"When The Seagull Does Not Come."

Habakkuk 1:-4; 2:1-4; 3:17-19

Eddie Rickenbacker was a famous military pilot during World War I, and was credited
with destroying 26 enemy air planes.
He was given the title, "The American Ace," for his valiant fighting during that war.
He was also awarded the Congressional Metal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross
by the US government.

During World War II Eddie served as a confidential adviser to the Secretary of War concerning aircraft.
While on an inspection tour in the South Pacific in October 1942, his bomber was forced down.
He and his crew spent 24 days on a raft before being rescued.
He wrote about this experience in his book, "Seven Came Through."

Eddie Rickenbacker and his comrades spent 24 days floating in the middle of the South Pacific Basin.
They almost died for lack of food and water.

But one day, almost miraculously, a seagull landed on their raft.
They captured the bird and ate it.
It gave them enough nourishment to last a little while longer, and soon after that experience,
they were rescued.

I love stories like that.
Stories of how Habakkuk worried, but turned out happy in the end.
We like stories about when the seagull comes.
We like stories like an alcoholic who gets saved and sober.
We like stories about a marriage that almost fails, but through counseling and love,
avoids a divorce, and grows into a strong, marriage.
We like stories about the person with cancer, who, through the best medical treatment and lots of prayers,,
beats cancer and lives a full and healthy life.
We like a story where the young man raised in a Christian home goes bad for a while,
but eventually sees the error of his ways; and finally comes back to his family
and back to the Lord and to the church.

But what happens when the seagull does not come?

What happens when no rescue takes place.
What happens when the alcoholic does not get saved or even get sober.
What happens when the marriage, in spite of counseling, ends in divorce.
What happens when the cancer, in spite of radiation and chemotherapy and many prayers
takes its toll and the person dies.
What happens when the young person does not come home to parents and to Christ and the church.

That is the subject of our text today.

The prophet looked around, and all he saw was crises and tragedies.
God seemed to be absent.
No seagull came, and no rescue was in sight.
It was a bad time.

Habakkuk was angry, and even angry at God.
He asked God, "Why?"
"Why all the suffering and injustice?"
And he asked, "Where are you God?"

It seemed like the world was falling apart, and that God was on vacation.
Hear again the words of the prophet as recorded in Habakkuk 1: 1-4:
"The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
  1. LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence,
  2. thou wilt not save!
  3. dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance?
  4. spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.
Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth:
for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth
."

Sometimes, we feel a lot like Habakkuk.
In our struggling and suffering, we pray for a seagull to come; we pray to be rescued, but nothing happens.
So, like Habakkuk, we asked, "Why?"
Most of us have felt like that many times.

For instance, I read about a man who was good and deserving.
His name is Dallas.
He was a hard-working farmer in Arkansas.

The year he began farming a drought destroyed his entire crop.
About the time he paid off his loan for the drought, the flood destroyed another crop.
Dallas went bankrupt, and lost his farm.

Take the case of a woman that we will call Mary.
She tried to keep her marriage together, but even after the counseling her marriage failed.

Or consider parents whose child had become terminally ill.
They struggled with the disease for years, but in spite of all their efforts and prayers, the child died.

Consider a lady who had breast cancer.
She fought it for years but finally lost the battle.

You and I know many stories about Christian people who faced crises and prayed for God's rescue,
but no seagull came.

What do we do when the seagull does not come?

What does our faith have to say about that?
Habakkuk faced that question, and through his struggles, he found some answers.
When you read the rest of chapter 1 of Habakkuk, you will see part of the answer.

God told Habakkuk that in spite of how things looked, He was doing something.
He was working in ways Habakkuk could not see.
But the main answer is found in Chapter 2.

Listen again to God's Word in 2:1-4:
"I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see
what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.
The LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables,
he may run that readeth it.
The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie:
though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith."


