Though the fig tree does not bud
and there is no fruit 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,
yet I will triumph in Yahweh;
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
Yahweh my Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!
(Habakkuk 3:17-19, HCSB)
That is the text I preached this past Sunday. Actually, that’s the text I started from—I preached the whole book of Habakkuk. I suppose it would have been more upbeat to preach a message of success and prosperity for the New Year, but that wasn’t what the Lord intended. Instead, it was a message of perseverance and endurance.
None of us knows what awaits us in the coming year—just like this time last year, none of us knew what 2011 had in store for us. Yes, there were wonderful things that happened. But there were very difficult things that happened as well. I know many people had to endure unimaginable things in 2011.
The fact is, many of us will have to endure unimaginable things this coming year. Maybe you will. Maybe I will. Habakkuk realized there might not be any enjoyable delicacies (figs) in the coming year. There might not be any dietary staples (grapes). There might not even be any necessities (olives). He said he might not even have any way to produce food for himself or his family (fields). Things might get so bad that he wouldn’t have any clothes, money or way to make a living (sheep and cattle).
However you might look at it, Habakkuk was allowing for the possibility of a rough year ahead. But what did he predetermine his response was going to be? No matter if the absolute worst year imaginable happened, he was going to praise the Lord. The only way he was going to be able to do that was because he heard the Lord when He reminded him that He is in control (Habakkuk 2:20).
In this coming year, God is still on His throne. Nothing will happen in 2012 that will surprise Him or make Him have to scramble to have to try and fix things. When, through the finished work of Christ on the cross, you trust God (Habakkuk 2:4b; Romans 1:16-17), He has promised that He’s going to work it all together for good (Romans 8:28), and He will give you the strength you need to be able to praise Him through it—no matter what happens to you.
Even though it wasn’t a New Year cheerleader, pep-rally type sermon, it preached well. The Spirit attended the preaching of His Word and people responded well. But there is an inherent danger in preaching the Word. Many times, God finds a way to verify the message through the life of the messenger. Late Sunday afternoon, with tear-filled eyes, my wife looked up at me and said, “Well, that didn’t take long.”
Even before the service that morning, I received word that a dear friend had passed away on Saturday. His memorial service was to be Monday afternoon, which meant a 1200 mile turnaround for me over the next few days. It would be difficult to see the grieving family, but they are wonderful, have a loving church family and have the assurance of their loved one’s presence with the Lord.
The real message verification would come later in the afternoon as we found out that my father-in-law’s liver disease has progressed to the point that he will probably not make it through the next several days. Over Christmas, what he thought was a stomach virus turned out to be rapid degeneration of his liver. As he is not eligible to receive a liver transplant, he has basically been told that there is nothing they can do except “make him comfortable.” Morphine is comfortable for no one.
To say the least, days 1-4 of 2012 have not been the most enjoyable start to the New Year. But they have served to confirm the message I preached on Sunday. “The Lord is in His holy temple; let everyone on earth be silent in His presence.” Nothing surprises Him. Nothing makes Him have to scramble for a new plan. My all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, all-loving God is completely and totally in control, and is working it all together for my good and His glory. Because of that, I will triumph in Him. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. He is my strength.