Good Apart from Gifts

In our culture we tend to determine something or someone’s value by what they or it gives us. It sounds like a cynical statement, but if ever the statement has been true in the history of humanity, I suppose it is now. Let me explain. We live in a culture that disciples us to become more impatient, and increasingly desirous of immediate self-gratification and self-fulfillment. Our culture has commodified nearly everything and therefore things and people have become a product to be consumed to satisfy our longings while simultaneously furthering our self-absorbtion. It is because of this commodification of things and people that commonly held virtues (at least in America) have radically transformed. No longer are patience, self-control, or gentleness virtues that are commonly held and elevated among humanity. Mark Sayers (an author I am currently reading) writes that these virtues have undergone a dramatic shift from valuing “character” to valuing “cool”. Our culture is now far more captivated by what is sexy, cool, and glamerous rather than the virtues that seem rather “traditional” and “old-school” for our post-modern and “civilized” selves. We determine the value of things and people by what they give to us. All of this has been apparent to me for sometime, but I am realizing more lately how this cultural influence has affected me and discipled me in a way that is contrary to what it means to follow Christ.

Have you ever read the book of Habakkuk? It is a small book in the Bible of only 56 verses, and it is one of my favorites. God has taught me a lot through this book over the past year. It is a book that I truly cherish. Let me tell you, in brief, the story of Habakkuk:

220px-Habakkuk

Habakkuk was a prophet (one who “speaks out”) before the Babylonian Exile, which probably places him sometime in the 7th or 8th century BC. Anyway, one time, Habakkuk had a little tussle with God, and by tussle I mean that they argued for a little while about something Habakkuk was struggling with. You see, Habakkuk was concerned for his people, Israel, because they had committed some wrongs and God thought it just and good to correct them and to punish them for their wrongdoing. It seems that that made sense to Habakkuk, but he was not convinced about how God wanted to punish Israel. God told Habakkuk that he wanted to use an unrighteous nation known as the Chaldeans (or the Babylonians) to correct Israel. This is where the argument ensued. Habakkuk initiated a correspondence with God where he complains and tries to understand how God could do such a thing. Habakkuk complains twice about God using this unjust and immoral nation, but the essence of God’s response to Habakkuk can be found in chapter 2 verse 4. He says to Habakkuk, “…but the righteous shall live by his faith”. That is the turning point of the book and after this Habakkuk goes on to deliver woe’s to the Chaldeans (I can see him muttering heated sentence fragments in a temper tantrum) after he realized that he won’t win this debate nor change God’s mind. In my opinion, the best part of the book happens in chapter 3 where Habakkuk (after delivering the dreadful woe’s to the Chaldeans) prays a prayer that is beyond description. There is a beautiful tension in his prayer that captures his current dissatisfaction with God’s decision and his buoyant trust in God. Habakkuk is dying to his own desires and his own understanding in this prayer and it is almost palpable. God is calling Habakkuk to an uncomfortable trust and therefore patience with the unfulfilled ideas, dreams, and desires that he had for Israel.

God has been teaching me about this through the crucible of support raising lately. Even though I am experiencing fruitfulness, he is showing me that He is good even apart from the gifts and the fulfillment of desires, ideas, or dreams that I have. I think Habakkuk is a good illustration of something that our culture no longer teaches us. In fact, the story of Habakkuk is an abrasive one compared to the narrative that we find ourselves in today. His narrative is one of trust, truth, and patience. The narrative of our culture is quite opposed to that, but I will let you think about HOW it is contrary. It has been a challenge to sift out how culture has shaped me in these areas, but I trust that there is life as I think through these things. As Ryan O’Neal of Sleeping at Last states in his song Naive, “God knows that I’ve been naive, but thinking makes him proud of me”. What can we learn from Habakkuk’s story about trust in God, being uncomfortable, unfulfilled desires, and patience? This story has helped me a lot and hopefully the summary of his story will help you as you think through these things.

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