About a year or so ago I was in a conversation with one of my sisters. We were talking about some things that were going on in her life and in the life of some of her friends. A friend of hers’ was applying for a job. My sister was encouraging her with words of wisdom. Her friend was filled with anxiety and her anxiety did not seem to be lessening. My sister in an attempt to comfort and encourage her friend told her, “You know, what God has for you it is for you!” I’ve heard that phrase all over the place. My sister, was telling her friend that no matter what, if God has it for her (that new job) then it’s hers because “what’s for you is for you!” I think that phrase is well intended, but very problematic.
While “what’s for you is for you, it doesn’t always mean that God gives it to you!” And I must tell you today that what God has for you is for you, but God doesn’t always give it to you!” I’ve come to realize and observe that you don’t always get what God has for you. There are some things, some blessings, some favor blessings that God has for some of you, but He will not put them in your hands. Inquiring minds have but one question, “Why?” I am so glad you asked!
I will show you this principle in scripture today—if you would turn to the Old Testament book of Haggai chapter 1 beginning with verse 1. We will read verses 1-6. I would like you to think on the thought “Why You Don’t Always Get What God Has For You!”
Haggai 1:1-7 (NIV) In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.’ ” Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.
Let me give you some background on today’s scripture text. In 586 BC, the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, included sacking and destroying the Temple built by Solomon. Most of the Jews were captured and exiled to Babylon. In 538 BC, King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to begin returning to their homeland. In 537 BC 50,000 Jews returned. They began to rebuild the temple but strong opposition and rebellion broke out which delayed the beginning of the project. 520 BC is the year when the saga continues. Verse 1 helps us to pinpoint the year in which these events took place. The second year of King Darius.
Here’s the situation: The temple is in rubble, the temple is a disgrace to the people of God and to God. The Israelites walk by these ruins, day after day, year after year. A constant sad reminder of their defeat. As I was listening to many of the survivors of the twin towers and their families, many said that 8 years later still nothing has been erected on that site. That vacant spot of land is a constant reminder of the devastation and attack on that day. It is a shame.
One mother who lost her son on that day (9/11) said, “I hope by this time next year something will be there!” In today’s text the people of God have had 16 -17 years to build the temple (from 538 to 520) and they have let God’s house, God’s property, remain an eye-sore. Had the property been in Fairfax County it would have been condemned as blighted property. It was in need of an extreme make-over!
It’s as if God says, “Now wait a minute folks, you are supposed to be my peeps!” I am sure that most of our families told us when we were growing up, “you be careful when you leave this house, because you are caring the family name!” That’s the nice version! It’s as if God is telling them, “folks this building thing is bigger than you and it’s more than a building!” Sometimes we just see things on the natural plane. We just see the natural, but God wants us to see the super-natural. A building is a building is a building, except when it comes to God’s property. It is sacred property it’s one of God’s sacred things. Sacred meaning set apart to God! Even the Government recognizes the sacred things, and at least for a little while longer, sacred things aren’t taxed. You pay personal property on your home or car, but things devoted unto God are not assessed property taxes because of the use—it’s a sacred thing of God! And when the government tries to tax it, that’s when you and I have our town-hall meeting with the Congressman! (Amen!). The temple was to represent the dwelling place of God and a sacred gathering place for the people of God. In other words, the building that the people build is an iconic expression to God and to the world of a people’s love for their God!
But look what happens in 520BC God sends his prophet Haggai to speak to the Governor and to the High Priest. They have been back in their homeland almost 20 years and have not moved one stone to rebuild God’s house.
A Word from The Lord!
In verses 5 and 7 God speaks a word to His people through His prophet Haggai. Both times Haggai reminds the people that what he is delivering to them is not his view on things, but it is a word from the Lord! You might ask, “Why is that important that Haggai emphasizes that this is a word from the Lord?”
Haggai is no fool. He must understand that when you start meddling in people’s business, they start looking funny at you. Haggai declares that what he is sharing is “a word from the Lord!” That if you have issue with what is about to come forth take it up with the Lord! If you have an issue, take your issue to the source: God. Haggai is like the Post Office. He’s just delivering the package/the message. God is the sender. So, when the biblical preacher gives the message if you have issue with it, take it up with the sender! Please don’t shoot the messenger!
