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Maintaining Your 20/20

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Maintaining Your 20/20: Haggai 1:1-15

Introduction

1.  A group of friends went deer hunting and paired off in twos for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under an eight-point buck.

"Where's Harry?" he was asked.

"Harry had a stroke of some kind. He's a couple of miles back up the trail."

"You left Harry laying there, and carried the deer back?"

"Well," said the hunter, "I figured no one was going to steal Harry."

We live in a time not much different than any other time in history.  Human nature is as self seeking as it has always been.  The possible difference with today is that in a time of general relativism where each person is being taught that they should do what is best for themselves we are being encouraged to place our attention on what pleases us and not what pleases God.

      We live in a society that seeks fancy cars, big houses, early retirement, the latest gadget, the new fashion trend, the position of high status, low responsibility and personal gratification.

      It is in the midst of this disillusioned, self-seeking, depraved and myopic world that God wishes to provide purpose, restore a heart for the good of others, bring purity and repair our vision.  He desires to not only help us to return our clarity but to maintain our 20/20 vision as he has intended for our well being.

           

2.  Haggai 1:1-15 describes the people’s lack of focus and how it affected the building of the temple and ultimately their relationship with God. In order to get a better handle on what we will be studying today, we need to understand some of the history to this point

            -Roller coaster of rebellion and reconciliation

            -Exiled to Babylon and the temple was destroyed

            -King Cyrus called for the rebuilding of the temple in 538 b.c.

            -18 years later they had only completed the foundation

            -In 520 b.c., 18 years later, King Darius encourages construction to continue

-At this point in Haggai, God intervenes through Haggai to get the people to resume construction

3.      But how does this relate to any of us? The message continues for us from the words of Haggai as we will see today and is a recurring problem for all people.  In Matt 6:19-21 we find Jesus admonishing the people for this on going condition.  He says, “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Our lack of focus, poor judgement, sinful nature or fuzzy vision is a continuing problem that all of us will or have faced at one time or another.  In Haggai 1:1-15 we find the solution for maintaining our 20/20 vision fixed on God.

Body

1.  God identifies the problem (v.1-4)

            -The people are making excuses for not rebuilding the temple.

                        -Can’t make a living and build at the same time–Darius provided food

                        -Costs too much money–Darius was paying for it.

                        -God didn’t order it, King Cyrus did–He did it under God’s direction

                        -Another king had ordered that it be stopped–he no longer was in power.

            -God reveals his concern

-They had not only built a place for themselves, but had taken the time to make it a luxurious place to be.

                        - They were more occupied with their own lives than with God.

Where would we be if someone didn’t take the time to focus and concentrate on a task set before them? Would you trust the surgeon’s hands? Would you be as eager to fly to that tropical destination? Would you be willing to trust the roller coaster on your vacation to Disney World? God gave the people a point of focus that they were to complete and at this point they had failed. They had rationalized a set of excuses and had instead placed their needs above God. The bigger question today is, “What does this mean for you and me?”

2. God confirms their dissatisfaction. (v.5-7) (Ill.-When Nothing Goes right.)        

A young man was learning to be a paratrooper. Before his first jump, he was given these instructions:

1. Jump when you are told.

2. Count to ten and pull the ripcord.

3. In the unlikely event your parachute doesn’t open, pull the emergency ripcord.

4. When you get down, a truck will be there to take you back to the airport.

The young man memorized these instructions and climbed aboard the plane. The plane climbed to ten thousand feet and the paratroopers began to jump. When the young man was told to jump, he jumped. He then counted to ten and pulled the ripcord. Nothing happened. His chute failed to open. So he pulled the emergency ripcord. Still, nothing happened. No parachute.

“Oh great,” said the young man. “And I suppose the truck won’t be there when I get down either!”

            -They have planted crops and received small harvests.

            -They have plenty of food but it never satisfies.

            -They have plenty to drink, but it never quenches their thirst.

            -They are well clothed, but never enough to keep them warm.

            -They have money but it all disappears before they can account for it.

Have you ever been at that place where nothing seems to be going right? No matter what you do, you can’t seem to put your finger on the cause. Sometimes it isn’t that you are really lacking anything either. It is more of the nagging feeling that life has more to offer and you’re not getting any part of it. It’s not that you were particularly foolish, just a knowledge that things were not right. Israel felt that way and God confirmed it for them. He wanted them to start thinking how their lack of focus was affecting their everyday lives. The big question remains, “What does this mean for you and me?”

3.  God provides the solution (v.8) (Ill.-Life’s Deeper Meaning)

An engineer, a psychologist and a theologian were hunting in the wilds of northern Canada.  They came across an isolated cabin far removed from any town.  The hunters knocked on the door but no one answered their knocks, but discovering the cabin was unlocked they entered.  It was a simple place-two rooms with a minimum of furniture and household objects.  Nothing was surprising about the cabin except the stove.  It was a large pot-belied stove made out of cast iron.  What was unusual was its location; it was suspended in midair by wires attached to the ceiling beams. “Fascinating,” said the psychologist.  “It is obvious that this lonely trapper, isolated from humanity, has elevated his stove so he can curl up under it and vicariously experience a return to the womb.”  “Nonsense!” replied the engineer.  “The man is practicing the laws of thermodynamics.  By elevating his stove, he as discovered a way to distribute heat more evenly throughout the cabin.”  “With all due respect,” interrupted the theologian, “I’m sure that hanging his stove from the ceiling has religious meaning.”  The three debated the point for several minutes without resolving the issue.  When the trapper finally returned, they immediately asked him why he had hung his heavy potbellied stove by wires from the ceiling.  His answer was simple:  “Had plenty of wire, not much stove pipe!”

