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Habakkuk

No Matter What Happens

Ten Attributes of Persistent Faith Christy Bower


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No Matter What Happens: Ten Attributes of Persistent Faith (Habakkuk) © 2012 Christy Bower All rights reserved. This workbook is for individual use only and may not be distributed in electronic or print form unless an extended license is purchased at www.ChristyBower.com. The extended licenses offer quantity discounts for those who wish to use the workbooks for groups. Cover image purchased to support artists. © iStockphoto.com / David Jones All other images are in the public domain. Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. No Matter What Happens: Ten Attributes of Persistent Faith (Habakkuk) © 2012 Christy Bower

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Welcome! The Bible Explorer series provides a hands-on approach to studying individual books of the Bible. The studies are intended to help you discover the answers for yourself, while guiding you through the difficult terrain of context and setting. May God bless you as you study His Word. Christy

About Christy I have a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (2004). I am the author of three books: Best Friends with God (2010), Devotion Explosion (2007), and Abundant Life (2002). I have written numerous articles for Christian publications, as well as writing web content for clients. And, in January 2011, God set me on the path of full-time writing ministry, which has enabled me to focus on producing Bible resources to help others grow in their faith.

No Matter What Happens: Ten Attributes of Persistent Faith (Habakkuk) Š 2012 Christy Bower

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Introduction No matter what happens. Are you prepared to follow God, no matter what happens? That’s the struggle of faith that Habakkuk wrestled with in his day, and it’s the struggle we all face when life gets difficult. The book of Habakkuk can be described as an argument with God. It is the prophet’s search for answers to moral and theological questions that believers still ask today: Why does God permit evil among his people? How can a good God allow the wicked to overcome those less evil? When he receives answers from God, the answers are more painful than the questions. God brings the bad news that the worst is yet to come and the people of Judah will be invaded by the cruel Babylonians. It’s one thing to have objective answers from God. It’s one thing to believe the Bible is true and know what it says about our problems. But it’s quite another thing to work through the difficulties in how it affects our own life and faith until we arrive at a personal response to God’s word. The book of Habakkuk is a mere 56 verses, but it contains important truths about what it means to wrestle with our faith, to accept God’s word when it is unpleasant, and to arrive at a position of acceptance of God’s will no matter what it means for us personally. Take a moment to read the following narrative, which provides some context for the events of Habakkuk after the death of King Josiah (609 B.C.E.) as recorded in 2 Chronicles 35.

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“Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked; but the righteous will live by their faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).


Habakkuk: A Man of Persistent Faith saw into the town square, he could see Jeremiah in the courtyard singing a lament for the death of King Josiah.

Weeping. Wailing. Huddles of women whispering. Circles of old men tugging on their beards and reminiscing about the good old days. Young men running about to fortify the city and make preparations. Habakkuk walked through the streets of Jerusalem in a daze. He felt numb to the pain and panic, but he could see it in the eyes of those who met his stunned gaze. As he rounded a corner and

The news had come by a swift runner this morning: “King Josiah has been mortally wounded in battle.” Then, a chariot brought King Josiah, clinging to the last threads of life, back to Jerusalem. Physicians tended him right there in the courtyard where Jeremiah now stood. But the physicians could do little more than remove the arrow. He bled to death in the courtyard as the city gathered to grieve. Then panic ensued. The court officials crowned Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz, to make him king of Judah in place of his father. There was no time for a royal ceremony. There was no time to grieve. There was no time to prepare for war. Couriers reported that the Egyptian army was barreling down on Jerusalem as fast as their iron chariots could

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carry them, and Egypt was known for the speed of its mighty horses. With most of the military out of the city to fight the Egyptians, the lower-ranking military officers now shouted orders to civilians, but the fear in their eyes did not convey the confidence the people needed right now. Habakkuk felt tired and a little sick to his stomach, so he leaned up against a wall, closed his eyes, and listened to his friend Jeremiah give the lament for Josiah. Jeremiah recounted the accomplishments of the beloved king. Thirty-one years ago, Josiah became king at the age of eight. He sought the Lord for help in leading the nation and began to remove idols and restore the Temple. During this restoration, a scroll containing a portion of the Law was found and read to Josiah. He immediately instituted reforms to bring the nation back into


alignment with the word of God. Jeremiah reminisced about the glorious days of Josiah and the freedom, prosperity, and religious revival that occurred among the people during his reign. Habakkuk thought about Jeremiah’s words. Freedom and prosperity were fragile. The Assyrians, who had destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel a century ago, had been otherwise occupied—or at least disinterested in the little nation of Judah. Thanks to this, Josiah enjoyed freedom and prosperity despite the ravages of war going on in the land all around them. Now, the Assyrians had grown weak and felt threatened by the increasing advances of the Babylonian alliance. With their forces stretched thin, Assyria summoned Egypt to help them. But Josiah did the right thing. He took Judah’s army out to meet the Egyptian army to prevent them from reinforcing the Assyrian slaughterers. And now what?

