Lastly, now let’s stop for a moment and consider that geoFence protects you against inbound and outbound cyber attacks and I am certain your mother would feel the same!
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Valley Baptist Church streams Sunday sermon, see sermon below.Today is a new experience for us as a churchIt’s the first time ever that we have not metphysically together on a Sunday morningBut it’s also the first time for many years that we’ve all been meeting at the same time togetherBecause we’ve never been able to build a building large enough to hold all of Valley Baptist ChurchThis is a new experience for me as a pastorNot having anyone physically in front of me and simply looking at a cameraSo if my eye kind of wanders away from the camera, you’ll recognize that this is really new for meI just want to lean in and listenI want you to just pretend that it’s me and you and that I’m talking to you today as your pastorWe’re going to look at a passage from the OTwe’re going to work through it verse by verseWe’re interrupting our series on the Gospel of Matthew For the next few weeks we’re going to have a series That I’m calling “Living by Faith During Tough Times”That’s where we are todayThis pandemic is a reminder to all of us of our own mortalityIt’s also been a huge wake-up call for our cultureOf how little control that we really have as humansAnd how much control that God hasSo I hope that you’ll grab your Bible and open it to the OTLittle book of HabakkukIt’s a small book and hard to find If you find the Gospel of Matthew and go back a few pages, Habakkuk is near the end of theOTAnd when you get there, you may have to blow the dust off the pages Because it’s probably been a while since you read this book I know most people have never read itHabakkuk was a prophet,the prophet that no one seems to knowBut his book contains a powerful messageThat is actually extremely relevant for usSo join me for this message that I’m calling Pain, Pandemics and FaithWhat if you could ask God anything that you wanted?What if God were put on the witness standand He was bound to answer any question?Most people would say they have pent up questions for GodQuestions like why does God allow evilor suffering or a coronavirusHabakkuk dialogued with GodIn fact, his book at times reads more likean interrogation of God The prophet asks questions and amazingly, GodanswersThe book is not very familiar to us So we ask how could this be relevant for us todayWell Habakkuk asked many questions that we are askingMost prophets of the OT addressed the nationon behalf of GodHabakkuk addresses God on behalf of the nationMost scholars think the name Habakkuk means”struggler”If that’s true, he certainly lived up to his nameHe struggled to comprehend what was happening in his worldThe book grapples with the deepest of allquestions, why?Why is there suffering? Pain? Evil? Pandemics?Why does God allow disease? Death?Why doesn’t God DO somethingabout our personal suffering and about what we’re facing as a country and world today?The message of Habakkuk is relevant today for allof usBecause it deals with the problem of pain,the inference of his questions is importantPeople of faith are not exempt from pain or Pandemics.In 1992, our family vacationed in the Florida KeysMy children, to this day, will tell you that was their favorite vacationWe rented a condo and a boat And we spent every day out on the reef fishing and diving off a platform of a lighthouseAs we returned to fly out of MiamiWe came out of the Keys right ahead of Hurricane AndrewWe stopped to eat lunch in a little town called Homestead, FLLater when we were home, we watched the news of how Hurricane Andrew had destroyed the town of HomesteadThere was one house that stood in a sea of rubble of other housesA hurricane is not like a tornado that can skip a house or skip a blockWith a hurricane, if one house is destroyed, usually the house next to it is as wellOn that day, I watched as someone from CNN interviewed the owner of this house that still stoodThe owner said, well I built this home not according to the local codeBut I built it according to the Florida state codeHe talked about how that code required 2 x 6’s instead of 2 x 4’s And how the code said that if you built it this way, my house could withstand a hurricaneAnd I thought about how difficult it must have been to build a house for a stormWhen the sun was shining, and the sky was blueBut that’s life We all should be building for the stormBecause we all face stormsSome are financial, some are emotional, some are physical, some are pandemicsIf we face a crisis and we do not have a firm foundation, then our life crumblesLike a house in a stormWe know very little about the man HabakkukThere’s no narrative or story line of his life to followHis was a theological crisis in his mindHow he viewed God is what was at stakeHabakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah, the