The Power of Faith
Habakkuk 3:17-19 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  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.
I Peter 1:7 NLT "These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world."
I. INTRODUCTION -- UNDER FIRE
On a clear night in June 2005, four U.S. Navy Seals left their base in northern Afghanistan for Pakistan’s mountainous border. Their mission was to take out a notorious al Qaeda leader. They all seemed to have an unsettling feeling that this mission would be very different and dangerous than any they had ever been involved in.
Less than 24 hours later, only one of them would be alive. His life would be in such a condition that one might have to call it a miracle that Marcus Lutrell, the fire team leader, would even survive.
Early in the mission some goat herders discovered them; reluctantly the SEALs allowed them to leave. An hour after the meeting with the goat herders, they were confronted on a mountainous ridge by the Taliban. Some 80-100 begin to fire on them with reckless abandon from their AK-47’s and then they would resort to rocket-propelled grenades to totally destroy some of the top soldiers in the US Armed Forces.
Marcus Lutrell explains that there were some wounds to his own body that he had to endure. Several times he blacked out from blood loss but when he came to, he would be quoting Psalm 23 in his mind.
In the book he wrote to honor the valor of his comrades, he describes what he felt in this midst of his dilemma:
He had been trained to fight as part of a team. But up here, being hunted down, all alone—this was entirely another game.
He goes on to tell of how that he crawled 7 miles to a village that chose to give him protection although the Taliban roved through the mountain passes. It seems that there is an ancient law that once an enemy has entered a camp, he must be cared for. Lutrell said that he could hear the US Air Force F-16’s flying over head and he could hear the chopping sound of rotors from the US Army Blackhawks and yet he was literally unable to be rescued by them. In a rescue attempt, one chopper was shot down and 16 other men were killed. He told of the dark black feelings he had to contend with during the ordeal. Hope was literally being squeezed out of him because of the conditions that he found himself in. Wounded with bullets from the AK-47’s and shrapnel wounds from the grenades were leading him into a fevered, delirious state of pain and infection.
Then it got worse as the Taliban came into the village and interrogated and tortured him for over 6 hours. To his amazement, they left without killing him. But during his six hours, he was threatened, mocked, slapped around, spit on, and had to endure all sorts of challenges. Then without warning, his protectors ran into his room and jerked him up and forced him to begin a night run in the mountains just a small step ahead of the Taliban.
Having had to endure all of the terror of the battle, literally falling down mountainsides for hundreds of feet, the mind shattering pain from his wounds, and now fleeing from the Taliban, he begin to feel a stubbornness stirring within him. He felt like Mark Twain, ‘the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated!’
This is the sort of thing that Habakkuk is having to explain for his times…
II. HABAKKUK’S DARK DAYS
There are very few statements in all of history that can rival the defiance of faith that Habakkuk utters here.
However, for such faith to shine out like this there has to be a huge backdrop of darkness.
Consider the dilemmas of Habakkuk’s days:
War and devastation shrouded the land of Judah. A powerful enemy was about to overthrow the city of Jerusalem.
The Temple of Solomon was going to be defiled. The country was sitting on the precipice of ruin. The flocks were being raided by roving bands of rustlers. The farm land was no longer being cultivated because of sloth and drought.
The godly reforms of the last king were being entirely overturned by the wicked man who was now king.
When you read through the whole book of Habakkuk in one sitting, the prophet paints out a very grim picture. In fact it is the very depth of discouragement that this prophet seems to be writing of. It is almost as if there is little room for hope. In fact his questions roar to such an extent that would appear to put God in a difficult place.
Where is the God of Israel? Where is the sign of His presence and watchfulness over His people?
What blessing is to be gained from serving Him? How much longer can faith hold out?
How much judgment can be withstood?
Hard questions in a very dark day – much like the climate in our nation today.
How much more can we take? Thank goodness the price of gas has gone down, but this week automakers made a request for major money because last month they sold fewer vehicles than they have in 17 years. If it’s not one thing, it’s three.
Can a saint of God serve in the onslaught of abortion in the US? (Average 4000 per day or every 22 seconds.)
Can a saint of God make it in a nation that is becoming increasingly more hostile to Christians?
Can a saint of God survive in a nation that exalts lifestyles of wickedness being pumped into homes on a daily basis?
