Ever wish you had paid more attention in seminary? Struggling with preparing a sermon? GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins wants to help pastors with useful resources to help them as they serve the Lord.
With more than a quarter century of pastoral leadership, Hawkins makes available some of his most popular sermon outlines for pastors, Sunday school teachers and other Bible study leaders. These free resources can help you as you prepare your sermon or lesson each week.
In nineteenth-century Scotland there lived a man with an amazing amount of promise and potential. He was destined for greatness, and all was going wonderfully well for him. While engaged to be married he was suddenly hospitalized. He found he had a degenerative eye disease that would eventually blind him. Consequently, his fiancée broke off their engagement and left him with a broken heart. George Matheson, in blindness and brokenness, within a period of five minutes, peened these hymn lyrics we believers have cherished:
O love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O joy that sleekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.
“I trace the rainbow through the rain.” From the depths of despair, Matheson traced a rainbow through his personal rainstorm.
Storms of life rain on all of us. None of us are immune to these tempests of life. While writing these words, we were involved in a tremendous storm here in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The sky grew dark, the thunder rolled, the lightning flashed, and the rain fell like lumps of lead from the sky. The palm trees bent and swayed from the gale-force winds. A few minutes later, as I looked out of my office window toward the Atlantic Ocena, I beheld a gorgeous rainbow that arched across the horizon. When we spiritually keep our eyes open and gaze through the storm, we can often trace a rainbow through the rain.
As we look around our world, we view one that is freighted with violence, starvation, suffering and disease. Wars are raging and babies are continuing to be born with deformities. We are prone to ask, “Where is God? Why doesn’t He do something? Is God really in control?”
This was the burden of the prophet Habakkuk. In fact, he begins his little Old Testament book by saying, “The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.” In the three brief chapters making up the book of Habakkuk, there is a marvelous progression leading us to the secret of tracing our rainbow through the rain.
In the first chapter the prophet is filled with the question “Why?” “Why doesn’t God intervene? Why does God wait so long to answer prayer?”
Continuing in the second chapter, the prophet’s eyes begin to perceive some marvelous answers as we hear him affirming, “The just shall live by his faithfulness.” The concluding chapter finishes with a mighty crescendo of praise: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor 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” (Hab. 3:17-18). Habakkuk had learned to trace his own rainbow through the rain.
There are three ways you and I can look at the storms of life. Some people look at the storm, and the result is confusion. Others have learned to look through the storms. That issues in confidence. But those who genuinely trace their rainbow through terrain have learned to look beyond the storm to find comfort. Maybe a storm is beating upon your right now — perhaps a lost job, a sickness in the family, or a lost loved one. All that many of us seem to see in the storms of life is the wind, the rain, the thunder and the lightning. But we can trace a rainbow through the rain. How? We begin by noting that:
Looking at the Storm Brings Confusion
This is what Habakkuk did. He looked at the storm and confusion set in. Listen to him as he introduces his book:
The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see. O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence and thou wilt not save! Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? For spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. (Hab. 1:1-3)
He bombarded heaven with his perplexing problems. How long? Why is all this evil and suffering happening?
Habakkuk lived in a day of moral and political decay and decline. Lawlessness was rampant. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? He asked some penetrating questions, questions we all ask like “Why?” and “How long?” In chapter 1 of Habakkuk’s book, God answers him: “I am sending the godless Chaldeans to destroy your city and take you captive.” The truth of Scripture is: There are times when God answers us by along the situation to become worse before it gets better. There is a new wave of preaching today that promises all honey and no bees, no work and all ease. Some tell us if any suffering or evil befalls us it is because of sin in our lives or a lack of faith. We seldom hear these “Sweetness and light” preachers preaching from a book like Habakkuk or Job. Friend, if you have a gospel which will not preach in Bangladesh, it will not preach here or anywhere else.
Habakkuk was extremely perplexed by the horrible happenings in the world. He was having considerable difficulty reconciling what he saw with eyes and what he believed in his heart. He was caught up in “How long?” “Why?” “It isn’t fair,” “It is not right” “It is not just!” The genuine problem was that Habakkuk could not understand why God was allowing all the evil and suffering to continue. “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!”
Habakkuk was asking what many are asking today: “If there really is a God out there Who is good and al-powerful, why doesn’t’ He do something? Why does He allow suffering and evil? Why are there wars? Starvation? Murders? Why are babies born with deformities?”
