"What Really is Important"
One of the things we do every day is to set some priorities. We decide on a daily basis what we will do for that day. Oftentimes, it begins with if and when we get out of bed. We then move on to what we will do next, and when we will do it. Yes, priority decisions are also made regarding relationships. We constantly ask our-self questions about who needs our time and our attention. Well, the same is true in our relationship with God. It involves another choice. Do we allow the Lord to be a part of our life? If so, how much will we think about God, or will He even be our first priority? Well as you can guess, the story before us today revolves around some people who needed to make a decision. It was time for them to decide what they would do with the Lord. Would He be their first priority, or only an afterthought? The problem was, this group of people focused on taking care of their own needs first. That did not set very well with God. He confronts them through one of His prophets about the issue, and calls for some changes to be made. As the story unfolds, we will see what the people decided. More importantly, we will focus on how God responded. For the next few minutes, I hope we will think about what we need to do with the Lord. We might even ask ourselves questions like, where does He fit on our list of priorities, and does the Lord receive our full devotion? I hope you will stay tuned to this station as we study the lesson entitled, "What Really Is Important," on "Key to the Kingdom."
In the 5th century BC, God's people, the Israelites, were taken away to live in the land of Babylon. Because of their disobedience and rebellion, God punished them by sending them into Babylonian captivity. For some 70 years, they suffered under the oppressive reign of the king of Babylon. And no doubt, during that time, they must have thought to themselves, "How long will this continue? Has God forgotten us? Will there be a time when we can go back to our homeland?" Well, sure enough, after some 70 years of that captivity, they were set free and God allowed them to return to the land of Judah, and to the city of Jerusalem. No doubt, they were filled with joy, and with excitement. They were looking forward to going back home and to starting life all over again. And yet, as they returned to Jerusalem, they noticed that things were not as they had hoped. Everything was a mess. Everything was completely destroyed and lying in ruins. Well as their forefathers were taken off into captivity, the Babylonians stayed and made a mess of the entire place. The houses were destroyed. The temple of the Lord that stood there in the middle of the city was destroyed. Not one stone was left upon another; and their joy and their excitement quickly turned into sadness and to discouragement. They wondered, "What happened," and, "What will we do next? How will we be able to start life all over again?" Well, the people quickly began to work by rebuilding the foundation of the temple. And no doubt, that was a good place to start. Not long after that, the opposition, the enemy surrounding them began to put political pressure and influence upon them. The Samaritans, who lived nearby, wanted the Israelites to do what they wanted them to do. And the Israelites gave in. They felt that pressure, they felt that influence and so they forgot about God. They, in turn, began to build up their own houses. They began to make sure that they were taken care of and provided for by their own means. Yes, the One who had delivered them out of Babylonian captivity was quickly put on the shelf, as they relied upon their own resources and abilities. They forgot about the Lord. They forgot about what was really important. Well, about that time, a man named Haggai comes on the scene; and Haggai is a prophet who was sent by God with a very important message for these people. Once he arrived, he saw the fear in their eyes. He knew that they were afraid of the Samaritans and they were afraid of what might happen if they did not do what the Samaritans wanted them to do. He saw the devastation in the land. He knew they had spent some seven decades in captivity, and no doubt, they were ready for a new start and a new beginning. And he had compassion for the people. Yet at the same time, Haggai had a message these people needed to hear, and the message revolved around the Lord God Almighty. In fact, not less than four times in the 1st chapter, Haggai mentions the Lord God Almighty. He wants to get the people's attention off of themselves and back on God. His entire message revolves around one primary thing; and that is to rebuild the house of the Lord. And that's where we pick up the story, and the reading of Haggai, in chapter 1, beginning with verse 2.
