Haggai can be dated: 1:1 Aug. 29, 520 B.C., 1:15, Three weeks later, Sept. 21 the temple work begins. Now in Chapter 2, almost a month later, Oct. 17. How easy it is to begin a new project, then after newness is over, the questions of doubt come: can I make it through… can I keep this commitment. One of my counseling instructors, an ordained minister, said that it was his practice to meet with a couple a few times for their wedding, but then he required that a year after they were married they come in and talk. He felt it was only after the honeymoon, after the dust had settled, after the couple had worked through some of the issues, only then could he be help them sort through stuff. The Lord sends Haggai back to the people. After the initial burst of energy, when disappointment and doubt creep into their minds, the Lord sends Haggai to bring a word of encouragement to focus them on the Lord once again.
The people should be thrilled with the rebuilding of the temple, but as the walls are reconstructed can you hear the chatter?, “it’s just not the same as it used to be, this temple is a shadow of the former temple…” When you start comparing, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
We also face disappointment if we forget the promises of the past… READ Hag. 2:4b-5. Why does Haggai remind them of God’s promise of his presence? They made a commitment to rebuild the temple, to rebuild their relationship with God, and now they had buyer’s remorse. God reminds them: “I am with you…This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt”. The Jews had forgotten what God had done at the Red Sea. They had forgotten how they were trapped between the Egyptian Army and the Red Sea. Moses struck the water, the sea parted, and they walked through on dry land. Hag. 2:5: “My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” ~ I am the same God; the promise is for you too.
Think about who has come and gone in Israel’s history. Abraham. Issaac. Jacob. Moses. David. Solomon. But none of that matters, God says, because who is still with the people? the Holy Spirit! Fear not, be strong. I think about this little old church and who is no longer here: Ross, Herschel, Jim Van Diest, Earl Crouse, Nora, Arvilla, Ruth Hill... sometime I wish I could be a kid again and NOT be the person that is the final answer. “Lord, can’t we wind the clock back…” I have been encouraged many times by what I heard a wise man say many years ago: “All the Saints have gone off and died, leaving only us sinners to continue the work.” You want something great accomplished? I’ll put my money on some of the great faithful people of the past, but I am stuck with me. All you have is you. But don’t be discouraged, God says, “Just as I was with the wonderful people of the past, so I am with you….”
How do you overcome discouragement? Don’t worry about who isn’t here! Focus on who is here: the Holy Spirit of God. God wants us to focus on the here and now and the fact that he is with us… He abides with His people forever. In my eyes, I may be a completely inadequate schmuck, but that’s ok, because God is here… Amen…
How to overcome when disappointment discourages us:
A. Let Go! We will never grow until we learn to let go of the past. The Jews had to let go of their fond memories of Solomon’s temple. Until they did that, they would never make any spiritual progress. For you and me it may mean letting go of a painful memory from the past. It may mean choosing to forgive even though the other person won’t admit they did anything wrong. (subject of a book I’d love to write). No matter what it is—whether good of bad—if it’s holding you back, you’ve got to let go of it.
The great lesson that God wants to impress upon us is that God always does a new and different work. My mother has been quite helpful to me over the years encouraging me more than she knows. Her father was a pastor, her husband was a pastor, and now two sons serve as pastors. That’s either the worst or the best of all world’s depending on your perspective. Over the years, she has reminded me so many times that her father, Dr. Alvin Lobb, would have never understood today’s world, and she tells me all the situations today my own father never faced. What she is doing is NOT comparing all these generations that she deeply admires. She is wise enough to separate them. God uses who he has right now…you and me! it’s always a new and different work. Let go of yesterday… As hard as it may be, you have to let go. Until you do, you can never move forward with God.