Here is the age-old skeptical unbeliever’s argument: “Either God is all-powerful but not all good (Therefore He does not stop evil) or He is all-good, but not all powerful and cannot stop evil because evil and suffering obviously continue. It all sounds so logical doesn’t it? If an all-powerful God exists, he could annihilate all evil, pain and suffering. A God who had the power to do such would be cruel and unjust not to annihilate evil and suffering. At least, we hear that from the skeptics. As believers we afford this omnipotent, all=powerful God. But (they tell us) He must be cruel and unjust because He doesn’t stop the evils of the world.
Now, it is true that God could eradicate all evil fi he wanted to do so, but think about that for a moment. Suppose that God were to decree that at midnight he was going to stamp out all evil. Many would exclaim, “Oh that would be wonderful!” Would it? The truth is: Not one of us would be here at 12:05 a.m. How thankful we should be that “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Ps. 103:10).
Mankind’s general tendency is to blame God for evil and suffering. Habakkuk was doing that. How long are you going to wait? Why are you letting this happen? But the truth is God did not create evil. He created Lucifer, an angel of light in charge of praise around the thon roe heaven. Lucifer made himself Satan when he decided to say “My will” instead of “Thy will” be done.
People still ask, “Well, why doesn’t God do something?” God has done something about the problem of evil. In fact, he has done the most dramatic, costly and loving thing possible by giving his only Son to die for evil humanity! While we affirm the doctrine of divine election, which is all through the Word of God, it is also a fact that God has made us people and not puppets. The love we can voluntarily return to Him is indescribably valuable to Him. We could speculate on the origin of evil from now on, but what we must deal with is the fact of evil. And the only solution to the fact of evil is God’s solution, which is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We can be certain that God cannot look on evil without detesting it. Habakkuk prayed to God, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity (Hab. 1:13). We must learn to do what Habakkuk finally did. He carried his problem to God and left it with Him. Incidentally, this is exactly what Jesus did. As he prayed in Gethsemane’s Garden, and great sweat drops of blood oozed from His skin, he cried, “Oh my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). Until we take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there, we spend all of our time merely looking at the storm, which only confuses us.
If we are not careful, we will fall into this easy trap. The storm comes. Instead of looking through it or beyond it, we look at it. No wonder we become confused. Like Habakkuk, we feel trapped by our circumstances and begin to ask, “God, why don’t you do something?”
As a pastor I have stood with many members (and non-members) when the storm came. I was with the Daltons when their precious baby was born with such unbelievable complications that living more than a few hours was a total impossibility. Mark and Debbie and I stood in the pediatric ICU and watched that little bundle of love breathe its last breath. Many would have looked only at the storm and known nothing but confusion, asking “Why… It’s just not fair!” But Mark and Debbie looked through the storm and found confidence. They looked beyond the storm and found comfort. They traced a rainbow through the rain!
Butch Redford was a good friend in high school He was with me the morning I was saved. He was quite a guy, six feet six, a basketball star, and a boxing chaplain. When we graduated, most of our group attended college while Butch fulfilled a boyhood dream of becoming a United States Marine. One dark night in a rice paddy somewhere in South Vietnam, a sniper put a bullet through his heart. Butch’s blood spilled out on that faraway land. There in the darkness alone he gave up the ghost.
When we brought his body back for the funeral, one of our friends, “O Jesus, if I die upon a foreign field someday, t’would be no more than love demands nor less I could repay. And if by death to living the morning I shall see, I’ll take my cross and follow close to thee.” Many would have seen only confusion. Many would have asked, “Why? It’s so useless! War doesn’t make sense. How long are we going to pray and ask for God and not get an answer? Why Butch was only 19 years of age.” But I watched his lovely family and friends look through the storm to find confidence, beyond the storm to comfort.
One of my most heartbreaking moments was when I received that call from Tom Elliff, then my missionary friend in Zimbabwe. He and his family had left the pastorate of one of the fastest-growing churches in America to bury their lives in a distant land in the service of the Lord Jesus. He called to report that Jeannie and the children had been involved in a dreadful automobile accident on a road out in the bush. Beth, their beautiful teenage daughter, had left her friends and school where she was a cheerleader. Why? Because of the love she and her family had for the African people. Now she was in critical condition, and at best would face several years of plastic surgeries. Many would have looked at the storm. “Why? It’s just not fair. How long is this going to go on? Lord, we’ve given our lives to come here and serve you.” But that night on the telephone, Tom Elliff looked through the storm and found confidence, beyond the storm and found comfort. He traced a rainbow through the rain.
