Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God is at Work

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has an important word for anyone who’s forgotten God’s ability to change lives.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God is at work in your community. God is at work in countries you’ve never heard of before and you know nothing about. God is at work in the Muslim world. God is at work in China. God is at work in tiny little countries that are totally closed to the gospel, officially. God is at work.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, October 7.

Imagine buying your child a present. And while you’re waiting for the right time to give it, they keep begging you for it, doubting that you have their best interest at heart, wondering if you’ve abandoned them. Do you ever approach God like that child?

Think about it as Nancy continues in a series called, Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith.

 Nancy: Have your kids ever said to you, “Mom, you’re not listening to me”? You say,  “like how many times today or yesterday?” “You’re not listening to me. You’re not listening to me.”

Now, sometimes your kids may say that because you really aren’t listening. Moms have this incredible power to just tune out what’s going on around them. But sometimes you really are listening, but what your kids are really saying is, “Mom, you’re not giving me the answer I want. You’re not doing what I want you to do.” So they say, “Aren’t you listening to me?”

Sometimes we think that because God has not done what we wanted Him to do, what we expected Him to do, that therefore He wasn’t listening to us. Like those little children, we say, “God, aren’t You listening to me?” or, “You aren’t listening to me.” As we’re studying the first part of the book of Habakkuk, we’re seeing that Habakkuk has accused God of not listening to him, not listening to his cry.

But as we move forward in this passage today, we realize that God has been listening all along. And God responds to the honest and earnest cry of his prophet. God is not silent. The fact that God answers at all—as we’ll see He does in verse 5 of chapter 1—the fact that God answers is evidence that He has been listening to His prophet’s prayers.

Habakkuk has begun this story, this exchange, by saying, “Lord, how long will I cry out to You about the things that are going on around me? How long will I pray and You won’t do anything? And why are You letting all these things happen? Why is all this strife and violence and contention and destruction going on among Your people? You’re idly looking at it. You’re seeing what goes on, but You don’t do anything about it. You don’t seem to be listening.”

Finally, in chapter 1, verse 5, God speaks. Let me say, by the way—as we said in earlier days in this series. I hope you’re not just listening to me teach the book of Habakkuk. I hope that you’re opening your own Bible to the book of Habakkuk and that you’re reading it for yourself, making notes, looking for patterns, trying to understand what is God saying.

You’ll get so much more out of the Scripture if you will dig into it for yourself. The Holy Spirit will show you things and applications in the passage that perhaps I’ve not seen at all.

Now, in verse 5, God finally responds to Habakkuk’s prayer. He says to His servant,

Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.

God says, “Look. Look among the nations see.” That verb look and the verb to see—in the Hebrew, those verbs are in the plural. God is not just speaking to Habakkuk here. He’s speaking to all of His people, His collective people, and He is saying, “You all.” As they say here in Arkansas, “Y’all look. Y’all see. Not just Habakkuk, but all of you. Look and see.”

God is saying to His servants—Habakkuk and His other people—“Broaden your perspective. Look among the nations and see.” God is saying, “Your vision is not big enough. You’ve been too centered in on your own specific circumstances and situation. You need to look among the nations. Your view is too narrow.”

You see, so often we can only see our little piece of the whole picture. We see our health, our issues, our family, our church, our country, our circumstances; and we get totally engrossed in what is happening to us. You know why? Because we live as if it’s all about me. That’s our perspective. We have this self-centered, myopic perspective on life. It’s all about what’s happening to me. It’s all about how it affects me.

But God is saying, “Lift your eyes up and see the bigger picture. Don’t be so consumed with your own personal situation.”

We even tend to read the Bible this way, unfortunately. We’re always looking at, “What does this say for me?” Now, that’s a good thing to be asking. We want to see how it applies to our lives. But we also want to be saying, “Lord, how does what You’re doing, what is happening, and what You’re saying apply to Your bigger, cosmic plan for the universe: to bring Yourself glory in the world and in the nations?”

How much does that concern you? How much emphasis and time does that take up in your praying? Or is it mostly, “My family, my church, my situation, my health, my needs, my job—my, my, my”? God is saying, “Your world is too small. I have a heart for this world. Look among the nations and see.”

God cares about His glory, the destiny of this planet. God is always at work in this world to accomplish His bigger purposes. What is happening in our lives is just one little, microscopic piece of a much bigger whole. And we’re going to be discouraged and frustrated as long as we keep our eyes just on what is happening around us.

We want to always be asking, “Lord, how does this fit into Your bigger picture? How does it fit into the whole? Give me perspective.” Look among the nations and see.

Then He says, “Wonder and be astounded.” If we could see what God sees and know what God knows, we would wonder and be astounded. That word astounded means "to be dumbfounded, awestruck." We would be amazed if we could see what God sees and know what God knows about what is happening in this world, from His point of view. God’s perspective is so much greater than ours, so much different than ours. If we could just get eyes to see.

