Sunday, November 2, 2008

Labor in Vain

Labor in Vain
September 2, 2008

Haggai 1:9 "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why? declares the Lord Almighty. Because of my house, which remains in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house."

The Lord appeared to the prophet Haggai and told him why the children of Israel were not enjoying the fruit of their labors. Evidently, the children of Israel were hard at work, trying to produce a profitable lifestyle. They were working hard at their jobs and businesses, trying to get ahead in life. They wanted their standard of living to improve and so they did like Americans do today, worked several jobs in order to have more, more, more. But they did not have more. It seemed the harder they worked, the less and less physical evidence they had of their labors. Their businesses did not succeed and they never got the promotions they wanted. They didn't have more, and it was the Lord's doing. God appeared and told them that He had personally withheld all the fruit of their labors. He cut short their prosperity.

He did it for an important reason. He was upset that the temple, the house of God, was lying in shambles, in ruins. It seems the children of Israel were more interested in the pursuit of their physical desires and did not care what God wanted. All God wanted was for them to put Him first and take care of the house of God. He was willing to give them the prosperity they sought if they would have just put Him first and rebuilt the temple. This is a great story from thousands of years ago, but what does this have to do with us today? Well, fast forward to Jesus and His death on the cross. He did away with the physical temple as a building and created a new dwelling place for God--inside our hearts. The Bible says that we are the temple in which He lives. It goes further to say that if we seek Him first, then He will give us all these things that we so hotly pursue.

What backwards thinking God is proposing. He says that if we work less and focus more on Him, then we will have more. If you've been lacking in the physical sense, but working really hard, maybe the Lord has been withholding your fruit. Maybe if you worked hard at taking care of His temple (your own personal Christian walk), then He would give you the physical things you've been working for. God is more interested that you have a personal relationship with Him and work hard to be formed into the likeness of Him. Then and only then, is He willing to add the fruit of your other labors. If you've been wondering why He has been withholding your prosperity in this world, then consider He has some work for you to do for Him. Do that work first and then watch and see what happens. Who knows, maybe you'll drive that nice car and have that nice house AFTER your engage in a little ministry effort for Him.

1. Does it seem the Lord is withholding the fruits of your labor?
2. Have you considered that your relationship with Him is not first and foremost in your life?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Psalm 127:1, Psalm 128, Haggai 1, Matt 6:33, I Cor 6:19

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