It is the last game in the world series, the bottom of the ninth and your team is down by one. Gimpy Gabe is on first and there are two outs. The relief pitcher is Rifle Richie who can throw a 100 mph fast ball and a slider that doesn’t move until the last three feet. Your team is at the bottom of the order and next to bat is Sammie Slump. It has been a tough year for Sammie and Rifle Richie is his nemesis. Just before Sammie emerges from the dugout, you see commotion among the coaches. The head coach steps out and signals a change in the lineup. They announce the next at bat is Home Run Hank. You didn’t even know he was eligible. This guy is amazing. His stats are off the charts. He has never batted against Rifle but His favorite pitch to hit is a fast ball and he loves sliders hanging over the plate that always result in a home run. Wow! What a break! Now your tension turns into excitement. You can’t wait to see what is going to happen. You are almost completely certain that at least a tying run is possible. As Hank steps into the box you lean in with anticipation of the first pitch. Just before the wind up, Hank steps out of the batter’s box for adjustments. You think to yourself “is Hank nervous?” Now the fear of losing and thoughts of embarrassment with your co-workers creep in. You take a deep breath and look down again at your stat book. There it is again, Hank’ s batting average. You reassure yourself and look up to see a look on Hank’ s face that seals the deal. You have never seen such determination and confidence. Joy returns. Now you are on your feet cheering. Home Run Hank!
Two days later you’re sitting in the break room and a smile comes over your face. A warmth bubbles from deep inside and a chuckle comes out unexpectedly. Then you see Hank’ s face again and a tear comes. You just can’t believe what you saw. It couldn’t be true but you know it happened. Just before that last pitch was when it happened. Hank paused in His routine and looked right at you. It was you, you are certain. He made eye contact, didn’t he? Of course he did. Nobody around you had your name. Just as plain as day Hank looked right at you and said your name. He said this one is for you. It was unmistakable. You couldn’t hear him in all the cheering but you know He said it. Then he set his feet, looked fearlessly at Rifle and just dared him to bring his best stuff. Wow! What a moment.
Of course Hank hits the home run, Gabe gimps his way to home and Hank takes a humble victory lap around the bases. The fans go crazy and rush the field. Streamers, confetti, hands thrust high. What a moment.
You think to yourself, there in the break room “why did I ever doubt? I’ve seen what Hank can do. I am convinced there was no better choice. Next time I will be certain. Next time I’ll have FAITH in Hank.”
I had a reader ask an excellent question about the last post, specifically about this passage:
Hab 2:4 “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright– but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness — (NIV)
The question was regarding the word “his.” “Is ‘his’ referring to God’s faithfulness or the man’s faithfulness?” That is a good question. I think the answer is “does it matter?”
When we understand faith in relationship with our loving Father, we see things differently. When we believe that God isn’t putting us through a cosmic test of our abilities but is instead asking us to trust in Him, we can see “faith” differently. When we step out of Boxlandia and into Freetosia, we can finally “see” that God is the one we have put on trial. We have put Him on trial and are still doing it. God says “I can be trusted.” God says He is the “I am.” So nothing falls outside His realm. We hid in the bushes and God came to seek us out. So my faith in Him is in His faithfulness towards me. My faith in Him is because He is faithful. My faith in Him is because He can be trusted. My faith in Him is because He keeps His promises. My faith in Him is because He has resources and provision and purpose. I can know that He withholds nothing as a loving Father. The only thing is trying to teach me is how to return to the garden and a completely dependent relationship.
“But pastor Lance you haven’t answered the question about the passage!”
OK, here are a number of translations. You tell me. I’m not a Hebrew scholar but I believe the way this is written in Hebrew is more of an idiomatic reference than a literary absolute. Check it out:
“Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God. (NLT)
“Look at the proud person. He is not right in himself. But the righteous person will live because of his faithfulness. (GWT)
Behold, he that is unbelieving, his soul shall not be right in himself: but the just shall live in his faith. (DRB)
Lo, a presumptuous one! Not upright is his soul within him, And the righteous by his stedfastness liveth. (YLT)
“Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—
full of himself but soul-empty.
But the person in right standing before God
through loyal and steady believing
is fully alive, really alive. (The Message)
4 Look at the proud; his soul is not straight or right within him, but the [rigidly] just and the [uncompromisingly] righteous man shall live by his faith and in his faithfulness. (AMP)
See how confusing? Is life from righteousness and faith or is this verse a command to live from faith and righteousness? Is this a contrast between pride and righteousness or crookedness and faith or both? Here is my translation using the original words and the context of the entire book of Habakkuk:
For the proud, independent, self-centered person, their soul (mind will and emotions) will be influenced and negatively impacted by their circumstance but the people in a right relationship with God will find life and peace and escape in their faith in God not in their circumstance. (LLT)
Back to Home Run Hank. This may be a cliché kind of story, but who are you in the story? Stupid question? No it isn’t. Religion tells you that you are Hank and if you don’t get it right you will get cut from the team. Religion tells you that you need to be Hank or you won’t succeed. Religion tells you that God is in the stand,s or worse yet, is keeping track of your stats as the general manager waiting to cut you from the team. Please hear me. Jesus is Hank. God the Father is the coach, period. The Holy Spirit is the one telling you that Hank is awesome! That is it.
In this life you will look down and see home plate in front of you. You look up and see Rifle staring down his barrel. You will think that you are supposed to do what Hank did but in fact you are Hank with Jesus. When you step up to the plate it is just like watching Jesus hit the home run. You are in both places and you ARE NOT ALONE!!!!! This is your FAITH! Come on, please let this soak in. This is the reason for Jesus. This is the reason for you. This is why God made all of us. Yes it is His (God’s) faithfulness and it is his (your) faithfulness.
I get to trust God. I get to go to bat both with Jesus and as Jesus. It really is that simple. When I forget that simple truth, I need to look at Jesus’ stats and know that He is a home run hitter, look up and see Him smile at me. He calls to me personally and my response is YES. He is faithful. I have His faith. I live from His faith. I live in my faith. Don’t believe me? Look at the cross. That is the ultimate expression of faithfulness. Could you do it? Could you do it for every good, bad, pretty, ugly, happy, mean, generous, stingy, mom and murder on this planet for all time? Could you? Could you let all of us kill you? I don’t think so. But….HE DID. Home Run Hank. He is looking at me right now and saying “this one is for you Lance.” Come on!
P.S. Habakkuk understood the same thing. He took 3 chapters to process through and a word from God but in the end he got it. Check it out:
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.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places. (ESV)