Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Ultimate Hope for Today’s Headlines

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If the headlines in today’s news tempt you to be fearful, Dannah Gresh advises, “Keep the big picture in mind!”

Dannah Gresh: Whatever happens here on this earth, whatever hardships we endure, we do have heaven to look forward to; we do have the second coming of Jesus to look forward to; we do have an ultimate hope that trumps everything else on the earth!

Nancy: This is Revive Our Hearts for September 30, 2020. I’m Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Dannah, I know that the history of the world is filled with crises, but does it seem to you like the headlines these days just are one crisis on top of another? I mean, the pandemic, politics here in the United States . . . even the weather!

Dannah: The weather—which is usually the safe topic—but it’s not these days! I’ve been heartbroken as people have been asking for prayer, as hurricanes have hit their cities, or as there have been wildfires sweeping through their state. 

Even in Iowa, where much of the nation’s corn crop grows, there was this unusual inland hurricane that devastated a very big portion of our nation’s corn crop for the 2020 season!

Nancy: Yes, it seems like one thing upon another in an unusual way. And these aren’t just weather patterns and natural disasters and crop failures that are impacting our natural resources, but they’re impacting people’s hearts. People are hurting, and they need practical help and prayer in this season.

As you’ve been teaching through the book of Habakkuk over these last days, Dannah, we realize that Habakkuk was also a man who lived in a time when the world was very broken and there were many horrendous headlines in view.

Dannah: And yet, in the middle of a horrible world climate, he experienced revival . . . and we can, too! You can! The circumstances of our world, they’re ripe for something that we need desperately: to want, desire, and seek God more than anything else! That’s the gift Habakkuk found in a dire situation. I am so hoping that today’s program will help others find that same gift.

Nancy: Today we’re coming to the last message in the series that Dannah has been teaching, and also the last chapter of the book of Habakkuk. You might want to turn there now, to Habakkuk chapter 3. This man was a prophet who was burdened by the lawlessness that he saw, not just among pagans, but among the people of God.

Dannah, it’s fitting that you just mentioned the corn crop, because the loss of fig and olive and wheat crops were very real threats in Habakkuk’s world. As we look together at this final section of the book of Habakkuk, we’re reminded that we can walk by faith and even find joy in difficult days.

Let’s listen in now as Dannah continues in this series “Habakkuk: Remembering God’s Faithfulness When He Seems Silent.”

Dannah: As I’ve been studying Habakkuk these past many weeks, I came to think about the fact that we tend to believe a lie that good times are supposed to be the norm. When we hit those evil times, those hard times, we add to that lie by believing, “This is going to pass soon; God’s going to bring the good times back. That’s what He wants for me. Things are going to go back to normal.”

Well, how do you know? How do you know it’s going to get better? Because we don’t find that promise in Scripture. We find a very different promise in Scripture. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble ” (John 16:33). Are you okay with that? I don’t know if I’m okay with that, sometimes.

I mean, we’ve said it before, we’re taping this in the year 2020, when it seems like the world is definitely not what we knew to be our “normal.” As I talk to people, we kind of think that this is as bad as it’s going to get and as bad as it’s ever been. But there have been times of evil and corruption and pain and disagreement and plague forever!

Ever since the Garden of Eden, we have been struggling under a world in which we will have trouble. During the time that I have been studying Habakkuk, I watched a documentary with my husband (he loves them!). We watched one called The Dust Bowl, by Ken Burns. I had never heard of the Dust Bowl. Maybe you have.

It was a time in our nation where the dust storms across the plains were so severe that it resulted in a terrible famine. But it was more than just the famine and the fact that the cupboards were empty, which was very frightening for families . . . it was the dust. It was such a horrible plague!

I think sometimes we might think, “Well, they were little dust storms,” right? But these were enormous storms of really biblical proportions. One of them measured a mile tall and a thousand miles wide! And often, the air would carry those dust storms from the middle of the United States all the way to, one time, the Statue of Liberty was covered in darkness!