The king was dead. The Egyptians had Jerusalem as their next target, and Assyria would likely follow up to destroy this nation that had presumed to interfere. What would happen now? Had it been worth it to get involved and make themselves a target? Where was the Lord? Would He intervene? Would He let righteous Judah become slaughtered by nations with a bloodthirsty lust for power? Would the Lord protect His people? Questions. So many questions. Habakkuk opened his eyes. The daylight was veiled by a thin layer of clouds and a sense of doom hung heavily over the City of David. Habakkuk looked at Jeremiah who was still singing a lament before a crowd of women and children. Then Habakkuk turned and began to make his way home, still dazed and deep in thought. Many sleepless nights ensued as Habakkuk cried out to the Lord, asking God to intervene in the dire circumstances in Jerusalem.

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Weeks and months turned into years. The Egyptians had not destroyed Judah. Instead, they placed Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim, as king. Jehoiakim ruled as a tyrant.

Judah’s enemies had not destroyed her, but she was about to destroy herself. Prices soared as people took advantage of each other instead of helping one another. Bribes perverted justice and the law became useless in a city increasingly characterized by anarchy and violence among its own people. Habakkuk continued to pray every night. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! Must I forever see this sin and misery all around me? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence.


The wicked far outnumber the righteous.”

faith. To those who trust in themselves: Beware!”

The Lord replied, “Watch and be astounded at what I will do! I am raising-up the Babylonians to be a new power on the world scene. They are a cruel and violent nation who will march across the world and conquer it.”

“Beware of pride and ambition. Beware of arrogance and greed. Beware of cruelty. Beware of drunkenness. And beware of idolatry, for your idols are lifeless inside. But the Lord is inside his holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before the Lord.”

Habakkuk asked, “Why? Your people have sinned and deserve punishment, but why would you allow a nation even more wicked to destroy your people? Is the answer to wickedness to send more wickedness? How can this be? Will wicked people succeed forever?” There was no reply. Habakkuk waited. Then, one night the Lord replied: “Write my answer so everyone will know. My solution will happen slowly, steadily. Eventually I will judge those whom I have sent to judge you. If it seems slow, be patient. Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, but the righteous will live by their

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Habakkuk trembled in awe of the Lord. He had a vision of the Lord rolling across the land like a thunderstorm, coming to save His people. Habakkuk’s heart welled up in song: I have heard all about you, Lord, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. 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. And in your anger, remember mercy. I trembled inside when I heard all this. But I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.


The Landscape of History Habakkuk lived during the reign of Josiah, who became king of Judah when he was eight years old and he reigned for thirty-one years (639-609 B.C.E.). He sought God and instituted religious reforms, beginning with eliminating idolatry in Judah. As the workers began a massive restoration of the Temple, the high priest discovered a book containing God’s Law and read it to Josiah. The young king humbled himself and wept that God’s people had neglected God’s law. He pledged to obey the Lord and required the people in Jerusalem to make a similar pledge (2 Chronicles 34). While religious reform took hold, it did little to transform society on a moral level. Despite a period of peace and prosperity, violence and corruption infested Judah like a disease. Habakkuk could see past this veneer of religious reform and see the vile lives of those who professed to observe God’s feasts and religious observances. This sent Habakkuk on a quest to seek answers from God about how long He would allow this to continue. But answers from God were slow in coming. When God said He would judge the corruption of His people by bringing the Babylonians to invade Judah, Habakkuk was surprised because Babylon was not yet a world power. The greatest threat had been Assyria, and sometimes Egypt. But Chaldean tribal groups, who had made successful skirmishes against the Assyrians armies, were only beginning to form a Babylonian alliance that would later become a world power. The following map shows the reach of the Babylonian Empire at the height of its power.

