The Contagion

Attitudes are contagious. Have you ever noticed what happens to a group of people when one person, by just his expression or body language, reveals a negative attitude? Or have you noticed the lift you receive when a friend’s facial expression shows love and acceptance? Sometimes the attitude can be outwardly masked and others who see us are fooled, but the cover-up doesn’t last long. Our attitudes reveal what we expect from life. Of the following, which most closely reveals your attitude toward life?

  1. “Make the World Go Away” 
  2. “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head”
  3. “I Did It My Way”
  4. “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”

Each of those songs conveys a certain attitude; a certain perspective. Which is yours? (HT to John Maxwell)

To view your world with the proper perspective of faith requires that your faith is in the proper Person. Not just any faith will do: faith in faith or faith in the human spirit or faith in the stars or faith in the economy or faith in the government, etc. Faith is only as good as its object, and the object of our faith should be the God of the Bible. That is the starting point. You can’t trust someone you don’t know. Do you know Christ Jesus our God and Savior? I’m not asking if you know about Him, or if you’ve heard about Him. Do you know Him, and does He know you?

That is where we begin, with a personal faith in Christ as our Lord and Savior, but faith is not just a onetime act. Faith is a way of life. To quote one part of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, where the apostle declares that his ambition is to…

“be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (3:9-10)

As you come to know God more and more you begin to trust Him more and more. In the Scriptures God has made numerous promises. If you obey God you’ll be blessed, gain victory, be fulfilled, have success, and enjoy God’s protection. The Lord will meet every need of your life and He’ll take away all your anxiety and bear it for you. Those promises, and so many more, are found in Scripture, but they’re meaningless if you don’t believe Him, right? They are pointless if your outlook is faithless instead of faithful. How is your perspective?

The prophet Habakkuk had a perspective problem. All he could see were his people and their sinful unfaithfulness to God. That is evident based on the first four verses of that small prophecy:

“The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see. O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! [even] cry out unto thee [of] violence, and thou wilt not save! Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause [me] to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence [are] before me: and there are [that] raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.”

The Prophet’s Perspective – vv. 1-4

The people are unfaithful, sinful, hypocritical, and just downright wicked. You see, this prophecy was written not long after the death of Godly King Josiah who had led the nation through a spiritual revival. He died fighting against the Egyptians and their King Necho (2 Chronicles 35:20-24). Following his death, however, the nation reverted to idolatry under the leadership of Josiah’s three sons and a grandson. Habakkuk doesn’t understand why God hasn’t intervened. “Don’t you hear me, God?! Won’t you do something about this mess, God?!”

Habakkuk’s first request was surely for another national repentance and revival, but he must have included in his petition that God would judge those who refused to repent. He’s got a real dilemma, because God isn’t doing either. God’s Word is being ignored and justice is nowhere to be seen. The prophet doesn’t understand how God can just look at all this and not act.

The Word of the Lord – vv. 5-11

God answers the prophet in verses 5-11. We’ll just read the first two verses of His response.

“Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for [I] will work a work in your days, [which] ye will not believe, though it be told [you]. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, [that] bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces [that are] not theirs.”

God says, “I’m about to do something you won’t believe until you see.” What’s God about to do? He is going to judge His rebellious people by the sword of the Chaldeans, and verses 5-11 do not paint a pretty picture of those guys. They are a vicious, violent, and arrogant people. God employs very graphic terms to describe their military might and efficiency. Their horses are swifter than leopards and keener than wolves in the evening. Their horsemen will fly upon and devour Judah like an eagle swooping down for the kill. They all come for violence, their horde of faces moves forward, gathering captives like sand, scoffing at kings, laughing at rulers, laughing at fortresses, and taking them all.

Well, that’s not what Habakkuk wanted to hear!

The Prophet’s Perplexity – vv. 12-2:1

Habakkuk went from a perspective problem to a perplexed perspective. His first question was “God, why won’t you act?” Now he’s asking, “You’re going do what?!” He says (v. 13b):

“…wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, [and] holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth [the man that is] more righteous than he?”