And one time beyond that, there was a U.S. Navy ship many hundreds of miles off the coast of New York City in the Atlantic Ocean, and it was covered in dust! These dust storms would come down and the dust would be so severe that it would sneak in through all the crevices and cracks of every household.

Children would wake up covered in a blanket of dust, much to the chagrin of their parents, the house full of dust, every crevice! Women would have to clean out their cupboards and dust off all of the dishes and all of the cups. These families were hungry, but they were also tired and worn out not knowing when their days were going to be disrupted by these terrible dust storms.

They started to wear down, as we do, especially as we do when we don’t have the Lord to rely on through those times. And in this documentary people would just tell the stories. One woman told the story of her mom. She described a very happy woman who, before the dust bowl, was just joyful and a leader in her community.

But she just couldn’t stand that every day she would wake up and her clean curtains—that she had beaten off, and sometimes laundered, the day before—because they were once again black with soot. Her mom eventually committed suicide, and her daughter said, “I think she couldn’t stand the stress and the crazy-making of washing those curtains one more time!”

Another woman in her eighties described how there was one moment of joy in all of that terror: the day that a baby calf was born to their one and only cow on their farm. And in all of the devastation, there was this moment of life to bring happiness—a brief moment of it. Because that night she watched her father leave the house with a club.

She knew what was happening, and she cried out to her mom, “Don’t let him do it! Don’t let him do it!” Her mom looked at her and said, “Your father and I had to decide who would have milk tomorrow . . . you or that calf.”

Now, we don’t hear those stories. I’ve never heard about the Dust Bowl because it kind of falls under a time in history when there was a lot of evil. Starting about 1914, World War l would have been a recent memory during the Dust Bowl. The Great Depression, a global economic crash, would have been still very much at its height when the Dust Bowl happened.

There was a global polio pandemic. Children especially were prone to the disease, and it almost always left its victims paralyzed. And then entered World War ll and the holocaust. This wasn’t just a few years of hard and trouble, this was decades-—from 1914 to 1954—decades of evil! Decades of hardship!

At the end of those years, a pastor in London named Martin Lloyd-Jones pulled out the book of Habakkuk. He said, “We need this book always, but we need it especially right now!” And in his book, he poses the thought that if they had already studied the book of Habakkuk, they would have already known how to live through those evil times.

He encouraged his listeners and us not to forget those powerful words in Habakkuk, so that the next time evil times arrived, the church would be ready. Today, we’re going to look at chapter 3; we’re coming to the end of Habakkuk, but let me review where we’ve been.

We started out in chapter 1 seeing that Habakkuk was wrestling with God, and we got a permission slip to wrestle with God. It’s okay to do that. But then we were challenged to look and see where God was at work. Don’t forget to look and see where He’s working, and it’s not probably first and foremost in our circumstances, but in our heart.

And then, we begin to see the first glimpse of Habakkuk progressing. He’s still wrestling; he’s still asking hard questions, but now instead of being a wrestler, he’s more of an embracer. The questions he asks God are laced with truths he already knows about God.

The next thing we looked at was the idea of getting in our watchtowers and listening to God—not doing all of the talking, not writing a to-do list for God. But saying, “God, what are You doing? I’m going to watch, and I’m going to see, and I’m going to listen, and I’m going to be ready to be obedient—cooperating with You in this particular chapter of the story of humanity.”

And finally, we looked at the idea of fearing God. It was a proud and ruthless people, a puffed-up people that God was going to use to help His own people remember Him . . . because they’d forgotten. What a hard thing that would have been!

We talked about the contrast between fearing man, which is prideful, and fearing God, which is humble. I felt like God wanted me to go a direction, I guess, that I was a little bit afraid to go a few months ago, but seems important to me.

Because, if Habakkuk is a baton of faith that we are passing on (and I’ve referenced this a few times in our teaching sessions), it’s practice for the end times. That baton of faith needs to be carried through to the very last day, when Jesus comes once again and He does make all things right. And I want to unpack that a little bit today.

