So my Pastor from the states told me I should check out some Matt Chandler sermons at http://northway.thevillagechurch.net/sermons He is currently teaching a series on Habakkuk. Habakkuk? Who teaches a sermon series on Habakkuk? Well I am glad Chandler is because he had some great stuff to say that really challenged me and gave me some things to think about that I want to share with you all.
Anyways, the book of Habakkuk starts out in verses 2-4 with the prophet Habakkuk basically questioning God. Using words like ” you will not save?” verse 2 and “why do you idly look at wrong?” verse 3. The pious in us want to scold Habakkuk for his lack of faith and tell him to be quiet and that God has a plan. But there is something inside us all that connects with Habakkuk when he makes his cry before God. And Habakkuk isn’t the only one who does this. Look at Job. The whole book of Job is about him seeking the Lord in order to have his questions answered!
Or look at the greatest example of this in the whole Bible: King David. David, called a man after God’s own heart, (Acts 13:22), makes the most blatant and unabashed questions before God. Read Psalms! Psalm 8 and 9 talk about how mighty the Lord is and then turn the page to Psalm 13 and David is asking where God is! The Psalms are full of questioning and doubting.
Yet, when we walk in the door at Church today, or we get together with other Christians we repress any feelings of doubt, fear or struggle and put on a big smile. We feel like we need to wear a mask in order to hang out in Christian circles. Why do we do such a crazy thing? Where did this come from? Well I believe it comes from sin, particularly the sin of pride. We look around and think, “Wow, everyone else has their whole lives so nicely put together, they wouldn’t understand all my sins and failures so I better just wear my mask and keep any doubts buried way down deep.” Is that what David, Job or Habakkuk did?
My belief is that in order to grow closer to Christ, we need to be willing to enter into our doubts and sins and be able to work through them, not just repress them. That’s why Jesus gave us the Spirit and the Church! While the spirit convicts us of sin or failure, the Church is a place we can go to work through those issues Biblically to know and better glorify Jesus! But it is easy and comfortable to keep the mask on. We can just continue to go through life pretending we have everything together, or we can be honest as David, Job and Habakkuk were about our doubts.
But how do we do this? I can’t just show up next Sunday morning stand up and yell “I had impure thoughts this week!” That probably wouldn’t really help anyone. So what can be done? Well I thought a list of do’s and don’ts may help guide us as we seek to remove our masks and prayerfully walk with others as they do the same.
DO: Take your own mask off first and do not try to remove other people’s masks, (Matthew 7:1-5). I believe that as we are honest about our doubts, sins and failures in seeking Jesus Christ that others will join with us to know Christ more. When you stop pretending everything in your life is fine others will be more open that there lives aren’t perfect either.
DON’T: Don’t use vague Churchy words. I feel like the word “sinner” used to carry more power, but we have watered it down so much. Almost every Church will say they are full of sinners, but will never actually go deeper and describe those sins. It is easy for me to say I am a sinner, it is much harder for me to tell someone that I was an arrogant jerk to someone this week. (Note: I had a great idea, that we should all go to Church sometime with those name tags that say, “Hi, my name is…” and then write what sin we have been struggling with that week like pride, lust, or greed. Maybe a better small group activity, but just a thought). Being precise about which specific sin or doubt we have allows us and others to work through it together to know Jesus much better than the vagueness of “sinner” language.
DO: Join a small group. It is hard enough to be open and honest about our doubts and sins but doing that in a large group only multiplies the problem. A small group, (ideally five or less), is a place where we can start to take our masks off and walk with others as they do the same.
DON’T: Don’t use nice verses out of context or in the wrong situation. Romans 8:28 is a great verse, but you need to use it understanding the context in which it was written. Try reading all of Romans before you use Romans 8:28 too much. Also, if someone dear to me just died, don’t sit down and tell me Romans 8:28. Even I, the most insensitive man in the world, would consider that pretty cold. We need to remember that all verses in the Bible are profitable and useful, but we also need to be careful not to use them out of context or use them to rationalize our own man-made traditions.
DO: Pray, a lot! As we seek to know Jesus more, ask for the Spirit to guide us through our questions. And always, ask Jesus! We ask Jesus for help in many areas, but it seems like doubt or lack of faith is not one of them. We often repress questions and doubts when Jesus is more than willing to answer. Check out the prayer the man says in Mark 9:24. This is a prayer we should be making more often than we do. In Job, Habakkuk and the story in Mark 9, the most amazing thing is not what people asked, but that God answered. Ask God for help understanding HIM more.
DON’T: Don’t forget that God is God. In writing all of this I am not trying to say that we have any right to tell God how to run things. Read Job 38. Who are we to question God? We are not in control, HE is. That is why I think we have to remember that in our asking questions, our purpose and goal is to know God more. We ask not because we want to tell God how to do HIS job, but rather because we want to understand, know, and glorify HIM more.