God’s Grace in Stewarding Trials

Josh Greiner November 21, 2021 Habakkuk 3:1-19
Outline

Habakkuk 1:2 - How Long, O Lord…

Habakkuk 1:5-6 - I am doing something in your days—You would not believe if you were told. I am raising up the Chaldeans.

Stewardship – God-given responsibility with accountability

Four Factors of Stewardship

1. God owns everything, you own nothing

2. God entrusts you with everything you have

3. You can either increase or diminish what God has given; He wants you to increase it

4. God can call you into account at any time, and it may be today

3 ways to change your perspective during challenging times

Habakkuk 2:2 - Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tables, that the one who reads it may run.”

I. See God’s Holiness as It Shines Forth in Hard Times

A. God’s splendor is all around (3:3-4)

Habakkuk 3:3-4 - His splendor covers the Heavens, and the earth is full of His praise. His Radiance is like the sunlight; he has rays flashing from His Hands.

B. God’s Glory is revealed in His wrath against the nations (3:5-12)

Habakkuk 3:12 - In indignations You marched through the earth; in anger You trampled the nations.

II. Acknowledge Your Sinfulness When You Approach God

A. By first choosing to listen to God

Habakkuk 2:20 - But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.

Habakkuk 3:2 - Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear...

B. God’s wrath is something to fear

Habakkuk 3:16 - I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us.

Revelation 14:10 - …he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

C. Cry out for God’s forgiveness

Habakkuk 3:2 - …in wrath, remember mercy…

D. Believe that God’s plan is for the salvation of His people

Habakkuk 3:13 - You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for the salvation of Your anointed. You struck the head of the house of the evil to lay him open from thigh to neck.

III. Trust God and Worship Him Even When Times are Hard

A. The righteous will live by faith

Habakkuk 2:4 - Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.

B. Even when I don’t understand God’s plan

Habakkuk 1:2 - How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 - For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

C. Even in desolate situations

Habakkuk 3:17-19 - Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.

What is the most annoying question during a road trip any child, or for that fact, a passage in your car that is acting like a child 😊?.... Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

No.

And when you attempt to communicate, at least to kids, how long it’s either way above their heads…We’ll be there in six hours…or when finding out that information…they grow exhausted…Guys, we’ll be at Grandma’s in 30 minutes…

“30 minutes…that’s forever”

But what about in our own lives… beyond road trips for a minute…

What about when we are in the midst of something challenging or difficult…when we see suffering, when we see problems all about…have you ever asked….

“How Long, O Lord…” (Hab. 1:2)

Rarely when life is good and pleasant are we inquiring about when it will end…but when life is hard…we are wondering how long O, Lord.

We ask the question because, first and foremost, we believe that God has the answer. But we also ask because we believe that if we have some more information, some more data, that will help us endure whatever we are going through.

So perhaps, when you have had a major life decision before you and you were just asking, “how long O Lord” will I linger without knowing what to do?

Maybe you have been sick with COVID or some other aliment and you have wondered, how long O Lord?

Those situations can be challenging too, but what is even worse is when you are asking that question because you see injustice and you see evil going on around you.

Maybe you have been dealing with a situation at work, a coworker or a boss that is causing you problems and you have just wonder, “How long, O Lord.”

You are wondering when someone will do something about the evil that is obvious. You want the authority to do something…and you are asking in your heart…or even to that authority…how long are you going to let this go on?

You know that they should rise to handle the problem…they need to do something, but it appears that they are not.

In our passage this morning, the prophet Habakkuk is asking God this question because when he looks around…the world is just falling apart. The Covenant special people that God setup to be a light to the dark world around had turned away from God.

The people had turned away from faithful worship of God, injustice was everywhere in the land…and the Prophet wants to know…how long do you plan to let this go.

His is upset, in anger, and he wants to know when God is going to do something about it.

You can almost hear the accusatory tone in his voice….GOD, when are you going to do something…have you been there before? Can you relate?

