November 23, 2021
Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIV)
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
I say Para-Klasis. You say Hoop-O-Money.
One of the hardest things about Descent #17 is the way we keep thinking it is going to end soon—like maybe after no figs, and then the grapes are gone. Then it comes to no olives and you think that will be the bottom of it. Next it’s no grain. Surely things will turn soon. Then it’s no sheep. Sometimes when I’m at Costco and see someone with three cases of wine in their shopping cart I think to myself, “They just can’t let the grapes go.” Can we be honest? In the midst of Descent #17 we just want someone to make it stop. We want to escape it. Then it’s no cattle.
“Trials of many kinds” can sometimes come in unending waves, especially as we age. The doctor speaks the dreaded “C” word, but they think they caught it early and its not that aggressive. The surgery doesn’t get it all. Then the news it has spread into the lymph nodes. Then your spouse falls and breaks their hip. And all this while you are trying to move into assisted living and they are trying to age you out of your job. And now they want take your car keys away from you? Who are these people? ;0) My Peepaw used to say, “Old age is overrated.”
Do I need to “encourage” you to remember the most neglected affirmation of faith that must be most affirmed (out loud) in these times? THIS IS A TEST OF MY FAITH. x 10. Why?
Because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:3
Then someone in their thirties posing as Aristotle says to you, “This, too, shall pass,” and you think to yourself, “Right! Like a kidney stone!” It just doesn’t qualify as biblical encouragement. No, we need to know Jesus is bringing the Para-klasis (encouragement) and the Hoop-O-Money (perseverance) by the transfusion of the Holy Spirit. We just have to stop trying to escape the trials and learn how to participate in what he is doing—which is to say, Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4
The telltale sign that perseverance is finishing its work, is joy. There is a kind of joy that runs alongside the happiness of life’s blessings. These are those gifted times and places in life we can truly en-joy. Then there is another kind of joy that begins to stir in the darkest night. It is not born of happy circumstance and good blessings. This is not the joy of enjoyment. There is nowhere to turn for relief, which is why these occasions tend to be fraught with despair and depression. It is in this place we have the chance to discover one of the tiniest terms in the Bible. It is a pivot word—the tiniest, strongest, little word this side of Heaven. You saw it in the text.
It is the first word of the song of Valley #18. This little word functions like a pair of binoculars through which we look back up the long steep climb down of Descent #17. No figs. No grapes. No olives. No grain. No sheep. No cattle. . .
If we want to stretch this word out to its longest possible most substantial rendering we might say, “nevertheless.” But we can’t go around this word. This is the little word of reckoning; or wreckoning to be more true to the reality. Yet signifies everything is not fixed or restored or even improving. . . . yet. What begins as a whisper must become a shout.
18 yet. . . yet. . . yet. . . yet. . . yet. . . yet. . . yet. . .
For you musicians among us, yet moves like the crescendo from pianissimo to fortissimo.
I like to start out whispering the word and then let it grow slowly in volume. At the midway point, I will get out of my chair and begin to walk around the house, saying it louder and louder until I am shouting it. Then I begin to extend my arms and hands upward with each shout. As I did it today, somewhere along the way the “yet” transformed into a “YES.”
So the invitation today, if you find yourself in Descent #17, let the “yet” lead you to the yes. Undoubtedly you know someone in the descent right now. If so, begin to say and pray like this on their behalf.
So that’s the first word of the song of Valley #18. We will learn the rest of the song tomorrow and the day after that.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Father, thank you for this guidance, that the way to yes is yet. Jesus, no-one shows us this better than you, who in the deepest darkest Descent #17 ever recorded in human history said, “Yet not my will but your will be done.” Your “yet” leads us to your “yes.” We pray for those who find themselves at the end of their rope today, who don’t want to go on. We prophesy this little word, “yet” into them now. Holy Spirit lead us into this mystery, this place of profound courage, of deepest truth, of invincible and inescapable life. For your namesake, Jesus, Amen.
What keeps you from declaring the “Yet.” Are you still waiting on things to get better before you can go there? Are you still looking for the circumstantial blessings in order to rejoice in the Lord? It’s hard isn’t it. Can we be honest, even if it is not the answer we would like to have right now?
For the Awakening,