We as believer shave never been promised lives free of difficulty and trial. “The rain falls on the just and the unjust.” We all have to grapple with these questions and, like it or not, the storms come. True victory is ours when we learn to look through the storm and beyond it to trace a rainbow through the rain. Rainbows begin to appear when we realize that:
Looking through the storm brings confidence
How do we look through a storm? The first step is to have proper perspective. Habakkuk wrote, “I will stand upon my watch and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved” (Hab. 2:1). In modern-day Israel, it is not uncommon to pass through the countryside and see a watchtower. It is a stone structure where one could ascend to the top and see if the enemy was coming, where one could see the layout of the whole land. God instructed Habakkuk to go to the watchtower that he might begin to look from God’s perspective and this issue of evil and suffering, and not only from his own. When we merely look from our perspective, our vision is often limited. The watchtower is an apropos place to be when asking hard questions. Habakkuk was bewildered because it appeared God wasn’t’ doing anything in his life.
When we begin to look from God’s perspective, life assumes a different dimension. Perspective is exceedingly important. The Hawkins family took a trip to Colorado many years ago. We visited the famous Seven Falls. A natural rock formation at the top of the falls looked as if it were a covered wagon. Upon arriving there I strained to see it. Only when I had climbed 200 steps to an observation platform across the canyon could I see the rock formation on the top of the mountain. It’s impossible to see it from below, but you have a good view of it from above. It was there all the time. It’s all in the perspective.
As a boy I used to play in the woods not far from our home. When we lost our way we would climb a tree in order to recover our sense of direction. This is what Habakkuk was doing. Often we are so close to the moment that we look only from our personal perspective. When we climb into the watchtower we begin to see from God’s perspective.
God has a plan and we must look at it from His perspective. We view this practically in our own daily experience. Before we take a trip, we plan our route. Before we build a house we have our blueprints of the architect’s plan. We then progress through the various stages of development. So it is with God. He is never surprised by any unforeseen circumstances. All of human history is just the turning of the pages of the unfolding of God’s eternal purpose and plan. He is the one “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11).
Although we do not always recognize it, God does have a plan and purpose for us. Joseph certainly found this out. Most of us know the story backwards and forwards. His brothers were so filled with hateful jealousy toward him that they sold him as a slave to the Ishmaelites who carried him away to Egypt. The brothers then lied to their father, Jacob, and told him a wild animal had slain his favorite son Joseph. Meanwhile back in Egypt, Joseph was thrown in prison because he was falsely accused, but by the time he was 30 years old he had become the prime minister of Egypt. Consequently, he was later able to protect his family from a drastic famine.
From the human perspective, what happened to Joseph was bad. Jealousy and hatred are bad. Being separated from your father is bad; being falsely accused is bad. From the human perspective, everything looked confusing. And yet when Joseph revealed himself to his brother during the famine (and when he began to trace his rainbow through the rain) he testified: “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: For God did send me before you to preserve life” (Gen 45:5). And then later he added, “You thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good” (Gen. 50:20). Yes, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). From up in the watchtower, we begin to see from God’s point of view, and we realize that some of the things seemingly meant for evil had been meant for good by God.
Habakkuk declared, “watch and see what He will say to me.” Often when the storm comes we cease to watch and wait. So we seldom hear the Lord say anything to our hearts. We’re often more interested in what we say to Him or what we say to each other about Him, but the key in tracing our rainbow is to “see what He will say to me.” As soon as Habakkuk carried his problem to God, he ceased to be concerned with it. If you can learn the lesson of doing that, you are almost there. The secret is to leave it there.
Perspective! The secret to the Christian life is perspective. Even bad news can sound like good news when we hear it from God’s perspective. Since we seldom look from His perspective, we see Him in the blessings but not in the afflictions where He is also present.
This is a practical lesson for us. Instead of going to everybody else and saying, “I’ve got a problem and don’t know what to do,” we need to get into the watchtower and look through the storm. “Watch and see what he will say to us.” We often fail because we pray and then forget about it. After all, didn’t Jesus say, “Watch and pray”? But many of us are not looking from the right perspective.
