Archives For Adrian Rogers

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I recently read about the construction of a town hall building in a small northern Pennsylvania town. The citizens of this town were quite proud of their little red brick building. It represented a long-awaited dream for them.

However, a few weeks after moving into the building, strange things began to occur. Several doors failed to shut completely and windows were not opening or closing smoothly. After a few more months, the front door would not shut at all and the roof had begun to leak.

An intense investigation was launched to try to determine what was causing the problems with this little town hall building. It revealed that deep, underground blasts at a mine several miles away were sending shock waves that were weakening the earth beneath the building. It was almost imperceptible, but it was slowly happening – one little shudder after another (Stephen Davey).

Problems in the marriage can be like shock waves to the foundations on which a marriage is built. The shock wave of selfishness, for example, can erode a marriage.

One couple went to a marriage counselor who had been arguing over which direction the other put the toilet paper on the roll. One wanted the sheets to come off the front side and the other wanted the sheets to come off the backside. They also were upset over where the other squeezed the tube of toothpaste. One squeeze it the middle and the other at the end.

In Ephesians 5:18-33, Paul describes a Spirit filled marriage. What are the unshakable foundations of a Spirit filled marriage?

1. Salvation by Grace through Faith (Ephesians 2:8-9)

In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul commanded,  “marry only in the Lord.” With equal authority, Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14 admonished, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”

Since I was a youth, I have heard the advice: Date individuals whom you would marry. Be the kind of person another believer could date.

Something our youth did not face is on-line dating. 50 million people are e-dating. There are couples who have met at e-Harmony and are happily married. But there are some dangers.  Of course, now there are on-line dating apps for your little smart phone. You don’t have to wait to get back to your office or home to find out if you have a date. For example, there is Crazy Blind Date phone app. This mobile app arranges blind dates with just a few hours’ notice.

What are some of the dangers. As many as ninety percent of online daters are lying about themselves. One researcher wrote, “For men, the major areas of deception in an on-line relationship are their income, height, and marital status; for women, the major areas of deception are weight and age.” At least twelve percent of online male suitors are already married.

The ability of two people living together each day for the rest of their lives is as Bill Cosby admitted is “undoubtedly a miracle the Vatican has overlooked.” That is why you and I need God’s salvation to make it.

2. Service to the Lord (Ephesians 4-5)

In the practical section of Ephesians, Paul says five times we are to walk with the Lord. In our service to Christ, however, we don’t walk alone. Amos the prophet asked, “Can two walk together except they be agreed.” Some call it the principle of magnetism: Who we are is who we attract. This principle is seen in Proverbs 27:19: “As in water face answers to face, so the heart of man to man.” A still body of water was the mirror to the ancient people of God. You look into the mirror and you see yourself. This is also true with our friends. We look at our close friends and we see who we are.  Are our close friends, believers who love the Lord? How can we get better friends? Become better believers! If we want to attract godly mates with whom we can serve the Lord, we must be godly.

3. Submission to God and One Another (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Submission means “to put oneself under a leader” as in 1:22. Submission takes humility and is the result of being Spirit filled. Lucifer took himself out from under God’s rule because of pride. Spirit filled submission in marriage is described in 5:22-33.

A. The Wife submits to Her Husband’s Loving Leadership (5:22-24)

One counselor said all some husbands need is a Golden Retriever. Just someone to fetch what they need.

Headship means leadership. Leadership does not mean superiority as 1 Corinthians 11:3 teaches. Adrian Rogers said marriage is like a football team. The husband is the quarterback. This does not mean he is superior to the running back. The running back may have a higher I. Q. but the quarterback has the responsibility of leading the team. Adrian Rogers, for example, said his wife, Joyce, took care of the check book and the finances. He, of course, led in what the budget should look like.

B. The Husband Loves His Wife (5:25-33) 

1. His love is sacrificial (5:25)

You might be thinking, my mate does not deserve my love. I deserve better than my spouse. Did we deserve God’s love? Did we merit Christ dying for our sins? Did we earn our forgiveness of sins? NO!