But first, let’s start in chapter 3, the last chapter of Habakkuk. We’re seeing that there is a great difference in our friend and prophet. He doesn’t look like he did; he’s not wrestling anymore. My friend Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth observed in her study of Habakkuk . . .

Nancy from Habakkuk series: We see that Habakkuk is a changed man! He’s a different man than the man we met in chapter 1. Now there are no more questions, no more accusations, no more anger, no more doubt. 

Now there’s just submission and reverence and praise! All those things are an expression of faith. Habakkuk has learned that the righteous shall live—even in an ungodly world—how? By his faith!

Faith leads us to submit to God; faith leads us to have reverence for God; faith leads us to trust God and to praise God. Habakkuk still doesn’t have the answers to all his questions, but he has encountered the God who is enough!

Change has been a process in his life, and I think it’s been a painful process, a grueling process. His perspective and his heart have been changed because he has seen the Lord.

Dannah: Let’s look at Habakkuk 3 verse 1. It says, “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.“ Now, that’s not a word you say every day, is it? What is a Shigionoth? If you don’t know what that is, you won’t really know the fact that this isn’t just a prayer, but it’s a song. It was a specific type of song.

I actually began to study it, and there’s not a lot known about it. There are pieces here and there, but I can tell by looking at these words—the lyrics to the song, as well as some little pieces of information we know—that Habakkuk hasn’t started to fake it. And you know what? I have seen that. I have seen Christians fake it.

I have seen Christians who instead of saying, “I’m grieved! I’m hurting! This is hard,” they act like it doesn’t hurt! I don’t think that serves us well. I think the beauty of Habakkuk is that, even as he moves into a place of praise, he remains honest. 

And the lyrics tell us, in Habakkuk 3:17 and 18,

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines [those don’t sound like happy lyrics, do they?], 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.

He’s still being honest. These lyrics, that sounds like a hard day on a hobby farm, right? But no, that’s not what it was at all! This would have the economic portfolio of the nation of Judah completely collapsing, completely falling away!

This would have been the Great Depression; this would have been World War ll. That’s where they were. The lyrics tell me that Habakkuk hasn’t forgotten that things are hard and they’re going to get worse, but he’s chosen to sing and to praise God anyway. 

The other thing I learned is that a Shigionoth tends to be a song that starts slow, like a dirge—it is full of sadness—but then it changes pace. The pace change was one of the marks of a Shigionoth, and that pace would become more hopeful, perhaps even more joyful.

As I studied that I thought, That sounds crazy! Who writes a song like that? But I searched and searched. I wanted to find one that maybe would have been more modern and reflected what perhaps the song that Habakkuk was teaching his people to sing would have sounded like. And I found one! I would like to play it for you.

[The American spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” begins with a female tenor voice singing the words at a slow, drawn-out pace.]

Swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home;
Swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home.

[The pace picks up and the singers begin clapping their hands enthusiastically as the lead voice intensifies in tempo and happy emotion on the verse:]

I looked over Jordan and what did I see, comin’ for to carry me home?
A band of angels comin’ after me, comin’ for to carry me home! 

[They repeat the opening refrain, faster now as the song picks up a swing tempo with great expression.]

Dannah: So that is a Shigionoth. It starts slow, with the sadness and the struggle of the time and the story, and then it moves into joy, into hope. And we find a lot of them in the black spiritual songs that were written during the time of slavery in our own country (woe to us!).

But those men and women who were enslaved, that believed in the Lord, they were looking past their circumstances. What was she singing about? That was Etta James singing a song. It’s contested who the author is, but they’re expressing the angst, they’re expressing the pain, and yet they’re looking at a future hope!

What was that future hope? A chariot . . . a chariot to heaven! They said, “Whatever happens here on this earth, whatever hardships we endure, we do have heaven to look forward to. We do have the second coming of Jesus to look forward to. We do have an ultimate hope that trumps everything else on the earth!”

