On Sunday, I preached a message from Haggai 1:5, "Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: "Consider your ways!" The prophet Haggai's name means "festival." He may have been among the exiles who returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. Although Jewish people began returning to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. led by Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua, the temple had still not been completed eighteen years later. Apparently after an initial attempt, opposition had arisen and discouragement set in. The unfinished temple lay in ruins until 520 B.C., when the prophet Haggai entered the scene to encourage God's people to complete what they had begun. Haggai's public ministry evidently lasted only four months. Yet he, along with the prophet Zechariah, led God's people to accomplish their task.
Haggai may have been an elderly man when God used him to deliver His messages to His people. Though Haggai's ministry was brief, it resulted in the construction of a temple that would be used to worship God for nearly 600 years. Haggai was an encourager. Even when the top religious and political leaders had grown disheartened, the faithful prophet remained confident. Moreover, he inspired others to share his trust in God.
In Haggai 1:5, he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them and to evaluate their ship shod spirituality in light of what God had told them. Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It's so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we're going and where we should be going.
The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up and get our bearings. For starters, here are 10 questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God. (These questions were written by Don Whitney, who is associate professor of spiritual formation at Midwest Baptist Theological Seminary.)
1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year.
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?
So let's evaluate our lives, make plans and goals, and live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering that, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage" Proverbs 21:5
Happy New Year!