Can a Christian who loves God with all his heart, soul, mind and body ever say, “I do not love that person.” Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus also said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

2. His love is sanctifying (5:26, 27)

One day Christ will present His Bride to Himself at the Judgment Seat without spot because He has cleansed her with His preached Word. God wants us to present our brides to Him at the Judgment Seat the way she looked on our wedding day in her pure, white wedding dress. We husbands can accomplish this by getting our wives under the preached Word. Romans 10:17 tells us how, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the (preached) Word of God.”

3. His love is Protecting (5:28, 29)

1 Peter 3:7 says the wife is the weaker (physically) vessel not the inferior vessel:

“Likewise you husbands dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life.” She is not inferior spiritually, she is an heir as is the husband.

Adrian Rogers again made an insightful comment, “Which is weaker, silk or blue denim, which is better? Which is weaker gold or steel? Which is better? Which is weaker a porcelain cup or a sledgehammer? Which is better?

We husbands protect our wives from every thing and every one that would harm them physically and spiritually.

We love our wives by committing ourselves to them (5:31). According to Genesis 2:24, we become one at marriage. Like these laminated arches overhead. The individual boards are now one. There is strength in that unity.

Robertson McQuilkin, was the former president of Columbia International University. Robertson’s wife Muriel was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease when Dr. McQuilkin resigned his presidency to take care of her. For nine years he cared for her and led as president. Sometimes even taking her to class with him. Finally, it became impossible to both be his wife’s full-time care provider and president. Here is his letter of resignation that he read to the faculty, staff and student body at Columbia:

My dear wife Muriel has been in failing mental health for about eight years. So far I have been able to care for both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibilities at Columbia. Recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me, and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just discontent; she is filled with fear, even terror that she has lost me, and she always goes in search of me when I leave home. It is clear that she needs me now and she needs me full-time. This decision was made, in a way, forty-two years ago when I promised to care for her “in sickness and in health, till death do us part”. So, as a man of my word, I will do it. She has cared for me fully all these years. If I cared for her for the next forty years I would not be out of debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. There is more – I love her. I do not have to care for her – I get to.

sermon-preparation

We all know that good sermons are turned into great sermons with vivid illustrations. ( Tony Merida, (2009-10-01). Faithful Preaching (p. 107). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition).

Illustrations Help Clarify

James Braga defines an illustration as “a means of throwing light upon a sermon by the use of an example” (How to Prepare Bible Messages, 231).

Haddon Robinson says an illustration can either be like a beautiful lamp and a streetlight. When you walk into someone’s expensive den and notice an ornate lamp, you compliment its beauty to the owners. But if you are walking down a city sidewalk at night, the streetlights provide you visibility but you hardly notice them. A sermon illustration should be like the streetlight. It throws light on the subject you are preaching but doesn’t unnecessarily draw attention to the illustration. The illustration is always a handmaiden to explanation. “Illustrations are a means, not an end” (Bryan Chapell, Using Illustrations to Preach with Power, 148).

Because our illustrations are subservient to explanations of the text, our sermons should not be “skyscraper sermons” i.e., one story on top of another story on top of another story, ad infinitum. “Twenty minutes of illustration with two minutes of traditional exposition signals a sermon out of kilter. And twenty minutes of argument to two minutes of illustration is just as lopsided for most congregations” (Ibid, page 150).

I heard Haddon Robinson once say in a lecture, “Poor communicators are always saying, ‘In other words.’ Excellent communicators are always sayings, ‘For example.’” You are preaching, and you notice your audience is not getting it, and you say, “In other words,” and explain some more. And they still don’t get it. But if, after observing their blank looks, you say, “For example,” and provide a concrete example, most likely your listeners’ countenance will improve. Paul followed this pattern. In Romans 3, Paul writes some heavy theology about justification by grace through faith and not by the works of the law. In Romans 4, he fleshes out these truths in the life of Abraham. In Romans 3, you have Paul’s explanation and in Romans 4, his illustration.