Can a saint of God make it with mounting economic pressures that is full of foreclosures and climbing inflation?
Can a saint of God find solace in nation whose courts seem to favor sin over righteousness and shame over uprightness?
Can a saint of God really serve when unemployment levels are at the highest they have been in 14 years?
We could continue with that list of questions until we ran out of time to show just how dark our days really are.
But the darker the picture was to become, the brighter the faith that would pierce the darkness!
The fig tree blossoms have not come out. The fruit on the vines and the trees have failed to materialize.
The olive trees have failed to give out the oil. The fields are barren and no produce is found there.
The flocks have been cut off from the fold due to the neglect of the shepherds.
But in the midst of all of this, there is a defiant faith that reaches above the circumstances created by the disobedience of the nation and Habakkuk allows it to march out of his soul. He declares that his confidence is not in what he can see but rather in what he cannot see. God is still in charge of the whole world despite what Habakkuk can see.
III. THREE THOUGHTS ABOUT FAITH
In all of this discourse that Habakkuk is writing, there are some underlying lessons that we find out about faith.
A. Faith doesn’t have to make sense.
Faith has its own logic that is from Heaven. No matter how dark the picture may be. No matter how difficult the times may be. No matter what all of the statistics say, faith has a logic that is born from Heaven.
The burdens can be to the point of wilting down even the heartiest of believers, in fact the cart cannot hold another straw, but faith has the ability to bear every bit of it.
Sarah offered her dried up, elderly body. . . A son broke forth!
Moses offered a rod, a staff to lead sheep. . . A serpent broke forth!
Gideon offered 300 men who had trumpets, pitchers, and lamps. . . A nightmare occurred in the enemy’s camp and 120,000 Midianites destroyed each other..
Samson picked up the jawbone of a donkey. . . and one thousand Philistines got a whipping.
David picked up a slingshot. . . He left behind a lion, a bear, and a dead giant.
The Bible and modern day life is full of even more examples of people allowing their faith to break through when they looked to God instead of the circumstances.
How are we going to combat this spirit of the last days that wants us to calm down, keep quiet, and hide in a corner?
The solution is in the book:
Hebrews 4:12 KJV For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and
intents of the heart.
You must pick up the sword of the Spirit and let it breathe life into your faith. You must take God’s Word over everything that tries to control you. Let your faith fight for you!
Often it is the hard conditions of life that actually can make your faith begin to soar. In reality, we find that the greatest dilemmas often create the greatest escapes. Faith has its own logic that comes from Heaven.
There is something about faith that will give a man a certain amount of persistence in the most intolerable of circumstances.
Of Paul the opponents said that he was weak in his presence and his speech was contemptible (2 Cor. 10:10) and yet Paul was not depending on his presence or his speech to accomplish what God wanted him to do. He comes along in 2 Timothy 1:12 and writes that he has a great knowledge of who to believe in. He will put his confidence and faith in God.
Confidence in God will give you a faith that the world will look at and say it is not logical. They will say,
how simple, how ridiculous that you would believe in such.
B. Faith doesn’t have to be understood or explained by you.
It’s one thing for faith not to make sense to an unbeliever, but faith is present and activated in your life when you trust God without having the answer. In fact, you can’t trust God for the answer if you think you can work it out on your own.
Faith is a mystery sometimes even to the saints.
If there would be an attempt to define faith, I am sure that we would lean heavily on Hebrews 11:1 to define what we mean by faith.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
While that is certainly a solid theological answer, there is still an inability for us to really grasp what faith is all about. Faith often charges in when we are not even aware of it working. We are not encouraging ignorance, but realize that if you can get in the habit of putting God first in everything it is not that big a deal when we have nowhere else to turn but to God. Faith comes to our rescue when the world appears to be on the brink of what Habakkuk was writing about.
That kind of faith is such a mystery to all of us because when we get on the other side of the dilemma, we can know that God was with us and that God was going to help us but the fact remains that we usually do not have a good explanation of where the relief came from.
The stormy seas almost capsize the boat. Strongholds in our mind forbid passage.
Huge diabolical kingdoms will defy our efforts at serving God. Lions roar in our ears and we shake with terror.
Fires are almost certain to engulf and destroy us. Swords, mocking, scourging, bonds, and imprisonments taunt us.