Imagine if God answered you as you were crying out “How long”…and he said,

Oh, I plan to do something…but it’s not what you think…it’s not even close. Notice how God responds to the complaining question that it put before him.

“I am doing something in your days—You would not believe if you were told. I am raising up the Chaldeans” (Hab. 1:5-6)

Now, that might sound like a big deal for you…but for Habakkuk, this took his breath away. This was not as bad as the flood, but it felt like God hitting the nuclear option.

Habakkuk was thinking that God would correct his people, that he would deal with the injustice, but that he would probably do it in a different way.

When he learns that God is planning to act, and that he is going to act in a big way…he is left silent and fearful.

This morning we are studying

Stewardship of Challenging Times and we are doing this as part of our Stewardship month.

Stewardship month is our church’s annual time when we pause and take time to consider what it looks like to be a faithful steward of all that God has entrusted us.

This year we have been asking what does it look like to stewards challenging times well. Everyone in this room will experience hard and challenging times…and if we want to grow the mature Christian, we need to consider how to we steward those challenging times well.

So, this morning we are going to be consider

God’s Grace in Stewarding Trials

3 Ways to Change Your Perspective During Challenging Times

As I mentioned, we are going to be looking at the short book of Habakkuk, mainly on Chapter 3.

Habakkuk is ministering at the end of the reign of Josiah (641-609 BC) and he has seen all the Israel fall. Most scholars date the book between 612-605 BC. He sees how bad Judah and Israel has become and he is dismayed.

In part, I’m sure that a lot of you have felt this way from time-to-time as you look at the United States. You look out and wonder how this could be the country that you grew up in.

You see how evil seems to be all around and how there seems to be no fear of God left in anyone.

When Habakkuk asks the question, “How long, O Lord,” God speaks to him…and the message he heard made his heart sink…to which God replies….

“Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tables, that the one who reads it may run.” (Hab. 2:2)

Now, this particular verse in Hebrew is a bit tricky to translate and even interpret…I think that the NIV can actually shed a bit of light on this passage and our time today…

2 Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. Habakkuk 2:2 (NIV)

Meaning, make the message permanent and clear…so that the one whose job it is to proclaim…they can take that message and distribute it easily and clearly.

Lord willing, I’ll be able to “run” with this message this morning 😊

Follow along with me as I read Hab. 3 and let’s see what responses we can have as we respond to suffering and hard times in our own lives.

The first response that I want us to see as we handle hard times is to…

I. See God’s Holiness as it Shines forth in Hard Times

Would you agree with me that in hard times, it’s easy to forget God? It is easy to be focused just on what is happening in your life?

When we are suffering and in pain, it seems to narrow our focus, and on the one hand that is good. When you have broken your leg, and the pain is throbbing, you don’t really focus on the fact that your back needs scratched.

CS Lewis famously said in the Problem of Pain

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world

Pain can focus our senses and our mind on the problem that needs to be solved, but with that blessing of focus it can also blind us to other things around us…and one of those things can be our walk with God.

One of the responses that we are called to have when we are in hard times and suffering is to see God’s holiness. We see this in our text when Habakkuk declares that…

God’s Splendor is all around (3:3-4)

“His splendor covers the Heavens, and the earth is full of His praise. His Radiance is like the sunlight; he has rays flashing from His Hands” (Hab. 3:3-4)

Now let’s think for a moment about what has happened in the text and what God said will occur. We started with this complaint, “how long, O Lord?”

Then God told him that he is going to act and he is going to do something that he can’t even fathom…he tells him that he is brining in the Chaldeans…God is hitting the nuclear option…that leads Habakkuk to see how Holy God is…to see his majesty all around.

But more specifically than just a general worship of God’s majesty, he sees…

God’s Glory is revealed in his wrath against the nations (3:5-12)

  1. “In indignations You Marched through the earth; In anger You trampled the nations” (Hab. 3:12)

God is judging not only Israel and Judah for their abandonment of God, but he is judging the nations around them—and even the instrument that God is using to discipline God’s children…the Chaldeans.