Illustrations can help clarify a text and therefore illustrations often follow the explanation of a text. Illustrations can also help apply a text and is most of the time placed between the explanation and the application in a sermon.

Illustrations Help Persuade

But another purpose of the illustration, that is overlooked because of abuse, is to persuade the listener.

Bryan Chapell believes that the primary purpose of illustrations is “not to clarify but to motivate.” I agree with Chapell’s rational: “Preachers who fail to understand this purpose will assume that when the point they are making is clear, they do not need an illustration. Preachers who grasp the true power and purposes of illustration know that the most clear points often deserve the best illustrations to make the truth as significant to the hearer as it is in Scripture” (Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 186). Therefore our illustrations should touch both the heart and the mind.

According to a lecture by Stephen Olford, there are three reasons why preachers lack good illustrations.

1. Lack of Imagination.

You must think like a preacher to be able to use good illustrations. How do preachers think? Preachers are always looking for good illustrations. One of the great sermon illustrators was Donald Grey Barnhouse, who said, “All of life is an illustration of Christian doctrine.” Barnhouse saw illustrations everywhere. For example: When Barnhouse was driving his young sons to their mother’s funeral, they had to stop at an intersection. As they waited, a delivery trunk slowly lumbered through the intersection, and its shadow slowly passed over their car. Barnhouse asked his boys, “Boys, would you had rather be hit by that trunk or its shadow?” They answered, “Daddy, of course we would rather be hit by its shadow.” Barnhouse then captured that teaching moment, “Boys, that is exactly what we have experienced with the passing of your mother. Because Christ removed the sting of death for believers in his death and resurrection, we walk through valley of the shadow of death today. Your mother is with Jesus and we will see her again.”

There are three places where we should be looking for illustrations.

1) In our imagination. Hypothetical illustrations such as Nathan made up when preaching to King David in 2 Samuel 12:1-4. Jesus’ parables were fictional examples he created i.e., The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan.

2) In our personal experiences. Personal illustrations were used by the Apostle Paul as in Acts 14:27. This is the account when Paul returned to his sending church to report concerning his first tour of missionary service. Paul sets a good example on how to tell a personal story. He is not the hero of his story, but he gives God the honor: “When they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearse all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).

The caution here is not to have to many personal illustrations and always be patting yourself on the back in your personal examples. Bryan Chapell heard a preacher once begin an illustration by saying, “As you know, I have resolved never to go to bed without witnessing to at least one lost soul that day.” He hardly had the words out of his mouth before the man in the pew behind me muttered under his breath, “Another notch on the gun belt for ol’ Wyatt Earp” (Chapell, page 166).

3) In our reading. Again Paul is our mentor. Paul used examples from his secular reading in Acts 17:28 when he quoted Greek poets. Preachers should not only study deeply, but read broadly. Read Spurgeon’s sermons and note the multiple sources of illustrations and examples. “He typically read six substantial books a week” (John Piper’s sermon, Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity).

Learn to illustrate not only from biblical examples, but also from other types of literature. Read history, fables, fiction, allegories, newspapers, magazines, popular mainstream books, Web sites, and even books in which you have little interest. It is amazing how many illustrations you will find as you read naturally. I subscribe to National Geographic, Newsweek, and several other magazines for enjoyment and for illustration sources. I usually keep a history book at my side, along with a philosophy book, and a theology book that will get me angry. By reading widely, your illustrations will attract more people. Of course, reading will also help you become a better communicator and a more rounded scholar (Tony Merida, (2009-10-01). Faithful Preaching (pp. 108-109). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition).

