This year, in our personal Langstaff Christmas letter, I ended up with an unusual verse, one that you would not usually find in a Christmas letter. I repeat it here as a scripture to end 2020 and as we get ready for 2021. It is Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NKJV):
“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls-
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
This prophet’s statement was delivered in the aftermath of the destructive Babylonian invasion of Israel. Hence, he describes the situation that the people faced at that time. It is not unlike what people feel today. Think for a moment about some of the things that have happened in 2020:
- It started with the failed impeachment of President Donald Trump.
- It moved into the COVID-19 pandemic that started in China.
- This led to lockdowns, regulations, etc, etc.
- It played havoc with sporting events, schools, and businesses.
- It led to the closing of many restaurants.
- It even involved conflict with the limitations placed on religious gatherings and church services.
- It then involved the crisis brought on by the death of George Floyd in Minnesota while in police custody.
- This was followed by protests, riots, social unrest, and the emergence of Black Lives Matter, a Marxist organization.
- It led to critical elections and the subsequent accusations of voter fraud.
- In the midst of all this, a large number of people died as a result of the COVID-19 virus.
The one bright spot was the great news about the development of a vaccine in record time.
All this brought about a major change in the lives of Americans, not unlike what Habakkuk faced.
REJOICE IN THE LORD
So what was Habakkuk’s response to what seemed like hopeless conditions? He made a significant decision. He declared that he would “rejoice in the Lord” and that he would “joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18, NKJV). This declaration would appear contrary to the prevailing conditions of the time.
Another way of describing Habakkuk’s response is to say he discovered the power of praise and worship. There is a release of grace and strength to people when they respond to adverse circumstances through rejoicing in the Lord and expressing joy in the God of your salvation.
In the early days of the Charismatic Renewal, Merlin Carothers wrote a book entitled “Prison to Praise.” It challenged people to respond to life’s situations with positive faith and, in particular, the power of praise and worship.
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, has much to say on the same theme: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NKJV)(See also Philippians 4:4-8). Rejoice not just in good times but in ALL times. Remember, to rejoice means to be glad, to be happy, the complete antithesis of mourning. It is a persuasive and persistent joy that results from a choice or decision to rejoice.
Some months ago, a great minister, Terry Law, went to be with the Lord. I first met Terry Law about 40 years ago when He ministered for me in Australia. Later, when I was pastoring a church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Terry visited yearly to minister powerfully to our congregation. At the same time, we were able to raise tens of thousands of dollars to support his ministry, “World Compassion.” I want to summarize a story by Terry Law that illustrates the message of this Langstaff Latter about praising the Lord.
In September 1982, Terry was in London for meetings in regard to his ministry when a phone call came to tell that his wife Jan had been killed in a car accident. In turn, he had to call and tell his children that their mommy was gone. He grieved, he cried, he questioned God. The next day, while flying home, he told God over a hundred times that he was through with the ministry. Following the funeral, he couldn’t pray. He was angry and bitter towards God. He blamed God for letting her die after all he had done and endured for the gospel. He later realized he was mad at the wrong person. God did not cause his wife’s death, but still the same, he was hurt and confused.
About three weeks after the funeral, Oral Roberts called and asked him to come to his office. Oral had just lost a son, and they sat together, talking about their pain. After about two hours, Oral stood up, pointed his finger at Terry, and said. “Terry, I am going to tell you something that could save your life if you do what I say. Go home, get down on your knees, and start to pray in the Spirit. You have got to begin to praise the Lord.” Terry was flabbergasted. How could he do that? He was hurting, numb, and said to Oral, “I can’t.” But Oral insisted that he had to.
The next morning he knelt by his bed and tried to enter into praise. It was one of the most excruciating experiences of his life. He said the word “Hallelujah.” It sounded hollow. He said, “I praise you, Lord,” and his thoughts and the devil began to taunt him.
Time passed slowly; fifteen minutes felt like a lifetime. Gradually he came to a moment of truth. He knew he had to make a decision. The words of Psalm 34:1 (NKJV) came to him “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” A battle went on, but then he decided. Terry said out loud, “Lord, I will bless you at all times, Lord. I will bless you at all times.”
Something happened way down in his Spirit. The devil did not give up easily, but he continued to praise the Lord in obedience to His word without any assistance from his feelings. He continued praising the Lord. How many hours he was on his knees, he doesn’t remember. The Spirit of prophecy came on him, and he began to prophesy his own healing and pour it over his fractured, torn emotions. He was being healed in obedience to praise. Worship brought healing to his inner man. It was the power of praise and worship.
THE WORLD TODAY
Let’s face it – that is a word we need today. We need to rejoice in the Lord. The is so much discouraging news about what is happening. You may have also experienced personal circumstances that have come against you leaving you distressed, disappointed, discouraged, and even devastated. These are the times when we need to head Paul’s challenge and rejoice in the Lord always. Remember the words of Habakkuk:
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
Law, T., Gilbert, J. (2011). The Power of Praise and Worship. United States: Destiny Image, Incorporated.