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December 17, 2018

Even If…

Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes, even if the olive tree fails to produce and the fields yield no food, even if the sheep pen is empty and the stalls have no cattle— even then, I will be happy with the LORD. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me. The LORD Almighty is my strength. He makes my feet like those of a deer. He makes me walk on the mountains. For the choir director; on stringed instruments.” Habakkuk 3:17-19 (GW)

Have you ever been disillusioned with God?  Were you led to believe that, when you became a Christ follower and experienced the joy of sins forgiven and a new beginning, that you would never face another problem in life?  But, after a while, things began to change.  What happened?  Life happened.  Life in this fallen world brings all kinds of challenges and problems.  Bad things happen to good people all the time.  Some believers seem to be just as shallow as Job’s friends who accused him of having done something wrong.  What else would explain all his suffering at the time?  After all, obedience always brings blessing, and sin always brings suffering, right?  Wrong.  Job, himself, was exhibit A that there are times when you do all the right things and, yet, bad things happen.  Why?  While that is the natural knee-jerk reaction to ask when we’ve done everything we know to do and yet God doesn’t seem to come through as we expected Him to, I think there is a greater question we need to ask. The real question is, “What now is my relationship with God?” 

Habakkuk experienced that kind of disillusionment with God as he considered the dire circumstances of his own life and ministry.  Rather than walking away from God, he did the right thing and took his hard questions to God.  God is big enough for our anger and our questions.  He wants us to bring our problems to Him.  Comfort often comes not in knowing why things are happening the way they are, but in knowing God and finding our comfort and counsel in Him.  That’s the message we learn from Habakkuk.  After Habakkuk takes his problems and questions to God, he ponders the greatness of God and sings a new song.  This song has three verses and a chorus of praise that has inspired generations with the greatness and glory and grandeur of God despite circumstances that would challenge those assumptions.  Each verse of his song begins with the words, “Even if….”  Check them out with me and see if they don’t change the tune you may be singing.

Verse 1: “Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes….”

Fig trees and grapes were an essential part of the gross national product of Israel. They depended on them for food and profit.  Without them, there would be significant loss.  To make matters worse, he adds,

Verse 2: “Even if the olive tree fails to produce and the fields yield no food….” 

Investors tell us to diversify so that, if one investment tanks, we can lean on other investments to carry us.  But, Habakkuk realized that what was happening in Israel was catastrophic.  Life was about to change for the worse especially when you get to the third verse of his song:

Verse 3:  “Even if the sheep pen is empty and the stalls have no cattle….” 

Habakkuk is beginning to sound a lot like Job in all his suffering.  In just a short while, the fig trees would not bloom again, the vines would produce no grapes, the olive trees would fail, and their crops would yield no food!  I would be singing the blues!  Their situation was desperate!  Where was God?  Why would He let this happen?  Habakkuk teaches us a lesson in faith!  This is why it’s so important to know God even when we don’t understand why bad things happen.  As Habakkuk pondered the greatness and glory of God, he was able to sing a refrain of rejoicing:

CHORUS:  “Even then, I will be happy with the LORD.  I will truly find joy in God, who saves me. The LORD Almighty is my strength. He makes my feet like those of a deer. He makes me walk on the mountains. For the choir director; on stringed instruments.”  Habakkuk 3:18-19 (GW)

When we focus on God, the losses in life lose their punch.  Death loses its sting! The grave loses its victory!  No matter what happens, we can still find our happiness in God!  He is our joy and our strength!  He can make us walk on the heights even when we feel like we’re living in the dumps!

It’s a matter of perspective!  Faith says, “Even if….” But, most of us live in the valley of unbelief and say, “Only when… only when God comes through, will I believe.  Only when God supplies, will I give.  Only when I feel like it, will I serve.  Only when I understand it, will I believe.  Only when I see it, will I sing a song of praise.

If you want to move from the valley of despair and disillusionment to the mountaintop of joy, sing the song of Habakkuk.  It’s a song of faith!  Even if things don’t turn out how and when I want them to, even then will I praise Him!  Even then, I will find joy in God.  He is the one I’m trusting. He is worthy of my praise! It’s a song that says, “God’s got this!”