The thing that God is primary concerned with is his own glory. God wants to the world and all of creation to know who he is and how awesome he is...that is what is meant by glory…and that when people come to know him…they worship him.

God even goes as far to say that he is Jealous for his own glory, that he will not share his glory. And what we see from this passage is that he will be glorified even as he pours out his wrath in judgment on those who refuse to worship him.

Now, if you have been tracking so far, you are probably thinking….Great, that is all fine and dandy, Josh, but what does that have to do with me in the midst of my suffering? I’m going through hard times, or my Mom is suffering…what does this have to do with any of that?

The point that I am trying to make here is that in the midst of hard times, in the midst of suffering, what the prophet Habakkuk starts to do is see the holiness, the uniqueness, the one-of-a-kindness of God. That is where he turns his gaze.

Dear brothers and sisters, when you are in the midst of suffering and hard times…look and see how unique, how holy, how special God is.

Fix your gaze on the fact that God is unlike anything or anyone else. See all around you how the world declares his splendor and majesty. See how he is using, even his wrath and discipline as a means for him to gain glory.

See that as God is glorified in this world, that you, as one of his followers will become incredibly satisfied.

And as you see how holy God is…what this will do in you, Lord willing, is to…

II. Acknowledge your sinfulness when you approach God

Often in the midst of suffering, people ask something along the line of, “How can bad things happen to good people?” How can a loving God allow such horrible things to happen to me, to my child, or to whomever?

The first thing I would say to that is to remember why the world is the way that it is.

The world is the way it is first and foremost because of what happened in the garden.

In the words of R.C. Sproul.

This creature from the dirt defied the eternal living God even after he had sworn that the day that they ate of the tree…on that day…they would die.

And yet, instead of instant death, the were given another day, and another day, and another.

Instead of the curse primarily falling on those who chose to sin…the curse would fall on the Serpent and on Jesus Christ. The primary punishment for those in Christ, who have trusted in him, would fall on Jesus.

And yet, our complaint is that there is too much pain, too much suffering, that the suffering is unjust. You may even think that in your heart.

If you do, dear brothers and sisters, I would encourage you to consider how serious the garden was…how important the cross is…and to see how bad your own sin is.

The fact that the first time you sinned against God that you were not destroyed in an instant…should be cause for great rejoicing.

No doubt the scriptures reveal that God is a God of mercy, but there are plenty of times when God judges sin instantly.

Luke 17:32, as Christ is teaching, says, “Remember Lot’s wife.” Why would Christ tell us to remember her? Because she was judged instantly for her sin. You could add to that other persons who were judged instantly because of their sin.

And yet, the vast majority of times what do we see instead of instance judgment? We see patience, we see grace. And when we do see the discipline of the Lord, even when that discipline is severe, it is still a gracious thing.

Notice these words from Paul to the church at Corinth.

1 Corinthians 11:29–32 (NASB95)

29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

Notice the logic there, some people are sick as an act of judgment because they are sinning, and some are even dead…so that they will not be condemned with the world.

My point here, dear brothers, when we encounter times of suffering, this should cause us not only to ask if there is unconfessed sin in our lives, but the lament the presence of sin in the world. To just see how serious our own sin is, even if that is not the direct cause of our current suffering.

Let us not focus on the question, “Why does bad things happen to good people.” Rather, let us marvel in the fact that God continues to be gracious to us day in and day out as a chance to repent of our sin and glorify his name.

When we are in suffering, let us look to our own sinful hearts and ask God for the grace to grow in holiness.

We do this, then, by…

By First Choosing to Listen to God

Notice what this looked like for Habakkuk…

“But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20 (NASB95)

Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear... Habakkuk 3:2

How did Habakkuk come to worship the Lord, to see God’s glory and his own sinfulness…he was silent before the Lord…he listened to the Lord…he heard the report about Him.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the times of trials, we are most certainly called to pour out our hearts to God.

