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Waiting for God’s Answer
All the passages below are taken from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book “From Fear to Faith,” published in this format in 2011 with the first Edition in 1953.
I. THE ATTITUDE OF FAITH
AFTER telling God about his perplexity in Habakkuk 1 the prophet goes on to say, in chapter 2, `I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved' (2:1). The last phrase may mean, `what I shall answer when I am reproved by those who will not like my message,' or 'when I am reproved by God for what I have said,' or 'what He will say unto me when He answers my complaint.' But the important consideration is that Habakkuk now realizes that the one thing to do is to wait upon God. It is not enough just to pray, to tell God about our perplexities, and just to cast our burden on the Lord. We must go further and wait upon God.
(a) Commit your problem to God
What does this mean in practice? First, we must detach ourselves from the problem. The prophet's words suggest that interpretation by picturing a tower set upon a high elevation which commands a wide view and a grand prospect, such as is used by military observers in order to anticipate the arrival of an enemy. The watchman is far above the plains and the crowds of people, occupying a point of vantage where he can see everything that is happening. `I will watch to see what he will say unto me.' Now here is one of the most important principles in the psychology of the Christian life, or the understanding of how to fight in the spiritual conflict. Once we have taken a problem to God, we should cease to concern ourselves with it. We should turn our backs upon it and centre our gaze upon God.
Is not this precisely where we go astray? We have a perplexity, and we have applied the prophetic method of laying down postulates and putting the problem in the context of those propositions which we have laid down. But still we do not find satisfaction, and we do not quite know what to do. It may be the problem of what we are to do with our lives; or it may be some situation that is confronting us which involves a difficult decision. Having failed to reach a solution, despite seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there is nothing more to do but to take it to God in prayer. But what so frequently happens is this. We go on our knees and tell God about the thing that is worrying us; we tell Him that we cannot solve the difficulty ourselves, that we cannot understand; and we ask Him to deal with it and to show us His way. Then the moment we get up from our knees we begin to worry about the problem again.
Now if you do that, you might just as well not have prayed. If you take your problem to God, leave it with God. You have no right to brood over it any longer. In his perplexity, Habakkuk says, `I am going to get out of this vale of depression; I am going to the watch-tower; I am going up to the heights; I am going to look to God and to God alone'---one of the most important secrets of the Christian life! If you have committed your problem to God and go on thinking about it, it means that your prayers were not genuine. If you told God on your knees that you had reached an impasse, and that you could not solve your problem, and that you were handing it over to Him, then leave it with Him. Resolutely refuse to think about it or talk about it. Do not go to the first Christian you meet and say, 'You know, I have an awful problem; I don't know what to do.' Don't discuss it. Leave it with God, and go on to the watch-tower. This may not be easy for us. We may have to be almost violent in forcing ourselves to do this. It is none the less essential. We must never allow ourselves to become submerged by a difficulty, to be shut in by the problem. We must come right out of it---'I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower.' We have to extricate ourselves deliberately, to haul ourselves out of it, as it were, to detach ourselves from it altogether, and then take our stand looking to God---not at the problem.
There are endless illustrations of this important principle in the life of faith in the Scriptures themselves, and in Christian biography. Looking to God means not dealing with a problem yourself, not consulting other people, but depending entirely upon God, and `waiting' only upon Him.
Habakkuk looked at this problem but he could see no light. He was confronted by the fact that God was going to take up those appalling Chaldeans, people altogether worse than his own nation, and was going to use them for His own purpose. He could not understand it, nor reconcile it with the holiness of God. But he could and did take it to God. Having done so, he looked to God and ceased to look at his difficulty. That is the true basis of spiritual peace. That is exactly what Paul meant in Philippians, 'in nothing be anxious' (see Phil. 4:6, 7). It does not matter what the cause is; never let yourself be anxious, and never let yourself be burdened or worn down by care. You have no right to be perturbed; you must never have that anxious care that is not only spiritually crippling but also physically debilitating. Never be anxious but 'in every thing'---it is all-inclusive---'by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.' And then, 'the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.' Get up into your watch-tower and just keep looking up to God. Look at nothing else, least of all your problem.
