Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Trials that Reveal Your Heart

Leslie Basham: Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God uses suffering to cause our hearts to become detached from things that are less than God—from things and people, goods, pleasures, things that can only satisfy us to a limited extent.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, October 28.

During the 10th year of broadcasting at Revive Our Hearts, we're visiting some of the meaningful series that have impacted women the most.

Nancy: We've all heard a lot of stories of faith and triumph and people surviving the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. One of the stories that I found particularly moving was that of Chuck Kelley, who is the president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. As a result of the hurricane, he found himself homeless with just a few personal belongings. And yet through that crisis, by God's grace, his faith remained intact.

It remained strong, and I read of him saying right after the hurricane hit,

When we get to the end of this story, the last paragraph is going to be a testimony to the greatness and glory of our God who is able to do all things well and able to provide every need.

That's a man who had just lost, not everything, but a lot of things that the world counts dear and cherishes. Having lost his home and most of his possessions, he was saying, in effect, faith tells me that this is not the end of the story, there's more coming, and he was looking ahead to the final paragraph.

Well, we come today to the final paragraph of the book of Habakkuk. You were wondering if that was ever going to happen. It's true. When we get to the end of this story, the last paragraph is a testimony to the greatness and glory of our God who is able to do all things well and able to provide every need.

Now, let's back up just a bit here to verse 16 in Habakkuk chapter 3, and Habakkuk has been praying to the Lord. This whole chapter is a prayer of Habakkuk, but the prayer has intercession in it. It has petition. It has reflection on what God has done in the history of Israel and how He has saved His people but also how He has judged the wicked.

Having seen all this, Habakkuk said to the Lord, “I hear the report of You. I hear this whole story. I hear what You're doing, and I tremble. My body trembles. My lips quiver at the sound. The thought of what lies ahead, even though I know You're good, even though I know You're God, even though I trust You. It's just awesome. It's scary, and it's major. It's incredible to think about what's ahead.”

There's a seriousness. I mean, this guy's not joking his way through life. He knows these are serious times, and he's taking this seriously. He says, “My lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me,” and yet, having learned the key to this story and the key to your story—that the righteous will live, how? By his faith. Habakkuk says, “I'm going to choose to walk by faith.”

He demonstrates that faith in two ways. First of all, he says, “I will quietly wait.” I will wait patiently, “for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us” (verse 16). “I'm going to wait and not fret and not be uptight at God and not be frantic and not be trying to fix the whole universe or my part of it.

“I'm going to quietly wait for God to do what He's promised to do. I know that it's going to affect all of us. I know we're all going to suffer. I know there are going to be times of suffering.”

Listen, we have brothers and sisters in churches all around the world who have experienced intense pain and sufferings such as we know nothing about in this country. They have found this to be a purifying, strengthening, reviving instrument of God in their hands. So why should we think that we should get to heaven scot-free and that we should experience the blessings God has for us without having to walk through the same pathway our Savior walked? That is the pathway of suffering.

You think about what it may mean for you or for your children or your grandchildren, and it makes you tremble. When you exercise faith, you say, “I will quietly wait. I know that God will do all things right. I know that He will vindicate righteousness. He will right all wrongs. I will quietly wait,” so he does that as an expression of faith.

As he's waiting for God's purposes and God's promises to be fulfilled, while he still cannot see the end of the story, he expresses faith that God is going to fulfill His promises. As an expression of that faith, he waits. Now, he does something in addition to waiting that I find absolutely astounding. It's mind-boggling, and it's in this last paragraph of Habakkuk that we want to explore what this has to say, what Habakkuk does as an expression of faith.

We're going to take our time through these verses because I want you to get the weight and the impact of how Habakkuk's faith expresses itself. Verse 17:

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 . . . (17-18a).

Now, in the previous verse, he said, “I tremble, yet I will quietly wait.” Now, here he talks about the coming devastation. He pictures what it's going to be like, what it may be like. In verse 18 he says again, “yet.”