Quite simply, Habakkuk didn’t understand why God was doing what He was doing. Have you ever been there? Nothing that he saw made any sense.

“God, why are You doing this?”

“God, why aren’t You doing that?”

“God, why are You using them?”

The same questions could be asked in our environment.

“Why are many churches/believers in the U.S. forsaking Your Word?”

“Why is wickedness abounding more and more in our culture?”

“Why give authority to those who are part of the problem rather than the solution?”

Habakkuk didn’t understand why everything was unraveling, particularly with regard to the people of God. So how will this perplexed and puzzled prophet’s perspective improve? More personally, how may our perspectives be transformed from faithless to faithful? (Wait for it!)

With good theology!

The Prophet’s Prayer – vv. 12-2:1

Verse 12 – 2:1 is a prayer, and in that prayer Habakkuk voiced all those concerns and questions that we’ve just mentioned. Here is another example that proves it’s alright to ask God why, just as long as the question is not a veiled accusation. He was perplexed. He didn’t understand why God hadn’t acted, or why He was going to act in the way He just described. Habakkuk was in quicksand; so he found a rock on which to stand. He changed his perspective by affirming what he did know. We see that in his prayer.

ü  “Art thou not from everlasting…?” God is eternal. He was here before the problem. He’s going to be here after the problem is solved. He is the solution! God is bigger than the problem. My perspective is on this one instance of time. I need to change my perspective and see the God who stands outside of time, who created time, the eternal God who is far greater than this little moment of history; no matter how massive that moment my appear just now.

ü  “O Lord my God…” This is a term for God’s sovereignty. Not only is God transcendent, eternal, and outside of time, but He is immanent, involved in the goings on of this world. And not just involved but in control, working all things for the good of those who love Him and for the glory of His name. I trust you, Lord. You have this under control.

ü  “Mine holy one…” God is prefect and just. He does not make mistakes. He isn’t arbitrary in His actions. Whatever He is doing fits into His perfect and eternal plan.

ü  “We shall not die…” God is faithful. He won’t utterly destroy Judah, because He has a covenant with them, and God always, always keeps His promises.

Habakkuk’s perspective starts to change as he quits looking at the situation, the circumstances, the people, and the problems, and starts looking again at the Lord. Instead of sinking in quicksand he finds footing on the solid rock of his Lord. He reaffirms what he already knew; that God is eternal, that God is sovereign, that God is perfect, and that God is faithful. He keeps His promises. You see, sound theology is not just something for academics to argue about, it’s the practical understanding of who we are, who God is, and how we should live in light of that understanding.

As a result of his proper perspective Habakkuk says, “I understand. You’ve ordained the Chaldeans to judge us. You’ve established them for our correction. I see that.” That doesn’t mean he understands it all! He still doesn’t get why God is using the ungodly, violent Chaldeans, and in verses 13-17 he reminds God just how wicked that nation was. But He trusts God.

The Word of the Lord – 2:2-20

All of chapter two, except for verse one, is God’s answer to Habakkuk. We will only focus on verse 4:

“Behold, his soul [which] is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.”

God reminds us that the proud trust in themselves, while the just live by faith. That is such an important statement: the just will live by faith. This is the core of God’s message to and through Habakkuk If you like to mark in your Bible that is a good place to mark. Underline it. Highlight it. “The just shall live by faith.” That becomes a key statement in the New Testament, repeated in three passages: Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38. In the first two passages, Paul quotes the OT prophet to make the point of justification by faith.

& Romans 1:17 – “For therein [the Gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

& Galatians 3:11 – “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, [it is] evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”

He also uses the same statement to make the case for sanctification by faith.

& Hebrews 10:38 – “Now the just shall live by faith: but if [any man] draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”

Both uses reflect the emphasis in Habakkuk. Faith is not a one-time act, but a way of life. The believer, who is declared righteous by God through repentance and faith in Christ – that’s justification – will continue in the faith, not perfectly but consistently, all the way to the end, becoming more and more like Christ by faith – that’s sanctification.

