Summary: Sermon 3 of 4: God addresses why He has been withholding His blessings from the people.
Consider Your Ways
Woodlawn Baptist Church
October 16, 2005
In the book of 1 Chronicles, there is a little prayer that swept our country a few years ago that reads like this,
“Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil.”
Many of you recognize it of course as the prayer of Jabez, made popular in 2000 by Bruce Wilkinson in the book titled The Prayer of Jabez. The subtitle goes on to say, Breaking Through to the Blessed Life. Of course it was a best seller and the topic of much debate. Was the book scriptural or was it just more of the health, wealth and prosperity gospel that has deceived so many? Is there anything of any substance in it or is it more of the bubble gum, psycho-babble that has swept Christianity in our generation?
A couple of you bought me the book, and what caught my attention then and continues to do so now is not finding answers to those questions, but watching our modern pursuit of God’s blessings. Jabez prayed, “Oh that You would bless me indeed…” It is still the prayer of God’s people today. But in my opinion it has become more than a prayer: it has become an obsession. Let me explain.
Of all people on earth, we are the most privileged, not of this generation only, but of all generations. We have more stuff, more information, and more opportunities than of any people before, but it is not enough. I don’t have to convince you of this; it is evident all around us. We race here and there trying to do more, trying to accumulate more, trying to accomplish more than ever before. We cannot find significance in being good husbands and fathers; we are driven to be more than that. We cannot find significance in being good wives and mothers; we are compelled to find significance outside the home.
You might disagree with me, but in my opinion our nation’s greatest days have been our leanest days, and that is not only true of our nation, it is true of the Lord’s churches and of His people in general. We have grown fat on God’s blessings, and now those blessings do not satisfy, which is why so many people are attracted to preaching and teaching that is aimed at helping them “maximize their potential,” or whatever other things so many “feel good” and “be happy” preachers are preaching these days. Especially telling are the signs across our land that say, “God bless America,” the same America that has largely turned its back on God.
Our study in Haggai has shown us a people like this. They had sown much, but had brought in little. They had eaten much, but were never filled. They had drunk much, but were always thirsty. They were making lots of money, but it was never enough and you know that their prayer was that God would bless them. “Oh that you would bless me!” “Oh that you would bless us!”
God told them in chapter one that He was not going to bless them because they couldn’t find the time or resources to build His house when they had plenty of both to build their own homes. They always had excuses as to why it was never the right time to do His work. Well now they’ve gotten to work. They’re building God’s house and doing what He said, but the blessings still aren’t coming. They can’t find joy; can’t find satisfaction in their work, can’t enjoy their relationships, aren’t enjoying the fruit of their labors and are just generally unhappy with the way things are going in their lives.
In the verses we are going to read this morning, God talks about His blessings. He tells the people why He has been withholding them and we learn how they can get them back. There could not be a timelier message for us today: not for us individually, nor for us as a church. Do you ever feel like God is withholding His blessings from you? Do you ever wonder why you give and serve so much, but struggle to get ahead? Have you wondered why our church is struggling along? In spite of some growth and lots of work going on it so often seems like we’re treading water and just trying to survive. If you’re like most people, you’ve asked these questions and felt this way. I believe Haggai has some answers we need to consider. Let’s read Haggai 2:10-19.
“In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord: since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labors of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the Lord. Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider it. Is the seed yet in the barn? Yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.”