In this message we need to hold two texts together because one is the key to the other. Let’s start with the words of Paul in Romans 1:17:
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Note the last part of that verse where Paul says, “Just as it is written.” That means he is quoting the Old Testament. Where did he find the phrase, “The righteous will live by faith”? It comes from Habakkuk 2:4.
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
Everyone agrees that this is the central verse of Habakkuk. It is certainly one of the most crucial verses in the Bible. Here is a verse so important that it takes three New Testament books to explain it. The phrase “the just shall live by faith” is quoted in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38.
This is the text that changed the world
This is the text that changed the world. It first changed a man, and that man changed the world. Most of us know the story of Martin Luther, at one time an obscure Roman Catholic monk, who entered the monastery seeking to be set free from the heavy burden of guilt he felt because of his sin. Though he was an obedient son of the church, he found no rest for his soul in prayer and fasting and penance. His eyes were opened by God when he studied the epistle to the Romans. As he came to Romans 1:17, he pondered the meaning of the quotation from Habakkuk 2:4. Reflecting back on what this text meant in his life, Luther offered this testimony:
When by the Spirit of God, I understood these words—"The just shall live by faith"—then I felt born again like a new man. I entered through the open doors into the very paradise of God.
When Martin Luther found this text—or more accurately—when this text found him, it turned his life upside down. No longer was he willing to remain a simple monk at the monastery in Erfurt. Once the blazing truth of justification by faith gripped his soul, he ignited a fire that eventually spread throughout Europe and eventually to the ends of the earth.
You can read the rest of the sermon online.
What do you do when you’ve prayed to God and you don’t like the answer you’ve received?
*You applied for the college of your dreams, but they said no.
*You interviewed for a new job, but they found someone more qualified.
*You asked God for healing, but the doctor says the chemo didn’t work.
*You prayed and prayed to find a husband, and after all these years he has not yet found you.
*You asked her to marry you, and she said no.
*You sunk your life savings into a new business only to see it fail within a year.
*You moved across the country to take a new job, but it didn’t work out, and now you are unemployed—again.
*You never intended to end up divorced, but here you are.
*You planned on having more children, but it isn’t happening for some reason.
*You volunteered to serve on the worship team. They said they’d get back to you. Evidently they lost your number.
We’ve all been there, most of us many times because that’s the way life is. You have your dreams, you make your plans, you sincerely seek to do God’s will, you pray to the Lord, and when the answer comes, it’s not what you wanted. What do you do then? We don’t talk about this very often but we should.
Your plan and God's plan are rarely the same.
Live long enough and you’ll discover that God’s plan and yours often are not the same. We all know that we should pray “Your will be done,” and most of us do, but it still jolts the spirit when we discover that God has a completely different plan in mind.
You can read the rest of the sermon online.
I’ve never met Jerry Seinfeld.
But he gave me a good idea nonetheless.
It happened like this. A little over a year ago I heard a radio interview with a comedian who said that when he was just starting out, he met Jerry Seinfeld backstage one day and asked him how to make it as a comedian.
“Write better jokes,” he told him.
Good advice, but how do you do that? Jerry Seinfeld said that he wrote a new joke every day. Some days he wrote just one, some days more than one, but he never let a day go by without writing at least one new joke. Keep writing new jokes and soon you’ll write better jokes. It turned out that Jerry Seinfeld has some kind of calendar that he marks each day that he writes a joke. Keep at it and soon you’ve got a chain going.
“Don’t break the chain,” Jerry Seinfeld said. Then he repeated it for emphasis. The young comedian said he took the advice to heart and it worked for him.
When I heard that story, the refrain, “Don’t break the chain” kept rolling in my mind. So I decided to see if there was an app that would help me keep track of certain things I wanted to do each day. Turns out there are quite a few apps that do that. I downloaded one called Chains.cc and started using it. I decided to track four things on a daily basis: my diet, my weight, my quiet time, and my writing. Three days ago I was pleased to see this screen come up:
I’m certain there has never been a time in my life when I have had a quiet time 365 days in a row. To be sure, this doesn’t somehow gain merit with God. After all, it’s all grace all the time. But I want to take seriously the command to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). This little app has helped me be more consistent in some areas that are important to me.
Jerry Seinfeld was right.
Don’t break the chain.
That thought has helped me in the last year. Maybe it will help you too.
The call came at about 10:30 P.M. Someone had died. Would I please call the family? Before I could pick up the phone, the mother called me. Her son had taken drugs and had died earlier that evening. As I got dressed to go to the home, I wondered what I would say. When I arrived everyone was milling around in a state of confusion. At length, the mother took me aside and through her tears asked me the question I had known was coming. Why? Why did God let this happen to my son?It was not the first time I have had no satisfactory answer to that question, and it won't be the last. When you look at the questions of life and death, and when you consider the problems of this death-sentenced generation, even the most fervent believer looks up to the heavens and cries out, Why? Why me? Why now? Why this?Why? The question rings across the centuries and through every generation. All of us ask it sooner or later. If you haven't yet, you will. It's a question that does not admit of an easy answer. Indeed, the godliest believers have sometimes wondered about the ways of God. And if Job never got a complete answer, what can I expect? As I read the Bible, I don't think there is one single answer.
We get one kind of answer in the book of Genesis, another kind of answer in Job, and still other answers in the book of Psalms. Ecclesiastes takes yet another approach, and the gospels present us with a Christ whose very coming alters the way we think about everything. Finally, the book of Revelation shows us our Lord’s final victory and the final defeat of evil. I don’t mean to suggest that these various perspectives contradict each other. It’s just that the problem of human suffering is so vast that we need many different ways to think about it.That’s where the book of Habakkuk comes in. In this series we’re going to dig deep into this little book written just before the world caved in for the people of Judah. If you don’t know where to find Habakkuk, look in the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. Or just look in the “white pages” of your Bible. Habakkuk is squeezed between Nahum and Zephaniah, two other books we rarely read.
Major Message from a Minor Prophet
Let’s back up for just a second. There are 17 prophetic books in the Old Testament, divided between the Major Prophets (5 books) and the Minor Prophets (12 books). They are not called “major” and “minor” because of their respective importance but because of their size. In one of my Bibles, the five Major Prophets take up 191 pages while the twelve Minor Prophets take up only 61 pages.We’re talking about short books here. Habakkuk contains 56 verses spread over 3 chapters. Though he is a “minor” prophet, there is nothing minor about his message. He’s writing about a topic that we all think about eventually.Habakkuk is unlike the other prophetic books (major or minor) in that it records a dialogue between one man and God. Whereas Isaiah contains a message from God, Habakkuk records a conversation with God.
If you’ve ever felt like you had a few questions for God, this is the book for you. Howard Hendricks called Habakkuk “the man with a question mark for a brain.”Here’s a bit of the background. The year is 605 BC or thereabouts. We can’t be sure of the precise year but that’s a good guess. After good king Josiah died in 609 BC, the nation of Judah plunged headlong back into the cesspool of corruption, immorality and idolatry that had plagued it for so many generations. This time the people seemed hell-bent on their own destruction. Instead of edging toward the cliff, they seemed determined to plunge over it going full speed. It was as if the nation had a death wish and no use for God at all.
You can read the rest of this sermon online.