In recent days God has been pressing on my heart a message from the book of Haggai and I have been reminded of and even rebuked as to how relevant his message is for the Church today. Although directed to God’s people some 2,500 years ago and intended to address a specific situation at that time, Haggai’s message is nevertheless timeless in its relevance because the spiritual issues and problems that he had to deal with in his day tend to reoccur in every generation of the Church.
When we look at the lives of the people around us and possibly even in our own lives we see that pressures, demands and expectations are pushing into our lives from all sides. Our schedules are filled to overflowing as we try to sort through what is required of us by others. It seems that everyday somebody wants something from us. Our friends, families, employers, school, church, the numerous clubs we belong to; all of them are pressuring us to give more and more of ourselves. Life runs flat out as we try to attend to the necessary, the immediate and the urgent. Our lives seem to be chaotic and just full of stuff but our problem has got nothing to do with how many demands are on us or our inability to exercise good scheduling skills. The real problem lies in our values – that is the things that are truly important to us. You see people’s values and priorities are always worked out in their actions. Our values and priorities are always reflected in how we use the resources available to us. Our money, our talents, our time, our strengths and our spiritual gifts. People will always invest their resources in the things that they consider important. For many Christians we may claim that God is a priority, God is number one; but then he may often take last place on our ‘to do’ list.
We see in the book of Haggai that the people of Israel were not experiencing the blessings of God because they chose to pursue their own interests rather than doing what God had called them to. God was not a priority in their lives and as a result he with-held the blessings that he wanted to pour out on them.
In Matthew 6:33 Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (that is food, shelter, clothing, blessing) shall be added to you.” Now we know that Haggai’s congregation never heard the words of Jesus but we know that this principle was already known to them through the law. In Leviticus and Deuteronomy God tells the people to “Honour the Lord with your possessions, and with the first-fruits of all your increase; so that your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” Friends when we put God first in all that we do he promises to bless us. If we want to experience the moving of the Holy Spirit and experience this move in a tangible way then we need to keep God as the focus and priority of our lives. If we want to see numerical and spiritual growth in our churches then we need to have God at the top of our priority list. It is obvious as we read Haggai that the people had confused their priorities but I wonder: are God’s people today any different from the ancient Jews?
The local church around the world can’t expand their budgets for local and international evangelism because the money isn’t there, and yet many church members don’t believe Matthew 6:33 and put God first in their giving. You know pastors can tell the spiritual condition of their church simply by how much is in the offering. You see as God takes a back-step in the priorities of the people the first thing that changes is usually their giving. But, as a person grows closer to God and begins to trust and experience him, giving and service becomes a natural response to God’s goodness. When we put God first and give Him what’s rightfully His, we open the door to spiritual enrichment. More than a hundred years after Haggai’s message the prophet Malachi accused the people of robbing God and therefore missing out on the blessings that he had for them. How are your priorities looking? God told Israel that he would free them and return to them through the rebuilding of the temple. Jesus tells us also that one day he will return. We don’t know when that will be but I want to tell you today that we are certainly in the last days. Jesus is coming back and he calls us to make him and his mission our first priority. Vince Lombardi once said: “Your God, Your family, and the green bay packers, in that order.”
I want to encourage you to never compromise God’s will and purpose for our lives for our own desires and wants. What is God calling you to today? Is God your first priority? Do you need to refocus you spiritual compass?
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:33 (NRSV)