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Chaldeans Become Babylonians The Chaldeans were a tribal group living in southern Babylonia. They often waged guerrilla warfare against the Assyrians. In the Bible, the Chaldeans first appeared as allies with Judah, but they later became a threat. Occasionally a Chaldean king would occupy the throne of Babylon. The Chaldeans gradually acquired domination of Babylonia and took on the name “Babylonians” or “NeoBabylonians.” For this reason, the Bible often uses the terms “Chaldean” and “Babylonian” interchangeably. So whenever you see the term “Chaldean,” think “Babylonian.”


The Babylonian Empire God predicted the rise of the Babylonian Empire. They did, indeed, march across the world and conquer it.

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“I am raising up the Babylonians to be a new power on the world scene. They are a cruel and violent nation who will march across the world and conquer it” (Habakkuk 1:6).


Outline Habakkuk: Persistent Faith in Desperate Times I.

II.

A Crisis of Faith (Chapters 1-2) a. Habakkuk’s First Question: How long will you sit back and do nothing while violence and injustice prevail? (1:1-4) b. God’s First Reply (1:5-11) i. The worst is yet to come. ii. The cruel Babylonians will march across the world and conquer it. c. Habakkuk’s Second Question: Why? How can a holy God judge the sins of Judah at the hands of people more wicked than they? (1:12-17) d. Habakkuk Waits for God’s Answer (2:1) e. God’s Second Reply (2:2-20) i. Their time is coming. ii. Those who trust in themselves will get what they deserve. iii. The righteous will live by their faith. A Triumph of Faith (Chapter 3) a. Habakkuk’s Prayer for Mercy (3:1-2) b. Habakkuk’s Vision of God Coming to Save His People (3:3-15) c. Habakkuk’s Response to the Vision Is a Declaration of Joyful Faith in God, No Matter What Happens (3:16-19)

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Survey of History 612 B.C.E. Babylonians captured the Assyrian capital of Nineveh 609 B.C.E. King Josiah of Judah blocked Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt as he marched north to assist Assyria against the Babylonians 605 B.C.E. Babylonians defeat Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish 597 B.C.E. Jerusalem fell into Babylonian hands 586 B.C.E. Jerusalem destroyed


Faith Lessons Habakkuk had some tenacity. He brought his complaints to God and even argued with God’s responses as he wrestled with the implications of God’s word for his own life and faith. The prophet received bad news from God: the worst was yet to come. And yet, Habakkuk clung to his faith and made a remarkable declaration of faith as he learned to accept God’s will, no matter what. From Habakkuk, we can glean ten attributes of persistent faith. They are as relevant for us as they were for Habakkuk. Persistent faith . . .          

Calls to God for help, even when God is silent (1:1-11). Continues to dialogue with God when His answers seem unacceptable (1:12-17). Waits patiently for the Lord to respond (2:1-3). Trusts in God rather than in personal effort (2:4-5). Heeds God’s warnings (2:6-20). Accepts God’s plan (3:1-2). Focuses on God’s attributes (3:3-15). Waits in confidence (3:16). Finds joy in God, not in circumstances (3:17-18). Relies on God’s strength for the present crisis (3:19).

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Ten Attributes of Persistent Faith


Persistent faith calls to God for help, even when God is silent (1:1-11). Habakkuk watched the misery, destruction, violence, and injustice around him and wondered how God could remain silent in the face of such wickedness. His prayers apparently continued unanswered long enough that Habakkuk grew frustrated with God’s nonresponsiveness to his prayers, too. Have you ever prayed for something and wondered “how long?” before God answers your prayers? What do you do when God seems silent? How does it make you feel? How does your sentiment compare with that of Psalm 73:11?

Sometimes God seems silent in the midst of injustice and evil. According to 2 Peter 3:9, why might God seem silent or slow to act?

To Habakkuk, God’s answer (1:5-11) seemed worse than His silence. The Lord said that He would judge the wickedness in Judah by bringing the Babylonians to conquer it. “They are notorious for their cruelty. . . . They are a fierce people, more fierce than wolves at dusk” (1:7-8). If God told you that the worst is yet to come in your life, how would you respond?

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How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! (Habakkuk 1:2).


