“A Word to the Weary” (John MacDiarmid)

Talk given at Poole High School for Poole Christian Fellowship on 29 April 2018.

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Reference: Haggai 2 v 1-10

In his letter to the Galatians Paul said:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Gal 6v9)

Why would the Holy Spirit say that to us? The reason is that on occasions we get weary. We feel like giving up and we wonder if it’s all worth it. We look at what we are achieving and it all seems pitifully small. We look at our current challenges and we seem to getting nowhere fast. And we get weary, we feel like giving up. That can be true in church life, working life, our personal life, our relationships – and everything else we are involved in. What does God have to say to us?

In today’s passage the Jews have restarted work on the temple after a fifteen year break. Having given up they have been urged by the prophet Haggai to get going again – and that is exactly what they do. After they have been at work about another month the voice of the prophet comes again:

“On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”

So, what word does God have for the weary?

1. What We See

It’s so good to know that God knows how we feel. He understands how things seem to us, and He meets us there. So, after His people have obediently been back at work for a month, they are already starting to feel discouraged again. Sound familiar? Doing what God has for us is a tide of joy – some of the time! A lot of the time it can be wearying if we take our eyes off Him. So God speaks directly into their situation:

‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?

There will always be those who point out to you that the good old days were much better than what we see now. The trouble is, that in this case, they are right! The glory of Solomon’s temple, even after all the work they had done, was just a glorious memory compared with the pile of rubble they were picking their way through. Likewise, when we look at what our efforts have achieved, it sometimes doesn’t seem much compared with what we know God is able to do . The phrase “Does it not seem to you like nothing?” – is painfully true. And that is not only as we seek to build God’s house. Our efforts at work, or at raising children, in life generally, can seem like just a breath in the wind that amounts to virtually nothing. That is just how weariness and discouragement sets in. So what do we do?

2. What God Sees

Let’s go to the end of the passage and see what God says about the situation.

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”

God’s view of the situation is different from ours! We see a pile of rubble – but God sees the finished work of a temple that Jesus himself will visit in about 500 years’ time. So they are urged to keep going! We see the challenges and disappointments of years of labour and evangelism – but God sees the finished work of the church, the bride of Christ reigning with Jesus in glory in eternity. Our work in the Lord is not in vain.

And let’s apply it to our everyday lives. We see our lives, bruised and battered by sin – God says us as perfect and reigning with Him. We see the battles of raising children, of failing health, of growing old – God sees the end from the beginning. For the Christian – what you see is not what you get!

3. Bridging the Gap

So – when we see things the way they are now, and we see God’s vision for the future,how should we carry on now. Every parent raises a child, knowing that the child they see is not what they will be presented with in twenty years time. We regularly go through challenges knowing that today’s reality is not the final reality. We keep going because the vision we have of the future makes it worth going through some pain today.

So, encouraged by God’s prophet, how do keep going today, when the going gets tough?

God has four pieces of advice for us:

a. Something to Be

“ But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD,

Being strong does not mean going to the gym to work out, but it is a choice to depend on God’s strength and to keep on keeping on. It means getting up when we have fallen down. It means keeping on with what God has given us to do when we would rather give up. It is still the encouragement to those who are weary: “Be strong!”

b. Something to Do

“Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work.”

Being strong means we get on with it. So we put our hand to whatever God gives us, because we know that the results are assured. Whether we see results or whether we don’t , we rest in God’s promises.

c. Something to Believe

For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you.

For the Jews struggling to do what God wants, the memory of what God had done for their ancestors in taking them out of Eypgt was strong in their consciousness. And now God was saying that He was with them, the same way He had been with Moses and Israelites when they left Egypt. What reassurance! And today He says to us that He is with us in the same way. “So ..Be strong…work…He is with us!”

d. Something to Avoid

It is not the emotion of fear, but the danger of giving into it that we have to avoid. God has given us a job to do. We work with Him to build His church, the way the Haggai and his companions worked with Him to build the temple. Success is assured even if it often seems hard going. So do not give into fear. Whatever God has given us to do, we us continue with enthusiasm and confidence. God is with Us, and He will work in us to fulfil His purpose.
What is it that God has given you to do?

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Gal 6v9)

John MacDiarmid
April 2018