Monthly Archives: April 2014

How To Hit The Curve

Life itself can be like playing baseball. You are standing in the batter’s box getting ready for the pitch. You are anticipating a fastball right down the middle . . . something that is straight, predictable and something you can hit. The pitch leaves the pitcher’s hand and what you get is not a fastball . . . it’s a curveball! Nothing like what you were expecting! Sometimes life can be that way. You are there and you are ready and anticipating something that is manageable and predictable but life throws you a curve! Or it could be like being in the batter’s box and anticipating a fastball. You get ready and the pitch leaves the pitcher’s hand. Again you are anticipating something that is straight, predictable and something you can hit. The pitch you get is not your anticipated fastball . . . it’s a slider! Nothing like what you were expecting! Sometimes life can be that way. You are there and you are ready and anticipating something that is manageable and predictable but all of a sudden the bottom drops out of your life! Job loss . . . miscarriage . . . cancer . . . divorce . . . affair . . . etc.

When life is not quite what we expect or when things are going so wrong in life, what do we do? “Why?” is a hard word to answer. We all struggle with “why’s”. Where are you, God? Why are You absent, God? Why are You not being faithful to Your character, God? Many of you are asking those questions right now. Some of you are not asking them now, but you have asked them in the past. The truth is, all of you will ask them! There are people around you who are asking them. The next several weeks will equip you for when you are in pain and how to help others in their pain. We are starting a new series today called, “When Life Doesn’t Make Sense” from the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets. Minor doesn’t mean his message is any less important. It just means his book is smaller than some of the rest. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Zephaniah. His message was a word from God to Judah which was the southern portion of God’s Kingdom. There is no personal information about Habakkuk except that he prayed courageously to God and twice it says he was a prophet. The book of Habakkuk is a series of conversations between Habakkuk and God.

God always sends His prophets into a mess. God sometimes sends you into messy situations. Messy people . . . crazy family situations . . . dysfunctional work environments . . . unfriendly neighborhoods . . . etc. It is God’s way to get His truth to difficult people who are in difficult situations. Habakkuk is not just speaking to them; He is in this difficult situation too. He has the same questions the people have . . . “Why God? Why are You allowing this? I am in so much pain. Why are you allowing this to happen?” When you are in pain, you will ask the question, “Why?” 3 year olds ask why all the time, but you will probably only ask why in pain. When we are in the middle of our pain, there are three bad options and one good option. Enter into your why and your own pain and let’s look at these options. Turn in your Bibles to Habakkuk 1. Be careful as you flip through your Bibles. Habakkuk is a small book with a big message tuck away towards the end of the Old Testament among the minor prophets.

“1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw. 2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? 3 Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4 So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:1-4). The first temptation is to Avoid The Burden Of Pain. The word “oracle” (Habakkuk 1:1) literally means “burden.” When God would give His word to the prophets, it was always a burden to carry. This was an oracle/message Habakkuk did not want to carry. That’s why in Habakkuk 1:2 he asks to be set free from it. The normal response to pain is to want to get away from it. Think about it . . . a lot of our hobbies and lifestyles are there to help us escape our pain. In our culture we tend to think that things like money will help us avoid pain. But look at celebrities who had all the money in the world but there was obvious pain. People like . . . Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, etc. We use things like eating, travel, Facebook, etc. to escape our pain! What substances or activities are you using to avoid pain? The second temptation is to Be Offended At God’s Decision-Making. “5 ‘Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. 6 For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. 7 They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. 8 Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. 9 They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. 10 At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. 11 Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!’” (Habakkuk 1:5-11).

The Babylonians were one of the most ruthless groups of people who have tried to conquer the world. They would come in and kill the men, rape the women and take the children as slaves. It was these people that God was saying, “I’m sending them to be your landlords. You are crying about injustice and I am sending more.” God was telling Habakkuk, “I know you don’t want to do this but I want you to tell the people you and I both love that I am sending the Babylonians and people will get hurt and die.” If you are Habakkuk, do you think you might be offended? Do you think your view of life and God might be challenged? Probably just a little bit! It would be nice to think this is an isolated event in a short, obscure book in the Bible but it’s not. You might also say, “Well that was the Old Testament and it doesn’t apply to today.” What about Jesus and what happened to His disciples? They all died a martyr’s death! What about today? Today there are roughly 200,000,000 people around the world who are being denied basic human rights only because they are Christ-followers! 150,000 people will die this year because they won’t renounce Jesus! Sometimes we think, “Well, I’m just going to keep following Jesus, keep having a better life, keep having better relationships, etc.” That would be nice and it will pack out a church and it will get you on television but it won’t get you closer to God! The truth is God offends His best servants. Your temptation is to avoid the pain, be offended at what happens and then you are tempted to Question God’s Character. “Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.” (Habakkuk 1:12). Habakkuk is almost schizophrenic here. “Are you not from everlasting . . .” (Habakkuk 1:12). He is questioning whether or not God is sovereign.

Habakkuk doesn’t let God off the hook. He gets right up in God’s face. “You told me You were not like the other gods. You told me You are the God of the universe and that you are King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That’s what you said and now Your response to injustice and evil is to send more . . . Have You lost Your mind?” Scholars say this is probably the most offensive thing ever said to God in the Old Testament. In the same breath, it all turns around in the same verse. This is where the schizophrenia comes in. Right after questioning and doubting God he says, “. . . O Lord my God, my Holy One?” (Habakkuk 1:12). What is he doing? He is pouring his heart out to God! This is the right response. In our pain we need to Pour Our Heart Out To God. He is going to God first.

Typically, we don’t do that. We go to our friends, we post something on Facebook, we text first, we leave hateful voice mails, we role play our anger in our minds first, etc. But Habakkuk went to God first! That’s what David meant when he said, “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.” (Psalm 55:17). We need to say, “I’ve got people I want to talk to, a post I want to make, but first I want to talk to God.” When Habakkuk went to God there was a glimpse of reality. Sometimes just a glimpse is all we need. “You are the Holy One, the only One who is right and true.” In that moment of ranting to God, he got a glimpse and a reminder of God’s glory. The journey Habakkuk was on was one going from desperation to faith! Desperation says, “God, if You are there, if You are in control, if You can save me . . . Please do it!” Faith says, “God, I know you are there even though I can’t feel You, I know You are in control even though I don’t sense it, I know You are God even though everything seems to be shouting the opposite. I am going to trust You until it is real with me!” The great thing if you are in desperation mode is God is okay with you being there. But He doesn’t want you to stay there. He is committed to take you from Desperation to Faith! How do you get there? You have to own, acknowledge and deal with your pain! You have to stop putting bandaids on all this stuff. (Reference to the bandaids) Some of you have gaping wounds that you have been putting bandaids on for years. Hope is allowing the Holy Spirit to rip that bandaid off because you are not getting healed. All you are doing is covering it up! Maybe it hasn’t happened yet or maybe it is happening. The reality is sooner or later it will happen. Real cancer is coming . . . Real marriage struggle is coming . . . Real miscarriage is coming . . . Real job loss is coming . . . Real teenage rebellion is coming . . . etc.