Three Lessons from Haggai
I first read Haggai during a time in my life when I wanted to start studying scripture in earnest, but I didn’t have the energy to commit to anything complex. As a result, I flipped to the table of contents in my Bible in search of a short and EASILY DIGESTABLE book, and landed on Haggai. Looking back, I can see that God used my rather silly (ahem, poor mental-health-induced) approach to lead me to the (short! but loaded with W I S D O M !) book that reveals what I believe is a pillar of Christian living. This book tells us that if we put God first in our lives, he will take care of everything else. If you're a new Christian, it's the perfect read.
Lesson One: Shift Your Focus
Inhale. Exhale. Let’s go.
The people in the book of Haggai were returning to Jerusalem after a quite egregious attack on the city nearly 50 years prior that destroyed the Lord’s temple.
So, they returned with the Very Honorable Intention to rebuild. Instead, once there, BAM, they focused only on their own greedy selfish selves. They built up their personal residences while leaving the temple devastated– they focused on their own desires instead of those of God.
Through the prophet Haggai, God spoke to the people asking them: “is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses while this house (his temple) remains a ruin?” YOU HEARD IT, due to their negligence, success eluded the people. God pointed out that they “eat, but never have enough,” and “earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes.” He wanted them to recognize the absolute futility of working toward anything without first making Him priority.
It is important for us to be mindful of where our focus lies. We need to shift it away from ourselves and toward God. We should always be open to God’s orders, and have the wisdom to follow them. In doing these things, we move closer to true success – the only success that matters: the success of His Kingdom. And bonus! Since we’re such selfish creatures, it is worth noting that the Bible promises that God’s will is the absolute best plan for our lives. Because if we follow a path without God, we have nothing (much like these people did).
So, as you go about your day, try to determine if your focus is on your own personal desires, or if have you taken the time and energy to focus on what God wants for you. Say a prayer and ask Him to reveal His will in each moment.
Focusing on God can mean following through on a massive task (like rebuilding a desecrated ancient temple), or it can be as simple as reacting to each event in your day with a positive and compassionate attitude. Whatever it means to you, shift your focus to God.
Lesson Two: Work for and with God
God made it clear to the people of Jerusalem that they needed to get. their. act. together. He told them to start working on something for Him and with Him: the temple. He gave them clear orders: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored.” If we pay attention and are vigilant in our prayer, God will guide us.
But…having to do work is TERRIBLE, right? WRONG.
God told them (and tells us now) “Be strong, all you people of the land, and work, for I am with you.” Isn’t that reassuring? When we do the work that God puts in our hands, He is working with us. Think of how much more joy we will attain when we choose to walk with God!
It’s wonderful to know that God wants us to succeed, but WhAt dO wE dO these days when he most likely isn’t using a renowned prophet to deliver orders right to our doorsteps?
In every moment.
It’s okay to be casual with God for this reason. GOD IS YOUR BFF. He wants a relationship with you. He just wants to talk. We are designed to live life with this communication always thriving. Even if we have no clue how to move forward, God will follow through if we are making a conscious effort to work with Him. No matter where we go, (or don’t go, because…let’s be honest), He’ll make us a light to others.
Even better, in the absence of our own personal prophet, we have a detailed record of everything God ever said through the prophets: The Bible. I recommend this one. We can read scripture, study it, and do our best to live it. We can look up different topics and find out how to apply them to our own lives. And through our study, we can ask God to align the desires of our hearts with that of His own. This way, we ensure that any work our hands find is God-given.
Lesson Three: His Work Leads to Spiritual Prosperity
FINALLY, the people started working on God’s temple. Speaking of the times when they worked only for themselves, God said “I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew, and hail.” Times were b l e a k. His tone changed, however, once the people turned to Him and committed to do His work. He then told them “Give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid…From this day I will bless you.”
Now that the people were doing God’s work instead of focusing on themselves, He offered them blessings and prosperity. They experienced a drastic shift in their lifestyle. They went from failure and hardship to success and fulfillment, all because they chose to simply obey God. It only goes to show that obeying God is best for Him and us.
Being cared for is a side effect of trusting God. He will take care of us if we put Him first. Not to say that He’ll end all our suffering and gift us with unending riches (sometimes quite the opposite, amiright, Paul?), but He will love us and be all that we need. Even when we struggle and cannot understand what God is doing, He will carry us to the deliverance He promises, whether via this life or the next. The story of the people in the book of Haggai demonstrates exactly this.
Our strongest support comes from God, especially when we walk his path.
He gave us free will.
We do not have to follow Him.
We do not have to do His work.
However, look what will happen if we dedicate our lives and work to Him:
we will prosper.
In His Love, Mae