Philippians. "Rejoice in the Lord." I’m going to rejoice in the Lord regardless of my circumstances. Then he says to the Philippians, "You need to rejoice in the Lord." Three times he says that to them. "Rejoice in the Lord."

It’s a command. It’s not an option if you’re a child of God. If you or I are in circumstances where we are not rejoicing, then we’re not being obedient children of God. I mean, that’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? Choosing obedience. Choosing joy.

So Paul says in Romans chapter 5, verse 3, “We rejoice in our sufferings.” That’s like a foreign language to most of us. We rejoice in our sufferings. Why? Because

Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

Where does that whole progression start? It starts with choosing joy. We rejoice in our sufferings. There are aspects of God’s heart and His ways and His love and His fullness that you will never experience apart from suffering. It’s not just suffering that does it. It’s rejoicing in your sufferings.

That doesn’t mean we cry and we pray to the Lord, “Oh, please bring on sufferings in my life.” You don’t need to ask for suffering. God will bring that. He knows we need adversity. He knows that’s how all things grow. But what you can choose and what you can pray to have is this choice to rejoice in your sufferings.

Paul said it to the Corinthians, “In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Corinthians 7:4). Think about that. I mean it’s one thing to sit here in this room and we’re talking about joy, and we all have our Bible’s open, and we’re taking notes, and we’re saying, “Uh-huh, I’m overflowing with joy in all of my sufferings.”

But we go home and we have a flat tire on the way home, or somebody says something that hurts our feelings. Where’s your joy? You can hardly call those things suffering.

Paul says, “In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.” You say, “Well, that’s the apostle Paul.” No, that’s a man who’s made just like you and me, flesh and blood, weaknesses, as prone and tempted to melancholy and despair and despondency as we would be. But he’s a man who says I’m not going to live under my circumstances. I’m going to choose joy. I’m going to be filled with the Holy Spirit instead of filled with my own flesh.

James says it this way—it is all through the New Testament and the Old as well.

Count it all joy, my brothers [I think that means sisters too], when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

How do you get that maturity? How do you grow up spiritually? How do you become steadfast? You look at these people and you say, “They’re a spiritual giant. How did they get there?” I’ll tell you one way they got there—through affliction. It’s not just going through affliction. Everybody goes through affliction. It’s how you go through affliction. Do you count it all joy?

You know what? God’s children ought not to whine. Now I do plenty of it, so I’m preaching to myself under conviction here. As God’s children we ought not to be complainers or murmurers or gripers. There ought not to be a circumstance or situation in life when we are not rejoicing.

Now that doesn’t mean we’re giddy or that we’re jumping up and down with happiness necessarily. There may be tears. There can be sorrow. Jesus knew what it was to feel sorrow deeply. But underneath that is this deep, foundational, abiding joy that nothing and no one can take away unless we choose not to have joy.

It’s not your circumstances that strip your joy from you. It’s not the affliction that makes you joyless. It’s a choice not to walk by faith that makes you joyless. We can choose joy in the midst of all our afflictions.

I know I make that sound really easy, and I know it’s not. I know that sometimes you just have to say to your flesh, “You will not control me right now.” We have to say to our emotions, “Down! Die! I’m not going to give in to you.” Those emotions can be so powerful. I know that.

I know that it’s easy for me to stand here and say all this. I guarantee you within hours or days at the most of teaching this, I will have a chance to practice it. But it is God’s way. And it’s the way of faith. Rejoicing in all things.

I love that song. We sometimes sing it in our church.

Blessed be your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow.

Blessed be your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness.

Blessed be your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s all as it should be.

Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering.

Every blessing you pour out,
I’ll turn back to praise.
When the darkness closes in, Lord,
Still I will say . . .

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name.

You give and take away
But my heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be your name.1

So by faith—and how do the righteous live? By faith. By faith Habakkuk declares, “Lord, even if everything I consider to be meaningful or necessary is taken away from me, I still choose joy” (Habakkuk 3:17-18, paraphrased). He realizes that joy is a choice and that it is to be found in the Lord even after all His gifts have been taken away.