And what we’re learning from Habakkuk is this: the righteous person who lives by faith, in those times of trouble, in those times of pain, they dig down deep to figure out what really matters! And when you do, you find you still have something to sing about . . . when you have Jesus! And Habakkuk does that, he models that.

I’d like to actually pop over to the book of Daniel where the things Habakkuk is seeing will come to happen, have come to pass. I want to look at a very familiar Bible story; you’ve heard it since you were a small girl. It’s the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and their fiery furnace.

You’ll recall with me that Nebuchadnezzar, that proud king, has built a golden statue, and he wants to be worshipped. He wants all of the people, including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—who have another God to worship, our One, True God—to bow down and worship that idol. And they don’t!

And so, we find that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are facing death, and a horrific, evil death at that. What do they say when the king asks them, gives them one last chance to recant their faith in the God of Israel, the God of Judah, and to worship Him? We find it recorded in Daniel 3, verses 16–18. It says that:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Now, when I looked at that, I had to ask myself, Did those men sing Habakkuk’s song? Because if you put those verses from Habakkuk 3:17 and 18, where Habakkuk says, “Everything’s falling apart, yet I will rejoice in the God of my salvation and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are looking death in the face, and they’re saying, “Our God will deliver us, but if not . . .” I just wondered, did they sing the song that Habakkuk wrote and did singing that prepare them for this moment of faithfulness? They were able to endure through their hardship with joy, with contentment, with peace! 

This is what I find so beautiful, because going back to what Jesus said, that in this world we will have trouble, but we won’t have to endure it alone (see John 16:33). That’s where we find the joy! We will not have to endure it alone.

What does Habakkuk say he’s rejoicing in? “The God of my salvation.” He’s rejoicing in God. He’s not rejoicing that the war might not happen. He’s not rejoicing that the captivity and the exile won’t come. He’s not rejoicing that the famine is not going to happen. He’s rejoicing that God will be with him in that.

We don’t find joy in things; we find joy in a Person. It’s not our bank account, not the stability of this very broken world, the false stability, not food, none of those things. We find our joy in Jesus, and He is with us in every hardship, in every pain, in every trial—including the fiery furnace that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found themselves in.

Daniel 3:24 and 25: “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste.” He’s talking about that moment when he looks into the fiery furnace and he’s watching to see Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego go up in flames. Think about how horrific that is! Why would you watch that?

He [Nebuchadnezzar] declared to his counselors, "Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?" They answered and said to the king, "True, O king." He answered and said, "But I see four men unbound [they had put them in shackles when they went into that furnace], walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods."

Does that give you chills? It gives me such comfort to know that whatever fiery furnace that I have to go through in my life, Jesus is going to be there with me in it. I can’t help but notice these two things: first of all, Jesus is there with them. Many scholars believe that that “son of the gods,” that what Nebuchadnezzar saw was Jesus in there with them.

The second thing is that their bonds were burned up. We so want to be delivered from our exile and our captivity the easy way. We just want Jesus to unlock these chains and set us free. But many times He delivers us through the fire, not from it. We see that in this passage.

With my mind fresh in the pages of Habakkuk, I couldn’t help but wonder, Is the way I’m singing through my trials and my trouble passing on a baton of faith to my children, to my grandchildren, to my great-grandchildren, to my spiritual children?

If they’re my “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego” years down the road, will they have learned something from my life that prepares them for their fiery trial? There’s such a sweet promise. In fact, I have this in my index cards, and I hope that it’s one that my children know to be true of me, that I believe this about the Lord. It’s a promise of God I carry closely to my heart.

It’s in Isaiah 43:1–2 and 4:

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. . . . Because you are precious in My [sight] and honored, and I love you.”

I have that circled in my Bible. I have hearts all around like it, like a seventh-grade girl! That God took time in the book of Isaiah to write the words, “I love you”! That’s why He’s with us in the fire, in the flame, in the flood.