The fact remains that when you read the closing portion of Hebrews 11, not a single one of these things were able to consume the faith of the Church. Your faith is a mystery. . . I cannot explain it. I only grasp a portion of what Luke wrote in Acts 1:8 of the power of the Holy Ghost being a prevailing witness to this world. This is the mystery of faith, that God would take weak vessels and use them to astound the world!
Stuart Lassiter, missionary to Ecuador, writes about an native minister who was sent to pastor in a small rural community. As he began to work diligently there, many came to the Lord and received the Holy Ghost and were baptized in Jesus Name. One woman came to the Lord and her life was dramatically changed but her husband did not like what had happened. He became very antagonistic toward her, the pastor, and the church. He begin to make threats that he was going to kill the pastor.
In the small community, everyone was aware of the situation and knew of the death threat against Brother Bermudez Cabrera. The rumor was that on a Sunday night after the service, the husband was going to kill the pastor. Sure enough the man came on the Sunday night he had promised.
He also had a pistol with him that several of the members knew about too. The service began and concluded. Finally all but the pastor had left and he locked up the church and started on his way home by foot.
As he walked along he mused in his heart about all of the blessings of the Lord and what had changed in his own life. He started thanking the Lord about being filled with His Spirit and how that God spoke to him. Basically, he was getting ready to die as he knew of the seriousness of the man’s threat. Furthermore, there were no soldiers or police to protect him. Brother Cabrera’s mind was on the Lord and each step he took, he expected it to be his last.
Before long, he came to his door and nothing harmful had occurred. He rejoiced and prayed for a while longer and then went to bed. A few days later, Brother Cabrera met his would-be assassin and mustered up the courage to have a conversation with him. He told the man that he knew he had been upset with him because of his wife’s experience with God and understood the man was going to kill him on that night.
The man answered and told him that he was going to do exactly that and had waited in ambush along the path that Brother Cabrera was walking along. However the man said, “As you came around the curve to where I was waiting, I saw you surrounded by soldiers, each one had a uniform and carrying machine guns. I thought, I am outgunned tonight and I only have a pistol, I’ll have to wait until another time.” Brother Cabrera did not see these “soldiers” but they appeared to the man as Ecuadorian soldiers and had protected the servant of God. The intended assassin would never have another opportunity because a short time later, he became drunk and fell from a window at a party and died as a result to the fall.
Hebrews 11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
That is what the mystery of faith is working out in your life. . . . God is determined for every single one of us to have a good report. That is the mystery of faith.
C. Faith Is identified and strengthened in the fire.
Faith has its own logic. Faith is a mystery sometimes even to the saints. Faith is not a fair-weather fan.
Faith is not a fair-weather fan. As long as things are going well, everything is good, but let it get dark and I am not sure if I can continue on with God.
Sometimes our days are sunny and full of blessing but faith is only reliable when it can face the storms of life. In fact the more adverse the conditions are the more powerful and defiant that faith should be.
That sort of “but-if-not faith” that we find in the lives of Israel’s young men in Babylon.
Daniel 3:17-18 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
I am convinced that faith can be a place of protection. No matter what you are facing and how scary and unnerving that it may be, if you will look to the Lord, there will come protection to your life.
The mistake that hell made with the three Hebrew boys was putting them in the fire together. Hell’s mistake right now is letting us come together to worship. That is why that worship is crucial to us. There has to be a defiant faith that rises up in the onslaught of every doubt and difficulty of the days that we face.
Faith does not always sing and dance. In fact there are times that faith will hold on by its fingernails and persevere with clenched teeth, the great saints of the past and present are those who have learned to endure in the highs and lows of life.
Elijah under his juniper after Carmel. Paul pressed out of measure, above strength, despairing of life.
Jesus learning obedience through the bitterness of tears.
These examples show us that faith is not only limited to the fair-weather but in the midst of all of it is the “joy unspeakable and full of glory, the half has never yet been told!”
Some are gasping in fear right now. It seems like that you are in the fiery furnace. Walls of flame all around, but if you will just begin to let your faith rise up in the Lord, He is going to show up in the middle of your fire.
A fiery furnace. . . . a place of victory for three Hebrew boys.
A dried up brook. . . a place of safety and nourishment for Elijah.
