2018 Lenten Journey – Finish Strong!

Today is Wednesday the 21 March, in the Fifth Week of Lent

finish strong

Prayer of Presence: Plant me in your house, O Lord, so I may flourish for you. Amen.  Psalm 92:12

Scripture: Haggai 2:1-9
In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.
Haggai was the first prophet God raised up after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon. The temple in Jerusalem, a symbol of God’s presence among them,  had been destroyed in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians.  King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return to their homeland to rebuild their temple in 538 B.C. The temple was started but not completed. The book of Haggai opens with a charge against the people of Jerusalem who started the rebuilding of the temple but did not finish it. Haggai says, “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? (Haggai 1:4) Under the ministry of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the temple was finished and completed (520 – 516 B.C.).
God’s word to the people through Haggai was a call to finish what they started. God liberated the Jews from the darkness of captivity in Babylon through King Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1-7). The people were grateful and thankful to God and they began to rebuild the temple when they returned to Jerusalem. But as their lives settled down and the years went by, their values and priorities shifted away from glorifying God to caring for their own needs. Spiritual apathy set in. Little energy or desire was left to devote to the things of God . With the onset of spiritual apathy, a shift in their values and priorities occurred. They shifted away from glorifying God to meeting their own needs, and they shifted in how they spent their resources, their time, their energy, and their talents. They focused more and more on meeting their own needs while God’s temple lay in ruins and increasingly empty of worshipers; an indicator of people’s waning spiritual vitality and relationship with God. God used Haggai as a catalyst to bring the people back to value and prioritize the things of God and finish the work of rebuilding the temple.
Gradually drifting away from God occurs when we begin to devalue and de-prioritize our relationship with God, the Christian community, and the Church. The stresses, pressures, and demands of daily living can certainly crowd our schedules and pressure us to reorder our lives so that the things of God get pushed to margins of our life, our concern, and our commitment. God gets less and less of us – less of our time, our talent, our strength, and our resources. Sometimes, all that is left for the things of God are the leftovers of our exhausted spent selves, lives, and resources. We start out serving God then stop, leaving unfinished work that only we can complete.
Lent is a time to examine our values and priorities and reorder them in accordance with God’s will for our lives and God’s prosperous purposes in and for the world.  It is deeply counter-intuitive, worrisome, and seemingly non-sensical, to order and center our lives around Christ. However, when we center our lives in Christ, when we seek first the kingdom of God, we get everything back in life that matters the most. We receive the treasures of God that moths or rust cannot consume and thieves cannot break in and steal (Matthew 6:19).
Perhaps you have some work you started for God but left unfinished. Resolve to finish the work you have not yet completed for God. You’ll be blessed with treasures of the things in life that matter the most as you reconnect with God through your endeavor to finish the work God has called you to. 
Reflection Questions
  • Who is your Haggai? That is, who is the person calling you to reorder your values and priorities around God, so that you can finish the work you started for God? 
  • Who are you a Haggai to? That is, who is God sending you to so that they can reorder their values and priorities around God, so they can finish the work God has called them to?
  • Why is spiritual apathy so difficult to overcome? What does it take to overcome spiritual apathy? 
Prayer: For the grace to reorder and prioritize my life around God’s will and the assurance that all other things that matter the most shall be added on to me. 
Concluding Prayer
​Have mercy on me, Lord, have mercy. Lord, show me your love and mercy; For I put my trust in you.
In you, Lord, is my hope; And I shall never hope in vain. 

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