Let me say that this is what makes our message as Christians powerful and believable. It’s what makes our message compelling to the people around us. You see, anyone can be happy when they get a raise. It’s not just Christians who get happy, who have joy, when they get a raise. Pagans can do that. Atheists can be joyful when they get a raise.

But the world can’t understand when you lose your job, or you lose your child, or you lose your health, or you lose your mate, and you still through your tears have joy. Then the world scratches its head and says, “What gives?” That’s what points people around us to God. When they see there is a source of stability and life and peace and joy and grace in the midst of life’s storms. That’s what makes our message believable.

One commentator said,

Habakkuk’s book begins with an interrogation of God, but it ends as an intercession to God. Worry is transformed into worship. Fear turns to faith. Terror becomes trust. Hang-ups are resolved with hope. Anguish melts into adoration. What begins with a question mark ends in an exclamation point. The answer to Habakkuk’s why that he asked in the first chapter is Who with an exclamation point.2

It’s God. It’s a Who, and God Himself is the One who has resolved, not answered, all of Habakkuk’s questions. Habakkuk has found God to be enough to give him joy in the midst of adversity.

So we can rejoice now, whatever the circumstances, whatever the season of life, whatever the future holds. Some of us spend a lot of time worrying about the future—worried about things that may never even happen. Negative things will happen. Affliction will come. Suffering will come. If you want to be like Jesus, you can count on it.

In the midst of that right now and as we look forward to the future, we can rejoice. Why? Because even if we lose everything, if we still have God, we have everything we need.

If you have God, you are better off even if you have nothing else. You are better off than those who have everything the world offers, but they don’t have Christ. The incomparable riches of Christ.

Listen, if we had to suffer excruciating, tormenting pain and no happy circumstances from now until the day we get to heaven, it would be a small thing in comparison with the eternal joys and glories that await us. That’s why we got to keep things in perspective, and that’s what faith does.

So we rejoice now, not only because God is enough now, but because of what we have to look forward to—our future hope, that day when we know by faith that there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death, no more loss. We can have joy now because the sorrows of this moment, the heaviness, the weights, the challenges are not the end of the story.

We anticipate by faith everlasting joy, unending joy, unending peace and happiness and everything good in His presence for all of eternity. That’s why Paul says in Romans 8:18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time [considerable though they are] are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Keep it in perspective. That’s what faith does.

Then that wonderful passage in 2 Corinthians, chapter 4. Paul says—and Paul has listed in 2 Corinthians a whole host of afflictions that he is enduring and suffering and going through. He’s having a hard life, serving Christ, being persecuted for it. But he says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “We do not lose heart.”

Some of you have lost heart. You’re tempted to give up. You’re tempted to cave in. The pressure and the problems seem so unrelenting, so incessant, so ongoing. It’s been years maybe and you’re living in this difficult marriage and nothing changes. Paul says we don’t lose heart.

“Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self [that part that communes and relates to God] is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction . . .” You say, “My affliction isn’t slight, and it’s not momentary.” If you could see it as God sees it, if you could see it from the vantage point of eternity, you would realize it is slight and it is momentary.

You say, “It’s lasted 20 years. That doesn’t sound very momentary to me.” Well 20 years is a long time if this life is all there is. But in the scope of eternity, how long is 20 years? Now, I don’t want to minimize your pain. I just want you to step back and see the challenges of this earthly life.

I think of my friend, Joni Eareckson Tada, who for decades has lived within a body that can’t do what most of us can do with our bodies. Totally, utterly dependent on other people for every basic function in life and in much pain and weakness. Yet I think of Joni as a singing woman, a rejoicing woman.

Now she’s been very honest about the struggles and the temptation to despondency and despair, but she’s a woman who says I choose to walk by faith and I choose to believe that my affliction, great as it is, is slight and momentary.