Grown Cold Toward God
The Israelites represented God to the world. Just like you as Christians you represent the one true and living God to the world. However, the Israelites had been back in Jerusalem for almost 20 years and had neglected the building of the temple. Why? I believe it is because they had grown cold toward God! Their coldness toward God showed up in their lack of responsiveness in building the Temple.
As a matter of fact the charge against them is raised in verse 2: These people say, “that time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.” God is a little ticked with the Israelites. Why do I say that? In verse 2 he doesn’t call them “my people.” He calls them “these people,” to me that is the height of Divine frustration. It’s like when a child is misbehaving and being a royal pain, the Dad will say to the child’s Mom, “Do you know what “your” child is doing?” or “That’s your child!” They have grieved the heart of God and God calls them “these people.” His heart has been broken! Your wife when she gets on your last nerve-you might say instead of honey, sweetheart, sugar-pie, “that woman I married…!” or the wife might say on a bad day, “That man I married!”
They could have had some legitimate reasons not to build, but all of those reasons were just, can I say it, bottom-line, without fixing it up or finessing it “just lies!” You might ask, “What makes you say that?” In verse 4) the word of the Lord through the prophet Haggai raises the rhetorical question, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
Paneled facilities were usually just in the temple. So, the group that is being addressed specifically is the well to do, the well off, the “haves” of the Israelites. A poor person could not afford a paneled home. This was the well to do crowd, but there is a lesson for all of us!
And then the “excuse” they give they say it’s not the right time to build the building. Yet it’s time for them to be living in “fine homes” while the temple of God is in ruins. This is not a knock on living in a nice home, that’s not the issue. The issue is that they were living in luxury, while God’s house was like the projects! They do not honor God or esteem God. God is not in first place in their lives.
Isn’t it interesting that we can always come up with excuses why it’s not the right time to do something for God. And yet we can always find time and money to do what we want to do that is we can always find the time and money to do what we want to do for ourselves. We can find the money to fight a war, but we can’t find the money to fix health care!
We can find the time to go out to dinner, go to a frat or sorority meeting, our political meetings, our network meetings, television meetings, but we can’t seem to find time to come to prayer meeting, Bible study, or worship! We can find time and money to do everything we want to do, but when it comes to the things of God, we always seem to have an excuse. We can find the money to buy our cars and homes, but we can’t find money to build God’s kingdom and give generously in offerings! Have we grown cold toward God!
What if Jesus Christ had said, “I don’t have time to go to the cross to save sinners?” “It cost me too much to save you from your sins!” But the truth is, had it not been for the Lord taking the time one Friday to hang on a cross, where would we be? He put the time in, and He paid it all! We ought to be able to show up at prayer meetings and Bible study? Have you grown cold toward God, it’s time to consider your ways!
I just got a text message: “TTTSTD” Tell-The-Truth, Shame-The-Devil! God points out to the Israelites, you say it’s not time to build for the Lord, but you’ve built your paneled houses! This is not a message for unbelievers. God is addressing believers. As believers we must show the world that we love God so much that we will do what it takes to glorify God.
They had grown cold toward God! God knows the heart. They may have been able to give a plausible response, a PR spin. Oh, it’s not time to build, but God understands the heart, their hearts had grown cold toward God. They were not hot for God! Their passion for God had grown cold. The fire had gone out. Their passion for God had grown cold!
When you are passionate about someone or something your passion shows up and it wants to show off? To my single sisters you really know if that guy is passionate about you. If he is passionate about you he wants to spend time with you, he wants to spend money on you, he wants to take you out and show you off, he just can’t wait to get next to you, he enjoys being in your presence!
But, if he doesn’t want to spend time with you, doing some of things you want to do, when you want to do them, he may only want to call you for all the wrong reasons! He may not be that into you! He’s just using you! He’s only into you for what he can get out of you!
If you are passionate for God—you would want to spend time devouring His Word; we can’t wait to worship God, we worship Him privately, and we worship Him publicly. And we don’t mind praising Him just because of who He is! Don’t let your passion for God to grow cold! Don’t lose your first love! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you mind, and with all your soul!
