Human beings are not as adventurous as we would like to think. Most of us like the familiar and as such, few venture into the unknown. We like the idea of heaven but do not really want to go there because it may cost us too much, we think. We prefer the old and familiar. The future gives us a sense of anxiety, the old cushions us from worry. In His wisdom, God does not reveal our future because he knows that if He did, we would be paralyzed with fear or excitement. Certain things belong to the Lord and we should let them be; Deuteronomy 29:29 says- 'The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law'. But the future can be good as we experience new beginnings. In the book of Haggai, God challenged His children on the state of His house. In Haggai 1:3 He asks, 'Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses while this house remains in ruins?' As they begun to rebuild the House of the Lord, they were confronted by shadows of the past, realities of the present and prospects of the future. All these are realities that we, as Christians, are faced with in our walk of salvation.
A brilliant past may usually render a people useless for a new beginning. People like the old, familiar, tried and tested; a successful history may render a new beginning improbable. In Ezra 3:10 we see the children of Israel starting to rebuild the temple of the Lord; but although the laying of the foundations brought joy to many, many more of the older generation who had seen the former temple in all its glory were saddened. Ezra 3:11-12 recounts, 'With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord; "He is good: His love to Israel endures for ever". And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads who had seen the former temple wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple, while many others shouted for joy'.
In the above and as is common in our own lives two shadows of the past are therefore seen; firstly are the men of yesteryears who will consistently remind us that no matter what we do, we cannot match the past glory. It was well over 70 years since the walls of Solomon's temple had been brought down but the men of yesteryears-the older priests and the Levites were still able to bring down whatever good was now being set up. You may have been promoted at work but there will be one or two who will still say that when the previous office holder was around, things were better. They keep telling you how good things were in the past, no matter what else you may do in the present. Such are the people you should give a deaf ear and a blind eye to. Do not talk negatively about your predecessor just to make them happy because whatever you do, men of yesterday will never be satisfied with the temples of today.
Secondly, these people are stuck to the past and have no intention of disentangling from it. If we are to take the higher way we should forget the past and the gone. We should not despise humble beginnings. Ecclesiastes 7:10 says, 'Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions'. If we are stuck in the successes of the past, we could be missing out on what God wants to do presently in our lives.
The realities of the present are that God wants us to be involved. Like He encouraged the children of Israel in Haggai 2:4, 'be strong all you people of the land, declares the Lord, 'and work. For I am with you', declares the Lord Almighty. 'This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.' Although the Israelites were lethargic and had been procrastinating on rebuilding the house of the Lord, the Lord our God now wanted them to get down to doing what needed to be done. Similarly, God wants us to work. Work is not a curse; it is dignified to work. God wants our participation in activities and not some Abracadabra antics! He says He will bless the labour of our hands.
If God has given you a task, then shut your ears against the murmurs of discouragement and criticisms, calm your emotions and get to work so that He may one day say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant'. Be strong and satisfied with this anticipated recognition. Nehemiah also suffered oppositions from Sanballat and Gesham but he was adamant to stop work. In Nehemiah 6:3 he says, 'I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should I stop work and go down to you?' Four times they sent for him and in the same number of times he refused to go to them. Of course they did not give up. But in 52 days, he accomplished what he had set out to do.
Many are they that will discourage us from the work that we are doing but always remember that the presence of the Lord dwells inside of us. He is the only one that we should lean on. Psalm 127:1 says 'Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain'. It is useless to attempt anything without the anointing of God. 2Samuel 22:29-30 further reassures us, 'You are my lamp, O Lord: the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall'.
The prospects of the future may intimidate us, yet, as people who know the Lord we should be still in His promise of restoration. Job may have started out rich and lost it all, but the restoration of the Lord was much greater than his former glory. In Haggai 2:6-9 the Lord promised His children, 'In a little while, I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come and I will fill this house with glory. The silver is mine and the gold is mine. The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house. And in this place I will grant peace.' It is the glory of the Lord that we should look out for because we can have all the wealth in this world yet be unable to enjoy sleep at night.
Like the promises He made to the children of Israel in their dryness, the Lord God promises us several things. Firstly is spiritual revival: that He will shake everything that we put our faith in until we look up unto Him. In the book of Acts we see Him shaking and scattering the disciples so that the Gospel was spread even further and the great commission fulfilled. This shows us also that whenever we, as a church or as individuals are comfortable in our zones, the Lord will come and shake our very foundations. The more comfortable we become, the less we hunger Him, yet, only those that God has shaken can truly hunger for Him. Prosperity may be good, but it saps away at our spirituality. Sometimes, it takes the loss of a job in order for us to seek Him again. We cannot enjoy the warmth of hell and still benefit from the breeze of heaven.
God also tells us that all the silver and Gold are His and we should, as such, not be worried about resources. In His own way, He will provide that which we need to accomplish His purpose for our lives.
Lastly, He will provide divine glory which will shine far above our former ones. We must trust Him on His promises if we desire to get to the higher way. We must leave the past by disentangling for the glories of yesteryears. With or without resources, we will get to where we desire Him to take us, in line with His purposes for our lives. The glory of the new house will be better than the former house and we will then be experiencing the higher way.
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May these words (sermons), from various men and women of God be a blessing to all.
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