Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Have You Prayed About It?

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Some of us are wrestling with God. You may be wrestling with God over an issue in your life or your home or your church. It’s all right to wrestle as long as you come to the point of embracing, of holding on tightly by faith.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, October 4.

Is God good? Is He really there? If He is, why do bad things happen? It seems like a lot of women are asking questions like these. But the idea isn’t new.

A biblical prophet also had some serious questions about God’s goodness. We’ll find out more as Nancy begins a study called Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith.

Nancy: How many of you would say that you have a situation in your life that you have prayed about for a long, long time and it doesn’t look like anything is happening? Can I see your hand?

Okay, almost every hand in the room. Nothing seems to change. And maybe in that situation you feel helpless. You wonder, “What is God up to? What is God doing? What does He have in mind? Why isn’t God doing anything to change this situation?”

It may be that you have a son or a daughter who is making some wrong choices, and you’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, but they seem maybe to be going even further in the wrong direction.

Maybe, as some women have written to us, you have a husband who is making some very foolish choices—a husband who is into pornography, or he’s involved in some practices that you know are unbiblical. Yet he claims to be a Christian. You’ve prayed, “Lord, change his heart. Lord, speak to him. Lord, please change him. Please do something about this.” But it doesn’t look like anything is happening.

Maybe there’s a conflict in your church; there are two factions, and it just goes on and on and on and on. You’ve got the Hatfields and the McCoys, and nothing is pulling these factions back together.

Maybe you feel like some of the women who have written to us saying, “Among the Christians I know there is so much unholiness, so many choices that are being made by believers or professing believers that are not godly choices.” And you pray.

An older woman said to me this morning, “I’ve prayed for revival in my church for years.” For many of those years it has seemed like nothing is happening. There’s worldliness. There’s indifference to the things of God. There’s not a passion for the things of God. Yet she’s been praying, and it doesn’t seem like God is doing anything.

Maybe you’ve had an experience where God was doing something, and it was obvious it was God, but what God was doing didn’t make any sense to you. It seemed like He was moving in the wrong direction or moving things opposite of the way you felt He should.

In fact, I saw a survey on the Internet this week where people were asked, “What would you like to ask God?” There were ten questions people would like to ask God.

The number one question, as you might imagine, was, “Why don’t You stop pain and evil? Why do You let these things go on? Why do You let disasters happen? Why, God? We can see Your hand here. We believe that You are God. We believe that You are all-powerful, but something doesn’t seem to be adding up. Why?”

Over these next several weeks, we want to get to know a man in Scripture who had a lot of questions, a man who knew what it was to pray and pray and pray and pray about something, and it didn’t seem to get better. In fact, it seemed to get worse. And when God finally did reveal Himself, God’s answers made no sense at all to this man’s human thinking.

The man’s name is Habakkuk. I want to ask you to turn in your Bible to the book of Habakkuk. That may be in a place in your Bible where the pages kind of stick together because this is not a book we often turn to. It’s back in the Old Testament, hidden there in what we call the Minor Prophets—not because they’re unimportant prophets, but because they are smaller books.

Toward the end of the Old Testament, you’ll find the book Habakkuk, and it’s just three chapters long. You say, “How are we going to spend several weeks on just three chapters?” Well, you wait and see.

Now, these three chapters of the book of Habakkuk are really an intimate exchange between the prophet Habakkuk and God. In fact, this is the one Old Testament prophet where the prophet himself never is seen speaking to people. Instead, he just speaks to God about what he sees, about the situation.

So this exchange that goes on between Habakkuk and God is like reading Habakkuk’s prayer journal. You get a glimpse into this man’s heart. But it’s also like reading God’s journal because you get a glimpse into God’s heart.

Habakkuk looks around in his day, and he’s burdened. He sees things that trouble him. He’s burdened about the ungodly behavior of people who call themselves God’s people. So he asks God some questions, honest questions, and he wrestles with some tough issues. He probes into the heart and the ways of God.

Let me give us a little setting of the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk lived approximately 600 years before Christ. He was a contemporary of a man who’s much more familiar to most of us: Jeremiah, who we know as the weeping prophet, a man who had very similar concerns to Habakkuk’s.

About 600 B.C.—this was in the final days of the Assyrian Empire. You remember that the Assyrians had conquered the nation of Israel to the north in Palestine. The Assyrian Empire was the dominant world power.

