Faith Linked To Omnipotence
By J. Stuart Holden (1870 – 1934)
Scripture Reading: Habakkuk 1-3
“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).
Can anything be more irrational than this call to rejoice under such conditions? How irrational it seems to rejoice when things are as bad as they can possibly be! To rejoice in the Lord when it almost seems as if He had ceased to be interested!
And yet the prophet himself has suffered as much as the others. He has been no darling of fortune, feasting while others starved. His faith has been hard put to it: all that faith could do was to ask God how long He intended things to go on as they were.
Searching for a Basis for Faith
Mind you, it was no more natural for this prophet to rejoice when he felt himself caught up in a tornado of tribulation than for us today. At first, he did quite the opposite. He expostulated with God. He resented the fact that the Chaldeans, of all people, whose excesses were notorious, should be the instruments of correction.
The cure seemed so infinitely worse than the disease that he expostulated with God. He did not feel he was doing anything out of the way in this. As a matter of fact, he feared God more than ever in the face of such an exhibition of His power, but he felt that he no longer understood God. He felt that he must have an answer to his question, which would form a solid basis of life. He wanted to serve God and to interpret Him. It would mean everything to him and to the nation if he could – but could he, as things were?
So this prophecy is a record of his cry to God. He literally laid hold of God. There was nothing of the impersonal in his praying, as there is in so much of ours. Prayer only means something to God when it means everything to the man who offers it. Prayer only reaches the heights when it comes from the depths.
Prayer is only effective from heart to heart. It is a straight line, which is the shortest distance between two moral points. The prayer, which lifted Habakkuk, and subsequently his nation with him, was not a form of words: it was an active, positive attitude before God.
Habakkuk sat on the watchtower, viewing terrifying things plain to everybody, but looking beyond to the power of God which was behind, but under eclipse. In his acute mental distress he says in effect, “Lord, unless You reveal Thyself and give some explanation of this bewildering confusion which has fallen upon us, there will be no faith in Thee left.” Something happens when a man prays like that.
God spoke to him, and after darkness came light. God says that He will deal with the Chaldeans, after they have accomplished His purpose in Israel. He says the establishment of His own glory is His objective in all this. He assures Habakkuk that He is not unmindful of His people.
Then Habakkuk becomes, not only reassured, but re-inspired, and he stands before his people and declares his faith. If he had not faced facts, facts would have finished him. He had found God at the heart of these facts, and nothing can affright him.
Circumstances are just the raw material out of which God makes character and strength and virtue. Never was there such courageous faith as this man expressed. After exhausting every metaphor of disaster which could befall a people, he says, “I will rejoice in God in the face of it all.”
How irrational it seems! We can understand a man with whom God has dealt bountifully praising Him, but we should have the greatest respect for a man who, under these circumstances, would not repine. To bring it home closer than the time of Habakkuk, translate all this into current experience. Instead of flocks and herds, use profits; instead of figs and olives, read credit balances; for husbandry and its terms, use business and its terms; for flocks and stalls, bank balances and securities; for Chaldean invasion, today’s chaos and crisis in the world, and then see where you stand! “Although there shall be no balances and securities, and all dividends shall be passed, and though I be reduced to utter poverty, yet will I rejoice in the Lord!”
You say that is impossible! Of course, apart from some supernatural aid, he could not have done it, nor can we. Habakkuk learned that life cannot be a solo affair. It is a duet. If life is a solo, it means a tragic breakdown when the high notes must be reached, or the low ones melodiously sounded. A duet means harmony – human life linked to divine purpose and power.
Habakkuk’s experience shows that you have lost nothing if you have not lost God. You have strength to endure and carry on when things are at their worst.
So I pray you, renew in your own way your faith in God and your knowledge of Him firsthand.
In 1912, J. Stuart Holden was invited to speak at a Christian convention in the U.S., so he booked a first-class ticket on the Titanic to make the trip from London to New York. However, his wife suddenly fell ill and with much regret he had to cancel the trip in order to stay home to care for her. A few days later when he heard about the fate of the Titanic, he was extremely grateful that his life had been spared. To commemorate this special deliverance, he mounted his ticket in a cardboard frame and added the words of Psalm 103:4 – “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction.”