The second step in looking through the storm is patience. Habakkuk continued:
And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision and make it plain upon your tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. (Hab. 2:2-3)
He now realizes the primacy of waiting on God. The person who doesn’t’ learn patience will have trouble learning anything else. Look at Job. He lost his family, his wealth, and his health. Satan challenged God, “You’ve got a hedge around Job, and if he didn’t have all your blessings, he wouldn’t serve you.” So God removed it for a purpose. When Job had lost it all, all he had left was his faith in God. Even that he wasn’t sure where God was or what He was doing! Here is the acid test of discipleship — how we respond when lose some of our blessings. Perhaps it’s the loss of a job, our loved ones, or our health. Job received all kinds of unsolicited advice. In fact, his friends suggested he ought to bargain with God. His wife said, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). But how did Job answer? Listen to him as he looked through his storm to find confidence, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
How enervating it must be to wait without any seeming reason. Talk about patience — Job was filled with it. Hear him as he asserts, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: But I will maintain mine own ways before him” (Job 13:15). He continues: “For I know that my Redeemer liveteh and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” Job 19:25-27).
When Job begins to trace his rainbow through the rain, his testimony of faith is marvelous. It leads him to say, “He knoweth the way that I take when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as god” (Job 23:10). And later, at the end of his trial, the Bible records that “The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12).
How many times have I heard the phrase, “It’s just not fair”? and to be perfectly honest, that’s a natural response for most of us. In reality, it’s dangerous ground when we move off the ground of grace and onto the ground of what we think we deserve. If God did what was fair, I wonder where any of us would be? Listen to this man Habakkuk who came down from the watchtower: “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And the Lord answered me, and said, write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; because4 it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Hab. 2:1-3. Habakkuk was affirming, “I’ve learned something and that is patience. I am going to wait for the vision; it is certain; It cannot fail.”
Friend, don’t give up because the vision tarries. Don’t simply look at the storm. Look through the storm, and you’ll see God’s perspective. You’ll learn the lesson of patience, and then you’ll be able to trace your rainbow through the rain.
The third step in looking through the storm is promise. The Bible says, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Hab. 2:3). What promising words — “It will surely come!” This lesson is invaluable. What God has promised he will most assuredly perform!
If Joseph is our example of perspective and Job is our example of patience, then Joshua must be our example of promise. Those walls of Jericho were totally insurmountable. They could not be tunneled under or skirted around or climbed over! Joshua was at a loss about what to do. But then he went alone with God, started looking from God’s perspective, patiently waited upon the Lord, and God gave him the promise.
And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.(Joshua 6:2-5).
In the kingdom of God, we live by promises — not by explanations! There is no explanation for those walls of Jericho falling down flat. Yet there was the promise from God that it would happen. And though the promise tarried, it surely came to pass. None of us can fully answer all the questions of life. There must be room for faith because what we believe always determines our behavior.
God didn’t give Naaman an explanation, but he did give him a promise. He charged him to go and dip seven times in that muddy Jordan River and his leprosy would be cleansed. Naaman almost missed his cure because he was looking for an explanation. He was only looking at his storm and confusion had set in. Far more important than explanation is a personal relationship with a living God. When we are deeply hurt, what we really need is not an explanation, but a revelation! A promise from God.
Cling to God’s promises. Don’t look at the storm. Look through the storm, and you will find confidence by looking from God’s perspective and patiently waiting for his promise which will surely arrive. Then you can begin to trace your rainbow through the rain.
A fourth step in looking through the storm is participation. Habakkuk goes on, “Behold his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4). Many commentators point out this verse is more properly translated, “The just shall live by his faithfulness.” This is one of the most misquoted versed in the Bible. Many quote it as though it goes, “The just shall live by faith.” But note carefully the words, “The just shall live by his faithfulness.” The words are so simple and yet so profound.
This verse is also one of the most-quoted verses in the New Testament (Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11, Heb. 10:38). God declares that there are only two possible attitudes in this world — faith and misguided reason (unbelief). This is the watershed. I either live my life by faith, or I live it by unbelief. Faith means living by God’s word.
Note the verse carefully. I am talking about participation with Christ here. The just shall live how? But his faithfulness. When we begin to look through the storm we find this confidence in our participation with Him and in Him. Dr. R.T. Kendall, pastor of the world-famous Westminster Chapel in London, England, tells of taking his son T.R. to a new school upon their move to England. Living in a foreign country and in the massive city of London, the small boy sat in fear as he rode in the car next to his father to his new school. Upon arriving at the school, T.R. would not leave the car. He simply sat there crying. Dr. Kendall lovingly said, “T.R., you can go on to school and anytime during the day that you are afraid just remember that daddy will be praying for you. I am going to go home and start praying for you, and I’m going to pray for you all the day long. So anytime you are afraid, remember that your father is praying for you.” T.R. climbed out of the car and never looked back. During the course of day, when he was frightened, he remembered those words, and he lived that day on the strength of his father’s prayers, and by his father’s faithfulness. This is God’s message here. This is how we are to live. “The just shall live by his faithfulness.”