But right at this time there was a new power coming into dominance. They were the Babylonians.

Depending on your translation, in the book of Habakkuk you may read about the Babylonians or the Chaldeans—same thing. The Chaldeans, or the Babylonians, were just becoming the dominant world power.

In fact, in 586 B.C. they would take Judah into captivity. It hadn’t happened yet, but it was going to happen. God knew it and was going to reveal His plans to His servant Habakkuk.

So Habakkuk finds out what God is going to do, and he interacts with God. He intercedes. He says, “God, why are You doing this? I want to know Your ways.”

You’ll see in this book that it’s all right to ask God honest questions, to wrestle with God, to wrestle with tough questions. In the process, if we do it honestly and humbly, we’re going to find that we get to know something about God that we would have otherwise never known.

There’s a progression in the book of Habakkuk. We see that progression from chapters one through three. Warren Wiersbe wrote a book on the book of Habakkuk, and he called his book From Worry to Worship. That describes the progression—from worry to worship.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a great preacher of the last generation, wrote a book on Habakkuk, and he called it From Fear to Faith. From worry to worship; from fear to faith. That’s the progression you see from chapter one to chapter three.

So I hope you’ll hang with us through this whole series because if you just listen to the first part of it, you’re only going to get the worry and the fear. But we want to press through that and see how Habakkuk comes to a place of worship and faith and joy.

One of the things I love about the book of Habakkuk is that it has, in just these three short chapters, seeds of many, many important Old Testament truths and doctrines. So many things, concepts you read about elsewhere in the Scripture, particularly in the New Testament, you see the seed, a hint, a glimpse of those concepts, in the book of Habakkuk.

Throughout this book we learn so much about the character of God, about the ways of God. Let me just list for you some of the themes. As I’ve been studying the book of Habakkuk over the last few months, here are some of the themes that have emerged.

Two really important themes that are kind of parallel through the book are judgment and salvation. By the way, as you study God’s Word, you’ll see that those twin themes go all the way through the Scripture. Where you have God judging, you also have God saving. But there is no salvation without judgment. Judgment and salvation.

We’re going to learn a lot about the judgment of God, a topic that’s not very popular today:

  • why God judges
  • what His judgments are like
  • why we should worship God for His judgments

But praise God, He is not just a judging God. He is a saving God. He is a redeeming God. He is out for the salvation of His people. We’re going to see some precious truths about salvation as we study the book of Habakkuk together.

We’re going to learn a lot of things about God. As you read through the book of Habakkuk, or any book of the Scripture, I want to encourage you to jot down or to make a mental note of “What does this teach me about God? What does this verse teach me about God? What does this chapter or this book teach me about God?”

Just in the book of Habakkuk alone:

  • We’ll see that God is eternal and what that means, what its implications are.
  • We’ll see that God is sovereign.
  • We’ll see the holiness of God. Habakkuk got an awesome glimpse of God’s holiness.
  • We’ll see the power of God.
  • We’ll see the wrath of God.
  • We’ll see the incredible mercy of God.

So much about God you’ll see in these three chapters.

Then we’re going to learn a lot about faith. What is it? How does it work? Why is it so important? In fact faith, as we’ll see, is a central core theme of the book of Habakkuk.

We’ll learn about waiting, something that most of us don’t do very well, something we don’t like to do. But we’ll learn about waiting on the Lord.

We’ll learn about suffering. In fact, we’re going to develop a theology of suffering as we study this book—how to deal with adversity and why God sends adversity into our lives.

But we’re not just going to learn about suffering and adversity. We’re also going to learn about joy, about how to get joy out of suffering and adversity.

We’re going to learn a lot in this book about prayer and about the problem of unanswered prayer and God’s delays in answering prayer.

We’ll be learning about praise and worship and about the cosmic plan of God to reveal His glory in this world, the big purposes and plan of God. We’re going to get out of ourselves and our own little world and see that God has a much bigger and grander and greater plan; and we’ll see what that is.

We’ll learn about the law of sowing and reaping, about divine retribution. You reap what you sow. We’ll learn about the depravity of man. We’ll learn about the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

We’ll learn about a concept that theologians call theodicy. That word may not be familiar to you, but that’s the branch of theology that defends God’s goodness and justness in the face of the existence of evil. How can a good God, a just God, let evil things happen? We’ll study that together.