            -Rebuild the temple–God doesn’t make it complicated for them.

            -God will be pleased and honored.

                        -The implication is that when God is honored he restores the people.

Have you ever been so determined to discover the solution to a problem that you over think the situation? I know that I have. The gears of my mind begin to spin at a hundred miles an hour, desperate to discover the mystery. All along, often the solution is the simplest answer. This is how most of our childhood riddles were designed. They can be contemplated for years looking for the solution because the answer couldn’t possibly be the one staring them in the face—, or could it?!? God provided the simplest and most obvious answer for the people’s empty and dissatisfied lives. Again for us the question remains, “What does this mean for you and me?”

4.  God reveals the reason (v.9-11)

            -Their farming produced small crops.

            -When they brought it home, the harvest disappeared.

            -They have experienced a relentless drought that destroys everything.

                        -The reason is because they have not rebuilt the temple but built their own homes.

Of all the questions needed to be answered in our lives, the answer to the why questions is probably our biggest concern. When trouble hits and our lives are overturned we begin with the how, when and where, but in the end  these are all less significant to the answer of why. The recent blackouts (or other current event) have produced little answers, but many questions. Every news channel and newspaper is asking the same question, “Why did this happen?” For the people called to rebuild the temple, they got their answer. God told them that the reason for their empty, failing lives was their choice not to complete that which had been set before them to complete. But, “What does this mean for you and me?”

5.  God receives their obedience (v.12-15) (Ill.-Shut up and fish)

Old Pete had a knack for catching fish. Every weekend Old Pete went fishing and returned with dozens of fish. Nobody knew how he did it. When other fisherman were unable to land more than three or four, Old Pete always came back with stringer after stringer of freshly caught fish.

Curious, the fish and game warden decided to investigate. He followed Old Pete out to the lake, and when he launched his boat at the dock, the warden asked if he could ride along and observe.

“Sure,” said Old Pete. “Hop in.”

Old Pete started up his outboard motor. When they arrived at an obscure reach of the lake, Pete stopped the boat. The warden sat back and watched.

Reaching into a box, Pete pulled out a stick of dynamite, lit it, and tossed it into the water. After the explosion dead fish soon started rising to the surface. Old Pete took out a net and started scooping them up.

“Wait a minute!” said the warden. “What do you think you’re doing? You can’t do that! I’ll put you in jail, buddy! You’ll be paying every fine in the book! You’ll never fish again!”

Old Pete calmly put down his net, picked up a second stick of dynamite, lit it, and tossed it in the warden’s lap.

“So are you gonna sit there criticizing me all day,” he asked the panicked warden, “or are you gonna fish?”

            -The people listen to Haggai and respond positively

            -They worship and repentance is implied

            -They are encouraged by God.

            -They go to work with determination.

One of the greatest marks of our current society is that it provides us with many options. At one time Henry Ford declared that you could have your Model-T in any color you wanted----as long as it was black. Today you can get that new car in half-a-dozen or more color choices. God gave his people a choice as well. They could choose one of two things. They could stay as they were and experience meaningless and desperate lives or they could go to work on the temple and be blessed by him. Doesn’t seem like much of a choice. But how often do people make illogical choices when the right answer seems so obvious? Maybe this is another one of those “Why?” questions waiting for an answer. But in the end, the greater issue is, “What does this mean for you and me?”

Application

As I studied this passage, God revealed some interesting facts:

  1. God will reveal our lack of focus on him.

He does this because he desires the best for us.

2.      God creates an atmosphere of hope and fulfillment.

When we try to find hope and fulfillment in places other than God it will leave us empty.

3.      God always provides a way to reestablish our relationship with him.

God constantly pursues a relationship with us even when we don’t

4.      God often uncovers the reason for trouble in our lives.

God reveals our broken relationship so that it can be repaired and he can be praised.

5.      God unconditionally accepts our heartfelt return to him.

                        When we return to him as an act of obedience, he renews our strength.

The incomplete temple is a metaphor for our own lives. The barely complete foundation represents our own salvation as beginning of something great. But often this is where our lives remain. The temple, our spiritual lives, become consumed with the values and interests we create. If I leave this temple in ruins, what can I expect of the rest of my life? What state do I expect of my own spiritual health? What do I expect of my family and marital relationship? What do I expect of my church and the ministries in which I participate or lead? What do I expect of my influence with non-believers? What do I expect of my business or job? What do I expect of my finances? What do I expect out of any part of my human existence if I neglect God’s temple for my own interests?

God’s answer is clear. Care for the temple and all other things will fall into place the way he designed it to be. This does not mean that all things will be ideal, but it means we will experience a fulfillment and satisfaction that come with building God’s temple first!      

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