boy prophetJeremiah had a pessimistic message of judgementHis message was the Babylonians are coming, theBabylonians are comingHe warned Judah that they would be destroyed by the Babylonians, or as they are sometimes called, the ChaldeansThe people held Jeremiah in derision They said, Listen, we live in Jerusalem That’s the City of GodThat’s where the temple isGod will never allow us to be destroyedHabakkuk’s book is not a book of warning likeJeremiah’s His prophecies did not deal with what was going tohappenor when it’s going to happen or even howHe wrestles with the deeper question of why?Why is there evil? Why is there pain? Why is our nation in such spiritual declension? Why is the only remedy left judgement?And then he wrestles with the hardest of allquestionsWhy do the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous suffer?Why is there so much injustice in the world?Maybe we’d better set the historical contextIn Judah there had been a great spiritual revivalUnder the boy king Josiah He was one of the few good kings of JudahUnder Josiah, they cleaned out the temple that had been used for storageAnd they rediscovered the Word of GodAs they read the moral law, a wave of revival washed over themThey tore down the altars of BaalIt was a time of spiritual fervency But now in the cycle of life, once again there was spiritual declensionJudah had drifted away from GodAt the same time, there was the political and military rise of the BabyloniansAssyria had dominated the worldThe Assyrians were in what is modern daynorthern IraqMosul or ancient Nineveh was their capitalAssyria had destroyed Israel, the ten tribes to thenorthNahum the prophet had prophesied about judgement coming to the AssyriansJudgement happenedThe Tigris River overflowed and caused a breach in the wall of their capital cityThe Babylonians who were in modern day southern Iraq came in the breach in the wall and conquered themSo then the Babylonians became the only worldsuperpowerThey attacked their neighbors one by one and they fell in a domino effectThey were militaristic and imperialistic as a peopleTheirs was a cruel cultureThey would murder the men and rape the women of those they conqueredThey led the young people away in chains They burned the cities They desecrated the religious shrinesEventually Jerusalem fell to the BabyloniansAs Jeremiah had predictedThe temple was destroyed and the people were taken away into captivity or slaveryJeremiah walked through the streets of Jerusalemlike a war correspondentJerusalem had become a ghost townOnce a busy, busy city, the streets were emptyJeremiah steps over the bloated bodies of the deadAnd he writes the little book of LamentationsHe says, cry loud, see how the mighty have fallenHe sees the judgement of God fleshed outGod had taken Judah to the woodshed and they had paid for their disbeliefHabakkuk saw all this coming Habakkuk 1:1The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw.The first two chapters of his book are a dialoguewith GodHe asked first, why do prayers go unanswered?Most of us would like to ask that of GodSometimes we pray consistently even passionatelyAnd God does not answer, or at least not in theway that we wantHabakkuk 1:2-32 O Lord, how long shall I cry,And You will not hear?Even cry out to You, “Violence!”And You will not save.3 Why do You show me iniquity,And cause me to see trouble?For plundering and violence are before me;There is strife, and contention arises.Habakkuk brings his complaint to God,not against GodIt’s not so much a prayer as a cry of distressHe says there’s violenceThe Hebrew word is a strong wordUsually reserved for rape or some awful atrocityHabakkuk is not talking about the BabyloniansHe’s talking about the wickedness of JudahHe sees the sin of his own people who have driftedfrom GodThere is murder, injustice, oppression, a wickedkingJust a few years before there had been a greatrevivalNow he prays and there is no answerHave you ever felt like that?Have you ever cried out to God in pain and God is silent?Have you ever felt like you’re a child at the bottomof the stairs crying out to your parent and the lightis turned off and you’re alone?That’s how desperate Habakkuk was as he askedthe question, why?It’s okay to ask whyThe question of why assumes that God is, that He existsIt also assumes that there’s a purpose in life and what we’re seeing doesn’t seem to match what we know of GodThe OT is full of people that took their pain and even their anger to GodJeremiah of the same time period Said, God you have deceived meYou called me to declare your message but it’s all doom and destruction, it’s all negativeJeremiah said I wish my mother’s womb had beenmy tombThat’s pessimisticElijah the great prophet at one time said, Lord take my lifeMoses said at one time, I wish I were deadJonah said the sameIt’s not that these men were suicidalHow do we know that