Remember that servant of Elisha who saw the home where they were staying surrounded by the Syrian army, and he freaked out? He got scared to death. Elisha prayed, “God, open his eyes so he can see what is really going on.” And the servant saw the angels of God, the warriors, the chariots of fire, surrounding the enemy (2 Kings 6:15-17, paraphrase).

Once the servant had eyes to see spiritual realities, he was amazed! He was no longer in fear—no longer discouraged or depressed. If we could see spiritual realities as God sees them, we would wonder. We would be amazed. We would be dumbfounded, astounded.

Now, those little words look and see—again, when you’re studying the Scripture, look for repeated words. You can’t help but notice in the book of Habakkuk that the words look and see are repeated many times. In fact, nine times in the first 18 verses! Look, see, look, see. “Open your eyes,” God is saying.

We have to ask ourselves, “What are we seeing? What are we looking at?” Are you obsessed with your own little world, or are you looking out among the nations to see the bigger picture of what God is doing?

Lift your eyes up. See the hand of God in world affairs. When you read the news on the Internet or you watch it on television or you hear it on the radio, don’t just assume that the news anchors know what is going on. They can tell you the apparent facts. But what they can’t and won’t tell you is, “What is God doing in all of this?”

 You see, all of world affairs and the whole history of mankind is really the history of God’s redeeming plan for this world. It’s the picture, the story, of the kingdom of God and the glory of God being advanced in our world.

So when you hear about wars—or famines or perils or tsunamis or hurricanes or earthquakes or plagues or traffic problems or anything—know that God is doing something in this world to advance His kingdom, to promote His glory. Look among the nations and see and say, “God, what are You doing?”

Ask God to give you eyes to see from His vantage point—to see your family, to see your church, to see your neighborhood, to see our world, to see our government, to see other countries—to see them from God’s point of view.

I have a friend, Dick Eastman, who comes to mind at the moment. He’s the head of a large, international ministry—one of the largest ministries in the world. For many years, decades, Dick Eastman has prayed every day through all 200-plus countries and protectorates of the world, with a map of the world, praying by name for countries that I can’t even pronounce the names of, countries that have come into being since he started praying.

He lifts those up to the Lord. He’s a man who looks among the nations and sees. He says, “God, what are You doing? God, may Your kingdom come. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

He’s not just concerned about his own personal concerns, though he prays about those. He prays for me. He prays for Revive Our Hearts. He prays for his family. He has personal concerns, and he prays about those, but he doesn’t limit his prayers to his own personal concerns.

As you think about your prayer life, is it balanced? Are you looking among the nations? Are you seeing what God is doing?

Then there’s this concept of the nations and the earth. That’s another couple of words that you see repeatedly through the book of Habakkuk. Thirteen times, there’s a reference to the nations or the earth. God wants us to know that His heart is for the world. God cares about the nations. God cares about the earth. God is dealing with the nations of the world this day.

We’re going to see in this book the sovereignty of God over all the nations.

  • We’re going to see that God judges wicked nations.
  • But God has a heart of compassion and mercy and longing that the nations would repent and come to faith in Christ.

I want God’s heart for the world. I remember I had more of that heart, probably, as a little girl than I do now. My family used to have a map of the world on the wall of our breakfast room at home. Different missionaries that our family supported would have their pictures around the edge, and then we’d have those little pieces of yarn going from the country where they served to their picture. We would pray for those missionaries. We would read their letters. My parents wanted us to grow up with a heart for the world.

But I confess; I sometimes get so preoccupied with my own little world and our ministry. One of the things that challenges me about the book of Habakkuk is that I need to have God’s heart for the world. "Look among the nations and see. Wonder and be astounded."

Now, what does God want Habakkuk to see? Well, look at the second half of verse 5: “For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” God says, “I am doing a work in your days.”

If you’ve been listening to the previous sessions in this series, you know that Habakkuk was complaining that God wasn’t doing anything. “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you 'Violence!' and you will not save?” (1:2). Lord, why aren’t You doing anything?

God seemed indifferent. God seemed passive. God seemed inactive. And God says to Habakkuk, “I am doing a work in your days. I am not passive. I am not indifferent. I am not inactive.”

Can I suggest to you that God is always at work? God’s never asleep. We sleep; He never slumbers or sleeps. God is always at work in every era, in every circumstance, in every season, in every situation of life. God is doing a work in our day.

I’ve had a burden for revival in the church since I was a young girl. And I have to say, I’m not sure we’re any closer to seeing it happen today, from my perspective, than we were when this first became a burden on my heart 30-some years ago.

But that’s only from my perspective. Sometimes, I look around in the churches, and I think, “Lord, there’s nothing happening that’s good, nothing that evidences Your hand. Why aren’t you dealing with these church situations, with these Christians, so-called, who are living just like the world?”

And God says, “Look. Open your eyes. Look at the spiritual realities. Take it by faith, if you can’t see it with your own eyes, that I am doing a work in your day.” God is at work. God is always at work. Even when it appears that He is silent, that He is passive, that He is absent. Even when we cannot see what He is doing. Even when we do not know what He is doing, God is at work.

