Look at the nations and observe—be utterly astounded! For something is taking place in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it. (Habakkuk 1:5, HCSB)
When I first glanced at this, I thought “Isn’t this the case?” I thought of all the junk that goes on in our world today. It’s nothing new. Nations and people have had issues and struggles pretty much since forever. And we’re not going to solve it all.
But setting this aside for a moment, I glanced at the verse again.
You see, Habakkuk isn’t groaning about all the junk in the world. That’s not what is astounding. Another translation says, “Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—You would not believe if you were told.” (NASB)
The reason for the astonishment and wonder isn’t negative, it’s positive! And what we can’t believe isn’t what people are doing but what God is doing.
Well, that changes things.
Sometimes we need to look at something again. Look at people again. Look at a situation again. Look at God again.
So he gathered the priests and Levites and said, “Go out to the cities of Judah and collect money from all Israel to repair the temple of your God as needed year by year, and do it quickly.” However, the Levites did not hurry. (2 Chronicles 24:5)
Sometimes people aren’t in the hurry we wish they were. We see urgency, and we think we convey it with passion so that they’ll catch on, but they don’t.
The opposite happens, too. People move faster than we want, even though we might warn them of the dangers of hurrying and the benefits of patience.
Not that we are always right, but when we believe we’re getting clear instruction from God, we want to follow Him well and want to encourage others to do the same.
Let’s be careful. Let’s set a good example of following God well, but let’s remember that everyone is accountable to God, and He moves in different lives in different ways and timing. We can trust Him. We’re not in control, and that’s a good thing.
Then the Lord said to him, “Go and return by the way you came…” (1 Kings 19:15)
Sometimes we need to retrace our steps. Sometimes what is behind becomes what is forward. Our past is often woven into our future, not just in memory, but in learning something new, changing our perspective, healing, correcting. We don’t return to the past because we need to camp there, feel sorry for ourselves, or try to recreate a season or situation we loved. We repurpose the journey. We open our eyes to the possibilities. We let God guide us to new experiences in some old places. He extends the invitation because He knows our futures the best. He knows what we need ahead, and sometimes that means returning the way we came, not in our stubbornness or selfishness but in humble obedience to Him.
Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they said, “We will not come! Is it not enough that you brought us up from a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? Do you also have to appoint yourself as ruler over us?” (Numbers 16:12-13)
We often refuse to submit because of our own perspective even if it skews reality. After all, we can’t understand it all. Our own perspective makes sense to us, because we’re right in the middle of it. But that’s the problem. We’re limited. There are many perspectives beyond ours. Even if we could consider them all, we might not be any closer to identifying the truth, so how can we know who and what to follow and trust?
The easy answer is “God,” but the easy answer certainly doesn’t seem so easy when we’re struggling to trust others, when we can’t possibly imagine how someone might be worthy of authority and trust.
Keep struggling. Keep asking questions. Keep moving. Keep growing.
Humility is worth the cost. It’s less about the results you’ll get and more about the faith you’ll grow.
I said it during a church staff meeting: “I’m going to be the devil’s advocate for a minute…” As soon as it was out of my mouth, I knew whatever followed really didn’t matter. I had just discounted myself. We didn’t need to listen to an advocate of the devil. That’s not our goal.
Sure, it’s an expression that means taking a look at another perspective, especially looking at an opposing viewpoint, considering “what if.” That’s not always a bad thing. In fact, sometimes it’s smart. Considering the possibilities can help prepare us for what’s ahead, but it can also paralyze us. We can get distracted and even enticed by a different perspective that was never intended to be our focus. We can end up advocating something contrary to God’s will.
Being the devil’s advocate is never God’s purpose for us. It’s helpful to know the ways of Satan, but that’s fairly simple: he is deceptive and manipulative. God never is. When we focus on God and know how to discern truth, deception and manipulation stands out and is easily identifiable.
Maybe it’s just an expression, but it can also put us in a position in which we don’t want to be and have no business being. I’m taking it out of my language in order to keep it out of my heart.
Gas prices started falling, and I was happy about it. So were most people around me. We’d have to spend less to travel and go about our daily business. We’d all have more expendable income, whether for ourselves or the community. The lower gas prices would have ripple effects that could only be good.
I then saw a couple of my friends from the coastline who posted about the ill effects of those gas prices. Their friends and families were losing their jobs. There were ripple effects throughout the community, but they weren’t good.
My perspective changed. I could pay an extra couple dimes per gallon in order to help another. I could quit assuming my good deal was a good deal for everyone.
I hope not to purposefully take a selfish perspective. Sometimes, I simply need someone to share another perspective to pull back the curtain on my selfishness.
We all do.
Let’s consider others’ perspectives. We may not agree with everyone, but we can learn, grow, and replace our self-centeredness with humility and compassion.
Are you a barbed-wire wrapped Christian? Even if it’s not you, I’m sure you know “that one person” who fits the description. Unless you completely agree with absolutely everything the person has to say (which I doubt is even possible), you watch them poke and wound others. Fighting takes precedent over kindness, arguing over listening, being right over engaging in a relationship to reach out to others. They are “come,” not “go” people, who focus on getting everyone to agree to and adopt their own perspectives instead of engaging people where they are and doing the messy life with them while living truth out loud.
How can you avoid being a barbed-wire Christian?
Laugh at yourself more than others. Live with high hopes and standards of civility. Instead of chronically fighting back, fight how and when God intends. Pursue and follow Jesus well, because when you do, you won’t be retaliatory. Instead, everything you do and who you are becoming will be motivated and prompted by God alone.