Remember when you waited for a letter to arrive in the post, a particular person to call, or a job to get done but it just didn’t seem to happen? Then, finally when it did, you exclaimed, “Its about time!” This must have been the way God responded when the remnant of Israel, his people, finished rebuilding his temple. But before this could happen, God, through his prophet Haggai, had to challenge and encourage his people not just to work hard or work smart, but to work right. Their obedience led to blessing. Christians and churches today need to heed his message. God longs to revive and bless his people, but first we need to honor him. Haggai tells us what must happen:
1. We must put God’s work before our selfish interests (Hag 1:1-15)
Israel neglected their mandate to build God’s temple and became preoccupied with luxury living. Interestingly, in spite of all their efforts, there was a spiritual bankruptcy. Therefore, God had to get their attention and stir them up to get their priorities right. Haggai steered God’s people away from excuses and complaints to live not by explanations but by God’s unfailing promises. In ministry, we do well to note that it’s not about poor me. As we take care of God’s business, it becomes God’s business to take care of us!
2. We must work for the future instead of living in the past (2:1-9)
“Novelty fades” is true of some of our ambitious plans and sincere endeavors to serve God or do something for others. Reading the story, one wonders why the people’s initial enthusiasm dampened. They failed to count their blessings; worse, they began to develop a discontented spirit. As they compared their work to the grand temple King Solomon built, discouragement set in. God had to help them focus on the here and now, then assure them that the best was yet to come!
3. We must serve with clean hearts, not formal activities (2:10-19)
When it comes to service, especially Christian ministry, we must ‘beware the barrenness in a busy life’. The enemy of excellence, more than apathy, is a mediocrity that results from unconfessed sins and unresolved conflicts among God’s people. Like an infectious disease, sin defiles us, hinderng God’s empowering presence to work in us. At this time, religious offerings were not accepted. Only after sin was dealt with and God’s people demonstrated obedient faith did God promise: “From this day I will bless you.”
4. Our leaders must stop striving and start trusting God (2:20-23)
Over the years I’ve realized that leaders need Someone bigger to lean on. And through much failure, my definition of leadership has changed. Ironically, leadership is not the capability to lead as much as the compliance to be led. Often when I try, I fail, but when I trust, God succeeds. Zerubabbel the administrator needed reassurance that God had chosen him and would help him finish what he started–and God did! But there was more. God made this servant-leader a part of the Davidic line of kings through which the best–Jesus–came, and through whom God’s blessing of salvation has come to all people.
How come it’s not happening to me, right now? Maybe, in the light of Haggai’s message, we must ask ourselves another set of questions: Are we engaged in work that God has called us to do, or we like doing? Have we demonstrably made God No.1 in our lives? Are we serving him with clean hands and pure hearts? Are we willing to be led by God no matter what comes our way? If so, listen to God’s words of comfort: “I am with you, so don’t be afraid” (1:13; 2:5), “I will bless you because I have chosen you” (2:19, 23).
Let’s remember, in ministry the main thing is to keep the main thing as the main thing! As God’s people, let’s allow him to shape our character and direct our ways, and let’s learn to lean on him as we fulfill his plans and build his church.