Film / Book Reviews

A clear message on what faith is all about

Feb 2009    

God, Why?
Author: Rev Dr Gordon Wong Publisher: Armour Publishing Pte Ltd 56 pp. $12
This book is available in major Christian and general bookshops

FAITH IS …

‘Wong distills Habakkuk’s three chapters into three words – protest, perseverance and praise – and in his final chapter makes a correlation to what it means to have faith. Faith is coming before God even with our doubts and fears; it is being blatantly honest before a God who is not unacquainted with our failings and our frailty. Faith is keeping our focus on God even when the circumstances clamour in distracting and detracting us. Faith is trusting in God even in the face of disappointment and disaster.’

GOD, WHY? Amidst all the busyness of my work, I was approached to write this review for the Rev Dr Gordon Wong’s book on Habakkuk. In all honesty, his title for the book was my initial response. His question was my question. And living in a world which is getting increasingly out of control, I suspect that his question is also our question as well.

I surmise that for many of us, that is a question we often ask of the Lord as we encounter the trials, the terrors and the tragedies that send tremors and trembles the very foundations of our lives. But as I began reading the book and finished it in one afternoon, my initial reaction of protest, albeit tacit and unspoken, gave way to praise.

I am grateful for this privilege to pen this review. And more than just reading this review, read Wong’s God, Why? and I hope that in so doing, it will ignite this passion to get back to reading the Bible, especially the books contained in the Minor Prophets.

God, Why? is reason that we cannot be ignorant of this section of the Old Testament which is often neglected both in the pulpit and in the pew. This book of the Minor Prophets presents a major commentary on our response in the face of natural catastrophes and personal calamities, in looking beyond the “whys” and focusing instead on the “Who”.

Wong presents the message of Habakkuk with clarity, conviction, consideration for our current context, and concurrently manages to keep it concise.

His careful choice of alliteration in the chapter titles corresponding with the three chapters of Habakkuk underscores his exegetical competence and expository creativity. His use of anecdotes and analogies helps tremendously in making the necessary connections and ensures that the message of Habakkuk becomes accessible to all. And for those who are interested in the various exegetical issues arising from the Hebrew text, Wong also includes an additional section to address some of these concerns, thereby making this study of Habakkuk relevant to both academics and apprentices.

Wong distills Habakkuk’s three chapters into three words – protest, perseverance and praise – and in his final chapter makes a correlation to what it means to have faith.

Faith is coming before God even with our doubts and fears; it is being blatantly honest before a God who is not unacquainted with our failings and our frailty. Faith is keeping our focus on God even when the circumstances clamour in distracting and detracting us. Faith is trusting in God even in the face of disappointment and disaster.

As I read the book, a song by Larnelle Harris came to mind. It is a song which to me resonated with Wong’s presentation of the message of Habakkuk:

Sometimes life seems like words and music that can’t quite become a song.
So we cry inside, and we try it again and wonder what could be wrong.
But, when we turn to the Lord at the end of ourselves,
Like we’ve done a time or two before We find His truth is the same, as it has always been
We’ll never need more

It’s not in trying
but in trusting
It’s not in running
but in resting
It’s not in wondering
but in praying
that we find the strength of the Lord

Against an increasingly egocentric brand of Christian “faith” which peddles prosperity and promises personal health and wealth, Wong’s clarion call for Christians, through his lucid exposition of Habakkuk, is for a dogged and rugged faithfulness, “even when the fig trees do not blossom”!

Andrew Peh is a lecturer at Trinity Theological College.

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