Archive for December, 2010

Can Our Experience Contradict Our Belief?

December 14th, 2010

Habakkuk knew that God could be trusted. He believed that God was watching over His people and would ultimately deliver them from sin and judgment. He hoped and prayed for revival and restoration as he had seen under the reign of Josiah, but as God warned him of the coming judgment at the hands of the Chaldeans (Babylon) this presented a perplexing problem for Habakkuk. We see the drama unfold in Habakkuk 1:12-2:1.

This crisis of faith sprouted from his attempt to reconcile in his own mind two things that he believed were incompatible. Knowing all that he did about God and His holy character, Habakkuk simply could not understand how God could use the Chaldeans to accomplish anything good. God is good, holy, just, righteous, and perfect. He is so pure that He cannot even look on sin. Not that He doesn’t see it, but He does not look approvingly at it. God does not ever condone wickedness. However, God had just told Habakkuk that He was going to use the wicked, evil, perverse, murderous, proud Chaldeans as a tool for bringing judgment upon Judah for their sin.

Habakkuk basically asked God, “How could You?” How could God even tolerate the Chaldeans, much less use them to judge Judah. He knew it was true that Judah had sinned and that God had promised judgment. But how could God use a much more wicked nation to bring about this judgment. If God had used the same standards for judging Babylon as He was using to judge Judah then Babylon should have already been wiped off the face of the earth. In comparison, Judah was righteous!

Often times, problems arise that appear as if they will derail our faith. We find what we think are contradictions in the Bible, or our faith does not match our experience. Something happens and it causes us to doubt what we believe, either generally in terms of our overall view of life, God, the church, etc. Or specifically as it relates to certain doctrines which we thought we knew and understood. What are we to do when our experience does not match our belief? Should we change what we believe? Abandon doctrine, or faith, or church altogether? Or should we doubt our experience? Can we truly take an experience at face value if it challenges everything we have been taught and believe?

The answer is that we should stop and wait! In the midst of this dilemma, Habakkuk did five things to resolve his seeming contradiction between the nature of God and His use of the wicked Chaldeans. He determined to face his problem and to maintain a right view of God. We need to see what he did so that we can learn to face problems in a manner that glorifies God, even when we do not understand what God is doing or why He is doing it.

We can think of it this way: Habakkuk gives us five things we must do when faced with problems in order to keep our faith (and sanity) on track. In fact, we will use the word TRACK to help us remember Habakkuk’s solution to his problem.

T – Think

The first thing Habakkuk did was to stop and think. Instead of flying off the handle and making accusations against God, or jumping to the defense of Judah in light of their obvious sin and rebellion, Habakkuk waited and very deliberately thought about what God had told him. We know this because of the way he wrestles with the answer God gave him after his first line of questioning earlier in chapter one. We see the depth of his perplexity. He asked questions, not to accuse God, but to seek the truth that he knew he was missing. How could a holy God use an unholy nation to accomplish a holy purpose? In thinking about these things we see that Habakkuk models for us James 1:19:

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.

R – Restate

The second thing Habakkuk did was to restate the basic principles that he knew to be true. He went back in his mind before the problem had arisen and he recalled to his mind the truth that he was sure of before this came up. No matter what God was telling him and no matter how difficult it seemed that what God was saying was right, he knew for a fact that God was holy, pure, sovereign, faithful, and good. He asks a question and makes several statements about who God is to remind himself of these basic principles about God’s character.

Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. (Hab 1:12-13a)

A – Apply

The third thing Habakkuk did was to apply the principles to the problem. If God was from everlasting, with an eternal perspective, then this judgment was not the final chapter in His dealings with Judah. If God was pure and holy, then this coming judgment is not in itself evil, but will accomplish some good. If God really was sovereign, then this chapter of history, dark as it may seem, was not happening by accident or chance. And if God was unchanging (“O Rock”) then He would not abandon His people but would still fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. He went back to basics and applied them to what He knew to be true, hoping that his faith would mature in the process so that he could see what God was doing and why He was doing it.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God…(Heb 5:12; 6:1)

C – Commit

The fourth thing that Habakkuk did was to commit it to God by faith. This invasion of Judah by the Chaldeans was a tool in God’s hand for correcting and purifying His people. God meant to do good to them by using a wicked people to accomplish His purposes. How could He do this? Habakkuk did not know. So he went to his watchtower (Hab 2:1).

The watchtower represents two things we must do in order to truly commit a problem to the Lord. First, he went away to wait for an answer, expecting God to answer him. And he also detached himself from the problem. He was up in a tall tower with a rampart, high above the city wall. From there he had a clear view, was all alone, had time to think, and sought for answers from the Lord.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that detaching himself from the problem for a time was “one of the most important principles in the psychology of the Christian life.” He went on to say:

It may be the problem of what we are to do with our lives; or it may be some situation that is confronting us which involves a difficult decision. Having failed to reach a solution, despite seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there is nothing more to do but to take it to God in prayer. But what so frequently happens is this. We go on our knees and tell God about the thing that is worrying us; we tell Him that we cannot solve the difficulty ourselves, that we cannot understand; and we ask Him to deal with it to show us His way. Then the moment we get up from our knees we begin to worry about the problem again. We also tell other people about it.

If we are doing this, we have not left the problem with God. If you have a problem like this, leave it with God. You do not have the right to talk about it or brood over it any longer.

In getting away from the problem, either by physical proximity, or mentally and emotionally, we need to learn the truth that just because we have a problem that does not mean that anything is wrong! God is still in control, and at times we simply must trust that He knows best.

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:5)

Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established. (Prov 16:3)

K – Keep

The last thing Habakkuk did was to keep His commandments. He would obediently wait for God to answer, and in humility he even admits that when God answers He will likely have to be corrected. He was ready to give an appropriate answer when God corrected him. If something was wrong, if there was a contradiction between Habakkuk’s belief about the character of God and his experience of what God said He was going to do, then obviously the fault was not with God. Habakkuk needed to be corrected and he was ready to be obedient, humble, and teachable. In fact, we know from Scripture that we cannot say that we love God if we are not willing to obey Him. So Habakkuk expresses an obedient attitude and in so doing proves his love for God as he waits for an answer to his problem.

Whatever problem we face, we must be sure to do what we know to do while we are waiting for the answer. We must be obedient to the Word of God, and to our conscience. And if we come to understand truth, and are corrected by the Spirit through the Word of God and we have to change our minds about something, we must be ready and willing to cast off false doctrine and wrong beliefs for the sake of the truth out of love and obedience to our Lord.

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)

You are my portion, O LORD; I have said that I would keep Your words. (Psalm 119:57)

These thoughts are highlights from the sermon “Perplexing Problems”. Listen online or download it for later – always FREE.