We’re going to take our time exploring these themes, and we’re just going to walk verse by verse, phrase by phrase through the book of Habakkuk. So I want to encourage you, over these next weeks, to study along with us, not just to listen to me teach the book of Habakkuk. I want to encourage you to find Habakkuk in your own Bible, to open it up, to study it, to read it over and over and over again.

My Bible just opens at the book of Habakkuk right now because that’s where I’ve been living for over three months, pouring over it, meditating on it, memorizing it. If you will dig in for yourself as we study through the book of Habakkuk together, you will get so much more out of it yourself.

When you hear the Word being proclaimed at your church or on Revive Our Hearts or Christian radio, don’t settle for being spoon fed, for letting someone else do all the preparation of the meal and you just taking it in. That’s what babies do. You have to spoon feed babies. I want to encourage you to grow up spiritually and to learn to feed yourself.

Some of you are going to be saying, “Where in the world did she come up with that insight out of Habakkuk?” Well, I came up with it the same way you can. You get in God’s Word. You bow before the Lord. You humble yourself. You say, “Lord, I don’t understand this. Would You teach me?”

Ask the Holy Spirit in you to teach you the Word and the ways of God. Put it under a microscope. Examine it. Dwell on it. Focus on it. Look for repeated words and phrases.

I’m still discovering things about the book of Habakkuk, and I’m not quite ready to teach it because I’m still learning new things. But I decided at some point I needed to go ahead and teach this. So even as we’re studying this together, I know that I will be learning more about it.

Now, let’s start with Habakkuk chapter 1, verse 1. That’s all we’re going to look at today. Verse 1 says, “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.”

Habakkuk; that word means “one who wrestles” or “one who embraces.” The Scripture tells us almost nothing about the man Habakkuk. Pretty much all we know is what we find in this book, and that’s not much about his personal life.

But his name means “one who wrestles” or “one who embraces” or “one who holds on tightly.” So we say, “Was Habakkuk an embracer, or was he a wrestler?” The answer is yes.

At the beginning of the book we find that Habakkuk is a man who is wrestling with God. “God, I’m not going to let You go until You give me some answers.” He wrestles with God.

But he comes to the point of embracing God, holding on tightly to God by faith and saying, “Lord, though I don’t have all the answers, I trust You.”

Some of us are wrestling with God. You may be wrestling with God over an issue in your life or your home or your church. It’s all right to wrestle as long as you come to the point of embracing, of holding on tightly by faith.

“The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.” That word oracle is not a word we use every day. In some of your translations, that word is rendered burden. “The burden that Habakkuk the prophet saw.” The word in the Hebrew means “a load; something heavy.”

When you read the Old Testament prophets, it’s usually a burden that’s within the prophet until they express it—something God puts in their heart that has to get out. It’s something that carries divine weight. It’s a message, but it’s usually a heavy message because it’s usually a message of judgment.

An oracle against people or an oracle against nations; you’ll find that phrase in the Old Testament. It was an announcement that God was about to bring judgment on people. The oracle, the burden that Habakkuk the prophet saw.

This kind of oracle, this kind of burden or message is not an easy one to receive. It’s a hard one to get from God. But it’s even harder to declare it to others, to give out this message from God.

But when God has put this kind of burden or message in your heart, you find that you have no choice but to receive it and deliver it because it’s God’s message. It’s a message, a burden that is given by God.

As such, when the Old Testament prophets had these kinds of burdens that God put on them, they delivered this message with divine authority. It wasn’t Habakkuk speaking, or Jeremiah or Isaiah or Malachi. It was God speaking. The message carried divine weight because it was the Word of God.

Some of Habakkuk’s contemporaries preferred to give softer messages; you read about them in the Old Testament. They were the ones who said, “Peace, peace. Everything is going to be okay. We want you to feel good about yourselves.” They preached messages that people wanted to hear.

I can imagine them saying of a message like the one God gave to Habakkuk or to Isaiah or to Jeremiah, “That’s no way to get seekers in your church. That’s a tough message. That’s no way to draw a crowd. Save that message for another time of the week when the seekers aren’t there. We don’t want to turn people off. We don’t want to push people away because the message is a tough one.”

