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JAN

23

TUE
Men's Bible Study
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JAN

30

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Bible Search
Developing a Thankful Heart
Defending God
Habakkuk 3
 
In the mid 1800’s, near the coast of South America, in a place called Patagonia, a small tribe of Indians known as the Yaghans, lived. It was this group of people that evolutionist Charles Darwin concluded were the lowest form of humanity on earth. Among other distinctions, the Yaghans were known as an extremely violent people.
 
But a young man named Allen felt God's calling him to reach out to the Yaghans with the message of God's love. On September 7, 1850, he and six companions sailed from Liverpool, England to the southern tip of South America.
 
Unfortunately, the reputation of this tribe was well-earned.  The missionaries were met with violence and the Indians stole their supplies. Gardiner knew their only hope of survival was to withdraw to an uninhabited island and wait for the already overdue supply ship.
 
In the process, they lost one of their two boats leaving the group stranded, starving, and waiting to be rescued.  The rescue ship arrived weeks after Gardiner and his six missionary companions had tragically died of starvation in September 1851 without ever sharing the gospel a single time with those they gave their lives to reach.
 
Miraculously, their journals were found intact, and provide vivid details of what there last days on earth were like. 
Even though Gardiner was weakened by hunger, his heart overflowed with thanksgiving for God's many mercies. On September 5, 1851, just mere days before his death, he wrote, "Great and marvelous are the loving kindnesses of my gracious God. He has preserved me hitherto, and for four days, although without bodily food, without any feelings of hunger or thirst.".
 
Dr. Richard Williams, the missionary team's physician, wrote, "Let all my beloved ones at home rest assured that I was happy beyond all expression . . . and would not have changed situations with any man living . . . that heaven, and love, and Christ . . . were in my heart . . ."
 
Keep in mind he wrote this knowing that starvation would be his death. Then, he penned these words: “I am overwhelmed by the sense of the goodness of God.”
 
Can you imagine giving your life for the sake of an unreached tribe hearing the Gospel and then not only dying of starvation, but dying without ever getting to share the Gospel with even one person?
 
Then, can you imagine in the last moments of your life, of all the things you could be thinking about like, “Why me?” and “Why this?” or “Did God make a mistake?” “How could God let this happen?” “All of this for nothing?” To say instead, “I am overwhelmed at the sense of the goodness of God.”
 
I am not going to stand up here and tell you if that had been me what I would have been writing in my journal.
 
I would hope that at the end I would have written something like that. But to be honest, I think I would have probably been asking some of those very same questions. I am sure many of you would have too.
 
But we need to be reminded, if we are genuinely followers of God and have worked at developing a serious relationship with God and determined to walk with God, there will be times when your faith will be tested. There will be times when waves of doubt will overflow the boat of your faith. There will be times when your relationship with God comes down to words that have a question mark after them.  Words like:
 
What? - What is God up to?
When? - When is God going to do something?
Why? - Why doesn’t God do something?
Where? - Where is God in the middle of my storm?
 
For the alst couple of weeks, we have been following n ancient Jewish prophet named Habakkuk.  I think it important to know that Habakkuk was a man of God, a man called by God, a man who knew God, but a man who wrestled with God.
 
He lived in the nation of Judah in a time of rebellion, idolatry, drunkenness, and out and out wickedness. He had been praying and praying and praying for God to bring revival to his country and for God to bring repentance to his people. But all he got was a busy signal. He never heard anything.
 
And he couldn’t understand why God was indifferent. He was frustrated that God seemed so inactive. He literally confronted God and said, “You are supposed to be holy and righteous. So why don’t You do something to turn Your people from sin?”
“Why don’t you answer my prayer?” “What are you up to?” “Why don’t you do something?” “When are you going to do something?” “Where are you right now?”
 
And finally, God answers. He says, “I am going to do something in regard to My people. I am going to send the most wicked nation on the planet to crush them.”
 