Consider Your Ways
God says you want to treat me like a part-time lover. You want to treat me like a Divine Prostitute. Praying Him up when you have a need or when you want something! You only want me when you need me! There is a principle at work in their lives that they were unaware of. God says to them you know there have been some things happening in your life, you’ve tried to explain it through the economy, through the global warming or climate control, but let me explain what’s going on.
Haggai 1:6 (NIV)6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
There were some things that were happening in their lives that was more than a coincidence. The Israelites would work but the results of their work did not match the effort of their work. The output was far less than their input! Their efforts did not produce the expected results. They gave maximum input but received minimum output. When you work and work and work, when you study and study, and study, and you do not get the desired results, it might be time to consider your ways!
Their favorite song about this time would have been, “Can’t get no, satisfaction!” God frustrated their efforts, because they had grown cold toward Him! God tells them it’s time to consider their ways. The principle that’s in place is that I know we like that song, that says “What God has for me is for me, but as I look at the principle in this text it’s a nice song, but I’m not sure about the theology when we compare it to the Bible, because “You don’t always get what God has for you when you grow cold toward God! When your passion for God has gone!” Some of you are saying on your faces, “What are you talking about?” That’s why it is important to get our theology from the Bible and not from songs that sound good and rational, but don’t tell the whole story? The songs we sing ought to grow out of the truth contained in the Bible! When we hear songs, we need to be like the Bereans and search the scriptures to see if they are true (Acts 17:11).
We see a principle at work here: That you don’t always get what God has for you. Think about this: The Bible tells us in 1 Peter that husbands if you don’t treat your wives right, then God is under no obligation to honor your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7 (NIV) Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Let me break it down, God is saying to His people, you will not get what I have for you if you don’t treat your wife right! You don’t always get what God has for you, because of yourself! Think about this:
Adam and Eve are evicted from the Garden of Eden (God’s perfect creation He created for them)—you don’t always get what God has for you because of yourself!
Esau has a birthright, a large share of inheritance (But Esau gives it away for a bowl of soup)---you don’t always get what God has for you because of yourself!
God has prepared the land flowing with milk and honey for the Israelites, but the bad report from 8 of the 10 spies, they do not get what God has for them, they end up wandering for 40 years and that generation dies all but 2, you don’t always get what God has for you because of yourself!
God has the promised-land, the land flowing with milk and honey for Moses and his fellow Israelites, but on one occasion God directs Moses to speak to the rock, and Moses hits the rock, and Moses is not allowed to enter the promised land—you don’t always get what God has for you, because of yourself!
We see the principle in place that if you are seemingly giving a good effort in your work and the results just aren’t materializing then “it’s time to consider your ways!” When it begins to be like hitting your head against the wall and things are just not happening my friends, “it’s time to consider your ways!” There were times when my father would have to tell my older brothers when they were misbehaving, “you better check yourself!” There are times that God tells us, there are times that God tells those who are His, “it’s time you need to check yourself!”
Don’t blame your neighbor, preacher, son, daughter, wife, husband or the person next to you, “it’s you!” There are times when we have some frustrations in our lives, and some of those frustrations remind us we need to consider our ways toward God! When the Washington football team is frustrated because they can’t score a touchdown on the Dallas Cowboys, it’s not because the Cowboy defense is that great, it just might be the offense. They just might need to consider their ways!
What about you? If you’ve been working on something and it’s like you are butting your head up against a brick wall. You might need to consider your ways! If you always get what you’ve always got, and you don’t like what you got, then it’s time for you to consider your ways! We understand the principle that if what you are doing isn’t getting the desired results then we need to consider what we are doing and make some changes, or consider your ways! We understand that if our automobile engine starts to ping and we keep putting gas in and it’s still pinging, it’s pretty clear we need to do something different.
In your walk with God, in those times when you aren’t getting what God has for you…you need to consider your ways! When we say “it’s time to consider your ways” we mean it’s time to have an honest look at yourself and examine the footsteps of your life. When you don’t get what I got for you, you need to consider your ways!
