Summary: Sermon 4 of 4: What we know about God gives us hope for tomorrow.
Consider My Ways
Woodlawn Baptist Church
October 23, 2005
The world is full of pessimists isn’t it? Of course you all know what a pessimist is; it is the man or woman who always sees the negative side of things. Nothing’s ever good. The pessimist says “If you think the problem is bad now, just wait until we’ve solved it!”
I read a story about a young paratrooper who was learning to jump. He was given the following instructions: First, jump when you are told; second, count to 10 and pull the ripcord; third, in the unlikely event that it doesn’t open, pull the second chute open; and fourth, when you get down, a truck will take you back to base. The plane ascended up to the proper height, the men started peeling out, and the young paratrooper jumped when told. He counted to 10 seconds and pulled the cord, but the chute failed to open. He proceeded to the backup plan. The second chute failed to open. “Oh boy” he said. “When I get down, I suppose the truck won’t be there either.”
There are plenty of times in our lives and even in our church life when nothing seems to be going our way, and in those times it can be easy for even the most optimistic of us to become pessimistic and down in the mouth. Life has a way of beating us down doesn’t it? We can give the church answer and say that Satan is attacking us, and there’s certainly plenty of truth to that, but day in and day out Satan looks a lot more like a bad marriage or job than a pitchfork carrying red-man with a pointed tail.
If you’re in a leadership position, and particularly a church leadership position, you have discovered that these positions come with their own unique challenges. Perhaps a primary one is to maintain a healthy outlook when your view of the ins and outs of ministry can so easily get you down. You see things that others may not. Your emotions range from the highs of seeing spiritual transformation to the lows that come with grumbling and griping.
In our study of Haggai I have tried to introduce you to a people who had become extremely discouraged. For 70 years the people of Israel had been slaves to the people of Babylon. The Medo-Persian Empire had allowed them to return home so they could rebuild their country which lie in ruin. They had begun rebuilding God’s temple, but had quit due to opposition from their neighbors. Their homes and farms were in disarray, so they quit building the temple and began rebuilding their lives. Their lack of balance and misplaced priorities led them to forsake God’s work altogether, so much so that God punished them for it. He withheld rain from them, allowed them no satisfaction from their labors and kept His blessings from them as He tried to gain their attention.
Fourteen years or so went by before God got that attention back through the preaching of Haggai, after which time the people returned to the temple to begin building, but once again God withheld His blessings from them. Although they had gone to work, they were an unclean people. In other words, their lives were dirty with sin: sinful attitudes, sinful speech, and sinful actions. Even though they had gone to work, they were unfit. God had to once again send Haggai to tell them what was wrong: they were separated from Him because in their sinful, wicked state He would not bless them.
It must have seemed very bleak to Zerubbabel. He might have said, “The people are down, God is working against us, our crops won’t produce, our situation borders desperation. I’d like to just give up right now!”
You know how he feels, don’t you? Some of you feel that way today: wanting to give up. If not right now, we’ve all been in those shoes where we’ve wanted to give up and run away, and many do. This morning I will not have time to deal with all the places a man or woman might turn to when they run or give you a lot of reasons why people might run, but I will tell you that as children of God we are especially equipped to deal with these times of severe discouragement and hopelessness. In the passage we’re going to read today, God told Zerubbabel some things that gave him hope. The message still inspires hope among believers today. But our hope lies far beyond the message. You see, it is what we learn about the Messenger Himself that gives us great cause for optimism and faith in the most disparaging of times. It is in having a better understanding of the ways of God that inspires us to continue on. Let’s read Haggai 2:20-23 as we consider some of these ways.