By Katie Kafka
Faith is a word that we use all the time in a variety of contexts. It’s on our t-shirts, artistically printed in the shape of a cross. We post it on our walls: faith, hope and love OR faith, family and freedom. A biblical definition of faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Specifically, what does it mean to live by faith? How do we do this well? Why does it please God? Why should it be our benchmark as a Christian in a fallen world?
Our study in Habakkuk takes us to the most notable verses in the entire book. It is the key verse, Habakkuk 2:4, where the Lord says to the prophet:
Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
The Lord provides a vivid contrast between a righteous person and one who’s puffed up. Our workbook guides us to realize that this description of a puffed up person is aimed at the Babylonians, primarily their king. Many Bible translations use the expression we find here, puffed up. The New American Standard Bible translation uses “proud one.” This gives us a better understanding that a puffed up person is a person filled with pride. It is a description of someone who is:
…content with praise from men.
…arrogant and haughty
…ruthless in dealings with others.
It is also a description of someone who is not in a right relationship with God. Their assurance comes from self. Their hope comes in desired results and conviction in their own abilities.
But the righteous shall live by his faith. Contrast prideful qualities with someone who seeks righteousness, and you will see quite the difference. For a righteous person is just and blameless in all things:
…in calling and pursuits.
…in conduct and character.
This is a description of someone who is walking in right relationship with God. A picture of someone who lives in sustainable peace, flourishing. The Lord says that our faith in Him is the foundation of this type of life.
Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted in the New Testament by author of Hebrews. This cross reference helps us better understand how righteousness is linked to faith in the life of the believer. Hebrews 10:36 – 11:1 says:
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
We must be very careful to understand faith as the author of Hebrews uses the word because he ties faith so closely to salvation. It is not something we must do in order to earn salvation – if that were true, then faith would be just one more deed. Instead, faith is a gift God gives us because He saved us. We have the opportunity to live in a right relationship with Him, filled with hope, assurance, and conviction. As we walk in this right relationship with God, what brings sustainable peace is our faith. This type of living pleases God.
- The Lord is pleased when we trust Him to keep his promises.
- He is pleased when we cling to belief in His goodness. Even when circumstances are bad.
- He is pleased when our faith turns our hearts away from this world to walk the discipleship path with our Savior Jesus.
The righteous shall live by his faith – that’s how God responds to Habakkuk’s lament. It is the only way to really live – and, I would suggest, the very best place to be.