<This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’" Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: "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.”> As Haggai arrives on the scene, the attitude of the people toward him and his message is, "We're not ready to hear your message. It's not time to rebuild the house of the Lord. We have more important things to do, as we build our own houses, and focus on our own lives." These people were going up into the hills and cutting down the timber, and bringing it down, and using it to panel the inside of their homes. They were living in luxury while God's house was lying in ruins. And so, Haggai mentions the words, "Consider your ways," or "Give careful thought to your ways. Think about what is going on in your life. You eat, and you drink. You have your food and your clothing, and everything else, but you're not filled up. Have you ever wondered why? You are working, and you earn wages, and you put them into your pocket, or to your purse. And yet the money is just gone. It's like, the purse or the pocket has holes in it, and you don't get ahead. Have you ever wondered why?" Well, these people's intentions were to build up their own houses, and to take care of their own interest, and then they would take care of the house of the Lord. And Haggai reminds them that that's not the right priority. He continues on with these words, in chapter 1, verses 7 through 11. <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 honored,” says the Lord. “You expected 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 call 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 labor of your hands.”> Again, we find the words; give careful thought to your ways; consider what is going on in your life; as you're up there taking down those trees and bringing the lumber back, use it to build up My house, instead of building up your house. Again, He reminds them it is all because of the Lord God Almighty. You came back and started life all over again. You expected to be blessed. You expected to get ahead. You expected that good things would happen because of all of your work. But notice what is going on, Haggai tells the people. God blew it all away. It doesn't amount to anything. Have you ever wondered why? Well, the message is, God is trying to get their attention. "If you will not honor Me, then I will not honor you. Your problems are a result that I am not your first priority." And so Haggai encourages them to think about the Lord. He encourages them to not live in luxury, but to focus their time and their attention, and all of their abilities on rebuilding the house of God. Oh, these people show no concern for spiritual matters. The city was in ruins and the temple had grown up in weeds. They were invested more in their own house than they were in the house of the Lord, and Haggai wants to change their priorities. He wants them to think about and to recognize what really is important, and for them to get their heart set on God once again. Basically, God is saying through His prophet Haggai, "Look at your lifestyle. Consider your priorities. Make some changes and adjustments in your life, and make sure that I am your first priority." Well, obviously, God wanted them to have a place to live when they came back to Jerusalem. And they built their houses. And yet they built those houses to the exclusion of rebuilding the house of God. And that did not set well with the Lord. And that is why Haggai had such a pointed message to these people, hoping that they will listen, they will understand, and they will focus on God and the temple. Well, as Haggai encouraged them to do that, an amazing thing happened. We don't read about this happening very often in the Bible, but it happened with these people. Within three weeks of the people hearing Haggai's message, they responded to it. Within three weeks of hearing of the importance to focus their attentions on the house of the Lord, the people did just that. They stopped working on their own house, and they started working on the house of the Lord. And according to chapter 2, in verse 19, the day they started doing that, God began to bless them once again. The drought was lifted off the land. The livestock and the crops began to produce as what was expected. Everything began to work the way it was supposed to work. The people were earning wages, and they were not being blown away by God anymore. But rather, everything was as it was supposed to be. Why; because the people heard, and they responded to the message of Haggai within three weeks. Yes, God was pleased with their response, and the people focused on God once again. Yes, the people needed a reminder of what was really important. They needed to be reminded to put God first, and when they did, God would provide for them. Well, obviously this story serves as a great reminded for us today. Sometimes it is tempting to think about and to pursue what we want to do and to accomplish in our life. We spend time pursuing what is important to us. We spend time building up our own house. That can be interpreted in a number of ways. And oftentimes, we are more interested in doing what brings pleasure and joy and satisfaction to us, instead of what brings joy to God. We find ourselves putting our interest and our desires ahead of the Lord's. We may become so consumed with our life that we forget to read the Bible. We don't pay attention to His teaching, nor do we obey His commands. We, like these Israelites, might even face some political pressures or social influence from outside forces. We feel as if we need to give in to those influences and do what they want us to do, instead of putting God first in our life; so we do that. And before long, we might even notice that we are suffering, like these Israelites were suffering. All of the efforts we are putting forth are being blown away by God. We're not getting ahead, as we had hoped we would. The harder we work, the more frustrated we get. The more effort we put forth in our lives, the further behind we fall. And perhaps we have all experienced that at one time or another. And it is during those times that we would do well to consider our ways. As Haggai points out, we would do well to think about what's going on in our life, and to consider if God is really the first priority in our life. And hopefully, when we consider our ways, and when we think about what is going on, our priorities will change, and we too would make some adjustments and begin to put God first. Now, when I think about this story, I think about two observations that I want to share with us today. The first one is this. Trusting God always works out. Have you ever found that to be true in your life? Oh, I know it's true in mine. Sometimes we trust God and He doesn't come through the way we want Him to, or on our timeframe, but trusting God always works out. He knows about your needs, and my needs, better than we know about them ourselves. And when we entrust our life to God, He will provide as He sees fit. Sometimes we rely upon our own strength, and our own ideas and resources, and we believe we've got it figured out. And yet, we forget that God has given us