By Rev. Dr Duro Ayanrinola, AABF General Secretary
Prophet Haggai was called by God to minister to His people at a time when they were at a low spiritual state—God’s people had suffered three devastations and deportation under the Babylonians. For almost a period of seventy years, as a result of the nation’s sin of idolatry and disobedience, Judah was taken to captivity. Although Haggai ministry only lasted for FIVE MONTHS, he had a tremendous impact for countless generations.
In 538, King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem with the clear purpose to the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-3). On arrival, they laid the foundation but soon abandoned the project because of opposition from the Samaritans and their neighbors. Also, they thought time was not right to build the temple but considered it appropriate to build their fine houses; and yet, God’s temple the reason they were favored to return home was in shambles. It was during this critical time that God called Haggai to call His people to reconsider their ways (Haggai 1:5).
God was not pleased that His people abandoned His project for building their own personal homes and careers. What a misplacement of priority? Therefore, God made them labor in vain and wasted their efforts. The Bible says, “You have sown much and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag of holes (Haggai 1:6). In another development, Haggai called the attention of God’s people to the result of halfhearted obedience to God (Haggai 2:15-19).
Although the message was first delivered to the Israelites many centuries ago; yet it speaks strongly to us, Christians, in the 21st Century. We all face the the temptation of misplaced priorities. The first recipients were guilty of not doing the first things first. The Lord moved His Prophets, Haggai and Zachariah who encouraged His people to resume the rebuilding of the Temple because seventeen years had elapsed since Cyrus gave them the permission to return to Jerusalem. All they did was to erect the burnt-offering altar and lay the foundation of the new Temple. What are the first things the Lord is asking you to prioritize? There is no single answer. If you are a person that keeps a journal of what God reveals or tells you, go over your entries. You may sincerely ask God to reveal His mind to you. As pointed above, the Jews paid heavily for their neglect. Read again Haggai 1:6; 2:15-19 and consider what has happened to you for not doing them
Praise God for His grace that brought you to the beginning of another year. Before you journey far into the year, can you take some stock? What are the things you considered important and you invested most of your time, energy and resources to achieve last year? Are you satisfied with the consequences of your choice?
The consequences of not doing the first things first are great. Some of them are:
- Discouragement and depression: there is the emotional turmoil that haunts one for vision lost and dream not accomplished.
- Public humiliation: family, friends, and colleagues who are aware of the set goals, will not respect one’s lack of discipline. Jesus asked, “For which one of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, . . . Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, this man began to build and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28-30).
- It cost more. By the time you come back to resume the project, it becomes more difficult.
The Way Forward
“But from this day on, I will bless you” (Haggai 2:19). Despite the pronouncements of woes, famine, disaster which had attended their labor in the past, the Lord was giving them the opportunity for a new beginning that will bring good returns for their labor lost. The passage seems as if the Lord is saying because you have repented, you have set your priority right, I am drawing a line; from now, your labor will be highly rewarded.
The same applies to you. No matter what your past have been, our God is gracious and merciful. He has spared your life till this day for a purpose; to give you a new beginning. He wants you to forget the past failures. He wants you to repent and forsake the old ways that were like a dry cloud that brings no rain. He wants you to sit down and consider your ways. Refocus your mind on the things that build an intimate relationship with Him. Cherish values that impact lives of those around you positively—family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Cherish the things that honor Him as your Saviour and Lord.
There are many areas where you can start. These are some possible areas you may want to consider:
- Building a strong personal relationship with God through your daily walk with the Master: Spending few minutes every day in prayer and Bible study and putting into practice what you read.
- Building strong Christian family where the father and the mother are determined to pass on their faith in Jesus to their children.
- Building strong commitment by participating in mission, evangelism and discipleship programmes of your church; that all may know Him as Lord and Savior.
- Practicing random acts of kindness to all in Jesus’ name
I pray that your determination to obey God in doing first things first this year will restore years of wastage, lost honour, spiritual and economic prosperity.