Written by Maria Michalowski
There is a lot of talk at this time of year about resolutions, goals, and change. We often evaluate where we are, what we’ve done, and what we’d like to do going forward into the new year.
I recently discovered a biblical reference for the principle of evaluating where we’ve been and what we have planned for the future. Haggai is a tiny Old Testament book in the Bible, and it focuses on a period in history when the people of Jerusalem had returned to the city after years of captivity in a foreign land. God had heard the cries of the people and answered their prayers, and He had one instruction for them going forward: Rebuild the temple (which the enemy had torn down).
In the Old Testament, the temple was where God resided. It was central to the life and faith of the God’s people. The enemies of God recognized this, so the city of Jerusalem and the temple are frequently attacked throughout scripture. In this story, once God’s people had returned to Jerusalem, they found that their freedom was much more challenging than they expected. Life was hard. They became self-centered, focusing on their own needs and wants. The people became infected with anger, pessimism, frustration. Rebuilding the temple was pushed to the back burner, so God sent them a message of encouragement.
Today, God’s Spirit resides in His people. Once you accept the Son of God as your Savior, YOU are the temple. The enemies of God recognize this, and we often succumb to their attacks. We get distracted and drift from our priorities and goals. Time passes quickly, and we find ourselves frustrated, sad, pessimistic, and easily angered. The message of encouragement in the tiny Old Testament book of Haggai is still relevant today:
- “Consider how things are going for you” (Haggai 1: 5-11) Sometimes you aren’t even aware of how much time has passed, and what price you have paid — relationships, physical health, finances, spiritual health…. Worse, we can lie to ourselves that it’s not so bad. Or, maybe you truly have no concerns and see no need for change. The first month of a new year is a great time to spend “considering” and identify an area or two where you can improve, or think ahead and plan how you can invest in yourself or in others.
- “The people worshipped the Lord in earnest” (1:12) God’s people are called to have an action-based faith. We respond, we move, and God provides — time, money, energy, ideas. Our God will supply all we need. We need to seek Him, worship Him, and trust Him in the midst of life’s journey. The month of January is often filled with activities and materials designed to help you earnestly seek God and “rebuild your temple”.
- “The Lord sparked the enthusiasm of the people” (1:14) The first two points may seem like typical “New Years” talk. But this point sparked some enthusiasm in me….this changes everything. As we worship and trust, the Spirit of God that lives within us will stir our spirits and inspire us. A small simple act of obedience, consistently lived out, can make a significant impact. Like a spark to a flame, that impact can grow far beyond what you could ask or think.
- “I am with you. I will bring peace.” (Haggai 2) We all know that the commitment to most New Year resolutions doesn’t last very long. In the book of Haggai, the discussion emphasizes that change can take awhile. Especially when something has been neglected for a long time, or there are other people involved. That doesn’t mean you have failed. It just means you need to work a little longer, or in a different way. You may need to “reconsider” things throughout the year. Good things are worth investing in. God is with you, cheering you on.
Opportunities for you to consider: http://allisonpark.wpengine.com/pray31days/
Maria Michalowski has attended Allison Park Church for 34 years, where she married her husband, Mike, and raised two children. She joined the APC staff 10 years ago and helps to coordinate the care and support of her church family.