January 23rd 2010

Live By Faith

3rd of a series of studies from Habakkuk

“But the righteous shall live by his faith.”

Habakkuk 2:4 (NIV UK)

Should trusting God be about results?

Habakkuk and many that went before him thought so. The reason you trust and obey God is to get blessings, things that you need or want. In the Psalms David wrote about the benefits of trusting God and at the same time queried why things went wrong for those who did trust him. If God is the God who blesses for obedience, why do bad things happen to good people? Why doesn’t God persistently deliver the righteous out of their circumstances?

This was Habakkuk’s dilemma. Where is the God of results? What should he do when his prayers are not answered in the way he thinks they should be answered? What should he do when the promise of God has not yet been fulfilled?

The answer was to live a life of faith. Up to this point in the Old Testament this concept had not been explained in such terms. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7) was near it but not exactly the same idea. Faith was not just about waiting but about living. It was a way of life.

Faith is more important than tangible results. The writer of the book of Hebrews stresses that faith had always been central. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for…none of them received what they had been promised” (Hebrews 11:1-2, 39).  Habakkuk was one of those ancients.

Our consumer society is all about what we can get. It is results driven, and usually fast results. For God to be desirable, he has to be useful in achieving what we want out of life, and do it quickly. If God is to survive, he has to give us what we want, what we really, really want. If he can’t or doesn’t, then he isn’t worth the bother and therefore irrelevant. Such is the deception of consumerism. We think that God has to fit into our lifestyle, not we into his. The truth is that Christianity is a call into God’s lifestyle.

For Habakkuk, God was not delivering the goods. The great God was not going to stop the advance of his nation’s enemies. The Holy One, who had existed “from everlasting” (Habakkuk 1:13), was letting the side down. This God was not only saying that Habakkuk and other believers would have to wait, but also that he and they had to live by faith. What in the world was God talking about?

More than 600 years later the apostle Paul would take the idea of living by faith, this thought recorded by an obscure prophet, and make it one of the foundational teachings for Christians throughout the ages. Next week we will look at what Paul had to say about it.


You know, Father, I am so mixed up. I expect good results from following you, and yet they don’t come often enough. I am coming to realize that following you is not about what I want, but about becoming more like your son, Jesus. Help me to adopt his lifestyle and make it my own.


Study by James Henderson