This participation with Christ, living by His faithfulness, is what enabled those first-century Christians like Polycarp and Ignatius to face their deaths in victory. They were living by Christ’s faithfulness. This was what enabled so many others when commanded to say Caesar was lord to declare there is no Lord but Christ. “The just shall live by His faithfulness.” Participation with Christ. Those words transformed Martin Luther’s life and ushered in the Protestant Reformation. As a Catholic monk, he was crawling on his knees up the Scala Sancta of St. Peter’s at Rome in a futile attempt to be righteous through the works of penance. This verse, “The just shall live by His faithfulness,” began to burn in his heart, and he ran down those steps. And all of Europe began to resound with those words, “The just shall live by His faith!”
God has promised that there will come a moment in time when nor further waiting will be necessary. What a day that will be! But what do we do in the meantime? Like Habakkuk we wait patiently on the promise. Why? Because we believe God. We believe that God is faithful! So in the meantime, and that’s where we are right now, we live by his faithfulness. That is what prompted the songwriter to exult:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not
As thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me!
Habakkuk received no answers, but he was instructed how to live — “The just shall live by His faithfulness.” And the wonderful outcome was Habakkuk did what God said! We can live by His faithfulness today. Stop looking at the storm, start looking through the storm, and though the vision tarries, in the meantime participate with Christ, live by His faithfulness, and you can trace your rainbow through the rain.
The fifth step in looking through the storm is perception. Habakkuk continued in chapter 2: “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Hab. 2:20). All of the above — perspective, patience, promise, participation — led him to exclaim, “The Lord is in his holy temple.” God is on the throne. He is in control. Evil may appear to triumph for a while, but that is not going to last! Its doom is sealed! God still reins. What a perception!
This man who began in confusion, filled with questions, has now learned to look through the storm for confidence, and all this has led him to observe, “The Lord is in his holy temple.” God is in control God is yet on the throne. God is reigning, and He knows what he is doing. He will fulfill his purpose. Have you gone this far in your personal pilgrimage, or are you still looking at the storm and wallowing in your confusion? Come to the proper perception of life and see that above it all God is still in charge.
We gaze around our world, and it appears that the evil and worldly seem to be on top most of the time. But we need to remember that God has not abdicated his throne. He is still in His holy temple. “The way of the transgressor is hard,” and everyone is going to live as long as God lives somewhere. Why does God allow it? Why does God permit all this evil and suffering? He allows it for His own purposes.
We need to remember tha the Bible still says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The Bible says, “and we know.” Who knows? “We know,” those of us who make up this family of faith. This verse is a family secret meant only for the children of God. The world certainly does not recognize the truth of Romans 8:28. The apostle says we know that “all things work together for good.” That little word all is most inclusive. It entails any problem we might have. There is a crucial clause sometimes omitted from this oft-repeated verse. These things work together for good to those who are “the called according to His purpose.” Do you realize that God has a purpose for each of us? Are you being called to His purpose?
Habakkuk started to perceive that all of this was the Lord’s doing. The enemy could do nothing unless God allowed it. And if God allowed it, there must be a purpose. Habakkuk even came to perceive that as evil as the Chaldeans were, they were merely instruments in the hand of a loving Father to work His plan and His purpose in His own people. This is good medicine for us: that is, to realize that God is still on the throne. Looking from God’s perspective, patiently waiting on His promise, participating with Him by living in His faithfulness, and perceiving that He is in control is how we can look through our storms.
Storms of life are inevitable; it is all in how we view them. The message of Habakkuk challenges us to cease complaining and asking how long and why. Find your watchtower, climb into it, and look from God’s perspective in order to live by His faith. God may not play to save you from your circumstances, but He will save you through them. Looking through the storm brings confidence, but the best means of viewing a storm is not by looking at it, or even through it, but to realize that:
Looking beyond the storm brings comfort
After looking through the storm in chapter 2, Habakkuk begins to look beyond the storm in chapter 3 and prays: “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid; O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2). He recalls God’s faithfulness of bygone days and rays, “Lord, do it again!”