Persistent faith continues to dialogue with God when His answers seem unacceptable (1:1217). God answered Habakkuk, but it wasn’t the answer he had hoped for. God’s judgment was coming in the form of the ruthless Babylonians. Has God ever given you an answer that didn’t seem fair? If God were to give you an answer that seemed too difficult to bear, what would you do? Would you give up on God or try to talk Him out of it?

It seemed as if God was going to let the wicked prevail. Habakkuk asked, “Will you let them get away with this forever?” (1:17). Read Psalm 73. What was the psalmist’s view of the wicked at the beginning of the psalm (73:1-14)? How did his opinion change (73:15-20)? What changed his perspective (73:21-28)? Which perspective do you have? Why?

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O LORD my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal—is your plan in all of this to wipe us out? Surely not! O LORD our Rock, you have decreed the rise of these Babylonians to punish and correct us for our terrible sins (Habakkuk 1:12).


Persistent faith waits patiently for the Lord to respond (2:1-3). Habakkuk had learned to wait for God’s reply. His first complaint was “How long?” because he had been calling out to God for help. When God replied, Habakkuk voiced a second complaint to God, but he knew God’s reply might not come immediately, so he prepared to wait. What does Lamentations 3:25-26 say about the benefit of waiting for God? What activity does it suggest we do while we wait?

In God’s answer to Habakkuk’s second complaint, He indicated that the answer would take time to be fulfilled: “If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.” When God doesn’t change our circumstances quickly, we become impatient and wonder if God doesn’t understand the urgency of our situation. Waiting can cause us succumb to doubts. What do you do to keep doubts at bay? According to Micah 7:7 and Psalm 27:13-14, what qualities will help us wait without doubting?

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I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the LORD will say to me and how he will answer my complaint (Habakkuk 2:1).


Persistent faith trusts in God rather than in personal effort (2:4-5). Habakkuk wanted to know why God would allow the wicked to prevail over those who were more righteous (1:13). But God’s answer indicated that He doesn’t see things in relative terms. Everyone who does not live by faith in God but trusts in themselves will get what they deserve in due time. What does Proverbs 16:5, 18 say about this problem? Is such a fate self-inflicted or Godinflicted? Why?

New Testament writers often cited Habakkuk 2:4 because of its foundation of faith. Do Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38 provide any additional insights into the life of faith? The repetition of “the righteous will live by their faith” indicates its importance. What does it really mean to live by faith? See Hebrews 11:1. How does living by faith help us to overcome our natural inclination to trust in ourselves?

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“Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked; but the righteous will live by their faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).


Persistent faith heeds God’s warnings (2:6-20). God explains that, although He is using the Babylonians to carry out His judgment against Judah, the Babylonians will eventually get what they deserve. Their time is coming. The Lord gives five warnings (woes) to the Babylonians and all who trust in themselves rather than living by faith. In one or two words, describe each of the five warnings. (2:6-8) Beware of . . .

(2:9-11) Beware of . . .

(2:12-14) Beware of . . .

(2:15-17) Beware of . . .

(2:18-20) Beware of . . .

Are these warnings relevant today? Underline any of the warnings that you may need to heed. What are the consequences of not heeding these warnings?

How are these problems a result of trusting in oneself rather than living by faith? For each one, list a specific response of faith. For example, greed could be remedied by faith in God’s provision and contentment with what God provides.

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“But soon it will be your turn! Come, drink and be exposed! Drink from the cup of the LORD’s judgment, and all your glory will be turned to shame” (Habakkuk 2:16).


Persistent faith accepts God’s plan (3:1-2). Once again Habakkuk prays, but this time with a more submissive tone. How does his tone resemble that of Job after his encounter with God (Job 42:5-6)? What shift does this reflect?

Habakkuk appealed to God to help His people, but he seemed to accept God’s plan for judging Judah with a Babylonian invasion. Instead of arguing and complaining, he acknowledged God’s power and ability to save, and pleaded “in your anger, remember your mercy.” A few years later, the prophet Jeremiah wrote a lament after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. Read his words in Jeremiah 3:19-24. According to Jeremiah, how can we have hope in the midst of suffering? How does this help us to accept God’s plan when it seems unacceptable to us?

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I have heard all about you, LORD, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. 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. And in your anger, remember your mercy (Habakkuk 3:2).


Persistent faith focuses on God’s attributes (3:3-15). According to Habakkuk 1:1, the book is a record of the message Habakkuk received from the Lord in a vision. Up to this point, the text has contained dialogue, with no other sensory details. But these verses (3:3-15) contain a vivid description of what Habakkuk saw. What parts of this description are most striking to you?