In the midst of pain, suffering, injustice, and doubt, Habakkuk said the answer is to live by faith.
That is an old answer.
It is not an easy one, but it is the one that God gives.

Even when things look bad, and even when we hurt, and even when the seagull does not come;
we are to live by faith.

But what is faith?
Some say faith means not doubting.
But that is not necessarily so.
Real faith always contains elements of doubt and struggle.
Some say faith is expecting a miracle, but that's not necessarily so, either.

Faith is believing even when no miracle occurs.
Faith is believing even when God seems distant.
Faith is believing even our dreams fail, and loved ones die, and we hurt so bad
that we think we cannot go on.

Some say faith is believing that good things are going to happen to us – not so!
Faith is believing even when nothing good happens to us.
Faith is believing when no miracles come, and we cannot find an answer.
Still we go on in faith, and by God's grace, our faith is enough.

And that is the kind of faith that Habakkuk had.

We see that in a powerful way in Chapter 3:17-18:
"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior
."

If Habakkuk had written this passage today, it might say something like the following:
"Though my business may fail, though I become unemployed, though I lose my home,
though my cancer is incurable, though the stock market may crash, though my marriage ends in divorce,
though my children may fail me, though my dreams may die, though my health deteriorates,
though my dearest should die – yet, I will have faith.
I will worship the Lord
."

That is real faith.
That kind of faith will sustain us through the worst times of our lives.

Life without faith is no life at all.
When life is unfair and cruel, and when God seems far away, that is when we need our faith the most.
Then we will discover that our faith strained as it might be – will sustain us.
It won't give us all the answers – and it may be unclear, but it will carry us through.

The just really do live by faith as Habakkuk says in 3:19, "The Sovereign Lord is my strength."
Habakkuk's faith carried him through the darkness, and our faith will do the same for us.

Jesus had perfect faith.
As He hung dying on the cross, He cried out, "My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?"
But then the moment after that, He said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
Jesus knew that the just shall live by faith.

So what do we do when the seagull does not come?
Habakkuk said that we must continue to have faith – and still praise God – and still pray and worship.
That kind of faith will give us the strength to take another step

Martin Thielen, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church in Honolulu Hawaii tells of a pastor who had
a daughter named, Nietta, and she was 10 years old.
She was discovered to have leukemia.
She was only 10 years old, why oh why?

In spite of all the radiation treatments, Nietta stayed in good spirits.
She would take off her wig and show her fuzzy-head which was the result of radiation treatments.
One morning she woke up feeling bad, and that evening, she died in her daddy's arms.

Later Martin sent a letter to the family expressing his sorrow.
Several months later, a card came in the mail from Nietta's family expressing thanks
to all their concerned friends.
In their card, the family quoted this passage from Habakkuk:
"Your cards, caring, and praying for us to this year of sorrow and loss have meant so much.
We know you rejoice with us in our hope of being reunited with our Nietta in heaven someday
."

Meanwhile, we affirm the words of Habakkuk 3:17-19:
"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails in the fields produce no food,
but there are no sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stall, yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength
."

What do we do when the seagull does not come?
We continue to have faith – the just shall live by faith.

"Have faith in God when your pathway is lonely.
He sees and knows all the way you have trod;
Never alone are the least of His children;
Have faith in God, have faith in God.

Have faith in God when your prayers are unanswered,
Your earnest plea He will never forget;
Wait on the lord, trust His word and be patient,
Have faith in God. He'll answer yet.

Have faith in God in your pain and your sorrow,
His heart is touched with your grief and despair;
Cast all your cares and your burdens upon Him,
And leave them there, oh, leave them there.

Have faith in God though all else fall about you;
Have faith in God, He provides for His own:
He cannot fail though all kingdoms shall perish.
He rules. He reigns upon His throne.

Chorus:
Have faith in God, He's on His throne,
Have faith in God, He watches over His own;
He cannot fail, He must prevail,
Have faith in God, Have faith in God."

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White