If you were a farmer, or any other person totally dependent on the produce of your land to feed yourself and your family, would you be able to sincerely recite the following words from the prophet Habakkuk and own them as your own?
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; (Habakkuk 3)
If you would still be able to say yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour, then this reveals something very important about the depth of your faith in God and your relationship with Him.
Maybe our psalmist’s circumstances weren’t quite as dramatic as Habakkuk’s, who just prior to these words above speaks of calamity [and] the nation invading us, but the psalmist was having his troubles. Listen to his words:
9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?” (Psalm 42)
1 Vindicate me, my God,
and plead my cause
against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
deceitful and wicked.
2 You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy? (Psalm 43)
In the sermon on Psalms 42-43 mentioned in my last Post, John Piper says:
“The psalmist is not pleading for relief from his circumstances…[despite feeling discouraged…despite the opposition and pain]…he doesn’t cry out “first, get me out of here!’ Instead he cries out, ‘I want you [God]. I want you so bad. I want you like a deer wants water when she is thirsty.’ I think that’s the point of the Psalms. You ask, what’s the one outcome God intends from the Book of Psalms? It is human hearts weaned off of security, weaned off of money, weaned off of comfort, weaned off of fame, weaned off of ministry. And addicted to God. [To come to the place of being able to say], As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Not first deliverance from my enemies, not first deliverance from my depression…or turmoil. [But to have an attitude that] if I have to go under water to know you, then I will go under water!”
[alluding to Psalm 42:7]
When we read the New Testament, we find the same thing in the writings of Paul, who in Philippians, writing from a Roman prison, says:
I am in chains for Christ. (1:13)
Yet proclaims that, for him:
to live is Christ and to die is gain. (1:21)
Then speaking of all in his life that others may consider praiseworthy and valuable, he says:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith inChrist—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (3:7-11)
Above all else – e.g. deliverance from his chains, being free to go where ever he wanted – Paul’s desire was to know Christ first and foremost, and if that was best going to happen in chains, then in chains he would be happy to stay.
How do you respond to this? If you are anything like me, this is a huge challenge! Too often I desire God’s blessings, God’s help, God’s deliverance, more than God himself. And yet, as I read the Bible, I realize that the message that is coming through so often is, as Jesus put it, to “seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33).
Father, so much that the world around offers us leads to frustration and dissatisfaction, and yet I know it so well, but forget it too often, the only real deep soul-satisfaction is found in a right relationship with you. Augustine was right when he said, ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’ Continue your work of grace in my life leading me to you. Amen.