they said this?Because it’s recorded for usIt’s their innermost thoughts; their prayersIt’s important when you hit bottom who you’re talking toThat it’s not just your friends or your therapist but it’s GodWe know that God is good and God is greatAnd yet Habakkuk says there’s violence and injustice in my cultureGod why aren’t you doing something about it?Habakkuk 1:4Therefore the law is powerless,And justice never goes forth.For the wicked surround the righteous;Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.It’s astounding that a Jew who held the Law in such high esteem Would say to God that your Law is not working, that it’s powerlessThat would say the world is out of controlWell God answers Habakkuk, not the question of why is there evil or sufferingBut the question of what are you doing GodHabakkuk 1:6-106 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans,A bitter and hasty nationWhich marches through the breadth of the earth,To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.7 They are terrible and dreadful;Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves.8 Their horses also are swifter than leopards,And more fierce than evening wolves.Their chargers charge ahead;Their cavalry comes from afar;They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat.9 “They all come for violence;Their faces are set like the east wind.They gather captives like sand.10 They scoff at kings,And princes are scorned by them.They deride every stronghold,For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it.Habakkuk has asked God what are you doingbecause it’s obvious the Babylonians are going toattack usAnd God says I’m raising the Chaldeans up to attack youGod is saying this is no accident of history that they are coming in powerI’ve raised up the Chaldeans or the Babylonians tojudge JudahIt’s like Christians who pray in America because of the drift of our culture there is inclusivism, pluralism, universalism in ourculture religiouslyChristians pray, God why are you allowingabortion, the perversion of same sex marriageAnd what if God says I’m raising up an enemy to crush your nation?We would be absolutely shocked by that Now I’m certainly not saying that that’s what this pandemic is aboutNo one can speak for God in the same way that Habakkuk did in his dayHe gives an awful description of the BabyloniansThey scoff at kings Their horses are swifter than leopardsWe know that they would put disposed kings in cages for public exhibition We know later when they conquered Judah theytook the kingTied him up and killed his children right in front of him one by oneAnd then they took a hot poker and burned out his eyesSo the last thing that he would ever see and remember in his mind was the death of hisown childrenThey were an awful, perverted cultureNow before, God had used Israel to judge the culture of the CanaanitesNow God is using the Chaldeans to judge themThis answer confused Habakkuk as it would confuse any of us todayHe says, why would you do that? They are worsethen usAnd they certainly wereHabakkuk 1: 12-1312 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.13 You are of purer eyes than to behold evil,And cannot look on wickedness.Why do You look on those who deal treacherously,And hold Your tongue when the wicked devoursA person more righteous than he?Habakkuk is arguing, it can’t be what it seemsWe will not dieIt’ll be the Chaldeans, GodThis suffering doesn’t fit his theology or his view of the character of GodHe describes his understanding of God, you are from everlastingYou’re so holy you can’t even look upon sinHis heart, though, erupts and says why then do you hold your tongue?Habakkuk is trying to defend GodThere’s evil in the world and yet God isomnipotent; He can do anythingHow can you reconcile those two thingsRabbi Kushner in New York years ago when his sondiedWrote a runaway best seller titled “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”In the first part of the book he asks the right questions The questions of evil and tragedyBut in the end he got the answer wrongHe came to the conclusion that God is powerfuland that God is good what Scripture teachesBut there’s evil in the world so those two things cannot be reconciledHis conclusion was I have to either give up the idea that God is all powerful or give up the idea that God is good; He cannot be bothSo he concluded that God is good but that God is powerless in the face of a pandemic or pain or human sufferingThat’s what happens when we try to defend GodIt’s ridiculous that a New York rabbi or a bearded prophet in the Old TestamentFinite beings would try to defend an infinite GodHabakkuk tries to find a purpose in painWhy is there disease, death, tragedy, suffering?Habakkuk 2:1I will stand my watchAnd set myself on the rampart,And watch to see what He will say to me,And what I will answer when I am corrected.Habakkuk goes up on the upper wall, the