A mountain top covered with enemy prophets of Baal. . . a place of protection and victory for Elijah.
A city surrounded by an enemy army in Dothan. . . a place of protection and victory for Elisha and his servant.
IV. CONCLUSION -- RESCUED!
Habakkuk 3:17-19 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  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.
Habakkuk’s great faith was not centered in his conditions but rather on the God whom he was serving. When God put His hand on Habakkuk, the faith he had became a direct contrast against his circumstances.
Marcus Lutrell, the Navy SEAL, tells what seemed like the end of the line to him . There he was, alone with these tribesmen, with no coherent plan. My leg was killing me, I could hardly put it to the ground, and the two guys carrying me were bearing the whole of my weight. We came to a little flight of rough rock steps cut into the hillside. They got behind pushing me up with their shoulders.
I made the top step first, and as I did so, I came face to face with an Afghani fighter I had not seen before. He carried an AK-47, held in the ready to fire position, and when he saw me, he raised it. I looked at his hat, and there was a badge containing the words which almost stopped my heart—BUSH FOR PRESIDENT!
He was Afghan special forces, and I was seized with panic because I was dressed in the clothes of an Afghan tribesman, identical to those of the Taliban. But right behind him, bursting through the undergrowth, came two US Army Rangers in combat uniforms with their rifles raised. Immediately one of the tribesman helping him started hollering out the numbers they had seen on his gear. It was finally over.
Army guys were coming out of the forest from all over the place. They would end up taking Marcus to a cleared area and he would hear the roar of Apache helicopters coming in to rescue him. Some hovered and gave cover to the Apache’s that landed to pick up the Rangers and this lost SEAL. . . .
Operation Red Wing was a failed mission. But Marcus Littrell survived because he didn’t give up in spite of impossible odds. Now Marcus felt like he had no other option. Like most veterans, he didn’t feel like he had done anything special – he just did what needed to be done.
There wasn’t much he could do but keep trusting that somebody was coming for him.
Is sounds so simple. When we have been ambushed, we just need to wait and know that God is coming for us. It should be easier to trust God when we have experienced His power and blessing, but when it comes to experiencing God’s power in your life, sometimes it’s a foreign thought. It’s easier for us to believe that someone can endure unspeakable trauma and still move on than it is to comprehend the thought that the battles we fight spiritually are developing our faith and bringing us closer to God.
John G. Patton was a Bible translator in the South Sea Islands. While translating, he came to the word "believe" and searched for a word that the native people could truly understand. He wanted something that meant commitment and trust, but he couldn't think of a word. Then one day, a messenger rushed into Mr. Patton's room out of breath.
Needing to rest, he flung himself into a big chair and leaned back in complete relaxation. Patton asked the native for a word to describe what he did when he sat down and completely trusted in the chair to hold him so he could relax. That's the word he used for "believe."
Patton concluded that, "When a person quits trying and begins trusting, that's "belief."
A recent ABC News Gallup poll revealed what Americans believe.
90% believe in God
81% believe in Heaven
78% believe in angels
70% believe in hell
70% believe in the devil
60% believe the stories in the Bible are literally true
13% believe that human evolution occurred naturally without divine intervention.
Many have faith in faith. They have faith in the fact that they have faith. There is no object to their faith; it is simply faith in faith.
Hebrews 11 reads like a telephone directory with listings of great men and women of faith.
(v. 1) Faith is DEFINED Substance: Gr. hupostasis: (hupo-stand) (stasis-under): "to stand under, support"
Our faith, in God, the Bible, etc. is that which stands under us and supports us to believe in "things hoped for" and "the evidence of things not seen."
It doesn't require that we understand it; it only requires that we STAND ON IT!
(v. 6) Faith is DEMANDED
WE cannot please God without faith. We cannot know God without faith. We cannot serve God without faith. We cannot approach God without faith. It is not a matter of improbability, but a matter of impossibility.
(vv. 4-40) Faith is DEMONSTRATED
The writer gives us classic examples to strengthen our faith, sustain our faith, and solidify our faith. We read of great Bible characters that were nothing more than common, ordinary people; but, people who moved the hand of God by their faith.
You have the privilege of showing the contrast of what God can do. It’s pretty easy to see that you can’t work this out!