Faith Under Trial: Living in a Nation Under Condemnation
By Shawn Thomas
In David Platt’s book Radical, he writes about visiting believers in Southeast Asia. They had to disguise themselves and come in one or two at a time, to avoid suspicion. Every prayer request involved the persecution they experienced. He said it was such a contrast to come home and see the freedom and prosperity of the American church — his book challenges us to consider how we use our blessings in light of the world’s needs. But how long will the blessings we have experienced last, especially if our nation continues to turn away from God?
In the Book of Habakkuk, the prophet wrestles with his faith in challenging times — and he serves as a model for what we may soon face in our country as well.
WHEN YOUR PRAYERS AREN’T ANSWERED
Right off (1:2) Habakkuk asks God why his prayers haven’t been answered: “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear?”
Some of us also have unanswered prayers. Like Habakkuk, perhaps your heart cries, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help and You will not hear?”
— Why God hasn’t heard your prayers to bless a ministry when it would seem to glorify Him if He would?
— You’re struggling with an illness or trial, but God’s not helping you with it.
— Or you’re weeping for a child whom God hasn’t yet saved or changed.
— Maybe you’ve been praying for Him to work in our nation, but it just seems to be getting worse!
Habakkuk also lived in a nation that he saw falling away from God. And his prayers didn’t seem to change anything. So he cried out: “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear?!”
One application for us is that if all you want from God is a powerful “Genie in the sky” who gives you everything you want, you’ll be disappointed with the God of the Bible. He’s not some “heavenly vending machine” who will give you all the “goodies” you want whenever you “push the right buttons.” He is a Sovereign God, the King of Universe, who has purposes beyond what you and I can fathom, with plans beyond our understanding, and timing of His own will. There will be times when we do not understand His purpose, His plans, or His timing, and we may say like Habakkuk, “Why do I call and You do not answer?” Our faith is tested when our prayers are NOT answered, and we feel forsaken. Do we still trust or not?
C.S. Lewis wrote that as a younger Christian, he seemed to have more answered prayers than he did as he aged. But as he grew, he felt that God would withdraw His hand, making him trust Him, even when His prayers were NOT answered. Lewis suggested this often happens to us as we mature spiritually. He said, did not THE most spiritually mature person who ever walked the earth pray: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
In the days ahead, We WILL have unanswered prayers. We WILL experience things we don’t understand. Our faith WILL be tested. So we need to realize now, that genuine, Biblical Christianity is not just a matter of getting answered prayers every time. Our faith will be tested in the days ahead. The question is, will your faith be strong enough to persevere in your walk with God, even when that happens?
2. WHEN THE FOUNDATIONS ARE DESTROYED
Habakkuk 1:3 says: “You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness” He said there is “destruction and violence…. Strife … and contention.” :4 says “the law is ignored and justice is never upheld, for the wicked surround the righteous, therefore justice comes out perverted.”
Psalm 11:3 says “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Habakkuk lived in a time like that; the moral foundations of his land were crumbling right before his eyes. Are we seeing the same thing in our country today?
— Habakkuk cried, “Violence” — and we can cry “violence” today, as babies are ripped from their mother’s wombs in the unspeakably evil sin of abortion — surely there is no worse violence known to mankind — being perpetuated in a supposedly “civilized” society!
—In :3 he asks, “Why do You make me see iniquity?” Righteous people today can ask this, with sensuality on every kind of media in our land, not to mention the flagrantly declining standards of dress. The vilest perversions proudly parade down the streets of our cities. The Bible says Lot’s righteous soul was oppressed as he lived in Sodom. Righteous souls in America feel that same way today. “Why ….. do you cause me to look on wickedness?”
More looms on the horizon: pastors and other Christians may soon be charged with “hate speech” for simply explaining what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. Churches and ministers may lose their tax-exempt status for preaching what the Bible clearly teaches about morality. The day is coming when you may have to choose between tax deductions and obeying God’s word!
The day of the “casual Christian” in our society, who casually claims to be a follower of Jesus but who doesn’t have to pay any price for it, may soon be coming to an end. We’d better prepare ourselves and our children for what lies ahead.
This is not political. This is moral. This is spiritual. The spiritual foundations of our country are being destroyed. That’s what Psalm 11 was saying; that’s what Habakkuk saw in his day — and that’s what’s happening in America today. The moral and spiritual foundations of our country are being destroyed.
3. WHEN JUDGMENT IS COMING
In Habakkuk:6 God says, “I am raising up the Chaldeans …”. Habakkuk said in:12, “You, O Lord, have appointed them to judge.” This Chaldean army was coming to judge Judah for their sin, and to correct the horrendous wrongs of their society.
Shouldn’t we have enough sense to realize that if our nation today looks and sounds just like the nation of Judah in Habakkuk’s time, and judgment came upon them —a similar judgment awaits our nation as well — unless we repent?
— I would love to say that the brightest days of America are still ahead, but are they — unless we repent?
— I would love to proclaim that economic recovery is right around the corner, but in fact, there may be economic distress around the corner — unless we repent.
— I would love to promise with that beloved song, that “The Star Spangled Banner forever will wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” – but I cannot promise that — if we don’t repent!
God is a holy God. His “eyes are too pure to approve evil.” A nation that ignored His standards was judged in Habakkuk’s day — and if our nation does not repent of its wickedness before God, then it will experience the same kind of judgment that Judah did as well.
So what should we do, if we are living in a nation that is coming under judgment?
— First of all, if you’ve never turned from your sins and asked Jesus to be your Savior, do that today. How can you face what’s about to come upon our land, without knowing that God is with you? Put your faith in Him TODAY; then no matter what happens to our nation, you will have eternal life in Heaven which cannot be taken away.
— Second, if you claim to be a follower of Jesus, LIVE like it. One of the biggest problems in America today is that too many people claim to be followers of Christ but do not live like it.
Several years ago, there was a furor when NBC cut out the words “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance during a sports broadcast. Many were infuriated that those crucial words were omitted — and rightly so! But worse is that millions in our country who claim to “believe in God” have pretty much already cut Him out of their lives anyway!
— Do you seek God first thing every day in His word and prayer — or have you cut Him out of your daily schedule?
— Is His day a day of worship — or do you regularly cut it out?
— Do you give Him the first tenth of your income — or have you cut that out?
— Do you consult God about every decision you make — or have you cut Him out of your decision-making process?
See, what’s worse? “Cutting God out” of the Pledge — or cutting Him out of your LIFE regularly? Many of us would have to admit: that we too have cut God out of big segments of our lives.
We all fall short. There are so many temptations drawing us away from God. But the question is: will you do something about it? In a nation under judgment; when faith is under trial, and few will really serve God — what will YOU do? How will YOU live? Will you be judged for your wickedness — or will you live by faith?
Shawn Thomas has been a Southern Baptist pastor for almost 35 years, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Angleton, Texas. You can read more from Pastor Thomas Here.
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