(b) Expect an answer from God
But we must go further and we must look for the answer. `I will watch to see,' says this man. The military watchman's task is to keep his eye on that landscape in front for the slightest indication of movement on the part of the enemy. Habakkuk is looking for the answer. We so often fail because we just pray to God and then forget about it. If we pray to God we must expect answers to our prayers. Do we in fact, after we have prayed, continue to look to God and eagerly await the answer? Are we like this man on his watch-tower, expecting it to come at any moment?
God, of course, may answer in a number of different ways. For instance, you can expect God to answer you as you read His Word, for it is the commonest way of all in which He does this. As you are reading Scripture, suddenly a strange and wonderful light is cast upon your problem. If you say to yourself, `This is the Word of God through which He speaks to men and I wonder what He has to say to me,' then you are likely to obtain your answer. Watch and wait for it.
Then God sometimes answers directly in our spirits. The prophet said: `I will watch to see what He will say in me' (cf. AV margin). God speaks to me by speaking in me. He can so lay something upon the mind that we are certain of the answer. He can impress something upon our spirits in an unmistakable manner. We find ourselves unable to get away from an impression that is on our mind or heart; we try to rid ourselves of it, but back it comes. So does God answer at times.
Then again He sometimes answers our prayers by so providentially ordering our circumstances, and the day-to-day happenings of our lives, that it becomes quite plain what God is saying. God never calls us to do any work without opening the door. He may take a long time, but if God wants us to do some special task He will shut other doors and open that particular one. Our whole life will be directed to that end. This is a common experience of the Christian life. God often allows obstacles to arise, but the way ahead remains clear. God's will is certain. The point is that we must be looking for these answers, and ready to recognize them when they come. Having committed my problem to God I must expect God to answer. I should also compare one indication of guidance with another, because if God is always consistent with Himself in His dealings with me, I can expect them all to converge.
(c) Watch and wait for the answer
The third and last principle illustrated for us is that we must watch eagerly and persistently, like this watchman upon his tower. We must believe that God is always true to His word, and that His promises never fail. So, having committed myself and my problem to God, I must persist in looking with an eagerness which knows that God is certain to answer. It is dishonouring to God not to do so. If I believe God is my Father, and that the very hairs of my head are all numbered, and that God is much more concerned about my welfare and my well-being than I am myself; if I believe that God is much more concerned about the honour of His great and holy name than I am, then it is surely dishonouring to God not to look for an answer after I have prayed to Him. It is indicative of a serious lack of faith. Nothing so shows the character of our faith as our conduct and attitude after we have prayed. The men of faith not only prayed, but they expected answers. Sometimes, in a panic, we pray to God; then, after the panic is over, we forget all about it. The test of our faith is whether we expect an answer. The prophet stood upon his watch, and set him upon the tower. Though he could not understand God's actions, he took the problem to God and then looked for an answer.
II. FAITH REWARDED
Verses 2 and 3 of chapter 2 contain the answer Habakkuk was given. 'Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.' This lesson is invaluable. It is an absolute law in the spiritual realm that if we adopt Habakkuk's method, and behave as he behaved, God will always honour His promises. In effect, God said, 'It is all right, Habakkuk, I have heard your prayer, I understand your perplexity. Here is My answer. The Chaldeans whom I am going to raise up to punish Israel will themselves in turn be completely routed and destroyed.' The greatness of the Chaldeans was going to be short-lived. It was God who for a special purpose raised them up; but they took the glory to themselves and became inflated with a sense of their own power. Then God struck, and raised up the Medes and Persians who utterly destroyed the Chaldeans. God told the prophet to write the prophecy very clearly, so that any one reading it could at once understand and run to obey and warn others. [34-40]
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