Yet, I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Now, I know these are very familiar verses. You see them on decorative pieces in the bookstore that you can buy for your home. I want to tell you that exploring them and just meditating on these verses in recent months has been such a huge challenge to my own faith and a strengthening and a blessing and a reviving of my own heart.

He describes here a situation in verse 17, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines;” it's not just one thing that goes wrong. I mean, all of us have been through some kind of disaster or catastrophe. We could name what those are, but here is a season of life that Habakkuk is anticipating where it's not just one thing that goes wrong, but everything goes wrong—everything!

He says, “Though the fig tree should not blossom,” that's one thing, “nor fruit be on the vines, and the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, and the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls.” I mean, this is one calamity after another. It reminds you of the story of Job and how he heard just one piece of news after another. It's like: When it rains, it pours. I mean, sometimes that really does happen in people's lives, and it's one calamity after another.

What is being stripped from him is not luxuries. It's basic necessities in life. The things he lists here, the produce of the olive, for example, was to people in that era their source of oil. It was like butter today. It is something that you just can't live long without, and he's talking about every visible evidence of sustenance and supply being taken away.

Even if you don't provide me with the basic necessities of life—that's the situation he's anticipating. I mean, this was no empty threat. He believed God. When God said judgment was coming, chastening was coming, Habakkuk knew that was true. So he begins to imagine what could it be like having all these things taken away.

What happens when you are stripped of essentials, things you consider basic for life? Few of us have ever been there. Most of us don't know anybody who's really been quite that destitute. But there are moments when God gives us a glimpse of that.

I got an email from a friend recently whose wife is going through some real hard pain with her back and some issues that they can't get resolved. The husband wrote, “It's been difficult for my wife to be homebound” (with this severe back and hip pain). “But God is teaching us a lot through this.” Then he said this sentence, “Sometimes God brings you down to the basics, but that is when you find out what is really in your heart.”

When you say, “Christ is all I need,” or you sing it and then you come to the place where He's all you have, you're down to the basics. Habakkuk says, “I will trust.” The righteous live how? By faith. “I will trust the Giver even when He gives me no gifts. If I starve, I will be glad in Him.”

Now, maybe you can't imagine a situation—it's hard for most of to imagine a situation in which really you would have no basic necessities of life, but think about other areas of your life, maybe not in the area of food because it's hard for us to imagine not having at least minimal food to eat. Think about in your marriage when you get minimal affection that you feel you need.

Think about in friendships or in the workplace or in various other aspects of life where emotionally you feel just wrung out, drained, lonely, empty, like you have no one who cares. Maybe you've just moved to a new area, and you don't know anybody. You don't think anybody knows you or cares, or you can't find a church. You feel emotionally and relationally stripped of things that matter to you, things that are meaningful—relationships. You have no one to talk to.

I was talking with someone the other day about a situation where someone lost both of their parents and all their siblings, and they're the last surviving member of their family. They were saying how when you get to that point in life, that there's an emotional challenge or difficulty or sense of I am really, really alone.

I think Habakkuk is covering all those situations with this paragraph. Though everything that matters to me and is meaningful to me and gives me warmth and love and help and care and encouragement—though it's all stripped away, regardless of the circumstances, I will not question God's goodness, but I will have joy. I will choose joy.

I think about some of the things we whine about as I read this passage. If the air conditioning breaks down in my car, that's a big deal, especially in a Little Rock hot summer; or a headache that lasts all day; or you can't find a good parking spot. I think it takes so little for us to be whining and griping and complaining because we're so spoiled.

Now, don't look at me like you don't relate to that because I know you do. We all do that. We're prone to let circumstances fuel our emotions. Then our emotions dictate our responses, and so we become victims of our circumstances and of our emotions versus letting God's unchanging character and His promises dictate our responses.

That's why we need to know God's promises and then not only know them but trust them—that what God says is true—and take Him at His word. We are so good at having head knowledge and so poor at getting that knowledge into the laboratory of life where we really live.