rampartsI’ve walked on the top of the wall around the cityof Jerusalem, the old city, it’s called the rampartsOn the ramparts he demands an answerHe tells God I will not leave until you answer mewhy this is happening Habakkuk 2:2Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the visionAnd make it plain on tablets,That he may run who reads it.God says, okay I’m going to answerYou better get it the first timeI’m going to give you the answer Write it down and write it so big that a man running can read itDo you ever wonder why there’s suffering, injustice, evil?Here is the answerHabakkuk 2:4″Behold the proud,His soul is not upright in him;But the just shall live by his faith.The just shall live by his faithThat’s it? That’s it.You see, God did not answer the question why Why is maybe too complex for us to comprehend God’s ways are above our waysWe never see the entire human narrative at once so how could we understand what God is doingIn the nations and in the generations to comeIt’s like a child that says why, why, why daddy?And finally the dad in frustration says because I said soDoes that mean there is no reason or explanationNoIt means that the answer is too complicated for a child to understandOur lives are so intertwined, if God told us what He’s doing in the complexity of the human race, we would say huh?Suffering is like a pebble that causes a rippling effect through our lives and all that we areconnected to and our children’s childrenMaybe the suffering that we go through doesn’t just change us, but it changes and transforms the next generationIt comes down to a matter of trust, the Father knows bestHabakkuk was asking the wrong question The question should not be why is there suffering but what should my response be?God is good and God is great and yet there is evil and pain in the worldThe question then is how should I respondGod says you should live by faithYou say, well that’s simplisticYes, but that’s the answerGod is bigger and better than usMost books on suffering are worthlessBecause they try to answer the question of whybut God does not say whyWe try to give reasons when we should be looking for resultsWe try to show purpose in suffering when we should look for benefitGod does not always fix the problem of painGod uses pain to fix usIn the NT God shows all kinds of benefits related to sufferingSometimes there’s chastening, that suffering comes as a result of our own sinThat God is using it to correct us as His childrenWe have stood at the fork in the road and we have chosen the wrong road and He gently pushes us the other directionSometimes suffering is to conform us, it’s a pressure to mold us to be like Jesus, to set proper prioritiesSometimes it’s to comfort, that as we go throughsuffering we minister to others if we don’t waste our sorrows But those are not reasons for suffering, they’re resultsThose are not the purposes of suffering, they are the benefitThat’s a description of how God uses suffering to shape us in our faithThe psalmist wrestled with this issue of suffering In this case it was not David but Asaph Psalm 73:1-5Truly God is good to Israel,To such as are pure in heart.2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;My steps had nearly slipped.3 For I was envious of the boastful,When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.4 For there are no pangs in their death,But their strength is firm.5 They are not in trouble as other men,Nor are they plagued like other men.The psalmist makes a basic affirmation, God is good to those of a pure heartThat’s an affirmation that all of us would makeThat if you serve God, God will be good to youBut that does not always appear to be true in our culture, does it?The psalmist saw the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the righteousAnd he was perplexed by thatPsalm 73: 12-1312 Behold, these are the ungodly,Who are always at ease;They increase in riches.13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,And washed my hands in innocence.The wicked are prospering, they are at easeAnd those who serve You seem to do it for nothingWhat good is it to be a person of faith?Psalm 73: 16-1716 When I thought how to understand this,It was too painful for me-17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God;Then I understood their end.The problem of pain is answered not just by the power of God but in the presence of GodThe sanctuary was not just a place, it represented the presence of GodThe answer to suffering is in our connection to GodGod is the creator but also a loving fatherJob suffered horribly, perhaps more than any of the Old TestamentAnd he questioned God about that sufferingBut the closer he got to God, the less questions he hadWe need to stop looking for reasons and look for resultsStop trying to figure out the purpose and look for benefitsWhat does pain leave in its wake?Often it leaves our heart tender towards GodGod told Habakkuk the