Well, Habakkuk couldn’t believe his ears. “You mean your solution to the problem is to send a more wicked nation to punish a less wicked nation? Because no matter how wicked my people are they are certainly not as bad as the Babylonians!”
 
Then, Habakkuk gets right to the heart of the matter when he asks, “How could a holy, righteous God like You do this?” To which God simply replies with one statement, “I know what I am doing and I will do what is right - trust Me.”
 
Then the Lord told Habakkuk to write down one of the greatest statements in all the Bible. In fact, it is a statement that sparked the Protestant Reformation. It is quoted three different times in the New Testament and it is found in Habakkuk 2:4. 
 
“But the righteous will live by his faith.”
 
This little book is so relevant to us. Just like Habakkuk we are living in tough times. All the things that were true of Judah in Habakkuk’s day are true of America in ours.  We are spiritually, morally, and ethically bankrupt.  Everywhere we look we find despair, discouragement, and disillusionment. 
 
 
 
And because of that, this little book is extremely relevant for us because at its heart, it teaches us how to develop a thankful heart. 
 
Now when you face tough times like Habakkuk, you can respond in one of two ways. You can either live in faith or you can live in fear. To live in fear will rob you of praising and thanking God regardless of what is happening around you. 
 
To live by faith will produce a spirit of peace and gratitude in spite of what is happening.  So this message today is for anyone who is living in any fear over anything that is going on in your life that could end up in a bad way.
 
Whether you are fearful about your family, your finances, or your future this is what we are going to learn today in this last chapter of Habakkuk as we learn the keys to developing a thankful heart. 
 
This last chapter is actually a song. It was a prayer that Habakkuk prayed, but it was put to music and sung by the ancient Hebrews.
 
Habakkuk has now moved from doubting God, to debating God, to defending God and he tells us what hje has learned about responding to the tough times of life. 
 
First he says,
 
1. Desire the Will of God
 
Habakkuk finally gets it. He takes his eyes off of his circumstances.
 
He forgets about what he thinks is best and he puts his focus back where it belongs which is on God, and His plan, and His purpose, and His priorities. He no longer doubts that God has a purpose in crushing the nation of Judah. He is no longer debating with God about His  method of using an even more wicked nation to do so. He is now defending God’s ways and God’s workings.
 
His whole perspective has changed. Now, he no longer wants what he wants; he wants what God wants. He has one desire and that is that everything go according to God’s plan, because His plan is best and His plan is right. He no longer wanted God to do things His way, but He wanted God to do things God’s way which is exactly the way Jesus told us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer when He said we are to say to God, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.”
 
You won’t get to that point unless you do what he did in verse 2 when he said,
 
Habakkuk 3:2
 
Now while it’s not wrong to have a healthy fear of God, and many verses instruct us to do that, I think the idea here is more one of awe and amazement.  He is thinking about the power and majesty and wonder of God. 
 
I want to just encourage you, even in the middle of tough times and dark days, to renew your remembrance of who God is and what God has done and what God can do. And never forget, God can always be trusted.
 
In fact, there is a little statement down in verse 6 that puts our present in proper perspective.
Habakkuk 3:6
 
Listen:  you will never ever be able to put the tough times of your life in proper perspective unless you do this one essential thing - Keep eternity in view. Your earthly life is just a very small piece of God’s eternal puzzle. The tough times and the difficult days that you go through are just a small piece of that small piece. Our ways are earthly, flawed, faulty and failing. His ways are eternal, constant, consistent and confirmed.
 
Romans 8:18 says it this way:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
(Romans 8:18, NIV)
 
God is eternal and His ways are eternal. The circumstances around you change, but God doesn’t. The same God who created this universe is the same God that looks after you. Things change on earth every day, but they never change in eternity. God’s principles, God’s promises and God’s purpose’s never change. He may change His methods and He may change His timing, but He never changes who He is or what He is doing.
 
That is why Habakkuk is no longer begging God to call off the Babylonians. He is no longer begging God to do things his way. Now, he has gotten his mind off of himself and his mind back on God. He is saying in effect, “You know better than I do. If Your way is to send the Babylonians, then I trust You to do the right thing. You can do whatever You want to do, the way You want to do it, and you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission.  I just want you to keep renewing Your work every day in our life.”
 
