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I wanted to send you a devotional encouragement this morning in light of the many uncertainties that face our nation, our state and our community.  Perhaps like many of you, I swallowed hard and felt sick to my stomach a few times yesterday as I learned that the benchmark price for crude oil fell below zero for the first time in history.  As I scanned the news feeds and listened to news media, a common word was used…”Unprecedented…Unprecedented…Unprecedented”.  For residents of the oil rich Permian Basin, as if it were not already fearful enough that oil prices fell below zero, somehow it made it all the worse to hear that this is unprecedented!  The following devotional is an 11 minute read.  

Here are some passages that I pray could encourage your heart today:

“Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.  Habakkuk 2:4

Your faithfulness is for all generations; You established the earth, and it stands firm.
91 They stand today in accordance with Your judgments, for all things (triumphs and trials) are Your servants.  Psalm 119:90-91

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.  Habakkuk 3:17-19

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16

As I was praying for you yesterday, particularly for those whose vocation is in oil and gas, as well as for the rest of us who will be affected by the ripple effects of how this will impact our local economy, I sensed the Holy Spirit calling me to face my fears about the reality of unprecedented oil prices by fixing my eyes on an even greater reality.  We serve a God whose providence is His precedent even when our circumstances appear so uncertain.  Unprecedented oil prices may be uncharted territory for us, but we follow a Great Shepherd who has walked the path of sorrow and suffering before us, and who will forever and always guide us as we walk on that path and reminds us that He is the maker of the path!  Psalm 23:3b-4 says, “...He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  Sometimes the paths of righteousness Christ is taking us through includes paths through the valley of the shadow of death.  But let not your hearts be troubled…we will not fear because Christ is with us!

What does God’s providence mean to us?  The Heidelberg Catechism, Day 10 provides us with a rich blessing here!  Question 27:  What do you understand by the providence of God?  Answer: God's providence is his almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.   Question 28:  What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?  Answer:  We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love; for all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot so much as move.

My precious SGC family, God was preparing our hearts for this.  I would encourage you to go back and listen again to the sermons between March 15 - April 19.  I think you will discover that God’s fatherly providence was at work through His Word to strengthen our faith and our confident assurance in His love and plan.  The sermon from March 29 from the book of Habakkuk is a wonderful example of God’s preparatory care for us.  It was called, “How God Uses a Crisis to Bring Clarity to the Christian Life”.  The main point was, God uses a crisis to clarify that the foundation of the Christian’s life is faith in Christ alone as our salvation, satisfaction and strength.”

  Circumstances may get worse before they get better…

  • If you recall, one of the points God made to Habakkuk was that sometimes, in His providence, circumstances may get worse before they get better.  God was using Habakkuk’s current and future trials to bring clarity to what it meant to follow God.  “The righteous shall live by their faith."  Hab. 2:4.  Notice that it does not say, the righteous will live by their great faith!  I don’t know about you, but there are many days that my faith is not even close to great.  BUT…my little faith is in a GREAT AND FAITHFUL GOD!  Our God is working all things together for His glory, our godly good and the advancement of His unstoppable mission to seek and save the lost!!!

God’s character is our counselor…

  • Habakkuk was facing circumstances that appeared to him to be unprecedented.  God was going to use the Babylonians, a very sinful and idolatrous people, to bring discipline to His beloved nation of Israel.  Instead of fixing his eyes on his unprecedented circumstances, God called Habakkuk to fix his eyes on the precedent of His fatherly and faithful providence.  From chapter 2:5 - 3:16, Habakkuk meditated on the character of God…God’s character was his counselor.  He reflected on how God ruled over creation and in His compassion, rescues sinners from the judgment they deserve.  And He prays…Do it again God…bring a revival of righteousness…not merely a rescue from circumstances.”  Hab. 3:1-2     In the trial we are currently facing, let’s make sure we are placing our faith and hopes in God’s desire to make us more like Christ and not in our desired outcomes for how or when the trial should end.

When God is all you have…you discover that God is all you need…

  • God uses a crisis to strip away all we thought we had to have in order to have a happy life.  He does this so that we can more deeply discover that true life, joy and purpose are found in Him alone.  Charles Spurgeon said, “The unbeliever blesses God if He gives him plenty.  But the Christian blesses Him when He smites him; he believes Him to be too wise to err and too good to be unkind.  He trusts Him where he cannot trace Him.  He looks up to Him in the darkest hour and believes that all is well.”  Habakkuk turns his waiting into worship when he declares, “though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls…YETI will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation!”   Don Carson encourages us with this, "Habakkuk resolves that, however great the privation he must suffer along with the covenant community, he will delight all the more in God.  It is almost as if the threatened loss of all material blessings and security drives him to enjoyment of God Himself:  there is nothing and no one else to rely on, and therefore nothing to mask the enjoyment of God that ought to be the believer’s focus.  Firm resolve this may be; grim resolution it is not.  It is the resolution of one who’s eyes have been opened to see where his delight should have been in the first place.”  Don Carson

God is our strength and our wisdom for this trial…

  • ”God my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!”  Hab. 3:17  Let’s do all we can to help one another focus on the grace, mercy, strength and wisdom God wants to give us for today.  God has not given us grace for tomorrow.  As Ed Welch says, “Can you understand why you worry when you think about tomorrow? You worry because you don’t have what you need yet. If you imagine tomorrow’s misery without tomorrow’s manna, of course you are going to worry. Tomorrow’s manna isn’t on the ground yet. You have manna for today only. In his great wisdom, God doesn’t give you tomorrow’s manna today. Otherwise you would forget him and trust in yourself.” – Ed Welch  God does not provide us with grace for the “what ifs” of tomorrow but provides us with lavish grace, mercy, wisdom and strength for “what is” for today.

Draw near to the throne of grace…

  • In Allen’s excellent sermon from April 19, 2020, he highlighted Hebrews 4:14-16:  "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”    

God’s fatherly providence is the precedent we stand upon when facing unprecedented trials.  God has been preparing us for today.  God is using today to prepare us for all we will face in all our tomorrows.  God never intended His people to walk through these trials by themselves.  He has provided His empowering presence through His Spirit.  He has provided His Word to comfort, encourage and equip us.  He has provided His church to help us bear one another’s burdens and to exhort one another to love and good deeds in making disciples.  Please don’t suffer in silence!  Hugh, Allen and I stand ready to do anything we can to serve, encourage, comfort and equip you.  Please contact us if you would like to talk.  Please contact us if you feel the need for some counseling to help you with both your circumstances and with your growth as a follower of Jesus.