Worst-Case Worship

Praising God through the bad times

The story of Habakkuk is a lesson in what I am calling “worst-case worship,” and through it we see an example of how to continually worship the Lord during times that may appear bleak. Habakkuk was a prophet of faith, and his name meant “to embrace” or “one who enfolds” and it was a good depiction of his ministry. Ultimately, he helped a nation that was about to be judged to respond properly and lean into its healing.

The year is approximately 706 BC. Habakkuk has been raised up to be a prophet to the people of Judah. He is living in the final decades of Judah’s kingdom before their captivity. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had already fallen to Assyria; Babylon’s presence is looming over the remnant of Judah. He is feeling the heat.                                                     

Surprisingly, Habakkuk’s ministry differed from the prophets that went before him. He did not accuse, but rather he looked beyond the coming trouble and helped the nation of Judah to focus on what was important.

Being a prophet, Habakkuk was dealing with many future events that were yet to unfold. There were many questions floating around in his mind, along with a lot of unknown outcomes that he was inwardly wrestling with.

So, at this juncture, Habakkuk was somewhat confused. Judgement was coming to Judah; however, he never expected it would come through Babylon. Unfortunately, God was going to raise up and use an evil nation to judge her. Dark days loomed ahead.

Describing the situation as bleak, he put it in these terms, “There are no buds on the fig trees, no grapes on the vine, the olive crop has failed and there is no food in the field.” To top it all off he says, “There are no sheep in the pen or cattle in the stall.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV) You may not be a farmer, but it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that it’s pretty bad in the nation of Judah!

This is where we find the narrative for the article. In a nutshell, we find the prophet praising God while he and the nation were “losing the game,” so to speak. Can you imagine losing the game, and still praising God? Believe me, it is harder to do than you’d think. I call this worst-case praise. Have you ever been there? I know that I have, and I’d say many of you have too.

So, let’s lean into the art of worst-case worship. A good place to start would be to do what Habakkuk did, and what I would call “yet” worship: “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:18)

Finding Your “Yet”

The idea of finding your “yet” is the work of developing a mindset of determination. It’s asking God to help you look for the best in every situation. Here’s what it might look like in real time in your life: “I’m not seeing the answers to my prayers—yet will I praise Him; I haven’t seen the provision show up—yet will I praise Him; I’m not seeing my healing manifested – yet will I praise Him.”

In essence, it’s a two-fold work, a partnership between you and the Holy Spirit. It begins by embracing the Spirit and allowing Him to work deeply within your spirit. This is more than just a “mere nod.” It’s a full commitment! At times, it can be an instant work within. However, often it is a transformation over time. It’s a partnership that becomes part of the maturing process as a Christian. 

So, does finding your “yet” help you find a better you? Yes! I believe it does! You’ve got to be like Habakkuk of old and say, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:18 AMP) Have you found your yet, yet?

Finding Your “In”

You are probably thinking … Find my “in?” What are you talking about? I’m talking about developing a mindset that offers praise and worship while you still are waiting for God to come through. You and I must pre-decide if we are going to praise God before the answer arrives. Notice the scripture says, “I will rejoice!” If you don’t settle it upfront, the pressure will rob you of your determination to worship in a worst-case scenario.

Many times we don’t worship because we’re waiting on a reason to do so. We are waiting for the job to be secured, for the provision to be in hand, or for God to manifest our breakthrough.

You must decide that you will praise and worship God regardless of the circumstance. That would be in the good times as well as the bad. In the desert places or in the oasis. You need to understand that even when you don’t have a reason to praise, you’ve still got a reason to offer it! Praise is the language of faith. It stills the enemy and refocuses your mind and spirit on God Himself. We like to praise God in His solution, not in His Sovereignty.

Finding Your “Way Out”

Only when you’ve learned how to worship God while enduring a problem are you able to praise your way out. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve even scratched the surface concerning the power of our praise and worship.

I believe that God wants us to go deeper. Praise can be a part of worship, but often worship goes beyond praise. Praise is usually easy; worship is not. True worship gets to the heart of who we really are. To truly worship is to abandon ourselves. It only works well when we abandon our control. At times, it becomes a stretch. We must abandon the fear of what others might think of us.

Maybe a caveat would be appropriate at this point. That would be, “I should never expect that others must worship just like I do.” That also works the other way too. Others should never expect you to worship just like them. You see, worship is a personal experience. It often flows out of our maturity, or maybe our lack thereof. It’s complex! 

I still hold to the principle that true worship in “spirit and truth” happens by learning to abandon ourselves to the practice thereof. It’s a growth thing; a process that we’re all walking out in our lives. That my friend, is worship that takes you “out” of your dilemma into God’s life-changing presence!

Worst-Case Worship

It’s possible that as some of you are reading this message, you’ve found yourselves in the middle a “worst-case scenario.” Or maybe you’re not in one but paralyzed by the very thought that it could happen in the future.

Predetermine in your heart to worship God, regardless of how you feel. No matter what it might look like. It’s called “a sacrifice of praise.” (Hebrews 13:15) Determine above all that God is to be the object of your worship. And finally, abandon yourself to His worship alone!

Can you do that? Absolutely! Any child of God can. That in essence, is worst-case worship!

Dr. Jon Chasteen
Dr. Jon Chasteenhttps://collective.tku.edu
Dr. Jon Chasteen is the President of The King's University and the Lead Pastor at Victory Church in Oklahoma City.