Summary: What are our Spiritual priorities? Have we got God in the correct place in our life?
Distinguished American preacher, Haddon Robinson points out that one old recipe for rabbit stew starts with this injunction: "First catch the rabbit." Robinson notes: "The writer knew how to put first things first. That’s what we do when we establish priorities -- we put the things that should be in first place in their proper order.
In recent years a head coach of an American football team divorced his wife of 26 years when he left coaching a college team to become head coach in the National Football League. He said he needed a wife while coaching on the college level for social functions and to show families that he would be looking out for their sons. In pro football, however, she was unnecessary and a distraction to winning. He said winning football was his number one priority and his two sons second. How tragic!
In contrast to this, Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas cowboys said, "The thrill of knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to me ... I think God has put me in a very special place, and He expects me to use it to His glory in everything I do ... whether coaching football or talking to the press, I’m always a Christian ... Christ is first, family second and football third."
When talking about his success as a coach he said, "In 1958, I did something everyone who has been successful must do, I determined my priorities for my life — God, family, and then football."
As we look at Haggai tonight, we’re asked the question: “What are your priorities?”
Too often we spend way too much time on the urgent and the immediate, leaving what’s really important with very little of our time.
Sometimes we have problems with the volume of demands on us: After doing a time management course at work we were all told that if we were working efficiently but still couldn’t do everything we needed to in a working day, then we had too much work! (It never actually worked that way in practice).
Sometimes it’s just bad time management, but ultimately it all comes down to what is truly important to us.
What’s important to us is actually reflected in how we use our resources: time, money, effort and talent!
Are the majority of your resources channelled towards what you say is most important to you?
So let’s look at Haggai and at the historical background first so we can get a good understanding of what’s going on here.
- Small number return to build temple (about 50,000 Jews)
- Laid foundations of the temple but stopped because they faced opposition, lost funding from Persian kingdom when Cyrus was replaced by Darius, and basically tried to survive themselves
- 15 years later God uses Haggai to kick them into gear and remind them of what’s important
The people had given up on the temple because life was a little difficult for them. They’d returned to a desolate land that hadn’t been touched since it was ravaged 70 years earlier and all they could think of was getting themselves set up again and surviving.
I love verse 4. God says, ‘Hold on a minute, how come you’ve built yourselves nice houses when mine’s only a load of foundations?’
Their houses were wood panelled at a time when wood was quite a rare commodity after the Babylonians had chopped all the trees down and so it was probably expensive cedar wood, imported from places like Lebanon.
And so they’ve confused their priorities and actually begin to pay the cost for that.
Note first of all would you in verse 8 where it says that the building of the temple is God to take pleasure in it and be honoured. He’s not just getting them to build it for fun, but so that He would be honoured, and everyone would be able to see that He kept His word and brought them back from exile.
Is your first priority to honour God in all you do?
Haggai shows them how they’ve got their cause and effect the wrong way round.
They thought that it wasn’t the right time to build the temple because they couldn’t afford to give their money or their time because all their efforts went on battling the worsening conditions – droughts, crop failures etc.
When actually the truth was, these worsening conditions were happening because they weren’t putting their efforts into building the temple.
They’d got it all completely the wrong way round and God was in fact holding back on the blessings to try and bring them back to putting Him as their main priority.
But they’re a bit stupid (like we all can be) and so God has to raise up Haggai to tell it to them straight.