1 Pe. 5:7 tells us to cast ALL our anxieties on God…for he cares for you…but there is also a place for us to listen to God…to hear what he says…

And how we hear from God is through his word…for Habakkuk he “hears the report”.

In the times of great suffering in our lives, let us be a people that spends more and more time in God’s word…looking for what God would have to say to us…listening to his report about us.

And as we are listening to God…as Habakkuk is listening…what is one of the responses…he sees that…

God’s wrath is something to fear

16 I heard and my inward parts trembled, At the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, And in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, For the people to arise who will invade us. Habakkuk 3:16

Too often we take sin flippantly. Too often we bank on the fact that God’s mercy is all that we need to think about…but for the Christian who is serious about their sin…God’s wrath is terrifying. Look at Habakkuk’s response…

For those who are in Christ, that wrath has been poured out on Christ at the Cross….There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…but if you truly believe that…then you would equally take sin seriously.

You would fear the wrath of God and when you read about it in the scriptures, it will cause you to fear…and to rejoice that it has been handled for you.

If we truly believed that Christ boar God’s wrath, we would be quick to run from sin…we would flea earthly passions and desires that lead us from God.

Let me ask, as we sit here this morning, what evidence in your life is there that you see how bad sin is?

How significant that God’s wrath being poured out on his Son is? How terrible the place of Hell is, and that it is only because of Christ that you are not going to Hell—if you have placed your faith in Christ?

Sometimes when people talk about Hell, they talk about it being just this place where God is not present…sort of like a blank abyss where you’ll be bored all day for eternity…that is not quite the picture we see of God’s wrath and Hell…in fact, God will most certainly be there.

he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. Revelation 14:10 (NASB95)

Does Hell send shutters down your spine? Does Hell and God’s wrath being poured out, like is described in our two texts, give you great pause?

Does it cause you to worship…does it cause you to tremble? If it doesn’t…I would like to suggest you don’t understand your own sin…and you don’t understand God’s wrath on sin.

You don’t understand how bad sin is…and that lack of understanding, just like in the days of Habakkuk will lead to destruction.

In our text, as Habakkuk sees the wrath of God poured out, what does he do? What should we do?

Cry out for God’s forgiveness

“in wrath, remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2)

Habakkuk knows the character of God…he knows God is a merciful God, but that sin must dealt with. Either by the sinner in hell or by Christ on the cross. Sin must be paid for…one place or another.

His cry is,…have mercy on me.

To anyone listening this morning, if you have not cried out for God’s mercy…for his forgiveness in your life…today is the day. Today, it is my prayer, that you would see your sin and cry out for that forgiveness…because we…

Believe the God’s plan is for the salvation of his people

You went forth for the salvation of Your people, For the salvation of Your anointed. You struck the head of the house of the evil To lay him open from thigh to neck. (Habakkuk 3:13 (NASB95)

What a vivid picture of God’s salvation…sticking evil rom thigh to neck…I’m no doctor, but I’m thinking that when a person is cut from thigh to neck…you’re not coming back from that one.

God’s earnest desire is to save his people, and he would save his people by His anointed son, the Messiah or Christ (literally in Greek and Hebrew…anointed).

Notice that the text doesn’t say that the people went for and saved themselves, we see even God as the primary and exclusive agent of salvation…” You went forth for the salvation for your people.”

In the times of suffering, in the times of hardship, we need to see how odious, how terrible sin is….we need to see that God’s wrath on sin is something to be terrified of…and we need to cry out to God that he would save us…and as we cry out…we are called to believe that God will save us.

Sometimes God allows for us to experience hardship and suffering to clear the fog of our mind when it comes to how bad sin is. Sometimes we can think this world isn’t so bad….that little bit of sin that I have…it won’t kill me. Just a little bit…it can’t hurt…but what Habakkuk reminds us….and I hope that we all see this morning is how serious sin is..

