One of the reasons that religion is relatively popular today is that it is designed to appeal to natural human needs and desires. Modern mega-churches build their congregations through such means as the use of surveys to find out what area residents want in a church; then they try to satisfy those identified desires. In the eyes of many nominal Christians, God is viewed as little more than the mythical genie in a lamp to be summoned when something is needed or desired and then to be returned to the lamp for safekeeping and convenient access when the next need or desire arises. And in the meantime, this god is out of the way and not disturbing his possessor’s pursuit of his own personal ambitions. Many in reality consider God to be a servant to be kept waiting at the beck and call of humans. Sadly, many churches foster this irreverent and unscriptural notion. While it is true that God graciously answers the humble prayers of faith of His children and pours out all kinds of undeserved blessings on them, God’s purpose in saving the lost is not so that they can satisfy their own ambitions but so that they might serve Him.
The people of Haggai’s day were consumed with their own success. God did not come to them and say, “I’ll help you succeed. I’ll make sure you get ahead. I’ll be a partner in your endeavors to make it big in this life.” On the contrary, He both condemned and judged them for their self-seeking ways. He explained to them: “Ye looked for much, and lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house” (Hag. 1:9). God did not come on the scene in order to promote His people but to rebuke them for their zealous pursuit of selfish goals. God had called them to build the temple, but they had neglected His work in order to build their own homes. As a result, He had “blown” upon their harvests, their houses, and their holding until they were impoverished.
“Consider your ways,” God said to them. “Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord” (1:7b, 8). Here is a God who is interested in His glory and who desires that His people be interested in glorifying Him. He calls on them to consider their circumstances, to examine their hearts, motives, and desires, and to take stock of the time and energy they have devoted to their own pursuits. He calls upon them to put Him first and to build the temple. This would require great outlays of their own time, energy, and stuff—a sacrifice of their wills to His.
Imagine the reaction this message would get from the congregations of many modern churches. The stampede of people rushing for the exits would probably reduce the remaining congregation to a handful. But this is the true message of the Bible: “Consider your ways. My house is waste. Build my house.” The church is not an IMAX theatre designed to entertain us; God is not a genie waiting to satisfy our every carnal whim. A faithful church is one that finds individual believers “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5) and presenting their “bodies a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). A faithful church is one that urges all to “yield yourselves unto God . . . . and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:13).
Will God take care of His own children? Will He bless those who know Him and are faithful to Him? Without doubt. But the message of a faithful church is “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19, 20).
Consider your ways.
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