2. Failure to find and file good illustrations.

“The weakest ink is better than the strongest mind. Write down illustrations” said another great illustrating preacher, Adrian Rogers. “Illustrations, like babies have a habit of being born at awkward times” (Preaching with Freshness, 166). That is why it is good to have pen and paper, or a recorder (i-Phone), nearby at all times so that when the illustration comes you can record it. Most preachers have experienced thinking of a great sermon idea or illustration in the middle of the night but in morning could not remember it.

Once you have discovered a good illustration file it textually or topically. To file the illustration textually means you create file (electronic or nonelectronic) folders beginning with Genesis through Revelation. If you are just starting, make 66 folders, one for each book of the Bible and as you preach through a book create a new folder for each chapter or paragraph you preach.

To file topically, means you create a filing system alphabetically from A to Z. Sometimes you will hear or come across an illustration that you don’t know which text it can illuminate, so you file it topically. You could start with a file on “Adoption” or “Abortion,” etc.

3. Unable to tell a story.

“There is nothing you can do that will help you more to communicate than to collect illustrations. Collecting illustrations will help you to think in terms of pictures and to preach in terms of pictures. Practice on your family at meal time” (Haddon Robinson). If you have small children, you know how much they love a good story. We older kids love them too.

There are two kinds of illustrations according to Haddon Robinson that will help your preaching and communicating God’s Word.

1) The specific instance. The specific instance is a short one or two line illustration given to help with your explanation.

2) The longer, story illustration.

Here are examples of the two kinds of illustrations in a sermon outline.

I. We cannot defeat giants by running from them (1 Samuel 17:1-11)

A. Giant problems can be intimidating (17:1-7)

1. Explanation: Goliath was dressed to intimidate.

Specific instance: “The weight of the spear’s head weighted more than an official shot put” (James Rose).

2. Illustration: Story illustration of the believer who spent his whole life running from problems at work, church, and marriage.

3. Application: “In the same manner” or “So must we” transition to the application.

How to improve your story telling skills

God was not only a poet (see Old Testament Poetic books) but also a story teller (see narratives throughout Scripture).

How can I emulate God and improve at telling the stories of Scripture and illustrations?

1. General preparation

a. Read good secular storytellers like Garrison Keillor and Paul Harvey.

b. Read and listen to storytelling preachers like Barnhouse, Swindoll, and John Maxwell.

c. Practice telling stories to your family and friends.

2. Specific preparation

a. Relive the story. Know the story so thoroughly that when you tell the story you are reliving it. This will take time not just to memorize all the details of the story, but to meditate so that you become the character in the narrative. Thinking in terms of 1st person rather than 3rd person will help in preparing to tell or preach a story.

b. Use sensory appealing language as Jesus did in His parables. Read Jesus’ true story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-25 and pick out the words that appeal to your sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. Once you are almost through preparing your sermon, hold it in your hand and ask yourself, “What in this sermon can I taste, smell, see, hear, touch, or feel?”

c. Contemporize the story. Swindoll’s attention step for 1 Samuel 17 puts this ancient story in the 21st  century: “Goliath reminds me of the cross-eyed discus thrower. He didn’t set any records . . . but he sure kept the crowd awake” (Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns13).

It would be a wonderful compliment to have others say about our preaching what the enemies of Christ said about Him: “Never man spoke like this man.”

Resources:

  • Rediscovering Expository Preaching (Chapter 13 “Introductions, Illustrations, and Conclusions by Richard L. Mayhue).
  • What are your thoughts on video clips and drama in the church service? Answer by John Piper
  • Tom Pennington on Preaching with Purpose 
  • On Sermon Introductions by H. B. Charles, Jr.
  • The Value of Sermon Introducitons by Eric McKiddle

This is what Andy Stanley calls “a one point message” in his book Communicating for a Change. If a sermon has multiple points, Stanley says, this is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant: “You’ll drown yourself before you ever manage to swallow.” Stanley makes another accusation that in my opinion does not have to be true: “If life change is your goal, point by point preaching is not the most effective approach.” Wow! Does mean that all the preachers in the past and in the present who preach with points have been or are ineffective in maturing the saints? What about points preachers like Adrian Rogers, John Piper, John MacArthur, etc.