It doesn’t say that, “Hey, I’m going to take you around those things.” It says, “When you pass through them, when you’re in them, they won’t consume you. I will be with you!”

How can we live like we’re loved in the middle of our storms, in the middle of our fires, in the middle of our floods? I really think it goes back to that whole idea of climbing up into our watchtower and gaining perspective! Because what is happening to us, right here and right now, it’s such a small little blip in the big scheme of God’s plan!

I couldn’t help but consider—and this is not the most important part of Habakkuk—Habakkuk’s purpose is to teach us that God is good even in evil times, and it’s to teach us to walk by faith. But we also find that Habakkuk walks by that faith, because he knows what God has told him is coming in the future—hard as it is—is true. 

He believes it, and He positions his life to be a part of it. He positions his life to be a part of prophecy. Think about that. We have prophecies in the Word of God that have not yet come to be, and they are hard! There will be hard days. The Bible tells us that in the last days it will be terrible, and people will walk from the faith.

And just like Habakkuk, he seemed to be one of the remnants, one of the few that was walking in faith. I’m walking faithfully. There won’t be many of us walking faithfully in those last days before Jesus comes. Can we prepare those who will walk faithfully with the baton of truth so that they’re able to set the stage for our glorious King’s second coming?

Nancy: Amen! Thank you, Dannah, for this reminder that Jesus is coming again! I believe that with all my heart, and I trust you do, too. But until then, Jesus told us in this world we will have trouble. We’ll go through our own fiery furnaces. And my prayer is that the Lord will deliver you through or from that furnace, whichever He chooses.

And I hope in the midst of it all, you will be singing songs of praise! I hope you will be a woman who passes on a baton of faith during this difficult year. If you need help walking through this year, I want to encourage you to read the book of Habakkuk over and over. It’s just three short chapters, and it can take some review for its power to sink into our hearts.

But as you soak in this text, you’re going to learn how this man of God experienced such incredible personal revival that he began to write songs of praise, even though the circumstances in his world were horrific! You can sing songs of praise through difficult days, too, as you learn to walk by faith in a God who never changes!

Revive Our Hearts exists to help women like you pass on a baton of faith which is especially needed during years like this one. You can help partner with us in that ministry. Your prayers and your financial support make it possible for us to share this message with women who are hungry for an infusion of hope and perspective in these troubled times.

Your gift of any amount to help support the ministry today would be a great blessing to us. And when you send a gift, as our way of saying “thank you,” we’d like to send you a copy of Dannah’s Bible study on Habakkuk: Remembering God’s Faithfulness When He Seems Silent. 

You can make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com or you can call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Thank you so much for your support to keep this ministry reaching out to the hearts of women. Now as we’ve been sharing over the past few days, I want to remind you that tomorrow, October 1, we’re beginning a month-long emphasis here on Revive Our Hearts that we’re calling, Cry Out!

We’re challenging women around the world to cry out to the Lord together as we seek Him to come and intervene in our world and to advance His Kingdom and bring about His will here in our world. Our team has prepared a 31-day prayer challenge.

You can sign up at ReviveOurHearts.com for that prayer challenge, and then each day during the month of October you’ll get a new email. It will have a Scripture passage to meditate on, a brief devotional, and then some prompts for your praying as we cry out to the Lord together. 

All that starts tomorrow, so be sure and sign up today at ReviveOurHearts.com, so you can have that email in your inbox tomorrow! And to get us started in this October theme, tomorrow we’ll be joined by my friend Karen Ellis. 

And Dannah, I think you’d agree that the conversation we had with Karen that will air the next two days is going to really encourage and strengthen our hearts when it comes to this matter of prayer.

Dannah: Absolutely! I felt like it was an IV drip of desire to pray in my spirit. It will jumpstart your month of crying out to God.

Nancy: So please be back with us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Pointing you to hope in desperate days, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

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About the Speaker

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries …

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