Consider Your Sacrifice
When you find results frustrated (not satisfied) you should consider your sacrifice! The Israelites coldness toward God showed up in their self indulgent lifestyles. They were selfish. Had they written the first line of the Purpose Driven Life it would have been “It’s not about God, it’s about me!” They had gotten it twisted. Instead of worshiping God will all their heart, mind and soul, they were worshiping themselves first. They would have had the worldly philosophy of “pay yourself first.”
But God is not mocked. It’s as if God said, Ok, you don’t want to worship me with your sacrifices. Fine I’ll withdraw my blessings, and just give you enough to just get back, just enough to make it. It requires a sacrifice then, and it requires a sacrifice now! I’m not talking about a works salvation. Our salvation is by the grace of God. I’m talking about living a life that is pleasing to God, because all that God has done for us. We make sacrifices of our time, our talent and our treasure. Not that we have to, but that we get to honor God because we are passionate for God!
Back then and even now, God is asking, “what’s the problem?” Sometimes we can get to the point that we think that we are the source of our own supply! When our refrigerators are full, bills are paid, and a nest egg, we can begin to think that we’ve done it, that we grow dull with God. We don’t say it, but we begin to live as if we don’t need God.
God has a way of getting our attention, God has a way of getting a nations attention. You can give a great effort, but God withholds the results. Sacrifice is a way that we worship God. We make the tithe sacrifice as a worship of God. We make a sacrifice of the first fruits to God as Worship; to put it in the contemporary vernacular we pay God first as Worship!
As you consider your sacrifice, consider the sacrifice that Jesus Christ did for you, He gave it all, He laid down His life, He is the lamb of God sacrificed before the foundation of the world. Consider your Sacrifice!
Consider Your Obedience
We need to consider our ways in our obedience to God. When we experience frustrations, we need to consider our obedience. Obedience in our personal lives as believers. Obedience to the Word of God. The Bible tells us that obedience is better than sacrifice. Through obedience God blesses His people. Do you bless your wayward children? We will give them the minimum, but we are not pressed to bless them with extra. Are we living lives obedient to God or are we living more like the world. God is telling you enough is enough. Stop flirting with the world and the sins of the world. Stop your pretending on one hour of power on Sunday morning that you are a super-saint, and the rest of the time living like a super-ain’t! As you consider your obedience, consider the obedience Jesus showed, He was obedient all the way to the cross! If He were not obedient where would we be!
Consider Your Service
When our frustrations occur because we have grown cold toward God we must consider our ways by reconsidering our service to God. Our service as believers includes a sacrifice of time. In that time, we make service to God through the local church a priority. I believe that God is telling some of you it’s time for you to consider your ways!
Everyone ought to have at least one ministry in which to serve. We have serving opportunities with our ministries. Won’t you make a sacrifice and serve. Yes, serving is a sacrifice, because you could always find something else to do other than to serve God. But serve the Lord your God. Make the sacrifice of service!
Serving is a sacrifice. But it’s a great sacrifice to serve for the cause of Jesus Christ. God knows, and God will honor your faithfulness in service. It doesn’t have to be a big thing it needs to be a consistent thing. Don’t we sing the song, “I’ll serve Him, till I die!” The key point to remember is that you are serving God. You are not serving the pastor, the preacher, the deacon, or the elder, or the choir director, your reasonable and faithful service is to God.
Remember who you serve! It’s time to consider your service! Have the attitude, not that I have to serve, but I get to serve! Have you ever been frustrated? There are many things that can happen that cause us to be frustrated. When we feel frustrated, we tend to look at someone else or something else as the cause of our frustration. But the truth is you might need to consider your ways!
When I looked at those words Sacrifice, Obedience, and Service I looked at the first letter of each word. “S.O.S” and I am reminded of the international distress code. That anywhere in the world SOS is recognized as the international distress code. I think that when your love for God has grown cold and we focus more on ourselves than on God, we are in distress. We need to layout the spiritual distress code: SOS! Anytime we see the signs of growing cold toward God, we need to SOS! And one of the SOS---Save Our Souls! Jesus answered our S.O.S. We were sinking deep in sin and we were helpless and hopeless, but we sent up our SOS our cosmic distress signal: Save Our Souls. He saved us and He keeps us saved!
We ought to be willing to Sacrifice, Obey and Serve!