This morning I was reading through the Book of Habakkuk. Like all of the prophets there is a context and an audience for what is written, and yet, as I was reading, some independent verses seemed to stand out and speak to me. I began to import some of these verses into my morning prayers. As I prayed God began to ask me some questions.
"Then they will worship their nets and burn incense in front of them. These are the gods who have made us rich!" Habakkuk 1:15-16
As I write this blog entry I have a beautiful painting that hangs above my office desk. It is a watercolor painting of the disciples hauling in a net full of fish. The net was breaking and the disciples are looking up to heaven from within their boat that was being tossed about on the raging waves of a storm. Their physical posture was focused upward in a petition for God to help them. I feel like some of my nets are breaking. I feel like I am in the painting.
As I read Habakkuk the first God-question came - "Has your model of ministry become an idol to you?'' Many times I think I really have things figured out. The fruit of success is coming in and then it is all too easy to begin thinking you really know what your are talking about. When the model of ministry - our current net - begins to rip, where do we look? For another model of ministry or for Him? I am wanting to become one of the disciples in the boat in the painting who looks up, not around.
"How foolish to trust in something made by your own hands!" Habakkuk 2:18
I have been doing pastoral ministry, now, for almost 30 years. It is easy to slip into thinking that whatever good things happen are somehow the result of the labor of my hands. While God wants us to be faithful, He is constantly reminding me that the eternal things are only built by His hands. He builds the church and I have been called to keep the environment within His construction project whole and honest. Health becomes a by-product of this pastored environment.
The question I heard attached to this verse was, "What are you trusting in, Garris?" The next verse, 2:19, contains a question: "Can an idol speak for God?" Am I trusting in what speaks for my life and ministry, or am I trusting in those things that don't require my promotion because what God has done will bear its own witness? It is too easy to slip into self-promotion when we don't see much of what we have done being promoted by others. Idols get carved in our insecure seasons.
"In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us." Habakkuk 3:2
Many of us who lead and serve in the Church, if we could be honest for a moment, would say, "This is a time of deep need - God come and show us again your power - save us again!" This is where I have been parked lately. As a pastor I feel my own needs and pain, but I also carry, and sometimes in a wrong way, the struggles of those I have been called to shepherd.
Then the questions for this verse came - "Do you want it your way or My way? Is your need deep enough now that there is nothing left of your abilities to come to the rescue? Do you still believe I have something to do in you that is beyond all you could ask or hope for?"