When Stanley says one point message, he means “every message should have one central idea, application, insight, or principle.” One problem, Stanley is trying to solve, is too much information in sermons unloaded on our listeners. “One of my favorite communicators told me that on several occasions his wife has turned to him after a message and said, ‘I really enjoyed the sermons.’”

There are three steps in developing a one point message.

1. Dig until you find it.

What Stanley calls a one point message, is called propositional preaching by others. The two, however, are not exactly the same. The one point in a propositional sermon is the proposition or the sermon reduced to a sentence. The difference is finding how many developmental truths are in the text about the one proposition. Each developmental truth (point) is then explained, argued theologically, illustrated, and applied. But still there is just one point or proposition.

2. Build everything around it (the one point).

A helpful contribution here is this question every preacher needs to ask himself: “Does this really facilitate the journey or is this just something that will get a laugh or fill time?” If it is not pertinent to the main point or text, leave it on the cutting room floor.

3. Make it stick.

“Take time to reduce your one point to one sticky statement.”

Stanley says the one point of the sermon is what his dad, Charles Stanley, calls the preacher’s “burden.” “You can tell when a communicator is carrying a burden versus when he is simply dispensing information.” Stanley says, “At some point in the preparation process, you must stop and ask yourself, ‘What is the one thing I must communicate? What is it that people have to know?’”

So, the one proposition from the text must become the burden of the preacher. “The sermons that have put you to sleep were delivered by men with information but no burden. A burden brings passion to preaching.”

Old-BookFirst, it is important to start early in your planning. Six months in advance will can give you time to start reading through the book and even having your devotions from the book from which you will be eventually preaching. This is method of Jim Rose and I believe Ezra. Ezra 7:10 gives me Biblical justification for this approach. Like Ezra, we read the Book, mediate on the Book, apply the Book, fall on our knees in confession because of the Book, and are changed by the Book long before we preach the Book to others.

Also, this will give you time to order audio, video sermons, and listen to podcasts on the book and listen to some of the great preachers and teachers on your subject. Not only will you gain great content but hopefully some of their preaching skill will rub off. Augustine, who wrote the first book on homiletics, taught his students to listen to great preaching and read great sermons to become better preachers. One time in preparation to preach through Nehemiah, I order audio sermons by Warren Wiersbe, Adrian Rogers, and John Whitcomb on Nehemiah. I was chomping  at the bits when it came time to start the series. A source for sermons that I have recently discovered has been Stephen Davey’s sermons found at Wisdom for the Heart. These sermons are well researched with great explanations, illustrations, and applications.

I like to balance exegetical commentaries with expostional. The combination of these commentaries helps the preacher to answer the four rhetorical questions that your listeners are asking while you preach:

Explanation: “What do these verses mean that the preacher just read?”

Argumention of the explanation: “How does he know that is the meaning?” (The Expositional and Exegetical commentaries help answer these questions).

Illustration: “What does that explanation look like?”(The sermonic commentary will help answer this question and the Application question).

Application: “What does all this have to do with my life?”

Before I delve into the heavy exegetical commentaries, I like Donald Sunukjian’s suggestion, that the preacher start with the expositional or synthesis commentary which “will quickly give you  the large units of thought and the lines of argument of the text” (Invitation to Biblical Preachingpage 25). For my series on Ephesians, I am using The Bible Knowledge Commentary for this purpose.

After I get the big picture from BCK, then for the explanation of the text I reach for the exegetical or critical commentary.  These are usually the hardbacks that give you “sticker shock.” On the series on Ephesians that I am curently preaching I am reading Harold W. Hoehner’s Ephesians: An Exegetical CommentaryThis scholarly work of over 900 pages in my opinion is the standard for Ephesians. Hoehner will give you about 20 pages of exegesis on each paragraph in Ephesians. This volume gives the preacher the explanation of the text. If you sentence diagram and block outline, Hoehner can help. I am using other exegetical commentaries as well.