those things to begin with, and He is stronger and mightier, and more powerful than we could ever imagine. And when we trust in the Lord, there is no need to be intimidated by outside forces, by our enemies, because we know that God will provide. Not long ago, I took a trip on an airplane to another city. And as I did, I checked my baggage into that airline, and entrusted the airline to put the bag on the plane with me, and for it to arrive when I arrived at my final destination. Thankfully, that is exactly what happened. Perhaps many of you have had that same experience. Well, if we are willing to trust an airline that we hardly know with our baggage and life, to arrive at our final destination with us, certainly we are to be willing to trust God with the totality of our life, and to take us to where we need to be in this world. When I think about that, I'm reminded of the words of David, the psalmist, in Psalm 20, verse 7. "Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." Some translations insert the word boast instead of the word trust. I like that. Some people boast in their abilities, and their assets, and their resources; but we are to boast in the name of the Lord our God. We brag on Him, and we trust Him to provide, and we know that He will. Another passage of Scripture is found in Psalm 37, verses 5 through 9. <"Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret, it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land."> David reminds us we are to commit our way, to commit our life to the Lord. We entrust it all to Him, and He will do this: He will follow through, and He will send His blessing. And in the very last, those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. As we commit our way to the Lord, and as we trust in Him, He will bless us, even to the very end. And so number one, trusting God always works out. Well, here's number two. God desires our very best. And that's true. That is true, isn't it? God does not want our leftovers. He does not want to be second place, but He desires the very best we have to offer to Him, that includes our wealth; our time; our energies; our resources; and yes, even our money. God desires for us to give Him the very best we can possibly give to Him, and honor Him with our lives and with our gifts and everything about us. We might rephrase that with a question: Is what I am doing honoring God? Is what I am doing with my assets, and talents, and abilities, and yes, even my money, honoring God, or is it only honoring myself? Is it bringing glory to God, who blesses me so richly, or is it only satisfying my own interest, and my own desires? And perhaps you have recognized this in your life, that as you honor God, God is faithful to honor you. When you put Him first, He sends His blessing and He provides. Yes, we are to seek God first and foremost in all of our life. And God's Son, Jesus, reminds us of that, in Matthew chapter 6, beginning with verse 31. <So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?"’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.> That is one of the most encouraging passages in all of Scripture! Jesus reminds us there is no need to worry, there is no need to live an anxious life, there is no need to run after and to pursue all of the things that we think we might need in this world. Why? Because God knows what we need, better than we know ourselves. So we don't have to worry about that. We don't have to be anxious. But instead of being worrisome and anxious, we seek God. We put Him first. We focus on His house, and His interest, and His desires. We consume our life with pursuing His will, and His righteousness, and His kingdom, and His reign in our life. And when we do, we will recognize the goodness and the blessing of God. My prayer, and my encouragement for us today is very simple. It comes from this wonderful story of Haggai in the Old Testament: consider our ways; think about what really is important in life; and, let us not be consumed by the pressures of this world. Let us not be consumed with pursuing our own interests and desires, but let us focus on what God wants, and let us give Him our very best. And when we do, indeed, it always works out.
As I look at all of the things I need to do today, I feel a little bit overwhelmed. There are all kinds of things on my 'to do' list; and I am not for sure if I will get them accomplished or not. I have to make some decisions as to what really is important. Do I take time to eat? Do I exercise? Do I finish a project? Do I make a visit? On and on that list goes, and I don't know for sure what is my first priority. I think about rearranging some of those things, and accomplishing certain today, and certain tomorrow. Yet in the midst of all of that, there is one great, important question I need to ask. Where does God fit in all of that? Is God a part of my planning process? And if so, is He at the top or the bottom of the list? When I think about what really is important in life, it's not my plan, it's not my activity and my 'to do' list, in the midst of a busy day, but rather it is what will glorify God? What will be important to Him? What will make a difference for eternity, concerning the things I do today, starting from this moment forward? I would encourage you today, that, as you think about what you need to do and what you need to accomplish, ask yourself the question, "Where is God? Is He a part of my planning process? What really is important to Him?" If not, then make some changes. Make some decisions today to decide if what I'm going to do today will make a difference for the kingdom of God.
The people in the day of Haggai faced some important decisions. Would they focus on themselves, or would they focus on God? We face those same important decisions every day, as well. Something that might help us to do that is to ask the question, "Do I trust God enough to provide for my needs?" Well hopefully, we do. And if so, that will determine our priorities. On the website, keytothekingdom.com, you will find this same lesson uploaded in a variety of formats. The title is, "What Really Is Important?" and you can access it without any charge. Other lessons are there as well, and perhaps you can find one that might be of special interest. While visiting the website, please take a few minutes to look at some of the other things we offer. There is a free Bible lesson, which can be studied at your own pace. There are short devotional thoughts and inspirational videos. You might even be interested in our statement of belief, or the latest news from our mission efforts in India. The same free Bible lesson can also be received by mail. Call the number on the screen, leave your name and address, and we will send it to you in a few short days. This six lesson series will help you in your study of God's Word. Remember, it too is free and requires no commitment. It is our privilege to share Bible messages each week on this station. Thank you for tuning in, and for being a part of this media ministry. We want to offer relative messages that hopefully will make a difference in your life. I invite you to join us again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."