The last perspective shift that we need to have in the midst of suffering and trials is…

III. Trust God and Worship Him even when times are hard

While we did not get to read this part of the book this morning, we see that…

The Righteous will live by Faith

“Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:4

And that living by Faith happens…

Even when I don’t understand God’s plan

2 How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. Habakkuk 1:2

Dear Brothers and sisters, how hard it is to live by Faith when we don’t understand God’s plan! How hard it is even when we don’t know what God is doing.

I will be the first to admit that I love to understand what God is up to. I am the first to cry out, “how long, O Lord” but one of the things that we should take as we try to steward trials well is that those who have trusted in Christ as their Lord and savior are called to live by Faith even when they do not understand all the details of what God is doing.

How many times in your life, as you were going through something, were you utterly confused about what God was up to? How many times did you wonder what his plan is?

Sometimes, by his grace, he revealed his plan to you in a season. Sometimes it may take years to reveal what God was doing…and sometimes we may need to wait until glory to see what God is doing…but believe this he is doing something.

Notice Paul’s words in 2 Cor.

17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17–18

Dear brothers and sisters, believe and walk by faith that God is doing something…and believe that the thing that he is doing has eternal value.

And in your believing…remember that he is doing something….

Even in desolate situations

One of the things that I have noticed in my life and those that I have met with in counseling when it comes to fear and anxiety is that “what if” statements/questions.

What if God does this…what if this happens to me…what if I don’t get the job…what if I don’t get the spouse…what if I don’t get healthier…what if the doctor can’t cure me…what if my friends don’t accept me…what if my boss fires me.

You probably have no problem creating a long list of what if sentences if your own mind when you think about your own fears and anxieties…

But notice how one of the solutions to the what if questions is to change it from “what it” to even if….that is living by faith, and that is what we see in our text…

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, 18 Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17–19

How many times, are we OK with God to something as long as he doesn’t touch this idol…as long as he doesn’t touch this pleasure, as long as he doesn’t take this relationship…as long as he doesn’t take my health, my wealth…or something like that.

But is that how Faith in God works? No, beloved it is not.

Notice how he says…though…and then lists all sorts of catastrophes that could befall an agrarian culture. Habakkuk is saying, in essence, even if all these bad things happen…yet I will rejoice…I will praise God.

This is a profound statement of Faith…God is doing something with everything…every hardship, every trial, every difficulty, we need to view as God doing something.

That type of thinking is a response of Faith, to trust is what God is doing, no matter what happens.

I would encourage all of us today, this week, to really take that change in our perspective to heart.

Are there things in your life that you are clinging to?

Are you saying “what if” in a number areas of your life?

My encouragement to you this week is to turn that what if to even if…and to end in praise the way that Habakkuk did.

To chose to worship and trust God…to walk by Faith .

And as you walk by Faith…see the holiness of God and the terrible nature of sin.

Authors

Josh Greiner

Roles

Pastor of Faith West Ministries - Faith Church

Director of Faith West Community Center - Community Ministries West

Vice-Chair of the CDC Board - Northend Ministries

MABC Instructor - Faith Bible Seminary

Director of Biblical Counseling Training Conference - Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries

Bio

BA - Political Science, Purdue University
M.Div. - Faith Bible Seminary
Th.M. - Biblical Counseling, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Ph.D. - Biblical Counseling, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (in progress)

Pastor Josh Greiner joined the staff at Faith Church in 2013 after being a part of the three year internship at FBS and oversees the Faith Church West Campus. He also serves as an ACBC certified counselor, grader, and fellow in training; he teaches in Faith’s Biblical Counseling Ministries and serves as an adjunct professor for Faith Bible Seminary (M.Div. and MABC); and serves his community on the Board of the Faith Community Development Corporation and as the chaplain of the West Lafayette Fired Department. Josh is married to Shana and has four children: Winston, Cecilia, Lorelai, and Edwin.

Read Josh Greiner's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Greiner to Faith Church.