Then Habakkuk makes one, small, tiny request in
 
Habakkuk 3:2
 
Thank God that He is a God that does just that. He did it for Israel. In His justice He had to punish sin, but in His mercy He provided for forgiveness. Seventy years after Babylon destroyed this nation, the people were restored to their land and the temple was rebuilt, walls were resurrected and a nation came alive again.
 
Even more than that, six hundred years later at the cross of Jesus Christ, God poured out all of His wrath on Jesus for our sins while at the same time providing the way of mercy so that we might be saved. You see both of those at the cross.
 
God’s wrath is heard when Jesus cries out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken Me?”
 
But God’s mercy is seen in “Father, forgiven them for they know not what they do.”
 
God’s wrath - “I thirst.” God’s mercy - “Today, You will be with Me in paradise.”
 
Remember the cross would have never happened had Jesus not said these words, “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done.” The first step to developing a thankful heart is coming to desire the will of God.
 
Here’s the second thing:
 
 
 
 
 
2. Remember the Works Of God
 
If you are doubting whether God is really involved in your life or whether God has fallen asleep at the wheel, or is even listening to your prayers, then look to the past. If you think God is not taking care of things today just look back and see how God took care of things yesterday. That is what Habakkuk does.
 
In som many words, he begins to sing an ancient versionof “Count Your Many Blessings”.  He begins to name them one by one.
 
Beginning in verse 3 Habakkuk goes through a litany of some of the great things God had done for His people in the past. In fact, what you have is a Reader’s Digest version of the first half of the Old Testament.
 
Habakkuk 3:3
 
Habakkuk is referring to that time where God had met with Moses and raised him up to deliver His people out of bondage in the nation of Egypt. He is reminding himself of how God was working even when the people of Israel didn’t know it.
 
Habakkuk 3:5, 8-9
 
Habakkuk is recounting one of the great miracles in the Old Testament when God parted the Red Sea, so that the people of Israel could pass safely through it and then destroyed the Egyptian Army and then how He parted the Jordan River where the people of Israel could cross over into the Promised Land.
 
Habakkuk 3:11
 
This recounts the story of how the Jewish armies were fighting the Amorite kings and as they were fleeing away and getting away Joshua prayed for the sun to stand still so they would have a little more daylight where they could completely destroy the Amorite army.
 
The Bible says in the 10th chapter of Joshua that is exactly what happened - the sun stood still and Israel won one of its greatest victories.  Then Habakkuk makes an incredible statement in
 
Habakkuk 3:13
 
Though he didn’t know it, he was really referring to Jesus. Jesus is the anointed of God. Now, we can look back to what Habakkuk was looking forward to - the cross of Jesus Christ. If nothing else reminds me that the God of yesterday is the God that can take care of today, it ought to be the cross.
 
Here is the point that Habakkuk is making - The God who has been faithful to us in the past will be faithful to us in the present. What I need to do is commit God’s past works to my present situation and know that the God who did not fail me yesterday is the God that will not fail me today.
 
What about you? If you really were to sit down and think (and it wouldn’t take very long) you could write down page after page after page of the way God came through for you in the past or the way you could see God working in your life. As a matter of fact, I think practically every one of us in this room has escaped death because of God’s protective hand and we didn’t even know it.
 
“Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.”
(Psalm 68:20, NIV)
 
Every one of us in this room at least has probably come up on an accident where somebody died. You think it was just luck that you got there late? Do you think it was just luck that it wasn’t you? It was God.
 
If you are serious about developing a thankful heart, then take some time to look back and remember the works of God.
 
Then finally,
 
3. Persevere in the Worship of God
 
I will be the first one to tell you that all of this I know sounds good in theory, but you are probably sitting there also saying, “But, meanwhile back at the ranch I still don’t have a job, I am still battling cancer, my spouse still hasn’t returned, my bills still aren’t being paid, and frankly I am scared out of my mind.”
 