Really, those times of whining and complaining are evidence of a failure to live by faith. "The just shall live by faith." The just, the righteous ones, live in light of who God is rather than in light of our finite, flawed, limited perspective. So Habakkuk says,

Though I'm stripped of all these things that matter, all these things that we think are important, these things we think we can't live without, yet, I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation (verse 18).

First, he has said, “I will quietly wait for God to fulfill His purposes.” Now he says, “I'm going to do something more than waiting. I'm going to not just passively wait; I am going to actively rejoice—actively rejoice. While I'm waiting, I'm going to rejoice.” He's saying, “I'm not just going to survive this ordeal. By faith and by God's grace, I'm going to thrive.”

Now I want to tell you, what I'm about to say here is so convicting to me because I'll confess to you so often I don't live this way. It's easy for me to live this way when I'm sitting in my study or when I'm teaching this passage. When I get into the reality of life and what's going to happen later today or tomorrow or the next day or what happened yesterday or the day before, I just fall back into this unbelief, acting and responding as if there is no God. But there is a God! I've been called to live and to walk by faith, and God uses circumstances to help me see when I'm not walking by faith.

Sidlow Baxter has written that classic overview of the Scripture called Explore the Book. Now when he comes to this passage, he says,

The literal here, "I will rejoice in the LORD. I will take joy in the God of my salvation," the literal translation is, "I will jump for joy in the Lord; I will spin around for delight in God.”

Here is the hilarity of faith—joy at its best with circumstances at their worst!

Now that's a kind of experience that most of us know very little about.

This isn't like, "Okay, I'll just grin and bear it." This is, "I will actively rejoice in God." So Habakkuk is not just resigned to things over which he has no control. He is joyful in the midst of them, and that's because his relationship with God is the one thing he knows that can never be taken away from him.

You can lose the fig trees and the fruit and the produce of the olive and the field yield no food and the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, but I still have God, my relationship with Him. When everything else has failed, God will still be faithful. So he's talking about joy in the face of calamity, joy in spite of circumstances, based on the fact that God has not changed, even though everything else around me has changed and is failing.

I heard the story, just in this past week, of a woman whose husband was, at that point, dying in the hospital. He has since gone on to be with the Lord, but in part, his problems there were due to a doctor's error. That wife, standing by her husband's bedside there in that hospital, knowing that they were losing him—she turned to those around her, and she said, “This is no lapse in God's goodness.”

“This is no lapse in God's goodness,” and it isn't. God is still good, so Habakkuk, who started out this book with intense questioning, maybe even doubts about God—he has now grappled deeply with the tough issues and the tough questions, and in the process, he has encountered God in a whole new way.

Now, having encountered God, seen God for who He is, as a result of grappling with these issues, Habakkuk the wrestler becomes Habakkuk the embracer—from fear to faith, from wrestling to embracing God, clinging to him. Now that whole, excruciating process of faith takes a turn and in this final paragraph erupts into springs of joy.

The wrestling process, the grappling process, the struggling to understand, the having to lay your doubts down and take up the shield of faith has caused him not just to survive, but it's like there's this underground reservoir of springs of living water that have sprung up and erupted in hilarity, in joy, in things that the world cannot understand—joy in the Lord.

Have you ever pressed through your problems and your doubts to get through to that kind of joy? Let me just make an observation I've seen just about life here. I really believe that our capacity to experience joy is in direct proportion to our willingness to experience and embrace sorrow and pain—the breaking process, the losing process, the doubting process. To the extent that we're willing to experience and embrace the pain, to that extent, we will have a capacity to rejoice.

The problem today is we don't want to experience pain. We have in our culture and in our society so many ways of eliminating the pain, so we don't talk about brokenness. We don't talk about repentance. We don't talk about God's judgment, and then we eliminate the lows of life by running from them, medicating them, escaping them, avoiding them, doing anything we can not to have to feel pain.

