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Are You Invested?

September 16, 2018

Haggai 1:1-15 (NLT)

Children’s Sermon:  Do you guys every build anything?  What?  Out of what? Do you always finish it?  What happens to your unfinished projects? Do you have to eventually take them down or do they get thrown away? What are some things that make you stop working on your projects? God wants us to be working on the things he wants to build.  They may not always be things that we can see with our eyes, or build with our hands.  They might be things like how we do things: building a good relationship with our friend, our sibling, our parents, with God.  And we can get distracted from those things too because maybe we’re having a bad day or we’re too busy playing to come when our parents call.  But God thinks that building those things are important.  Can you each think of one thing like that you want to put some energy and investment into this week?  One relationship that you think God might like you to work on making better?  Let’s pray.

 

Intro: What are you so excited about that you invest time, money and energy into it?  Is it your child’s sports career? Is it your job?  Is it your hunting/fishing?  Is it your financial investments?  Is it your family vacations and celebrations?  What gets you excited and enthused? What do you have season tickets to: sports, concerts, theater?

 

And what about in regard to God’s house, God’s kingdom, God’s work in the world?  What do you get enthused about in that regard?  If we were to hand out a survey and ask you to write down the three top ministries you want to see the church doing, what would you write down?  Sunday School? Youth Group? Ministry to shut-ins? Mission giving to our missionaries? Outreach to the poor? Choir or band?

 

And if you think about those, and you believe they are really important, how much personal investment are you willing to put towards seeing those things happen?  Will you give money for it? Will you give hours to it? Will you commit to praying for it?  Will you come alongside the leaders of the church to see that it gets done? Will you show up when it’s happening?

 

Or do we think that a lot of things are important and we want to see them happening but we don’t really want to invest in making it happen.  We might encourage it, cheer it on, put in a couple of bucks, complain that it’s not happening, but we stop short of making any kind of commitment to working towards it happening.

 

Why is that?  

 

We are not alone.  There was a time in the history of Israel when the people were neglecting to do what God thought was most important.  Listen to Haggai 1:1-15 from the NLT.

 

 

This is a pretty standard prophecy formula.  It states what is going on.  It states what God is thinking about what’s going on. It states what the people of God are doing to offend God. It states what needs to get turned around so that the people return to obeying God.  So let’s make sure we understand all of those elements here in Haggai and then see if we need to hear this prophecy and apply it to ourselves.

 

It states what is going on:  The people of Israel had returned from captivity in Babylon and were at first invested in rebuilding the temple of God.  They had set up an altar and had made some sacrifices, but they became discouraged and they ceased the work on the temple and left it.  In the meantime, they built up their own houses. Pursued their own interests and forgot about the interests of God and what He desired of them.  They had become self-centered rather than God-centered.

 

It states what God is thinking about what’s going on:  In a nutshell . . . God is not pleased with his people. He has been showing them his displeasure by withholding blessing from their crops, by letting them feel the gap where He is not at the center of their heart, by acting in nature to get them to return to him.  But they don’t.  Hmm - what’s in the news today? Hurricane, flood, fire, drought.  I wonder . . . is God trying to get the attention of our nation? Is he trying to get people to return to him? How frustrating when instead we just fret, worry and complain about the argument over global warming!

 

God does not want His relationship with His people to remain like this.  So he has sent the prophet Haggai to speak his word to them, to bring about revival to encourage them to invest in the relationship by doing what he has asked them to do.

 

It states what the people of God are doing to offend God:  while all of you are busy building your own fine houses. The people of God are not focused on God or God’s will or on what God wants to do.  The people of God are focused on their own lives.  They are busy building their “own fine houses” which takes energy, resources, and focus so that there is not anything left to give the rebuilding of the house of God.  God and his kingdom have ceased to be a priority in their lives.  They have taken the easy way out and just lived to satisfy themselves.

 

Here’s a little insider note:  God knows that it costs something to follow him.  He knows that we are pulled in different directions on any given day of the week.  He still expects us to make Him the number one priority in our personal and corporate lives!  

 

It states what needs to get turned around so that the people return to obeying God: Let me re-read the last section of this passage

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, 

    and the whole remnant of God’s people began to obey the message from the Lord their God. 

When they heard the words of the prophet Haggai, whom the Lord their God had sent, the people feared the Lord. 

Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave the people this message from the Lord:    “I am with you, says the Lord!” So the Lord sparked the enthusiasm of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the enthusiasm of Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the enthusiasm of the whole remnant of God’s people. They began to work on the house of their God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, on September 21 of the second year of King Darius’s reign.

 

First, they heard what God was saying through Haggai.  They did not brush off his words but took them to heart as did their leaders.

Next, they “feared the Lord” or acknowledged again that God was Sovereign and powerful and could indeed build up as well as tear down; give as well as take; prosper as well as withhold prosperity.

Then, God encouraged them by saying “I am with you!”  God knows that he asks hard things of his people! He asks us to put him first which means we have to put other things second.  As Brian comes to be installed as an elder today, it means we as a church are asking him to put Rome Pres as a top priority during his term, as is asked of all the other leaders.  But people, God asks this of each one of us every day - will you put him first, knowing it will be a challenge in your home, with your kids, with your spouses, with your lifestyle.

 

The word “enthusiasm” is mentioned three times in this passage:  God sparked the enthusiasm of Zerubbabel their governor, God sparked the enthusiasm of Jeshua their high priest, and God sparked the enthusiasm  of the whole remnant of people who were still interested in following God.

 

Application:  We can receive this as an opportunity to take stock of where we are as individuals and as a congregation.  It is time to ask the question, “How invested am I in the work of building God’s kingdom?” And “Do I have enthusiasm to do the work God is calling us to do together?”  

 

As your pastor, I have to confess that I have experienced a lack of enthusiasm for leading this congregation.  And it is obvious based on attendance and participation that you too have lost enthusiasm. As a result, many have become less invested in the work of the Kingdom of God as it is done together.  Corporate worship as a priority gets pushed aside for more family time and activities. And sometimes those things need to come first!  But when it becomes habit to choose something else over corporate worship on a Sunday morning or the ongoing work of the kingdom as the body of Christ, it’s time to look at why that has happened.   

 

I need my enthusiasm to be restored.  And I wager that so do you.  What a great time to talk about this on the first day of fall Sunday school!  This is a day for picking up momentum!  This is also an invitation to prepare for what is coming as we draw nearer to our Consultation weekend with Paul Borden. The purpose in having him come and going through the transformation process is to regain enthusiasm and deepening our investment.  It’s quite possible that we will hear his words as if he were a prophet.  He will see things from a different perspective than we see things and he will speak truth to us, God’s truth.  And like the prophet Haggai, he will speak to us the things we need to change if we truly want to be a church that reaches the lost in our community.

 

So part of applying today’s message is perhaps, to prepare to hear him the first weekend of November.  Maybe we take stock of our priorities.  Maybe we pay attention to the things that are consuming our energy, thoughts, money, and time.  Maybe we ask God to show us where he stands in our list of priorities.  Maybe we ask God to help us make the changes necessary to make God and his kingdom our number one priority.  

 

This goes beyond a devotional life - the people of Israel still went to the temple to make sacrifices and pray, but they were not building what God wanted built.  God is still building his kingdom and we are the workmen to do it.  How invested are you?