Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith – Hab. 2:4

Beyond doctrinal debates and discussions, the prophet Habakkuk’s prophecy changed the course of church history as a missional principle that the proud shall not continue, but the just shall live by faith. Prophet Habakkuk commences the prophecy with a fundamental thought applicable to all God’s dealings with people. With a description of an evil character, especially of the Chaldean, also known as Babylonian, Habakkuk said, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him.” Living in pride like the Chaldean points to people and nations defined by their achievements or self-confidence, puffed up with pride, arrogant, and unteachable (Ps 10:4). Living by faith is not about a correct orientation to theological facts but through thinking, speaking, and acting as one who is loving, seeking, relying on, hoping in, obeying, and trusting God through Jesus Christ alone.

The Chaldean soul in this context resonates with many souls today that are ‘inflated with pride, self-dependence ousting from his mind all thoughts of God. It is therefore unsound and distorted.’ Just as the wages of sin is death, Habakkuk warns with the inference “and therefore it shall die” to be imagined and hastens to the antithesis, “But the righteous man shall live by his faith.” To live by His faith is a reward promised to wait on God in Jesus above, trusting and confiding in His great love, which is life and deliverance from decline and destruction. The sin of ‘the pride of life’ beyond the arrogant spirit of self-sufficiency always expresses the desire for recognition, control, applause, status, and advantage. Living in pride is about what life can offer and enjoy.

Through our salvation, we have faith in Jesus as our Redeemer, God as our Father-provider, and the Holy Spirit as the power that enables us to have abundant lives. Considering God’s revelation about how and when He works, His people must be patient and live by faith. It is “the just,” that is, the righteous, those who entrust their lives to God and do what is right according to His standards, who will come through victorious in the end. Nothing we do pleases God if it is not coming from trust in God’s forgiveness, guidance, and power because ‘without faith, it is impossible to please God’ (Rom. 14:23; Heb. 11:6).

The righteous are contrasted with the proud and the ungodly, whose life choices and direction oppose God and His Word. The hearts of the righteous are not only devoted to God, but they also want to be His children, to have close fellowship with Him and to obey His plans and desires. The faith of the righteous, the living by faith, implies an active and lasting trust in God. The phrase, “the righteous shall live by faith,” is used throughout the New Testament to overcome not just unbelief but pride by supporting the teaching that people are saved by grace, God’s redemption at Christ’s expense (Eph. 2:8). 

To understand living by faith as opposed to living by pride, Apostle Paul’s prayers for the Thessalonians point us to three main directions:  “We always pray for you, that our God may . . . fulfil every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 1:11-12). Living by faith shapes what we do according to God’s Word. Living by faith means acting in God’s power and doing it to God’s glory.

Justifying, saving, and living by faith begins and centres in Jesus Christ because “…a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So, we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law because by the works of the law, no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16). Living by faith is best described in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews: “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, performed righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to fight the armies of the aliens” (Hebrews 11:33,34). Living by faith daily calls us to love Jesus Christ, seek Jesus Christ, rejoice in Jesus Christ, praise Jesus Christ, trust Jesus Christ, hope in Jesus Christ, obey Jesus Christ, come to know, and prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Living by faith resonates with the faith of our fathers. Let us prayerfully sing with Frederick William Faber (1814-1863):  

Faith of our fathers, living still
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword,
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word!
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free;
And blest would be their children’s fate,
If they, like them should die for thee:
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God
Mankind shall then indeed be free.
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife,
And preach thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!