There is a third kind of commentary that the preacher needs. In addition to the expositional or synthesis commentary and exegetical commentaries, the preacher needs the sermonic commentary. To balance Hoehner’s heavy exegetical work, I am reading John MacArthur’s sermonic commentary on Ephesians. MacArthur first preached this material to his congregation and therefore he provides application and occasional illustrations which, of course, Hoehner does not.

The order of the commentaries I have discussed is the order you should follow. Here is Sunukfjian wise advice: “Study thoroughly in the first two catergories before you read the third. If you start with sermonic commentaries, you will be tempted to prematurely conclude, ‘That’ll preach!’ without first determining whether the printed sermon accurately reflects the meaning of the biblcial author” (page 25).

When I am preaching through a book like Ephesians where a doctrine is prominent such as the Church is in Ephesians, I like to read, in addition to good commentaries, related books such as Driscoll’s book on the doctrine of the Church, Vintage Church, Mark Dever’s book on what marks a healthy church, What is a Healthy Church? and The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and John S. Hammett’s book on ecclesiology, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches. Driscoll’s, Dever’s and Hammett’s books give relevancy to my preaching. Their books help me make current applications to the church in our generation and culture.

I just read chapter eight, “How is Love Expressed in a Church?” in Vintage Church. Driscoll builds this chapter on the Trinitarian community of God in which the three Persons of the Trinity have loved each other for eternity and since we are created in their image so should we love each other in His church. This is helpful because Paul mentions the Trinity eight times in Ephesians to bolsters his theme of Unity.

Vintage Church: Timeless Truths and Timely Methods is Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears next Re:Lit book. Their first Re:Lit was Vintage Jesus. Mark Driscoll is pastor/founder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, president of Acts 29 Church Planting Network and the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative. Gerry Breshears is professor of theology at Western Seminary. Also part of the Re:Lit series is Death by Love coauthored Driscoll and Breshears.

I have read Mark Dever’s little book, What is a Healthy Church?  in which Dever gives nine marks of a healthy church. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church is a much more indepth treatment. The first three marks Dever categorizes as essential: Expostitional preaching, biblical theology, and biblical undestanding of the gospel. The balance of the marks are important but not essential: A biblical understanding of conversion, a biblical understanding of evangelism, a biblical understanding of membership, a biblical understanding of church discipline, biblical discipleship and growth, and biblical church leadership.

For the essential doctrines, Dever says, there must be complete agreement for a healthy church. On the important doctrines there does not have to be complete agreement. “Churches without these important marks can be places to pray, to be patient, and to set a good example by your own life.” When preaching on “the unity of the faith” in Ephesians 4:13, this insight will become invaluable to my congregation.

These are some practical tips for series preaching through a book of the Bible that has helped me. I welcome any input you have found benefical in your series preaching through a book.

Read about Calvin’s commitment to preaching through books of the Bible.

The Book of Habakkuk opens with the prophet sparring with God. Habakkuk is verbally battling with his Creator. Questioning Him! Complaining to Him! Habakkuk, however, finds out that his arms are too short to box with God.

Part of Habakkuk’s problem was God’s use of the wicked Babylonian to chastise God’s people.

Adrian Rogers, in a sermon, told of an elderly widow who lived in an old apartment. She loved the Lord. Her landlord was not a Christian and even ridiculed the widow for being a narrow minded religious fanatic. On one occasion, she ran out of groceries and prayed for God to supply her need. The landlord could hear her praying through the paper thin apartment walls. He decided to play a trick on her. While she was out the landlord bought a large amount of groceries, used the pass key, and placed them in her room. When she returned, she began to praise the Lord. She then marched over to the landlord’s room and bragged on the Lord for His answering her prayer. The landlord rebuked her. He said, “God didn’t answer your prayer, I bought those groceries and here is the receipt.” The godly widow responded, “No! You are wrong. God did answer my prayer, even if He did have to use the devil!” God is not limited in how He accomplishes His will in our lives. Our Creator is creative.

