Monday, May 30, 2016

Confronting Crippling Fear with Excelling Faith

Confronting Crippling Fear with Excelling Faith

“3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. 4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. 5 Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet” (Habakkuk 3:3-5).

“When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops” (Habakkuk 3:16)

“18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.  To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (Habakkuk 3:18-19).

Fear is always the enemy of faith.  Habakkuk chapter three is a revelation of the inherent weakness of fear that lies within even the greatest man of faith.  Yet chapter three is the answer to that fear as the man of faith confronts it by turning to the greatness and faithfulness of God.
There are three basic crippling responses of fear.  Courage can be defined as doing what needs to be done in the midst of danger disregarding the danger to yourself.  Faith-courage is different.  Faith-courage faces the issue knowing your life and soul in in the sovereign control of God’s eternal promises.  Faith-courage sees all physical dangers in the context of our own eternally sealed redemption in Jesus Christ.  Faith-courage is love motivated and is exemplified by a mother fighting off the restraints of three burly firemen trying to keep her from running into her burning home to rescue her children - “perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).

1. There is resignation.  Resignation says, “I suppose there is nothing I can do about it.  Everyone suffers.  Everyone dies.  I might as well resign myself to it.” This may be better than crying, screaming, and pulling your hair out, but it is not a response of faith.
2. The second response of fear is detachment. Detachment says, “I don’t want to think about such things, it will depress me.  Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away.”  This type of person will fill their life with amusements, hobbies, work, or anything to keep his mind occupied and off of the problem.
3. The third response of fear is bravado.  This is the chin up, let’s face this with courage scenario.  This is quite difficult to do in a hopeless situation like the one Habakkuk faced.  

When your knees are shaking because the axe is about to take your head off, the last thing you need is a pep talk.  You need faith in a God Who is able to take your life beyond the circumstances, even death itself.  It is to this God that Habakkuk flees in chapter three.  We should learn some lessons of faith from Habakkuk.

Fear develops and evolves from unknown outcomes.  Most people are control freaks in that they want to involve themselves only in known outcomes.  The only way known outcomes can be controlled is by controlling every aspect of every situation.  Consider for a moment how ludicrous this kind of thinking really is.  In every situation of life, there are a thousand variables with each of those variables having thousands of other variables. 

The more people that are involved, the more complex and difficult any situation is to control within the myriad of variables.  Consistency can only be achieved when everyone involved has common beliefs, understand the objective purpose of the group, and share a common methodology to accomplish the objective task.  None of these things existed within the children of Israel.  In the corruption of their pluralistic views of God, their diversity was so extreme that the only thing they had it common with God’s will was false doctrine. 

Habakkuk abandons the unknown for faith in the known.  Faith escapes the unknown by immersing one’s self within God’s eternal constancy.  Habakkuk’s faith escapes fear by turning to what he knows of God.  Deliverance is the central theme of Habakkuk’s turning in faith to God.  He turns in faith to the memory of the miraculous way God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage.  Now, because of corruption, Israel was in spiritual bondage.  God was going to use physical bondage to reveal to them their spiritual bondage. 

When Habakkuk speaks of “Teman” and “Peran” (Habakkuk 3:3), he is speaking of two mountain ranges bordering Sinai in southern Israel.  He is remembering that it was God Who initiated contact with Moses to raise up a deliverer to deliver the nation of Israel from Egypt.  This point of remembrance is significant because Israel’s deliverance was not based upon men’s prayer or their faithfulness, but upon God’s desire and faithfulness to His covenant promise.  It is to this constant of God’s faithfulness that Habakkuk flees in faith.

Remembering what God has done reminds us of what God can do.  When Habakkuk speaks of God’s glory covering the heavens, this fact can refer to either what Israel saw covering Mount Sinai or the pillar of cloud that led them by day or the pillar of fire that led them by night.  Both truths would be significant things to think about and remember when confronting fear with faith. 

“21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Exodus 13:21-22).

“15 And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. 16 And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18 And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:15-18).

The news of God’s presence with the nation of Israel filled the world, and the “earth was full of His praise.”  In other words, the news of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage had traveling like a grass fire on a windy day through the nations.  Egypt possessed the greatest army in the world at this time and God had drowned most of them in the Red Sea as they pursued the children of Israel.  For the next forty years, the children of Israel wandered in the Wilderness and every nation in the Promised Land lived in fear of the God of Israel fortifying their cities against Israel’s pending invasion of their lands and city-states.  The very fact that a nation of about three and a half million people could survive in the dessert for forty years was a testimony to the power of their God to the nations of the Promised Land.  The point is there no food or water in the dessert, and most people would die there in a few days.  Yet, three and a half million people survived and thrived because of their God. 

“8 And before they were laid down, she {Rahab} came up unto them upon the roof; 9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (Joshua 2:8-11).

Habakkuk 3:4 could be paraphrased, “His brightness was like the rising sun, and lightning flashed from His hand, where His power was hidden.” 

When faith begins to fade behind the looming clouds of fear, the believer needs a vision of God in power and glory.  The picture Habakkuk paints on the canvas of his faith is the looming radiance of the Person of God as He fills the horizon like the rising of the Sun.  As God’s hand is raised in action, the lightning bolts of judgment flash in a steady stream.  Yet, not all of God’s power is revealed, but only a small portion.  Habakkuk’s faith reaches out and grabs onto the God of his dependence, just as you and I can do by faith.  When faith sees God as real, it acts upon that reality.  God has given us a word picture for strengthening our own faith in Revelation 19:11-16.  The next time you think the world might be winning read this text.

“11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-16).

Habakkuk 3:5 is dualistic in its vision.  It looks backward to remember the national deliverance of Israel from Egypt.  It looks forward to the spiritual restoration of Israel and God’s deliverance of the nation of Israel from the Satanocracy of the Antichrist during the tribulation.  “Plagues” or pestilences were God’s method of purifying the nation of Israel after the Egyptian deliverance to bring them to repentance.

“31 And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey {probably about a radius of ten miles or about 800,000 acres} on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high {the quail were thrown to the ground in heaps about 3 feet deep} upon the face of the earth. 32 And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers {homer is about 8 bushels, so 80 bushels}: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. 33 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. 34 And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah {kib-roth' hat-tah-av-aw' = a sepulcher for the greedy}: because there they buried the people that lusted” (Numbers 11:31-34).

How often has the greed of man led him to the sepulcher of the greedy!  In fact, many people spend their lifetimes living in the sepulcher of the greedy.  We must remember that it was the “mixt multitude” living inside the nation of Israel that were the complainers.  “4 And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? 5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: 6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes” (Numbers 11:4-6). 

The “mixt multitude” were those that believed in the God of Israel, but infected Israel with worldliness.  This infection with worldliness is what defines the corruption of the “mixt multitude.”

The “burning coals” (Habakkuk 3:5) from God’s feet literally refer to lightning flashes from His feet and refers to the consuming fire of the presence of the glory of God.  The “burning coals” describes God moving in judgment.  In other words, God’s judgment is to be viewed as already in progress.  When we read the prophesies of God’s future judgment, we need to be cognizant of the fact that those judgments are already in motion.  They are already released into the plan of God.  They will ultimately and finally reach the destination to which they are directed. 

The person who believes in a real God can have a real faith and that real faith becomes the substance of a real hope.  Confronting real fear requires real faith in a real God.  The reality of God’s existence is a matter of recorded history.  The real God is a reliable constant in an ever changing universe.

Trust Him!

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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