B. Look Up! To overcome disappointment, you need a vision of a big God. Haggai used one particular name for God six times in these nine verses? ~ “The LORD Almighty.” The word “Almighty” emphasizes the STRENGTH of God. He is the God who is greater than all the forces of earth and heaven. No one can stand against him. No one can defeat his purposes. No one can hinder him. He is like a powerful general that cannot be stopped. When the LORD Almighty goes out to do battle on your behalf, you will win because God has never lost a battle. When David faced the mighty giant Goliath, the Lord Almighty is the name he used: You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me … and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
When our God is big, the task before us will be small. No task is too daunting . The Jews of Haggai’s day had a small God so the task of rebuilding the temple seemed overwhelming to them. The way you view God effects the way you approach life. Who is the God you worship? Is he big enough to handle your problems? If not, then you need to look up and get a new view of God—the LORD of Hosts, the LORD Almighty is his name.
C. Look Ahead! The way is forward! God never sends us back to the past, and he never lets us stay in one place too long. The people of Haggai’s had romanticized the past and completely forgotten about the future. I like the past, we are celebrating 100 years of ministry in this church in Sumas, but the past must be like an arrow to the future… Hag. 2:6-9 is all about the future: How do you overcome discouragement ~ look to the future: READ.
A Shaking is the first future promise. This is where I got the etch-a-sketch illustration… Hebrews 12:26-27 quotes this verse and applies to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. READ. Let yourself be shaken up. This is not about the past, this is the future, it is exciting… Haggai said a day is coming when he is going to shake the earth again. And on that day he will shake the heavens as well. The day is coming when all the world will be shaken by God. everything manmade will be destroyed. Only eternal things will remain. As God shakes up your life, let the things of earth be sifted out, let the things of eternity take on greater importance… If you live your life for this world, in that day of shaking everything you live for will be dust. Live for Christ, dedicate the things of this world for the good of the Kingdom: if you have some money……invest it for God. If you have food….share it with the hungry. If you have some clothes…..give to those who are cold. If you have some water…give it to the thirsty. If you have some time on your hands….spend it with the hurting. If you have some good news….give it to the lost.
God is giving us an unshakeable kingdom. It’s a promise of the future that is unfolding today. It’s ours. Guaranteed. Therefore, we can afford to share the things of this world with others. It can’t last much longer anyway.
Another future promise: The Desired of All nations Shall come (Hag. 2:7). I had to read what this means. Most scholars agree this refers to the Messiah. This as one of the titles of Jesus: He is the Desired of Every Nation. When Charles Wesley wrote the beautiful Christmas carol, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” he included this title in one of his verses:
Come, Desire of Nations, come/ Fix in us your humble home;/
Rise, the woman’s conquering Seed. /Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
I don’t know how it’s going to unfold, humanly it seems impossible given so many people reject Jesus, but I believe the day is coming when the nations will desire the Lord Jesus Christ. I can’t afford to be too discouraged for too long about the uncertainty of this world and the crazy way our world and country seem to be going, because I do my best to look ahead and see Jesus Christ will be “the Desired of all nations”. As Christians we are called to be the world’s optimists: expecting the best because Jesus Christ is Lord. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father. (Phil. 2:10-11)… I don’t know exactly how that will come about, but I am hanging my hat on the absolute truth that every nation and every person will desire the Lord Jesus Christ.
I see another promise at the end of Hag. 2:9. “And in this place I will grant peace.” I weep over the chaos of this world, the unsettled lives of too many people, the unhappiness, the destruction. Then I weep when I remember God promises peace. God is going to win! I am staking my life on this promise. Supernatural peace that can only come from God is going to sweep over this community/world/you/me. PEACE….
Let Go, Look up, Look Ahead and D. Get Moving! The final step in overcoming disappointment. Three times in Hag. 2:4 God says, “Be strong.” Rise up and do the work of God. Be strong in the face of difficult and do the work of God.
Sometimes the best therapy is simply rising from your seat of despair and tackling the job in front of you. Sometimes when you are so discouraged, the Lord is saying just keep going by asking the Lord to give you strength to take just one more step. So many people live in defeat because they can’t climb the steep mountain before them. Just remember this: You don’t have to climb the mountain. You just have to take the next step with God. He’ll take care of the rest.
Discouragement comes when we let the past overshadow the present or when we downplay God’s promise of his Holy Spirit with us. Let go of the past. Look up to God. Look forward to where he is taking us. Get moving with the work he’s given us. Amen.