Having appealed to God to help His people again as He had done throughout history, Habakkuk saw a vision of God coming to save them. But, in the vision, the past, present, and future were intertwined. Some of the imagery is similar to the Lord’s acts at Sinai and the Red Sea, but these are combined with the image of God approaching in a thunderstorm. What might these intertwined images indicate? See Hebrews 13:8.

How does envisioning God’s mighty power help us to have persistent faith? What attributes of God do you need to envision coming to bear on your circumstances?

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I see God, the Holy One, moving across the deserts of Edom and Mount Paran. His brilliant splendor fills the heavens, and the earth is filled with his praise! What a wonderful God he is! (Habakkuk 3:3).


Persistent faith waits in confidence (3:16). Although Habakkuk was disappointed at the news that God would send Babylon to invade Judah, the prophet had now seen a vision God of coming to save them, sending nations fleeing before His presence. Knowing Babylon’s ultimate demise made it easier for Habakkuk to wait with confidence. Sometimes waiting can be accompanied by fear and dread. What does the Bible promise in Isaiah 40:31 to those who wait on the Lord with confidence? How can that help you to wait in confidence for whatever God has planned for you?

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I trembled inside when I heard all this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us (Habakkuk 3:16).


Persistent faith finds joy in God, not in circumstances (3:17-18). In a dramatic change in perspective, Habakkuk moves beyond complaining to joyfully accept whatever the future holds. Habakkuk realized it is better to live by faith in the midst of desperate circumstances than to be self-reliant in prosperity. Relying on God helps overcome the frustrations of life. What frustrations do you have? How would it change your perspective to rely on God rather than yourself to resolve those frustrations?

A military invasion would destroy all that the people needed to live—crops, flocks, and cattle. But Habakkuk determined to demonstrate persistent faith that found joy in God, not in circumstances. Using Habakkuk’s words as an example (“Even though . . .”), write your own declaration of faith in God no matter what happens in life.

Despite outward circumstances, Habakkuk resolved to joyfully trust the Lord. What does Philippians 4:4-7 say about how to experience joy and peace? How is it possible to have joy and peace regardless of circumstances? In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul says “I have learned the secret of living in every situation.” What is the secret?

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Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk3:1718).


Persistent faith relies on God’s strength for the present crisis (3:19). With his new attitude of joyful acceptance of God’s plan, Habakkuk knew that God would give him the strength to endure the Babylonian invasion and the destruction of life as he knew it. He could not endure it on his own strength, but God would be his strength. In similar fashion, Paul pleaded with God to take away a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10) but God said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” What difficult circumstances does Paul list? Make a list of your own difficult circumstances. If you’ve prayed and God has not changed your circumstances, He might want to use your circumstances to change you. Which do you think is true of your circumstances?

It’s easy to trust God when things are going well, but it takes persistent faith to rely on God in the midst of difficult circumstances. Habakkuk knew that God would not level the path before him. There would be difficult terrain ahead. Though his own footing was unstable, God would make him surefooted and see him safely through the rocky road ahead. Compare Psalm 18:32-33 with Psalm 23:2-3. Which kind of path is God leading you on at this point in your life?

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The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains (Habakkuk 3:19).


Bible Explorers If you would like to explore Habakkuk more on your own, here are some suggestions for where you might begin. Then, follow your curiosity like a good explorer and see where your studies lead you! In a Bible dictionary, look up: Habakkuk Chaldeans Babylonians Check a Bible atlas to see how the Babylonians marched “across the world to conquer it” (Habakkuk 1:6). A good Bible atlas will provide a written description of the events related to the rise of the Babylonian Empire.

Contact Christy The best way to get to know me is to meet me on Twitter @christybower. You can also read more of my writings on my blog at www.christybower.com. And I have a contact form on my website if you need to contact me personally. You can even write to me: Christy Bower PO Box 983 Whitefish MT 59937

I love to hear from readers! Go ahead, make my day!

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How has the study of Habakkuk strengthened your resolve to demonstrate persistent faith, no matter what happens?

Habakkuk - No Matter What Happens: Ten Attributes of Persistent Faith  

In a mere 56 verses, Habakkuk reveals ten principles on how to hold firm to your faith in God, even when things go from bad to worse. Meet...

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