answer is the just shall live by his faithThat little verse becomes the core of the entire New TestamentIt’s quoted three times in three different contextsin the New TestamentIt’s arguably the greatest light coming out of the Old TestamentAnd yet it came in the darkest hour of sufferingThe 3 NT quotations give us our applicationRomans 1: 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”The just shall live by faithThis is the thesis statement, the heart of the book of RomansIt is about how a person is justified or made right with GodWe are saved or made right with God notby the keeping of rules or not by our good worksSalvation is not something we achieve it’s something we receiveWhen we acknowledge that we have sinned and wecry out to JesusHis righteousness is imputed or transferred to usAnd our sin is paid for upon the crossThat’s not something that we can do in and of ourselvesIsaiah said all of our righteousness, even the good things we doAre like filthy rags in the sight of GodWe are spiritually bankrupt without ChristNow the emphasis or the accent in the book of RomansOn the just shall live by faithThat’s how we’re justifiedIt is by faith, not good worksThis phrase occurs again in GalatiansGalatians 3: 11But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”The just shall live by faithThis verse is not about salvation, but sanctificationIt’s not about our way to God, but our walk with GodThe emphasis is not upon just, but upon liveHow do you live the Christian life?We are justified and made right with God by faithThat’s not a matter of self-effort or trying harderIt’s not rules but it’s a relationshipIt’s not about keeping a list of do’s and don’tsIt’s about trusting God to be forgivenBut then we live the Christian life by trusting GodWe live the Christian life by staying connected to God and reading His Word and in prayerIn publicly worshipping Him and privately worshipping HimHebrews 10: 38Now the just shall live by faith;But if anyone draws back,My soul has no pleasure in him.”The just shall live by faith.In Romans, the emphasis is upon the word justIn Galatians, the emphasis is upon the word liveThe emphasis in Hebrews is upon the word faithHe is introducing Hebrews chapter 11That’s the greatest chapter in all the Bible on faithIn fact, it’s sometimes called the Hall of Fame ofFaithIt’s about people of the OT who lived by faithIt’s not about what they did for GodIt’s about what God did for themThey faced affliction, persecution, death but they lived by faithSo why do good people suffer?I don’t knowI don’t see the purpose but at times I see the benefitI don’t see not the reason for suffering but at times I do see the results in people’s livesAs a pastor, I see a lot of sufferingI sometimes see a couple that once loved each otherAnd now people that loved one another have become bitter enemies and even say they hate one anotherI’ve dealt with hundreds of women who have spent a lifetime coping with abuse that they received as a child or adolescentI’ve sat in the emergency room in dark times inpeople’s livesI’ve held the hands of many people as they diedI’ve stood at a number of Christless graves where Icould give no hope to those standing by for theirloved oneHistorically I don’t know why God has allowed so much sufferingWhy did God allow a madman like Nero to light his gardens With the burning bodies of young Christians who had been dipped in tar?In the Middle Ages in the days of the ReformationWhy did God allow good men, godly men to be burned at the stakeAs their own children hid behind their mothers and watched their daddies die horribly?I don’t know whyBut God knows and that’s enough for meHabakkuk concludes his book in the way that we should conclude our thoughts todayHabakkuk 3: 17-1817 Though the fig tree may not blossom,Nor fruit be on the vines;Though the labor of the olive may fail,And the fields yield no food;Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,And there be no herd in the stalls-18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,I will joy in the God of my salvation.Habakkuk lived in an agrarian society And he said what if there’s no fruit on the vines?What if the olive trees fail?What if the flock is lost from the fold?What if all of our finances and all of our future seems to collapse?Habakkuk said, yet I will rejoice in the LordThat’s how we must face this pandemicIf a loved one is taken away and our hearts are broken in griefYet we will rejoice in the LordIf we lose virtually all of our retirement and our future looks bleakYet we will rejoice in the LordIf we ourself face a terminal illness that decimates our bodyYet we will rejoice in the LordJob says though He slay me, yet I will serve HimYet, yet, such a small wordBut yet that’s where faith is found
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As we continue, let me say that geoFence has no foreign owners and no foreign influences!