There is an important progression in Habakkuk’s life from chapter one to chapter three: a growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus.

In Habakkuk One, Habakkuk is worrying and focusing on his problem. He is sparring with God.

In Habakkuk Two, Habakkuk is waiting and trusting In his God. He drops his weary too short arms.

In Habakkuk Three, Habakkuk is worshiping and focusing on his God. He takes off the gloves and falls to the mate in surrender. The circumstances in Habakkuk’s life did not change. As a matter of fact, the circumstance got worse. What changed was Habakkuk’s attitude.

Where are you this today? Worrying, focusing on your problem, blaming God, waiting and trusting on God to answering your prayer, or worshiping God.

In Habakkuk 3:16-19, Habakkuk shows us

1. What To Do When We Are Personally Devastated? (3:16b)

A. The physical and personal devastation is seen in 3:16.

When Habakkuk heard in 1:5-11, that God was raising up the wicked nation of Babylon to chastise His sinning people, Habakkuk was visibly shaken: from the inside/out, from his bones to his belly, and from his head to his toes. He trembled all over.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was London’s most loved and hated preacher. When Metropolitan Tabernacle was being enlarged, he and his congregation met in the Crystal Palace. The main floor was full as well as the wrap around balcony. During the first sermon, someone, many think an enemy of Spurgeon’s shouted “Fire” in the wooden building.  A stampede pursued and several people killed. As Spurgeon watched the panic, he fainted in the pulpit and sank into depression for several weeks.

Perhaps you have experienced this devastation. At the doctor’s office you learn you have a terminal sickness. Your spouse tells you he/she wants out of this marriage. You get an email at work informing you that a layoff will occur shortly and you have huge mortgage payments. One of your children has abandoned the faith. Someone you love dearly is in the ICU on life support and the doctor says that you have to make a decision. This week two church members have asked me to pray for two separate and unrelated car accidents where teenagers were killed.

B. The solution is to rest on God’s promises (3:16b).

God was fulfilling His Covenant promises in allowing a wicked nation to punish His people, Israel (Deuteronomy 28:25). God also promised His people in Deuteronomy 30:1-2, that He would regather them if they repented. Habakkuk is resting on God’s promises.

The word “rest” in 3:16  is the word used to describe what God did when He finished His six days of creation. On the seventh day (Exodus 20:11) God rested. This does not mean that God was exhausted and had to physically take a 15 minute break. It means God ceased His creation activity. God did not stop all of His activity; He just stopped His creation activity. He ceased one activity. God still works in sustaining His creation now (John 5:17).

Habakkuk also ceased an activity. He ceased worrying and focusing on his problem. His new activity was faith in God’s promises and worship of the God who gave the promises. Romans 8:28 is one of those promises.

R. A. Torrey called Romans 8:28 “a soft pillow for a tried heart.” In your deepest, most devastating trial, you can rest on promises like Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

John R. Rice in his book on prayer recorded someone’s prayer: “Dear God, I hate bacon powder. Dear God, I hate floor. Dear God, I hate shortening. But Dear Jesus, you put them all together and stir them up and put them in the oven and cook it and I put some butter between it, and I sure love hot, homemade biscuits.” That is the promise of Romans 8:28. This verse does not promise that all things are good. But that all things work together for good for them who love God. All circumstances are not good. The cancer report is not good. The news of the spouse who wants out of the marriage is not good. The layoff is not good. The rebellious child is not good. The loved one in ICU is not good. The killing of teenagers in car accidents is not good. But the God who created and runs the universe can bring good out of the bad.

In my next post, Habakkuk will shows us what to do when our circumstances are devastating.