“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

In our study of joy we are going to look at the story of how one man in the Bible who came to discover real joy in the Lord.  I am talking about the prophet Habakkuk.  Little is known about him.  He lived in the southern kingdom of Judah during its moral decline and the short prophetic book that bears his name, clearly shows he underwent a significant change.  By the end of the book, despite all of the mess going on around him, he came to experience the joy of the Lord.  We will look at the the beginning and the end of this book to learn about Habakkuk’s path to joy.

The book of Habakkuk opens in this way:

1The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.

2O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? 3Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.  Habakkuk 1:1-4

Habakkuk is angry.  Can you imagine talking to someone like he is talking to God?  If you had a problem at work, could you imagine going into to your boss and saying “How long do I need to keep coming to you for help?!  You see everything that is going wrong around here, and yet you do nothing!  Look at the disorder in this place!”  It’s hard to imagine that you would still have a job at the end of the day.  Yet this is exactly how Habakkuk addresses not a human authority — but God himself.

But by the end of the book, Habakkuk is a changed man. He closes the book with these words:

17Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.  Habakkuk 3:17-19

Nothing has improved in his circumstances.  Actually they seem to have gotten worse. He is describing in these verses the utter collapse of their economy and way of life.  And yet he says that even with everything stripped away, still he can find joy in the Lord.   What happened to him?  How did he arrive at this conclusion?  This is what we’re going to explore.  I want to suggest 4 reasons for his joy.

#1 He got real with his problems.

Life was rough in Judah during this time.  There were issues within and beyond the boundaries of the kingdom.  Wickedness and injustice seemed to be reigning supreme every where you looked and nothing was being done about it.  Those who remained faithful to the Lord were worried about what the future would hold for themselves and for their children.

Habakkuk had lots questions about it all.  Where was God in the midst of all of this?  Did he see? Did he care?  Why did he allow bad things to happen to “good” people?  We hear questions like this today as well, don’t we?  What is remarkable about Habakkuk is that he took these concerns directly to the Lord.  In other words, he walked through the “front door” in dealing with the concerns he had.  He didn’t ignore them.  He didn’t find someone to whom he could just vent to for a moment.  He dealt with them.  He acknowledged that, yes, he was upset and he went directly to God.

If we want to experience the kind of joy that Habakkuk experienced, we need to “get real” with our problems as well.  This means acknowledging to ourselves and probably others what the issues are and dealing with them.  Be like Habakkuk and take the issues first to the Lord before you take it to anyone else.

#2 He got put into his place.

The book of Habakkuk records a series of exchanges between the prophet and the Lord.  In the many words that pass between the two, few are as helpful as when the Lord says to Habakkuk:  “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him (2:20).”

What is he saying here?  God is reminding us that He is God and we are not.  He is seated on his throne in his holy temple.  He perfectly rules the affairs of heaven and of earth.  And so we keep silence before him because stand in awe of his sovereign hand.  We trust that he knows what he is doing.

We can often feel like the world (or our world) is falling to pieces.  And in the midst of our mess here is the important lesson we need to learn again and again:  we are not God.  We are not God. When we can accept that we will not be in control of our situation we are on  our way to experiencing real joy.  God’s sovereignty over all things frees us up to rest in him.

#3 He learned that joy is not a product of his circumstances.

Habakkuk closes the letter with a list of some awful circumstances.  Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls.  

It sounds very poetic but do not fooled.  He is describing the collapse of the material world around him.  These are not “first-world” problems.  It’s not that his WIFI went down or he got stuck in traffic or he had a rainy vacation or the waiter brought out his food a little cold.  No!  He says the economy collapsed.  There is no food left.  Our entire livelihood is gone.  How will we live?

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.  There is joy he has come to know that is not anchored in his circumstances.  It’s not rooted in what is going on around him.  Many people make the mistake of anchoring their joy in their circumstances.  If I could just have a little more money in my checking account, if I could just have a flatter stomach, if I could just have a happy home…then I would be joyful.  Many people spend their lives chasing the carrot that is always just out of reach.  But what happens to the few of us who actually grab that carrot.  Are they any happier?

Tom Brady once gave an interview to Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes. As he reflected on his success he had this to say:

Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, “Hey man, this is what [it] is.” I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think: God, it’s gotta be more than this.

Brady stands at the top of the mountain and says “It’s gotta be more than this.”  Yes!  There is more than this!  We look to the world to give us something it never will.  Very few people ever learn this lesson.  They keep chasing their carrot.  Happiness is always just over the horizon.

But the fruit of the Spirit is joy.  There is a joy that is available to us that does not come from our circumstances.  It comes from the Lord.  Pursue that kind of joy!

#4 He anchored his joy in the Lord who was his salvation, strength and security.

Habakkuk tells us why he rejoices in the Lord.

“Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places (3:18-19).”

-1- He rejoices because God is his salvation.  His salvation will not come through an uptick in the economy or a change in government or a nice vacation.  His salvation comes from the Lord.  He has an eternal hope that extends beyond life in this world.  This salvation allows him to put the pain and suffering of his current circumstances in the right perspective.

-2- He rejoices because God is his strength.  The inner strength that Habakkuk has come to know does not come from himself.  It is the strength of the Lord that will sustain him through all of his ups and downs.

-3- He rejoices because God has become his security.  “He makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”  Though he walks through treacherous terrain, the Lord has strengthened his feet.  Disaster may surround him everywhere he looks but there is one thing the world cannot take from him. He has been redeemed by the Lord.  He is eternally secure in the loving arms of his Father.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the difference between Christian happiness and worldly happiness?
  2. How does not finding our joy in the Lord lead to sin?  How can experiencing joy in the Lord help us in our fight with sin?
  3. In Habakkuk 1:1-4 Pastor Billy made the point that the prophet “got real” with this problems.  What is the connection between dealing with our issues and joy?
  4. What issues in your life are avoiding right now?  How can you apply “triple A” method of Acknowledging our problem, Accepting our weakness, and Asking for help?
  5. Read Habakkuk 2:20.  How might a proper understanding of this verse produce joy in our lives?  Where specifically in your life do you need to be reminded of the truth found in this verse?
  6. Put the dire circumstances that the prophet lists in Habakkuk 3:17 in modern terms.  How would we describe this kind of disaster in our own day?
  7. Why is Christian joy not rooted in our circumstances?  What is the anchor for Christian joy?
  8. Discuss Habakkuk 3:18-19.  What important truths does Habakkuk set before himself?  Which of these truths do you most need to hear today?
  9. What is one thing you want to be sure to remember from this passage?





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