If Habakkuk were here he would say, “I know exactly how you feel.”
 
Habakkuk 3:16
 
The English language really doesn’t tell you how scared Habakkuk was. Where it says, “My body trembled”, that is really cleaned up. It literally says in the Hebrew language, “My belly trembled or my inward parts trembled.  The most accurate in Hebrew thinking is, “My bowels trembled.”
 
 
In other words, he was scared. . .let’s just say he was really scared. He was scared, because he knew the Babylonians were coming. His nation was going to be destroyed. His friends and neighbors were going to be taken into captivity if they were left alive and he shook him to the very depths of his being.
 
The truth is some of your greatest fears may come to pass. You may lose your job. You may get cancer. You may die a difficult death. You may have a painful loss. Yet, you can also say as Habakkuk,
 
Habakkuk 3:16
 
Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is faith in the face of fear. What if the worst comes? What do you do? Here’s what Habakkuk decided:
 
Habakkuk 3:17
 
You would have to go back to the economy of Judah to understand exactly the devastation he was describing. This would make the Great Depression look like Disney World. The economy of Judah was based on everything in this list: figs, grapes, olives, livestock, sheep, goats and cattle. He is describing complete devastation.
 
It is not just that the stock market crashed. It is not just that there were very few jobs. He is describing a situation where there would be nothing - complete devastation, nothing to eat, everybody starving, death everywhere.
 
One day if you live long enough your fig tree won’t bud either. There won’t be any grapes on your vines. You may lose your health. You may lose your spouse.
You may lose your retirement. You may lose a child. You may live long enough to lose every old friend you ever had. When you do, you will come to the point that Habakkuk came to when he finally realized that when times are tough and your faith is on the ropes, God is all you have, God is all you need and God is enough.
 
He says in
 
Habakkuk 3:18
 
I want you to circle two words - the first word in verse 17 and the first word in verse 18 - “though” and “yet.”
 
Habakkuk was saying, “When the worst things that could happen to me, do happen to me, they will bring out the best things that are in me. Even though I lose everything, even though God does the opposite of everything I would want Him to do, yet, I will worship Him, praise Him, and love Him.”
 
You say, “How can you praise God when you’ve lost everything? How can you be thankful when you’ve lost your future, your family, your finances, and you’ve lost it all?” You praise God for who He is, not just what He does. You praise God for what He has done, not just what He is doing. It all comes down to what really is important in your life.
 
If your number one desire in life is to be successful, to be wealthy, to be healthy, to be prosperous, or to have everything go your way, then when those things don’t happen you won’t be able to praise God. If your goal in life is to stay close to God, be in the center of His will and to glorify Him no matter what then you can praise God in every circumstance knowing that every circumstance will and can bring you closer to Him.
Listen to those last words
 
Habakkuk 3:18
 
Our Savior is Jesus Christ. If God never did another thing for any of us for the rest of our lives other than send His son to die for our sins and raise Him from the dead, so that we could live with Him forever, we would have more than enough to praise God for, more than enough to love God for, and more than enough to worship God for.
 
When you make up your mind you are going to trust God and worship God no matter what here is what happens -
 
Habakkuk 3:19
 
There is one thing you will see in the mountains no matter how high you go and that is deer. They know the higher you go the safer you are. The higher you go the better you can see everything that is around you.
 
That is exactly what faith does in tough times. Fear sees all the difficulties. Fear sees all the problems. Fear sees all the disappointments, but faith continues to see the strong hand of the promises of God, the provision of God and the plan of God.
 
You keep one thing in mind above everything else - when tough times come into your life they will either take you lower or they will take you higher. You will become bitter or your will become better. If you will trust God no matter what He will set your feet like the feet of a deer and He will enable you to walk above your circumstances so you can keep your eyes on Him.
 
