While recently preparing to lead a church service I felt prompted to dive into the book of Haggai and was pleased to discover this little gem hidden away in the Old Testament. Now if you’re one of the blog readers that’s not particularly into the Old Testament (or the Bible for that matter) then stick with me as I think there’s a message in here for all of us.
Haggai had to deliver a difficult message to a group of people who were fed up with working really hard and producing little harvest. I’m sure most of us can relate to that feeling.
The Israelites had been out of exile for about 18 years, but from day one God has made it clear what their priority should be. They were meant to rebuild the temple. The problem was that they were too busy building their own houses and whenever they were asked about building the temple, they would use this excuse:
“The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.”
Dieters often say, “I’ll start on Monday.” My kids often say, “I’ll do it when I’ve finished watching this”. We all have our own excuses and ways of procrastinating. I heard one pastor point out the equivalent line that modern day Christian’s often use, “I’m praying about it.” Now the pastor made it clear that it is extremely important to pray about things and seek God’s will, but there are some things that God has told us to do that do not require prayer, they require action.
Haggai delivered this message from God.
“Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat,but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
"Have you ever invested in something or someone, only to wonder how you could put so much into it and get so little out?"
God is saying, “I can see how frustrated you are.” “I know that you’re demoralised and fed up and I see the impact it’s having on you.”
But God also gives the Israelites a way out of their frustration. He says,
“Give careful thought to your ways.”
He asked them to think carefully about the way that they were living their everyday lives. Notice that he does not say, “give careful thought to everyone else’s ways.” It’s about looking at the way we operate and considering whether we are working on the right building project.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured,” says the Lord.
The provision to do the work that God needed them to do was available. Along with losing their focus, the people had forgotten that God had provided them with all of the skills, talents and raw material to do the work He needed them to do.
We now hit verses 9-11 of Haggai 1 and brace yourselves as it’s not an easy read.
“You expect much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. “Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labour of your hands.”
You can almost imagine the response of the people,
“Do you mean to say God that all that we’ve been through, YOU did that? It was you that blew all this away. Why on earth would you do that to us?”
On many occasions throughout the Bible, and probably in our own lives, God places people in situations where they are forced to address their priorities and refocus on Him. The people of Israel had been so frustrated with the fruits of their labour and were questioning God’s provision for them. But it was never a lack of provision that was an issue, it was a lack of priority.
God was saying to the Israelites, rather than working on the bits that everyone else can see, “the panelled houses” start rebuilding the foundation of your life on me.
“When you seek God first, all these things will be added to you. This helps us to not be afraid of what the future holds because we have a foundation. God is the bottom line of my life. When you can’t say that, then you live in constant fear and suspicion and paranoia and emptiness and even your blessings seem hollow. You expect much and you come up empty.”
"If you will have the faith to go up to the mountain, bring the timber and start to build then this is what the Lord Almighty says in verse 13 of Haggai 1:
“I am with you,” declares the Lord.”
Now we know that God is always with us, but in order to truly bless us and help us produce fruit for Him, we need to seek Him first and place Him at the centre of everything we are doing.
Over the past few years, God has been extremely specific about what He wants me to do and His calling hasn’t changed. He has confirmed it through many people and through opportunities…some which I have to admit I have ignored. Despite the hard work trying to develop soulwithaview, things have never really taken off how I’d like. I have been frustrated with the harvest!
I have known for a while what my purpose is but, just like the people of Israel I have said the equivalent of, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.”
There have been many excuses I have used including:
I just don’t think I can do this.
I should just get a proper job.
We’ve got a lot going on at the moment.
I’m not a businesswoman…well, Companies House would disagree with that as I’m definitely registered as one.
The most popular one I use is: I really don’t know what I’m doing.
And so I have set to work on my the panelled houses that I wanted everyone to see rather than truly focusing on soulwithaview. Why? Because if I build what God has asked me to build then what will people think? And what if what I’m building isn’t as successful as what they’re building? We can all be easily distracted by the building projects of others and the people who are giving careful thought to everyone else’s ways rather than their own.
This has led to a lot of frustration and I’ve not been proud of how that has often spilled out in my words and my actions. At the point, I realised something needed to change I hadn’t read the book of Haggai so rather than the command, “Give careful thought to your ways,” I prayed these words, from Psalm 139.
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
And He really did search me and I really have had to give careful thought to my ways.
What are the things that you do or the things that you speak over your life that stop you from being able to build what God has asked you to build?
Since considering my ways there has been a realigning and an adjustment that has significantly changed my focus and perspective. And in a short space of time God has provided funding to publish my writing, connected me with designers and digital marketing type people that speak a language I don’t understand, and increased the number of people who access my blog online.
What has God asked you to build?
Is it a specific ministry?
Is it to follow a specific calling?
Is it to build a certain relationship?
Is it to unearth some hidden talent or skill that God has given you?
If you’re still breathing then God still has a purpose for you, so what is it?
I’m finally owning the calling God has placed on my life, no more excuses, no more panelled houses.
What about you?