Living Faithfully in Difficult Times
I recently listened to a sermon about how Christians can live faithfully in times of opposition, preached by Tim Keller several years ago at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The lesson is drawn from the book of Habakkuk. It’s encouraging to reflect on the fact that God’s followers in biblical times lived in societies that opposed them and made it difficult to faithfully follow God. And all of us have times in our lives that are hard to live through. I know sometimes I need more courage for both kinds of difficult times, and I found the lessons Keller drew from Habakkuk 2:1–4 to be encouraging.
We need to develop skills to live faithfully in the circumstances of this world, and I thought there were some practical lessons in this sermon.
We are to live patiently, perspectively, obediently, God-centrically, and joyfully.
God tells Habakkuk that he will wait for God to answer. But waiting in this context isn’t a passive thing; it’s active. Waiting biblically means deliberately humbling ourselves before God and being patient for His timing. It also means choosing sanctification because it’s often in waiting for God’s answer and deliverance that we actually grow in character, grow to be more like Jesus. God is committed to making us the people He wants us to be, and we can choose to be patient for His process of transformation. Waiting on the Lord means not giving up and trusting His good purposes in His time.
Habakkuk says he’ll station himself on the ramparts to wait and watch with expectation that God will answer. We cannot focus on our problems; we have to choose to shift our focus to God. We can meditate on His goodness, power, faithfulness, and steadfastness as things to encourage us. We can remind ourselves that God has already delivered us from the worst fate possible, the punishment for our sin. He personally made the sacrifice in Jesus to rescue us. That’s the extent of His commitment and love to us. Paul tells us in Romans 8 to keep an eternal perspective because that helps us to reckon present difficulties in the larger and redemptive perspective.
Habakkuk says he will “stand his watch.” It’s a military phrase, and he will remain in his post and not give up. Even though we may struggle, we stand firmly with the power of the Holy Spirit to help us. We continue to do the things that connect us to God and the Body of Christ rather than wither on the vine. We pray, read the Bible, and fellowship. Even when we don’t feel like it, we do our duty.
Keep your eyes on God — He’s the One you’re waiting for. Not His rewards or His answers, but God Himself. The most wonderful thing about being a Christian is that God gives Himself to us. We have a relationship with Him. Keep your eyes on Him and not the things we receive from Him, even when those are good things.
Our joy is in having God. He’s the treasure next to which everything else pales in comparison. Our joy comes from Him and not our circumstances. The Psalmist often reflects on this and focuses his soul on this truth to encourage himself. Jesus tells us in Luke 12:37 that we are waiting for Him and to be included in His feast is the greatest thing. And when we focus on what it cost Jesus to include us, it produces joy.
Keller concludes the sermon, “Here’s what I want to ask you. If you see Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, willing to lay aside all of his celestial being and joy and come down and wait on you by going to the cross and not giving up even in the garden of Gethsemane, even on the cross, even under the wrath of God, why can’t you wait for Him now? Why can’t you wait on Him now? See, if you see Him waiting on you in the past and waiting on you in the future, you’ll be able to wait on Him now.”
I encourage you to get the sermon.
Originally appeared on Stand to Reason on March 15, 2017. Reprinted with permission.