What does Paul say to the Corinthians? “This slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (verse 17). This affliction is not just a necessary thing we just have to hold up under until we get to the good thing. This affliction is what is preparing us for the good thing. It’s what’s preparing us to spend eternity in His presence.

So verse 18, 2 Corinthians 4,

We look not to the things that are seen [that’s the afflictions] but to the things that are unseen [faith]. For the things that are seen are transient [they’re moving away; they’re fleeting; they’re departing], but the things that are unseen [God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s love, God Himself] are eternal.

So Paul says, "We don’t lose heart." We don’t lose heart. We’re going to the next city where God has said afflictions and imprisonments await you. And we go on to the next one, and to the next one. Not as martyrs, not as just barely keeping our heads above water, not just as surviving, but as thriving.

Are you a joyful woman? Do others think of you that way? Are you a joyful woman? I don’t mean are you a happy-go-lucky, bubbly personality. You can be a quiet person and be a joyful woman. You can be a very outgoing person and the life of the party, but not really be a joyful person. Do you have that deep, inner spring of joy that’s rooted and has its source in God?

I had to find as God searched my own heart numerous times as I was working my way through this passage and I’m thinking I’m a lot more of a whiner than a rejoicer, so I’m having to ask myself what I ask you. If you’re not a joyful woman, why not? Why not?

  • Are you walking by sight instead of faith?
  • Have you lost sight of promises of God, the presence of God, the future that you have, the hope that is ours in Christ?
  • Have you got your eyes off of the finish line?
  • Are your eyes just too buried down here to see what God is doing in and through your life and through those afflictions?

Habakkuk says, "If I lose everything, I will still rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation." (3:18). That’s really a fruit of revival. It’s what we read in Psalm 85. “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you” (verse 6). In God. In the God of our salvation.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been advocating joy. The teaching you just heard is part of a series on Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith. It first aired a few years ago, and we're presenting it again as part of our 10th year of ministry. Between September 2010 and September 2011, we're taking time to thank God for all He's done during a decade of broadcasting Revive Our Hearts.

One of our listeners resonated with Nancy's teaching on Habakkuk when it first aired. She made this comment on our listener blog:

My husband and I having been going through a really difficult time these last six months—job loss, illness, financial difficulties have all come our way. Yet in the midst of this, I can find His joy in my heart. I often burst into singing praises. Thank you, Nancy, for teaching us that it is possible in our Lord.

Studying the Bible is highly practical. It will motivate you to do surprising things like: singing for joy in the midst of challenging times.

For nearly 10 years generous listeners have made it possible for us to encourage women to study God's Word. Would you help us continue broadcasting in your area?

When you donate any amount we'll send you a helpful follow-up to Nancy's teaching on Habakkuk. It's a 30-day study through the book called, Worry, Woes, and Worship. As you use this guide to study more deeply, you'll find yourself worrying less and worshiping more.

Ask for Worry, Woes, and Worship when you call and donate any amount. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com 

If it seems impossible to say “blessed be the name of the Lord,” listen to the story of a pastor who did say that after his congregation lost almost everything in Hurricane Katrina. That’s Monday tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Now let’s pray for the grace to display joy today. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Life is hard. Life hurts. There is sorrow. There is death. The whole creation groans and travails in pain waiting for the adoption or the redemption of our bodies, and yet we have this hope that You are making all things new, that You are the God of our salvation.

You are always good. You are fulfilling Your eternal purposes and all these problems and these struggles and these trials and these afflictions are moving toward a grand and holy purpose and that is the day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

So Lord we join in with You in Your grand, great eternal purposes; and we say if it’s affliction that helps prepare us and our world for that, then we embrace it with joy. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1"Blessed Be the Name." Matt Redman.

2Walvoord/Zuck. Bible Commentary. Victor, 1985. Page 1507.

3Blessed Be Your Name. Uli Kringler. Der unendliche Wind. 2006 Gerth Medien. Used with permission.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.