By Published On: June 3rd, 2022Categories: Encouragement, Leader Blog0 Comments

Dear Friends of North Wake

I’m writing this just days after a man murdered many children in a school in my country and a week after another man murdered grocery shoppers elsewhere in my country. This is also the week a report revealed that men in leadership roles in churches connected to ours assaulted hundreds of women and children. To add to the horror, an organization that should have been at the forefront of making churches a safe place evidently did little to stop the evil and even protected the abusers.

This sorrowful news comes in years after other murders, some by a man who claims to read the same Bible and worship the same God I do. It is all extremely heart-wrenching.

How long, LORD, must I call for help

and you do not listen

or cry out to you about violence

and you do not save?

Why do you force me to look at injustice?

Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

Oppression and violence are right in front of me.

Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates.

This is why the law is ineffective

and justice never emerges.

For the wicked restrict the righteous;

therefore, justice comes out perverted.

— Habakkuk 1:2-4 (CSB)

Father, I echo Habakkuk and ask how long? How long will you make us look at evil? How long will you make us see evildoers suppress justice? I can ask how long because I trust you are good, just, and in control.

God is Working Even When I Don’t Understand

Habakkuk lived at the time when the Babylonian (Chaldean) army was about to be used by God to punish the evil of God’s people; I’m not in a perfectly parallel situation. I don’t live in a theocracy where God has offered to be our national political king, but I do worship the same God that Habakkuk did. My people aren’t under attack by invasion, but we do see numerous terrifying and violent attacks.

God answered Habakkuk’s “How Long?”

Look at the nations and observe —

be utterly astounded!

For I am doing something in your days

that you will not believe

when you hear about it.

Look! I am raising up the Chaldeans,

that bitter, impetuous nation

that marches across the earth’s open spaces

to seize territories not its own.

— Habakkuk 1:5-6 (CSB)

God tells His people, “Be utterly astounded!” While teaching at our North Wake Men’s Retreat in 2018, Pastor Matt Rogers stated, “God’s plan is more than we can comprehend… It’s not the plan that we would have scripted. The fact that God is active, doing something beyond what I can see and comprehend, tethers our hope.”

Yet it makes me wonder how God can permit evil.  How can God allow this?

Father, I do trust you are active, have a good plan, and have a leash on evil. But how can you allow it? How long, Lord? 

Habakkuk saw that evil, violent men were killing others and asked God:

Are you not from eternity, LORD my God?

My Holy One, you will not die.

LORD, you appointed them to execute judgment;

my Rock, you destined them to punish us.

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil,

and you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.

So why do you tolerate those who are treacherous?

Why are you silent

while one who is wicked swallows up

one who is more righteous than himself?

Habakkuk 1:12-13 (CSB)

It feels like these things have gone on too long; shouldn’t we have found some way to stop men from mass murder? Shouldn’t churches have learned from previous sexual-abuse scandals to prevent these things from happening? Why has sloth and self-protection been allowed to persist?

God responds, reminding us that He has set the times and the schedule:

The LORD answered me:

Write down this vision;

clearly inscribe it on tablets

so one may easily read it.

For the vision is yet for the appointed time;

it testifies about the end and will not lie.

Though it delays, wait for it,

since it will certainly come and not be late…

Habakkuk 2:2-3 (CSB)

God has His timing. He will not be late. Matt Rogers also said, “There’s an appointed time, and the sovereign voice has set it. God will never miss His schedule or delay beyond His appointed time.” God knows that evil seems to go on and on, so we need to remember to keep trusting Him.

The “I Got This” Attitude

Even while we wait, He reminds us that we can either live by self-confident conniving — or by trusting God. 

…Look, his ego is inflated;

he is without integrity.

But the righteous one will live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2:4 (CSB)

The evil man is full of pride. He is unscrupulous in getting what he wants. He doesn’t trust that God’s ways are the best. He seeks to engineer his survival and his happiness apart from God. We too can be tempted to say that extreme times call for extreme measures. Is our Heavenly Father warning us about self-confidence that would lead us to ungodly language, angry outbursts, or deceptive maneuvers to try to fix our problems? 

Habbakuk lived in a time when he couldn’t do anything about the invasion of the Chaldeans. We might feel like that too. But we can seek God in humble prayer for an opportunity to do what is right:  to prevent evil and to correct injustice. Pray for Him to guide you to do good and be obedient when He shows you the way. Is He showing you how you could help prevent murders or provide safety? Is there anything you can do in this church or denomination to provide security and protection against sexual abuse? 

North Wake, let’s be a people begging God for every opportunity to go to work for Him and to let His kingdom come. He calls us to follow His lead in caring for those who are suffering and protecting those who are vulnerable (Ezekiel 34:10-16James 1:27). Let’s use the wisdom and power He gives us to correct the evils revealed by the Sexual Abuse Task Force Report and work to ensure that North Wake is a safe place where we care well for victims of these crimes.

Just Surviving, Daily

But the righteous one will live [survive!] by his faith. In our LifeChange class in 2014, Chip McDaniel, North Waker and SEBTS professor, taught, “It’s essential to read this the way God spoke it for Habakkuk and His people. God was talking first about physical survival, not some ultimate, distant hope.”

Like our brother Habakkuk, we ask God, “How long must this go on?” We hear God remind us that He is in control and warn us against ungodly maneuvering to try to fix our problems. We reel from the news of murders, injustice, and evil done by church people.

We too have to be reminded that our God is for us every day. Every day, we have to take strength from Christ, “the true vine.” Even when we don’t feel like we are under a physical threat, trusting God provides us a day-to-day inner fortitude that lets us thrive through horrible days. 

The True Vine, our Daily Life

Let’s join Habakkuk in fixing our minds on the rock-solid goodness of God. We are entirely without the strength to do the good we ought to without the daily, even hourly, supply of hope from our God and our rescuer Jesus. He tells us to remain in Him for our very lives.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.

John 15:1-5 (CSB)

Singing with Habbakuk

Though God allows us to experience violence and tragedy and hate it, we can fix our minds on the truth and magnificence of what we know. In the midst of tears, we can sing that God’s glory is wider than the ocean and more certain than nature. Even though we might cry out from our knees today, we can know that our loving Father will plant our feet on His sure mountaintops.

For the earth will be filled

with the knowledge of the LORD’s glory,

as the water covers the sea.

 

Though the fig tree does not bud

and there is no fruit on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though the flocks disappear from the pen

and there are no herds in the stalls,

yet I will celebrate in the LORD;

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!

 

The LORD [Yahweh] my Lord is my strength;

He makes my feet like those of a deer

and enables me to walk on mountain heights!

Habakkuk 2:14,3:17-19a (CSB)

 


Why, my soul, are you so dejected?

Why are you in such turmoil?

Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,

my Savior and my God.

Psalms 42:11 (CSB)