Written by Pastor Ed
God is Enough
October 11,2015 – Thanksgiving Sunday
Books of the Bible – Habakkuk
Hab. 1:1-4, 2: 1-4 and 3:17-19
One of the classic philosophical and religious arguments goes like this. We talk about God as being good, or love and we also talk about God as being all powerful, omnipotent. Yet there are clearly lots of bad things that happen in the world. So if God is good, then God must not be all powerful, so the argument goes – or conversely, if God is all powerful, God must not be all good to allow such bad things to happen.
It a question that can be discussed on a large scale of world events, or sometimes becomes very personal as we wonder why God allows someone we love to suffer, or a young person to die. Now, I’ll admit that for much of the last three months, I really didn’t pay much attention to world events. Traveling meant we were out of touch and for long stretches I didn’t watch any TV or read newspapers, and didn’t even check Facebook!
But the world continues even when we don’t know what’s going on. Persecution of people around the world, a deepening crisis of refugees from Syria and elsewhere, natural disasters as well as man-made ones continue to strike. And the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow.
But none of this is new, nor is the argument about God. The prophet Habakkuk, writing in the late 7th century B.C., during the last days of King Josiah’s reforms and rule, cried out to God with essentially the same question. “How long shall I cry for help and you will not listen?” (1:2) Why does it seem like only the wicked prosper? Look at all the violence in the world, and it’s only getting worse. Can’t you do something about it? After all, you made everything, you don’t like evil – yet you remain silent.
The prophet voices what many of us sometimes feel, but don’t express. And Habakkuk is bold enough to demand an answer. “Look God, I’m going to stand here and wait until I get an answer!” (2:1) And indeed, God answers the prophet. In fact God says write down the answer, in big bold letters so even someone running by can read it. And what is that answer?
Well, it really has two parts. The first part is that even though it seems that evil is winning, that the wicked have it good, that is only a fleeting thing. Those who do evil will indeed fall, in God’s time. In the meantime, the second part of the answer, the righteous will live by their faith or faithfulness.
Now, the first part of that answer remains a difficult one for us, even today. We don’t want to wait. After all, shouldn’t the good people win, especially if we have God on our side? Of course, everyone thinks God is on their side, so sometimes that doesn’t help. And why do we think we should have it easy?
We need to face a reality, at least in North America, that we have been living under some false assumptions based on a Christendom model, where Christianity was assumed to be the dominant religion and held a privileged place in society. That is no longer true, if it ever was, and certainly our brothers and sisters from around the world are very aware of that reality in their countries. Christianity is a minority in the world, and we can no longer expect the privileges once enjoyed. Now I don’t believe, as some claim, that Christians are being persecuted in North America. But it is true that we can no longer assume that society around us holds Christian values or beliefs. But why should we be surprised? Even Jesus said there would be trouble for his disciples. And the people of God have faced persecution for centuries around the world.
Which brings us to the second answer Habakkuk receives, namely that the righteous live by their faithfulness, which I think is a better translation than “faith.” When we talk about faith, too often we just think that means what we believe. But faith in the Bible isn’t about believing something, it has to do with how we live. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” says the writer of Hebrews. (11:1) And the Hebrews writer goes on to talk about how those heroes of the faith lived, even in the face of persecution and even death.
You see, being faithful isn’t or shouldn’t be dependent on things going well. If it were, God’s people would have disappeared long ago, Christianity would have died out in the 1st century and there would be no such thing as an Anabaptist movement. And Habakkuk gets the message, for the third chapter of his little book is a song of praise. As the prophet contemplates what he has heard from God, he recognizes the awesomeness of God and comes to the conclusion, as have so many through the years, that God is enough. That even though things don’t seem to be going well, just knowing that God is in control, that God knows what’s going on, is enough to keep on being faithful to that God.
Habakkuk is overcome with awe at the God revealed in nature, and trembles at the thought of what awaits those who don’t recognize the God of creation. And, we might add, the fact that God’s people have survived through the centuries is testimony to the faithfulness by which the righteous live.
Over the past three months I too saw evidence of God in the world. Like Habakkuk I saw God in creation, whether the interesting landscapes of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota or closer at home in the badlands around Drumheller. Whether in the awesome roar of a Niagara Falls, the amazing roar of the Margerie Glacier calving, or the majesty of Mt. Denali, all of them speak to the awesomeness of the God who created the world. Or sometimes it’s just in the quietness of a lake in Northern Minnesota.
And, despite what we may hear or think, the church is also alive and well. In some ways it was a bit ironic that Mennonite World Conference met in the US shortly after Mennonite Church USA had their Assembly which seemingly threatens to break that particular group apart. Yet 7500 people who claim an Anabaptist heritage gathered from around the world and proclaimed that the church is alive and well, despite a whole variety of differences. In spite of those differences, we could all worship together in many different styles and in many different languages.
And that’s only a small part of God’s church. I worshipped with the Russian Orthodox church at Holy Martyr Peter the Aleut, one of our neighbourhood churches in Marda Loop, and while it’s a very different experience than what I’m used to, their worship is growing and filling their new worship space. We worshipped with Conservative Mennonites in Pennsylvania, and I worshipped with a small Mennonite church in Anchorage, among other places.
The church as we know it, or have experienced it in the past may well be changing, but God’s people are alive and well, and no matter what the circumstances, they proclaim again and again that God is enough. And I am convinced the church will survive as it has all these centuries.
It is sometimes very easy to get caught up in our own little space, to imagine that what’s happening to us defines all of reality, whether that’s locally or even nationally. Our politicians are telling us that only they can make things right and that disaster will strike if someone else gets elected. But the reality is much bigger than any one politician or election, and despite all the dire predictions, the world did not end on September 27 with the red moon, nor will it end depending on who gets elected later this month.
And while we may care about those things, our call is to live in faithfulness to the God of Creation, shown to us most fully in Jesus Christ whom we follow. God is still God, and that is enough.