Summary: Comparison Cripples. Third sermon in a series on the Book of Haggai
How to Fight Comparison - Haggai 2:1-5
Comparison cripples. Have you ever been compared to someone else? I have. My brother Phil is two years older than me and when I was growing up I always lived in his shadow. It didn't help that my brother was smarter than I was and was the go-getter of the family. I never seemed to be able to measure up. I remember often starting a new class in elementary school in September and the teacher reading my name off the class list. I remember more than one saying, "Peter Toy, so you're a Toy eh? I have high expectations of you." But I just couldn't seem to measure up. My brother would score 90's and I would get 80's. He got a job while in high school working at the auto shop at Sears. I got a school job working at Dairy Queen. Phil got into Waterloo for engineering. I got into Queen's for engineering. My big brother always seemed to be two steps ahead of me and I could never catch up.
I found that comparison against my brother wasn't healthy for me. It made me unsatisfied with who I was. Maybe you can identify with me. Maybe you've been compared to another and been found wanting. Or maybe you find yourself doing the comparison. You see someone at school who seems to have it all, good grades, popularity and a great personality and you wonder why you can't be more like her. Or you see a co-worker who has been promoted so quickly and you wonder why you can't be as successful as him. Or you see a woman who dresses like a model, who holds down and full time job, and yet seems to balance a healthy family and also be involved in the church and you look at yourself and you are barely holding your life together, and you wonder, why can't I be like her?
When we compare ourselves to others we cripple ourselves. And that's also true for our spiritual lives. We can compare our spiritual maturity to another Christian and wonder why can't I know the Bible, or pray, or be as godly as them. Or we can compare our church to other churches that seem to be doing so much better. We can say, "Look at such and such a church, they have so many people coming. Their worship is so uplifting. Their youth group is vibrant and growing. They have so many outreach programs. Why can't our church be more like theirs."
Comparison cripples. That is a problems today and it was a problem 2500 years ago. This morning we will be looking at chapter 2 in the book of Haggai. The people had begun to build but the problem of comparison threatened to sabotage their efforts. But before we look at the passage, let's look to the Lord, let's pray (pray).
Comparison cripples. We have been working our way through the Book of Haggai, which is a short book, but it is a rich one. To give you a little bit of a review, the Israelites had been taken into captivity to Babylon because of their persistent disobedience to God and their constant idolatry. God punished them by sending the Babylonians to attack Jerusalem and besiege it. The city was captured, most of the people were killed, the temple and all the major buildings were demolished and burnt to the ground and the walls around the city were destroyed. The survivors were taken away to captivity to Babylon and there they remained for 70 years. At this time the Babylonian empire fell to the Persians and a new king came to power. King Cyrus had a new policy about foreigners. He encouraged them to go back to their homelands to establish worship to their gods so they could pray for the welfare of the king. So about 50,000 Israelites responded to this invitation. They returned to Jerusalem and find it a ruin. After a couple of years settling down and collecting supplies they began rebuilding the temple. They laid the foundation, but soon they were opposed by the surrounding people who felt threatened by this influx of new immigrants. They hired people to frustrate the construction and eventually sent a protest letter to Persia. By this time King Cyrus had died and King Xerxes has taken his place. This new king, unaware of Cyrus' decree, issued the command for the building to stop and the surrounding people forced the Jews to stop the rebuilding of the temple.
Sixteen years pass and we come to the beginning of the book of Haggai. In chapter one Haggai challenged the people to refocus on their goal for being in Jerusalem in the first place. God tells the people to stop focusing on their own goals and instead rebuild His house. In Haggai 1:12-15 we see the response of the people. They begin rebuilding and as a result of that decision, God stirs their hearts and they commit themselves to the work.