As a result, I find many women who don't experience low lows because they're finding ways to escape the lows, but nor do they experience this erupting joy. They're just flat. They don't experience anything. If you want a capacity to experience this kind of joy, you've got to be willing to enter into and experience the difficult times as well. So how does Habakkuk come to this kind of joy?

Well, it's clear in this passage. It's a result of his life being centered in God. Verses 18 and 19 you see this evidence of this God-centered life. “I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength.” It's a God-centered life.

You see that God uses suffering to cause our hearts to become detached from things that are less than God, from things and people, goods, pleasures, things that can only satisfy us to a limited extent. Then God uses that suffering as we're stripped and detached from those earthly things to attach our hearts to the One who can satisfy us deeply and eternally, to make us God-centered.

As we get stripped of our job or as we lose possessions or we lose health or we lose reputation or we lose a family member, what happens when you have nowhere else to turn? Isn't that when we often turn to the Lord?

It's sad that it has to take that sometimes to get us to turn to Him, but God uses suffering to get us vertical, to get us off the horizontal playing field, off of blaming and striving with our circumstances and to get our eyes lifted up, though they may be filled with tears, and to get our eyes on Him. Joy is found in a Person. It's not a thing, and it's not a person with a lower case P; it's with a capital P.

Let me say to you, if you're not finding joy in the Lord right now, in the midst of whatever circumstances you're living in; if you're looking to things or people to make you happy; if your joy is not sourced, rooted, flowing out of your relationship with the Lord; if it's other things you're looking to to bring you your joy, then when you lose those other things, you will have a hard time finding true joy.

Don't wait till the fig tree fails to blossom and there are not fruit on the vines and say, “Where's my joy?” If you're not finding joy now in the Lord, you'll have a hard time finding it then.

Matthew Henry says of this passage, “Those who, when they were full, enjoyed God in all, when they are emptied can enjoy all in God, and can sit down upon a melancholy heap of the ruins and even then sing to the praise and glory of God.”

You say, “I'm not living in this place of destitution right now.” That's okay. That day may come in one way or another, but find your joy now in the Lord. If you enjoy Him and enjoy through Him and because of Him and for Him the good things that He brings into your life, then when you're stripped of those things, you'll find, as Henry says, that you can sit upon a melancholy heap of the ruins, and even then, you can sing to the praise and glory of God.

Thank You, Father, for the example of this servant of Yours who knew what it was to squarely face loss and destitution and deprivation in the face and to say, “No matter what, I will trust You. And as an expression of trust, I'm not just going to survive, I'm going to thrive by actively choosing joy in the Lord.”

Thank You, Lord, that You give joy as the fruit of Your Spirit, that Your kingdom is one of joy and peace in the Holy Spirit, and there are wells of joy, wells of living water that You want to cause to spring up within us even in a place of great loss.

Cause us to find our joy in You now so that when we lose these things and people that are precious to us, we'll be able to face that loss in the face and say, “Regardless, I will take joy in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” For Jesus' sake I pray it, amen.

Leslie: The next time you go through a season of suffering, I hope you'll take the words of Nancy Leigh DeMoss with you. She's offered important perspective on suffering today.

A woman made a comment on our listener blog about this series, Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith. She wrote:

My husband and I have been going through a real 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 that it is possible in our Lord.

Our listeners help us speak biblical truth to women like her. We're on the air in your area thanks to the listeners in your community who donate and support the ministry.

Would you multiply this message to others women who need to hear it? Donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts and as our way of saying thanks, we'll provide you with a Bible study booklet called, Worry, Woes, and Worship. You'll dig into Habakkuk for yourself, discovering new insights and applying these important truths to the choices you make all the time.

When you call us with a donation of any amount, we'll send Worry, Woes, and Worship. The number is 800-569-5959, or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com

Joy. It's something you and I need no matter what clouds are hanging over the day. Find out how to cultivate this kind of joy tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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