The just shall live by faith. That’s where Habakkuk was. Anchored by his faith in God; he knew God was eternal, far beyond any event in time. He knew God was sovereign, in charge of everything. He knew God was holy and never made a mistake, and he knew God was faithful and would keep His promise.

The Prophet’s Psalm – 3

Habakkuk’s perspective has gone from complaining about God to singing praises to God. I know chapter three begins by saying “a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet,” but this is a singing prayer; which is what most of the Psalms are. The term “Shigionoth” is a musical reference, and is used in only one other place in the Bible, in the heading of Psalm 7. Plus there is a musical notation at the end of chapter three: “To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.” That is why we can safely call this the prophet’s psalm.

From complaining to singing, now that’s change we can believe in. That’s change many of us need; from seeing only problems and obstacles, to having a proper perspective of faith. Habakkuk feels a lot better now and his circumstances haven’t changed. I love the way he wraps up his song. Look at 3:17:

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither [shall] fruit [be] in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and [there shall be] no herd in the stalls…”

You may be asking, “What does all this talk about fig blossoms, fruit vines, failing olives, flocks cut off, no herds in the stalls…what’s that all mean?” Habakkuk is saying this: if everything that is common, ordinary, and predictable suddenly collapsed; if everything goes crazy, and stuff you can always count on stops happening, if the whole world goes nuts, upside down, inside out and backwards…verse 18, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

Habakkuk has a changed perspective. Instead of complaining, he is full of faith, saying when I don’t understand the circumstances I do understand my God. Then verse 19 sums it all up, “The LORD God [is] my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ [feet], and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”

Just as the sure-footed hind, or deer, stands right on the edge of a ledge without slipping, in absolute confidence, safety, and security, so may we stand, right on the ledge of heartache, persecution, trials, and temptations, confident in God’s eternal, sovereign, holy promises. God is my strength! I might be in what seems like an unsolvable dilemma, and I might be in a circumstance from which it looks like there is no escape, but my eyes are not on the situation, the circumstances, the problems, or other people. I’m looking to my God, and as a result, I’m viewing this world with the proper perspective of faith.

Listen to Galatians 2:20:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Paul echoed what Habakkuk had written about centuries before. “I live trusting the Son of God!” Why trust the Son of God? Why would you trust Him totally with everything? Because He loved me – He loved you – and gave Himself for us. These two prophets, one from the Old and one from the New Testament, are telling us: “We live by faith in our great God. We live by faith in our great Savior, who is personally devoted to us as the ones for whom He died.”

That is not only true of them, beloved. That can be true of us as well. I know personally it’s true for me! I know my God and Lord, and He knows me! I know my Lord has promised that He will sustain me, that He will protect me, that He will guard me. He is the shepherd who protects His own sheep. My God sticks closer than a brother. My God will never leave me or forsake me. In fact, He has taken up residence in my heart! My God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

That is true for all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to save them. It starts at salvation because salvation occurs when you trust in God to forgive your sin through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. That’s the beginning of faith, but it’s not the end. It’s just the start. Then the just shall live by faith.

So Paul tells us 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” We don’t evaluate life by what we see, feel, smell, or touch. We evaluate life through the eyes of faith, and faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s built on the rock of the character of our God and the character and work of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. When you have that faith look, when you are viewing this world through the proper perspective of faith, then you can face anything in life. When you know that God works all things together for good to them that love Him, then you can accept anything. When you know that nothing shall ever separate you from the love of Christ, absolutely nothing, not life or death or things present or things to come or height or depth or any other creature, not anything, when you know that and believe that you can trust Him in every situation.

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About Travis

Christ follower. Husband of one woman. Father of three young men. Former 11B. Blessed to pastor the Bible Baptist Church of Mount Vernon, KY.
This entry was posted in Attitude, Faith, God, Habakkuk and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Contagion

  1. Maria Tatham says:

    Thank you, Travis!

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