This has become one of my favorite phrases in the book of Habakkuk: “I am doing a work in your day.” Believe it. Take it by faith. And we’ll see, in the book of Habakkuk, that’s the only way you’re going to get peace in life. The only way you’re going to get joy is if you believe that what God has said is true.

Whether you can see it or not, God is at work.

  • He’s doing a work.
  • He’s not passive.
  • He’s present.
  • He’s active.
  • He’s engaged.
  • He’s involved.
  • He’s sovereign over the lives and the affairs of His people and of this world.

And the fact that we cannot see what He is doing doesn’t mean that He is not working.

Jesus said in John chapter 5, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (verse 17). God is at work. Jesus is at work. He is building His church. He is bringing about His kingdom. He is planning and working to display His glory in the earth. And we’re going to see, when we come to Habakkuk 2, that the day will come when the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will fill and cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

God is moving toward that day. His truth is marching on. God is at work, and His work is amazing. It is supernatural. It is beyond human comprehension. So the message here is take heart. Have faith. Be encouraged. God is at work.

William Cowper was an 18th-century English poet and hymn writer. He was an interesting man. He was a friend of John Newton’s, and they served and worked together in a church in Olney, England, for many years. But Cowper suffered severe bouts of depression for most of his life. He tried to take his life—and actually thought he was losing his mind at points. He really has a checkered life story.

But he wrote out of the darkness of his—what we would perhaps call today—mental illness. I don’t know exactly what it was, but out of those dark periods of his life came some of the most amazing insights into the heart and ways of God.

He wrote a poem that is familiar to many of you. I thought of it as I thought about this passage describing how God is at work in our day. Cowper said:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

 Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill;
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

(William Cowper, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way")

You see there the heart of faith that God is always at work. He is always moving to accomplish His good, holy, awesome, eternal purposes in our lives and in this earth.

Someone handed me recently a verse that is one of my favorites, Isaiah 50:10. It says it this way:

Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? (NKJV)

He’s talking about someone who is trying to please the Lord, trying to serve the Lord, but you’re in a place in life where you can’t see what’s going on. You can’t figure it out. You’ve got more confusion than you’ve got answers.

And what’s the response of God? What are we to do? “Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God” (Isaiah 50:10, NKJV). Walk by faith, not by sight.

That pilot in the airplane doesn’t fly by sight. He trusts the instruments. Even when he can’t see where he’s going, he can’t see what’s happening, he trusts the instruments.

Trust the one who controls the instruments. Know that God is at work in our day. God is at work in your church, desperate as the circumstances there may seem. God is at work in your husband’s life when it seems that your husband is paying no regard to God, that he’s not changing at all, that he’s not sensitive. God is at work in your day.

God is at work in your children who are away at college, where you can’t see them and you don’t know what they’re doing and you wonder who they’re hanging out with. I remember taking the son of a friend of mine to college some years ago, dropping him off in his dorm room and seeing some of the posters on that dorm wall, and thinking, “O Lord, how can we leave this kid here?”

And I remember praying like crazy as I left. “Lord, let the fear of the Lord be on that young man as his parents and his friends leave him on this campus.” God is at work, and God did work in those days in the life of that young man. God is at work. When you can’t see, when you can’t control, when you can’t make it happen, God is at work. “I’m doing a work in your day.”

God is at work in your community. God is at work in countries you’ve never heard of before and you know nothing about. God is at work in the Muslim world. God is at work in China. God is at work in tiny little countries that are totally closed to the gospel, officially. God is at work.

“I am doing a work in your day.” So look. Look among the nations and see. Wonder and be astounded. “I am doing a work in your day that you would not believe if told.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss is going to return to pray in just a minute. And based on what we heard today, the answer to that prayer might not look the way we expect. But it will be a good gift.

Maybe you’re struggling with unanswered prayer or an answer that didn’t turn out the way you expected. Would you explore the book of Habakkuk to learn more about prayer, silence, and unexpected answers? Read the booklet Worry, Woes, and Worship. It’s a daily Bible study on Habakkuk that will provoke thought. It’ll give you perspective when it seems like God isn’t answering prayer. It’ll deepen your understanding of worship.

The booklet Worry, Woes, and Worship is yours when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Your gift will help us connect to other listeners who are full of worry and fear and show them what it means to move to worship and faith.

When you make your donation by phone, ask for your booklet. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or order online. The address is ReviveOurHearts.com.

If you were writing a script for your life, would it unfold the way your life is unfolding now? Learn more tomorrow about trusting the author and finisher of our faith, when Nancy brings us more insight from Habakkuk.

Now, here she is to pray.

Nancy: Father, we thank You that You are at work in our day, that You never cease the activity of bringing glory to Yourself and of redeeming this fallen planet and world. You are making all things new. You are at work where we can see, and You are at work where we can’t see.

So help us, Lord, where we can’t see, to trust—not to judge you, as Cowper said, by our feeble sense, by what we can see, by what we can sense—but trusting that what You have said is true and that You are always at work to accomplish Your purposes in our world. May that bring us joy. May that bring us wonder and amazement. I 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.

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