Habakkuk reminded God of what He had done in the past: “Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? Was thing anger against the rivers? Was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation?” (Hab. 3:8). He remembers that just when it looked as if the Israelites were trapped at the Red Sea, Moses traced the rainbow through the rain and knew that God was on the throne. He held up the rod of God and the waters parted! “The sun and the moon stood still in their habitation; at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear” (Hab. 3:11). He remembered that just when it looked as if the people of God were headed for defeat, Joshua traced the rainbow through the rain, and the sun stood still until Israel won their victory. God controlled the elements. Our God can and does act! Habakkuk is reminding himself of God has actually done. The Christian faith is solidly based on fact, not simply ideas. If the facts of the Bible are not true I have no faith or comfort. But they are true! Therefore, the prophet was looking beyond the storm and found his comfort.
Habakkuk remembered what God had done in the past and he began to cry out: “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid; O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of years, in the midst of years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” Lord, revive Thy work. Lord, do it again!
The last verses of Habakkuk are among the richest in all the Bible. Listen to him as he reaches the crescendo of personal praise:
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. (Hab. 3:17-19).
Only the Christian can truly know what it is to rejoice in tribulation.
Habakkuk came to the point where he affirmed, “I am not going to serve God for ‘what’s in it for me.” But I will serve my God no matter what come of it!” “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, and the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls.” Looking beyond the storm and finding comfort he says, “God is my strength.” Where is your strength? In your personality? In your friends? In your natural, native abilities? In your reputation? Habakkuk found his secret in knowing tha this strength was in the Lord.
Note the two “I wills” of verse 18. “I will rejoice.” “I will joy.” Rejoicing and joy are only possible because of the two “He wills” in the following verse. “He will make my feet like hinds’ feet. He will make me walk upon mine high places.”
Habakkuk said, “He will make my feet like hinds’ feet.” Like a deer’s feet, swift and sure and stable he will cause me to be. Have you ever watched a deer run? He clears every obstacle so gracefully. What a contrast to the lifestyles of so many Christians. Instead of running like a deer on their graceful feet, many believers plod and plod and stumble and stumble.
Not only will He make me walk on hinds’ feet, but He will make me walk up in the “high places.” Once, while ascending Pike’s Peak in a railroad car, we spotted several deer on the mountain range. They tossed their antlers in the air and swiftly sped off to the safety of high places. There the ari was pure. The hunters could not reach there. Do you know these high places? Thank God for the high places in our experience of walking with Him. “I will rejoice and I will joy in the God of my salvation.” And we can do this only because “He will make me to walk on the high places.” What a wonderful Savior is Jesus our Lord!
Habakkuk looked to the past, rejoicing in the victories of Joseph, Job and Joshua. But looking from our side of Calvary, we rejoice in the fact of the resurrection. If ever there was a hopeless situation, when someone should have asked “How long?” “Why?” it was when our Lord was crucified and buried in the granite-cold dampness of Joseph’s tomb. The dejected disciples went on their way. Peter said, “I am going back to the fishing business.” The Emmaus disciples lamented, “We had hoped he had been the one.” How long? Why? But God acted! Jesus arose! And today, He is still on the throne! That’s why we sing:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
When darkness seems to hide his face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
When He shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found
Dressed in his righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand.
- Edward Mote
But until that day God never commands us to understand. We can only trust Him and live by His faithfulness. Then when all is said and done, and we have looked beyond the storm to funds comfort, we can affirm with Habakkuk, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor 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” (Hab. 3:17-18).
Looking beyond the storm brings comfort. A day is coming when evil and suffering will end. John describes that glorious day so beautifully: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:1-4).
Yes, there are three ways to look at our storms. Looking at the storm only brings confusion. Looking through the storm brings confidence. Looking beyond the storm brings comfort.
When the storms come (and they most surely will) do not just look at the storm, but look through the storm and beyond the storm to trace your rainbow in the rain. Then you can sing with George Matheson:
O love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O joy that sleekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I TRACE THE RAINBOW THROUGH THE RAIN,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.
 Words by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923. Copyright 1923. Renewal 1951. Hope Publishing Co., owner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain
- Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Improper Self-image
- Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Depression
- Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Worry
- Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Impulsive Behavior
- Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Loneliness
- Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Adverse Circumstances
- Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain