"Choose Grtitude"



Habakkuk 3:17-19  

There aren’t many places in the Bible that say, “This is God’s will for you”. One of them is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Now, there are three rather challenging commands there, but because this is the Sunday before Thanksgiving, let’s consider the third one, “give thanks in every circumstance.”

How are you doing with that? I suspect, if you’re like me, that you find it much easier to give thanks in good times rather than bad. It’s just easier to be grateful to God when things are going our way—when the bank account is full and all our relationships are humming along and we have everything we need or want.

But, what about when things aren’t going so well—the test comes back positive, we have a business setback or a relationship crumbles? How are we at thanking God in those times?

Habakkuk lived in dark times. In just a few years the Babylonians would conquer Jerusalem, deport the population that they didn’t kill, and destroy the temple. Habakkuk foresaw all of this, and he knew that it was the judgment of God upon his disobedient people. Yet, in the darkest of times Habakkuk still could praise God.

How is the prophet able to praise God when everything he knows and loves is going to be taken away?

Habakkuk 3:17-19 is his song of faith.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Here we find some anchor points that help us see how to choose to be thankful in times of difficulty and loss.

Find Your Joy in God Himself, Rather Than His Gifts (vss. 17-18a)

Habakkuk found his joy in God himself, rather than in his gifts. In a series of scenarios beginning with the word “though” Habakkuk imagines a series of circumstances in which the gifts of God are taken away.

“Though…the fig tree does not bud…there are no grapes on the vine…the olive crop fails…the fields produce no food…there are no sheep in the pens…no cattle in the stalls. In the agriculturally-based economy of Judah these things indicate total economic collapse. In twenty-first century terms: “Though the stock market crashes and there is no money in the bank; though my 401k is worthless and my life-savings wiped out; though the fridge is empty and there is no food on the supermarket shelves.

Then with the word “yet” he expresses his resolve to rejoice despite these circumstances of loss. “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord.”

We modern Americans badly need to learn the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is dependent on circumstances—happenings. If what you happen to want to happens to happen in the way you happen to want it to happen, then you are happy. But, if what you happen to want to happen doesn’t happen to happen in the way you happen to want it to happen, then you are Unhappy.

Joy, on the other hand, is not dependent on happenings but on the unchangeable character of God. Circumstances (happenings) change but God never changes. So, choose joy. Choose to have God as your highest treasure and desire of your heart and you will experience joy, but not necessarily happiness.

The second anchor point is . . .

Be Thankful for What the Lord Does (vss. 18-19).

Habakkuk rejoiced in his salvation--“I will be joyful in God, my savior” (vs. 18b). Salvation – the greatest benefit of God to his child. It is unearned and undeserved – the gift of God. It is eternal, if all else is lost, we can still be grateful that God has saved us. It is a sure anchor in a sea of change.

Second, Habakkuk praised God for his strength. “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights” (vs. 19).

In 2016 going “on the heights” evokes visions of climbing a mountain for the beautiful view. In Habakkuk’s day, no one climbed mountains for recreation. “Going on the heights” meant going on a difficult path. Habakkuk is saying that he thanks God not for lifting him up above difficulties, but for giving him strength to go through them.

When we go through dark times, we can thank God that he has enabled us to walk on difficult paths. Think of a mountain goat. Have you seen them? They can walk and run and even jump on the sheer slopes of the mountains because their feet are especially suited to climbing in rough places. When our way goes through rough and difficult paths, we can thank God that he gives us the strength we need.

We can thank God even in difficult times if we remember to:

Find our joy in God himself, rather than his gifts, and . . .

Thank him for what he has done for us in saving us and in giving us the strength to walk on the paths he has ordained for us to walk on.