I know when we first started Revive Our Hearts several years ago, one of the things the Lord really put on my heart was that He was going to give me His message from His Word, and that my job was to be faithful in delivering that message regardless of whether people liked it or not, regardless of whether it was easy or hard, whether it would be well received or not.

I was in a conversation and people were saying, “If you want to get on certain kinds of radio stations, you need to do more of this in your program.” Now, there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with what they were suggesting we do, but as I listened to that I thought, “Oh, Lord, I don’t want to be driven by what it takes to get on certain radio stations or what it takes in writing to get a publisher to publish a book. I want to be driven first by what is on Your heart. What do You want us to do?”

I want to be driven by what people need to hear. Not necessarily what do they want to hear, but what do they need to hear? The challenge in my life and in this ministry is not to be market driven but to be message driven; to say, “Lord, what is Your message, Your burden, Your Word for this generation?”

The measurement of success in a ministry, whether it’s your church or a para-church ministry like ours, is not how many people like your message or how popular you are as a proclaimer. It’s just how faithful you are in proclaiming God’s Word.

Habakkuk had to give account to God. The Old Testament prophets did. We have to give account to God for passing on His message to His people.

God has given us His Word. The book we hold in our hands, this Bible, the Word of God, is no less authoritative and weighty a burden than the message God gave to Habakkuk. This is the Word of God. God has revealed Himself to us—His heart, His burden, His message—in this book.

A friend of mine who has been a Christian for many years said to me recently,

Nancy, in the last couple of years, it’s like a veil has been lifted from my eyes, and I’m realizing that this is the Word of God. It’s changed my life. It’s changed the way I read Scripture. It’s changed the way I think about the things I’ve always known from God’s Word, to realize this is God speaking.

The oracle, the burden that Habakkuk the prophet saw. Notice it doesn’t say he heard it; he saw something. God showed Habakkuk something in this book. God showed him a burden. God showed him God’s perspective on His world and on this situation that Habakkuk was facing.

I want to say that as we study this book together, God wants to show you some things. He wants to show you His perspective. He wants to show you His heart. He wants to show you Himself. He wants to reveal Himself and His ways to you. He wants to put a fresh burden on your heart—His burden, His message for our generation.

As God puts that burden on your heart, my prayer is that it will turn to intercession and to faithful delivery of this message to others. It’s no accident that you are here today hearing this message. You’ve come because you have hungry hearts, because you need to hear from God, because you want to know what He has to say.

As we listen, as we wait on the Lord, as we watch and say, “Lord, I’m listening to You; speak, Lord; Your servant is listening,” God is going to show us some things.

It may not be an easy burden. It may not be an easy message. But it will be God’s message, and it will change our lives, and it will change the lives of those with whom we share it.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been giving us a preview of what to expect from the story of Habakkuk as we study it together this month. Nancy will be right back to lead us in prayer.

Habakkuk is an important book for anyone struggling with fear, wrestling with God’s will, or questioning God’s goodness. Will you dig into the book of Habakkuk deeper? Spend a few minutes each day reading this book and listening to Nancy.

I hope you’ll take it a step further in understanding Habakkuk. Get a copy of the booklet Worry, Woes, and Worship. It’s a supplement to Nancy’s teaching providing daily thought-provoking devotionals. You’ll spend a few moments applying Habakkuk to your specific situation or digging into the text and finding principles for yourself—perfect for your daily quiet time. It’s a perfect companion to Nancy’s radio series.

The booklet Worry, Woes, and Worship is yours when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for the study when you call 800-569-5959, or go online and visit ReviveOurHearts.com. While you’re there, you can donate quickly and securely. It’s a chance to help us spread biblical teaching to more women and a chance for you to pick up the study Worry, Woes, and Worship.

Why does God let prayers go unanswered sometimes? Habakkuk wondered that. Hear about his questions and his discoveries when we’re back tomorrow.

Now Nancy has returned to pray with us.

Nancy: Thank You, Lord, that You are a God who speaks to Your people through Your Word today. I pray that You would give us ears to hear and eyes to see the burden, the message that is on Your heart for our generation. Help us to see You and to get Your perspective on our world, on our circumstances, on our tough questions.

As we wrestle with You and as we wrestle with these questions, may we come by faith to the place of embracing, clinging, holding tightly to You and to Your Word. 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.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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