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Finding Joy When the Fig Tree Does Not Bud

The prophet Habakkuk counsels us to trust in God’s promises despite our circumstances.

President George Washington envisioned a nation in which every person would sit under his own vine and fig tree with no one to make them afraid (Mic. 4:4). He dreamed of a people blessed by safety, prosperity, peace, and virtue.

Yet all too often, we claim God’s gracious promises as rights instead of blessings. What happens when “the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines” (Hab. 3:17)? Can we still rejoice in the Lord and be joyful in God our Savior (v. 18)?

Even the church I’ve pastored for 12 years, a growing multiethnic congregation in Southern California, began with a death.

We were gifted a property and a handful of precious saints when another church in the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination closed its doors. That church had boasted a rich heritage of discipleship and missions, but the fruit had fallen off their vine. Some of the congregants were angry to the point of fistfights. Others scribbled down pages of their complaints on a yellow legal pad. Many left and never returned.

They were mourning the loss of a church they had loved for decades and a future that no longer existed, even as we looked forward in anticipation to planting a new church. So during that season, I met with the remnant in their homes and listened to their stories.

We prayed and waited and grieved together beneath that barren fig tree. And by the time we replanted the church, they were some of our strongest supporters. They realized how the death of one church could lead to bountiful harvest in another (John 12:24).

The Book of Habakkuk speaks into our lives when we don’t feel God’s presence, when we don’t understand his ways, and when we don’t know if we can persevere. …

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