It all comes down to faith
See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright –
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness. Habakkuk 2:4
This is who I want to be. This is how I want to live.
Righteous: morally right or justifiable
Not self-righteous. Definitely not self-righteous. Never let me fall into the trap of believing and acting as if I am morally superior. That immediately takes it way beyond righteous into pious territory. I never want to find myself in that place, looking down on others in judgement.
For none of us will truly ever be irreproachable. So I’ll steer clear of synonyms like virtuous and high-minded, even upstanding, with uncomfortable connotations in our modern world and rather aspire to be ethical, just, honest, honourable, anti-corruption and God-fearing. Those sum up righteous for me.
We’ve seen in Habakkuk 2 what the opposite of a righteous person is: how he behaves and what he has coming to him. I definitely want to distance myself from being that kind of person.
So how does a righteous person live life?
The righteous person will live by his faithfulness.
That’s it. This verse says nothing about standards and actions and beliefs and words. For God here talking to Habakkuk, it all comes down to living by faithfulness.
Faithfulness: the quality of being faithful; fidelity.
Faithfulness encompasses loyalty, devotion, dedication, commitment, allegiance, dependability, reliability, and trustworthiness. In our relationship with God, we trust in Him wholeheartedly and do not look to other gods or people or things to take on God’s role in our life. We are committed to Him and Him alone.
So what does that look like in practice?
Well, further on in the Bible in Paul’s letters to the Romans and the Galatians, he mentions this verse. Having been brought up as Jew, Paul will have been familiar with this verse from the Scriptures. This verse tuck with him and when he’s writing letter, the verse surfaces in his mind and illustrated the point he is making.
In Romans 1, Paul’s expressing his fervent desire to visit the believers in Rome.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ Romans 1:16-17
He sees the gospel, the Good News that Jesus brought through his life and death, as the revelation of God’s righteousness. That’s what Jesus came to do: show us God, show us the way to God, show us how to live in a godly way. This righteousness is everlasting, as God is everlasting, and available to all, as God’s love is available to all. And it all comes down to faith. That’s all we need: faith.
In Galatians 3, Paul is discussing faith versus works of the law. The people have lost their way. They’ve reverted to following rules rather than living by faith. They’re pursuing works of the law rather than focusing on what Jesus came to do and allowing that to transform their lives. There’s a dichotomy here between the spirit and the flesh – the internal and the external. Between what is going on on the inside and what is happening on the outside.
Again, it all comes down to faith.
Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’ Galatians 3:11-12
Whatever we look like and behave like and say on the outside, none of that counts for anything if we do not have faith. Our faith is where is all starts. What we are on the inside transforms what we are on the outside, so yes, we will start to become more ‘righteous’ in all that we do and say, but that is as a result of the transformative work going on on the inside, not the other way round.
I think we sometimes limit faithfulness to fidelity, where is literally means full of faith.
1. strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.
2. complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
In terms of our faith in God, I think both of these definitions are required. You cannot choose one of the other (although I struggle with words like doctrines and religion, because of the damage they have done in our world – I don’t see much righteousness displayed there).
But faith is about believing spiritual truths that cannot be seen or proven. They are ‘known’ in our hearts and spirits. And this faith is unshakeable – because of the second definition. I’m personally more comfortable with this definition, as it is based on relationship: a complete trust and confidence in God.
We are called to live by faith. That’s it. Not get caught up in the dos and don’ts and the external rules that are often more cultural than spiritual. One step at a time, learning what it is to have complete trust and confidence in God. Every step of the way. Even when things don’t go our way. Even when we have no idea what God is up to. Even when we can’t make sense of what is going on.
And that will look different in practice for each one of us.
Tomorrow, I’ll share with you what that looks like for me.