So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the teachings of Haggai the prophet…
The Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: “I am with you” declares the LORD.
Let’s find encouragement tonight in the promise of the Lord’s presence with us.
In the returnees’ story, we have reached the great moment in any returning to God when revival has produced steadiness in life, in thought, in personality, and in service. In the midst of trials and hard but consistent work for God, the returnees found themselves. As we read the story we are impressed that these were the best years of their time; they found fulfillment and direction, unity and encouragement, inward peace and outward progress as they served God in what could have been by all other accounts a very discouraging situation.
The received the promises of God, uttered by Haggai, that God was with them, that He would fill the house they were building with His glory, that there was some purpose to their service, and that God remembered His covenant promises to Israel. This is the signal trait of the great saints of God, that they had only the promises of God to stand upon but they discovered that those promises when embraced with faith were sufficient for the day of trial and the time of service.
The same is true with us. Christ has called us to a relationship first and then to service. We are to lose ourselves in Him and in the task. He must increase and we must decrease, but also we must serve Him by committing ourselves to a task. This two-fold process is seen as Christ first invited and commanded: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Following Christ means to have a relationship with Christ, and the relationship must come first. Christ said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24).
John’s Gospel records similar words of Jesus about service: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be” (John 12:26). He also told the disciples repeatedly to get their eyes off of themselves and look to the fields of souls around them, like a ripe crop ready to be harvested. Paul epitomized this value when he wrote, “I am willing to spend and be spent” (2 Corinthians 12:15) for the people he served. This is the result of lives touched by God, wanting to serve and give and make a difference for Christ. This creates joy and fulfillment in life.
God is seeking to produce this in you, where your life is marked by steadiness in service, consistency in attitude, joy in sorrow, peace amid conflict, and production for Christ amid otherwise discouraging circumstances. When the temple was dedicated by the returnees, we see not only a task for God completed but people whose lives were transformed and deepened in the process. May the same thing be said about us! God is with us, and that is enough!
Lord, this evening let us find the encouragement of being in Your presence, that You are sufficient for our needs, for our peace, for our contentment, and for our life. Let us serve You out of the overflow of our relationship, and give ourselves fully to the work You have called us to do. Deepen our faith and increase our joy. Let us make a difference for You. Amen.
Am I a soldier of the cross,
a follower of the Lamb,
and shall I fear to own his cause,
or blush to speak his name?
Must I be carried to the skies
on flowery beds of ease,
while others fought to win the prize,
and sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
to help me on to God?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign;
increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported by thy word.
Thy saints in all this glorious war
shall conquer though they die;
they see the triumph from afar,
by faith they bring it nigh.
When that illustrious day shall rise,
and all thy armies shine
in robes of victory through the skies,
the glory shall be thine.
Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748)