"Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive." (Habakkuk 2:4)
There is both first-hand and 'hand-me-down' knowledge of God. Second-hand or 'hand-me-down' knowledge about God is never all that fulfilling - it is still good, but when we experience God's goodness ourselves, it is so much better. We are sometimes challenged to really take in the various aspects of what we are beholding in our lives - looking intently at the man who is bloated by self-importance - and painfully, that man could be us. At a cursory review of this passage, we may immediately think about someone who is filled with pride, boastful and living with his "nose in the air". The actual intent is quite different - being bloated with self-importance actually encompasses any man or woman who spends more time focusing on the things that please or fulfill the selfish desires of the heart more than on what pleases the heart of God.
We are asked to look at the intentions of our heart - why it is that we do what we do, what drives us to make the decisions we make, how it is that we have chosen to live our lives. Here we are reminded, albeit not very tenderly, that choosing to live in a self-centered, ego-centric way is to live a life that is "soul-empty". There is no real substance to it - it is vacant of what really rewards. We may have "full lives", but they are filled with that which really brings no satisfaction in the end - soul-empty lives. The intent is for each of us to come into the experience of God's presence in our lives - getting to know the "ins and outs" of how he works, having our heart "tugged" by the things that move his heart. It is quite easy to get so focused on what "I" want, how a circumstance will affect "me", and what "I" think is important. In the end, "I" truly does "stand alone". When an individual is "ego-centric", that person is focused on self - others are tolerated, but they are not the focus of life (including God).
We can be fully alive - but it is only by steady and loyal believing. It is the commitment to keep God in focus - central in our lives - that keeps us steady. As long as we are focused inwardly on our needs (our wants), we don't have our eyes on anything that gives us stability, assurance, or lasting "advantage" in life. In fact, all we are focusing on is something that will "pass away" in the course of time. Faith is a growth experience - it is taking our eyes off of ourselves long enough to put them on Christ, intentionally seeing him. We can keep two things in our line of sight, but it is impossible to focus on both at the same time. This is a basic principle of photography - the photographer can go for the big picture (really focusing on no "one thing"), or can obscure the big picture (take it out of focus) to move in with clarity on one thing in the shot that is brought alive as the "focal point" of the image. When we see this type of image, properly displayed, we are awed by the brilliance of what is captured. So it is with our focus in life - if it is obscured by trying to constantly take in the "big picture", we will miss the awesomeness of the brilliance of God in the midst of the "picture". Remember, the right perspective determines the image that is ultimately portrayed. Just sayin!