The Time Habakkuk and James Met Up at the Bottom of the World and Did a Fist Bump



November 20, 2021

Romans 15:4-6 (NIV)

4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one purpose and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


O.K., for you counters out there, this is entry #51 in our Encourage one another Daily series on the Daily Text. Ten more-ish to go. 

O.K., just for fun. . . . humor me.

I say Para-Klasis. You say Hoop-O-Money.  (those are the J.D. Walt phonetical spellings of our two power words of this series: encouragement and perseverance)

Para-Klasis! Hoop-O-Money! 

I can’t hear you. Para-Klasis!

Now, I say Jesus. You say Messiah. 

Jesus! Messiah! 

Thanks for that! 

I wonder if you picked up on the little jewel in v.4 of our text from yesterday and today. 

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Speaking of something written in earlier times. . . for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope, meet Habakkuk, a minor prophet, prophesying about a major trial on the horizon.  I call it “Descent #17”

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, 
(Habakkuk 3:17)

This is the story of a story not working out like it was supposed to work out and yet working out in a much more surprising way. In other words, it is the story of our lives. It is the story of a baby that will never be born, a spouse who should not have died so soon, a marriage that should not have ended as it did, a career path that just couldn’t seem to right itself, an addiction that swallowed up your whole life, a mental illness that led to the brink of bankruptcy and even suicide, and you can take it from here. It is the story of the kind of discouraging situations and conditions that become infected with despair and metastasize into depression and hopelessness. Or worse, it is more common story of the not quite crisis—that low grade fever of a slumbering prosperity without purpose—an illusory life of pain so normalized it has become forgotten; propped up by caffeine and sedated by chardonnay.

Whether screaming or whispering, the song is the same: No figs, no grapes, no olives, no grain, no sheep, no cattle, no energy, no purpose, no light, no life, no happiness, no friends, no lover, no faith, no hope, no love . . . no, no, no. 

Into this nothing doing, nowhere-going existence, Habakkuk deploys lament to lead us to the bankruptcy of the bottom. But look what happens at the no-nothing bottom. Habakkuk and James meet up and do a fist bump. Here’s what “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” looks like:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. 
Habakkuk 3:18

Oh my gosh! Did he really just go there? This, my friends, is a picture of pure joy. I used to think that was hyperbole until I realized it was literal. Pure joy is joy untethered from even the slightest shred of happiness. It is inexplicable because it is coming from somewhere other than this valley of the shadow of death and devastation we call here. It is streaming in live from Heaven via the Person of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

And yes—to Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds, as James instructs, requires faith, because let’s be honest—feelings will never get it done in these feckless places. James continues, Because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. This is the stuff of perseverance (aka Hoop-O-money). And Remember, you aren’t the one bringing the Hoop-O-Money. Jesus is bringing it.

So whether you are at the bottom or you are only practicing for the next trial I want you to repeat the refrain of what I call “Valley #18” after me:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

I’ll meet you back here at the bottom tomorrow where I will give witness to my own long journey down “Descent #17” and my ongoing sojourn in “Valley #18” — the valley of the shadow of joy. 

I say Para-Klasis. You say Hoop-O-Money.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)


Father, thank you for these words from your Word: encouragement and perseverance. And thank you for the way they capture what Jesus is always doing with, for, in, through and all around us. We know “Descent #17” and the long and winding way down into the valley of the shadow of discouragement. Some of us know discouragement to the point of despair and depression. Our spirits have given up and are succumbing to this valley as a place of residence. Holy Spirit, would you empower us to even begin to mouth the words to the song of Valley #18, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior.” Jesus, we need you to help us, but much mores, we need you to have us. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


Can you remember “Descent #17” in your life? Are you in it right now? Are you learning the song of “Valley #18.” The struggle is real isn’t it? 


Pastors and Leaders of Churches, will you let us serve you in the season ahead? Players (aka laity) will you consider getting involved to help sponsor this work?*

Please click on one (or both) options to register interest:

I AM AN INTERESTED PASTOR/LEADER (full time or bi-vocational).


*We are hearing from Jesus a long game calling to encourage, build-up, and deeply invest in the Shepherds of the Kingdom—our local church pastors. The global pandemic has challenged us all, but it has uniquely challenged our shepherds. In 2022 we will begin a multi-year campaign to renew the heart and restore the awakening calling of these leaders.

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.