That is why somewhere in the riches of the United States a sharp looking businessman can stand up at a luncheon and say,
 
“Before I knew Christ I had nothing. My business was in bankruptcy, my health was ruined, i lost the respect of the community and I almost lost my family. Then, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. He took me out of bankruptcy, tripled my profits, dropped my blood-pressure to normal, gave me back my health, my family has now come home and we are together again. God is good! Praise the Lord!”
 
And at the same time, across the oceans in an oppressive society somewhere an old beaten down man can stand and say
 
“Before I met Christ I had everything. I made a large salary, lived in a nice house, enjoyed good health, was highly respected for my credentials and profession, had a good marriage and beautiful children. Then, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. Immediately, I lost my post at the university, lost my home and house and car and spent five years in solitary confinement. I now work for pennies in a factory. I live in pain from my neck that was broken while I was in prison. My wife rejected me because of my stand for Christ. She took my children away and I haven’t seen her or them for ten years, but God is good. I praise Him for His faithfulness.”
 
Two men who love God, one gives thanks because of what he has gained and the other gives thanks in spite of what he has lost.
 
 
 
Like an old prophet who lived 2600 years ago, when you can give God thanks and praise whether times are good or times are not and you make up your mind no matter what happens you will desire the will of God, you will remember the works of God, and you will persevere in the worship of God, then at the end of it all you will give God the thanks and praise He deserves. 
 
When news of the deaths of Allen Gardiner and the other missionaries reached England, The Times carried a blistering editorial decrying the loss of life and resources for so foolish a cause. The missionaries' deaths caught the attention of the nation, and a book on their mission, which included Allen Gardiner's journal, enjoyed wide circulation.
 
Biblically-minded churchmen responded to the criticism of the mission with contributions, and new missionary recruits made it possible to launch a second mission, which was better planned and equipped.
 
Using the Falkland Islands as a base, the missionaries learned the Yaghan language from three natives that had been brought to England back in 1830 as an example of these primitive people. Safely transported to a Yaghan Island in November 1859 on a schooner christened in Allen Gardiner's memory, Garland Phillips was prepared to continue the mission to reach the Yaghans.
 
Unfortunately, Phillips, Captain Fell, and six crew members were attacked as they came ashore the island and speared to death.
 
 
South American Mission Society field director, George Despard, was crushed by the loss of the second missionary team. He returned to England, along with his family and the remaining missionaries. Two missionary teams had gone to do God's work with high hopes but ended with saddening results: seven starved to death and eight murdered by the Yaghans. All was lost, and apparently for nothing.
 
In the darkest moment, a seventeen-year-old boy asked for Despard's permission to carry on the mission's work instead of returning home to England. His name was Thomas Bridges, a surname he was given because he was found as a baby, abandoned on a London bridge. The Despards took him in as one of their own.  His adoptive father granted permission and Bridges traveled to Patagonia.
 
It was in complete weakness and vulnerability that Bridges, often alone, would visit the Yaghan settlements, which many of whose inhabitants murdered the second missionary team. The Yaghans were unthreatened by his vulnerability, moved by the forgiveness that he embodied, and were finally able to hear the Good News. Bridges baptized many of the same people who killed his friends.
 
The most dramatic transformation of the people Darwin had labeled the lowest form of humanity took place when an Italian ship was sinking offshore from Yaghan territory. The Yaghans would have killed the sailors and helped themselves to their belongings in the past, but as followers of Christ, the Yaghans risked their lives to rescue the strangers.
 
In fact, so impressive was the effects of this mission work that a new annotation was added to navigational charts, "A great change has been effected in the character of the natives . . . the Yaghans . . . can be trusted."
 
Through the Gospel, the Yaghans were transformed from a lost-cause to becoming a people whose heroism and altruism were internationally acclaimed.
 
One of the notations found in Allen Gardiner’s journal was that a mission society called the South American Mission Society would be formed.  Today that organization is still at work around the world spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. 
 
Such is the impact of the power of God through a man willing live and die “overwhelmed by the sense of the goodness of God.” May God help us to live and die overwhelmed by the sense of His goodness as well.
 
Let’s pray.
 
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