“Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.” Haggai 1:5-6
Sound familiar? Do you feel like you are wasting your days working with very little to show for it? Do you feel like you are giving it your all, and for some reason, the rules of reaping and sowing just don’t seem to be working in your favor? Are you sowing endless hours at work, trying to do what seems like the right thing to provide for yourself and your family, and yet, you still find yourself in need? No, this isn’t an infomercial… this is real life. My family has been there for years. My husband has worked tirelessly for three years now, some days getting as little as two to three hours of sleep a day before heading off to his next job. And, what do we have to show for it? We live with my in-laws (again), so you do the math. We have spent years frustrated in our circumstances, wondering why we can’t seem to get ahead, or at the very least, even catch up. Does God not see our efforts? Does He not hear our prayers? These are some of the thoughts we’ve had as we have struggled in recent years. However, only in recent days have we truly given an ear to hear what the Lord may have to say about it.
Two nights ago, my husband sat across from me on the couch in his parent’s living room. It was the early morning hours. The sun had not yet risen, and the room was only lit by the dim glow of the still present Christmas tree. It was assessment time, and you could “cut the tension with a knife”, as my late Daddy used to say. He had been growing ever passive in the past month, and I had been growing more aggressive. We both were operating on very short fuses, and we were both feeling very defeated and discouraged.
“What is happening?” he asked, “Why are we in such a funk that we can’t seem to get out of?”
I responded frankly, as I often do, but probably often shouldn’t, “I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely done with everything life has to offer right now. I feel stuck, like this will always be our life… working endlessly for nothing, always depending on other people, never being able to provide for ourselves. It feels hopeless, like I just want to quit. I don’t want to be here anymore.”
I waited as my husband sat staring, gathering his thoughts, until he finally cleared his throat, and deepened his voice as he replied, “We need to make some changes. We’ve figured out that we haven’t been putting God first, and so we keep talking about doing that. We’ve started doing some things differently, and that’s good, but we keep trying to put Him first in a way that still leaves us trying to fix ourselves.”
He then opened his Bible app and read aloud Matthew 6:25-34… You know, the ‘be anxious for nothing’ verses… the ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you’ verses.
Can we all agree what a blessed thing it is to have a spouse devoted to honoring God even when we aren’t feeling so up to par? I am so thankful that his response rebuked me rather than affirmed my misguided emotions. But, at the time he read those words to me, it was irritating to hear. I literally groaned inside. I may or may not have even rolled my eyes and thought, “Can’t you just be normal and come to the pity party with me?”
But, my husband knew better. He knew better than to take the apple of bitterness that his wife was offering him at the time. And, thank God, because that night we challenged each other in a way that God’s word calls us to do, but we’re often scared to do. We confessed and sought forgiveness, he for his passivity, and me for my hostility (what a pair we make, right?), and he challenged me to start focusing on reading God’s Word more than what I had been. It was no coincidence that the next morning I come across an article in my newsfeed saying that so often people ignore the solution to transforming their minds, and it simply is to read God’s Word. The article’s urging was simple… Choose one book of the bible. Read it all the way through. Choose another book of the bible. Read it all the way through. Repeat these steps until you have read through every book of the bible.
Can we all just pause for a “DUH - why didn’t I think of that” moment?
Just like most things in life, we muddle up God’s simple solutions to life’s problems with our own overthinking and overreaching into dilemmas that we were never meant to solve by way of our own puny logic. If we would just stay in God’s Word, the living and breathing Word of God, our path would not be darkened. If God’s word is a light unto my path, and God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but we somehow keep ending up on a foggy road with very little direction, then who keeps turning the light off?
Open your bible.
Read your bible.
In the twenty-four hours that I’ve spent diligently reading my bible, God has answered my whining as clearly as my husband who sat across from me did. I made a list of the shortest books of the bible to the longest, hoping that it would be more motivating if I was able to get a running start, and it has been. Since yesterday, I’ve read through 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, Philemon, Jude, Obadiah, Titus, Haggai, and I’m currently in Nahum. These nine books have worked together to bop me over the head with God’s wisdom in a way that I could not have anticipated. I had actually been concerned that reading the bible so randomly might prove ineffective. But, is God’s word ever ineffective? I opened this blog entry with a verse from Haggai, and then I shared a bit about our recent circumstances, and now I will bring the two together.
Reading further along in Haggai chapter one, we realize why these people have toiled with little gain. Verses 7 and 9-10 states the following: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways… You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins while each of you busies himself with his own house.”
Wow. God just said, “when you brought it home, I blew it away.” We must not forget His sovereignty. Don’t let your toils be in vain. The book of Haggai goes on to tell an incredibly beautiful story of how God changed the hearts of the people of Judah to lose their self-centered busyness and give themselves to the work of the Lord in bringing His temple to its former glory. He goes on to bless a people who were once too busy to serve Him faithfully. And, He can do the same for you and I. But, how? His instructions were clear to the people of Judah through Haggai the prophet… But, we don’t have a temple to renovate. Enter 1, 2, and 3 John, Philemon, Jude, and Titus. These books may be small in word count, but they are HUGE in the richness of what it means to be a Christian and put God first. Where is the temple of the New Testament? It is here, among the believers… It is the body of Christ. It is your Christian brother or sister, your Christian co-worker and fellow church members. It’s the stranger in the grocery store that you look at and somehow just “know” that they are also a believer because you can almost taste the familiarity of the Holy Spirit dripping off of their every word.
Are you investing in God’s temple? Have you given your life over in service to those who are running this race along side you? Read those short books of the bible, and you will come away with a list of ways to put God first by serving the body of believers. Serving our fellow Christians is one of many ways that we can put God first in our lives, but don’t underestimate the effect that supporting one another can have on the big picture of The Great Commission outlined in Matthew 28:16-20. Some of the practical things I’ve gleaned from these books:
Stay in the Word.
Love one another.
Pray for each other.
Rebuke when needed.
Test the spirits, and recognize false prophets.
Walk in truth and love.
Submit to, and honor, authority.
Imitate good, and not evil.
Have mercy on those who doubt.
Speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling.
Be gentle and show perfect courtesy.
Know your role, and adhere to it.
The list goes on. I challenge you to read those same short books of the bible, and then keep going! Don’t stop. Read the whole bible, and then read it again… it never runs out of new things to teach you, because it is the living and breathing Word of God. It is the means by which we hear from the Creator Himself. Don’t cut off His line of communication by closing your bibles and letting them collect dust on the shelf. Open it, and keep it open.