Romans 15:4 ESV - For whatever was written in former days [Old Testament] was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Haggai 2:2-5, 9 ESV - “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not… 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’ ”
As Zerubbabel embarked upon rebuilding the Temple of God in Jerusalem, the difficulty and discouragement wore him down as enemies resisted from the outside and fears crippled the restoration team internally. God sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage, challenge, and support Zerubbabel and his “Temple Team.” Though they offered direct support, the importance of prophetic encouragement was vital. God inspired Haggai to record three crucial admonitions that can easily apply to us today as we embark upon spiritual and relational restoration projects (or marital, or financial, or career…):
Whenever we are doing the the hard yet right action of restoring our lives to align with God’s purposes and priorities, there can always be the temptation toward “kingdom complacency.” It is so much easier to be spiritually lazy. It is so convenient to use the excuse of work, school, kids activities, tiredness, busyness, or countless other excuses why we find ourselves drifting away from God’s purpose for us. The root is that our sinful nature will always drag us toward kingdom complacency when God has called us to passionately serve and work to bless and broaden the territory of His kingdom on earth.
Proverbs 1:32-33 ESV - For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; 33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.Yet the prophetic encouragement of the ancients conveys a simple command to help reboot our spiritual doldrums: “Work!” The work of Christ saves us…so that we will do good works that bring Him glory, build up His church, and rescue the lost for whom He died. The principle of inertia has a spiritual application. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. A Christian who is actively and consistently doing kingdom work tends to keep going while a Christian who is in a pit of complacency
tends to go nowhere (except maybe deeper into a pit or funk). An illustration I heard once involved the steering wheel of a car. When the car is parked, turning the steering wheel is nearly impossible and limited in potential success. The car that’s moving is the car that’s easy to steer. A Christian in a pit of complacency has limited success in any meaningful area of life, while one who is intentionally on the move will find direction and opportunity come with much more ease and success.
Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV - For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
3. FEAR NOT
Perhaps the most crippling emotion we will face when restoring our spiritual strength, community, marriage, family, financial health, etc., is fear. Anxiety and fear about the cost of discipleship… or our personal sense of inadequacy… or uncertainty that God will provide… or countless other sources can bring a necessary reboot in life to a screeching halt. The New Testament records Jesus and the apostles continually addressing the need to not be afraid. It is a frequently repeated command; therefore, it is something we can choose to do. We can choose to overcome fears and anxieties through intentional trust in God and loving acts that confront and conquer our fear to do the right thing. What two fears - in the context of serving God, His mission, and His church - come to mind as you ask God to reveal them to you? What will you do today to address these fears in prayer and then in concrete action? Confess them to your small group or family or trusted counselor today, then intentionally and wisely address them. Win the battle in prayer first. Let God take the heat and trust Him to be your shield, even if it involves others who use their free will to abuse your attempts to do right. Finally, determine who encourages you and who discourages you so you know where you need to invest your relationship capital and who you need to avoid. Courage is needed to face fears, so there is no benefit in exposing yourself to the voices of discouragers when there are encouragers God has placed in the body of Christ. Run with those who give good words!
How should you apply the following Scriptures today?
Proverbs 12:25 ESV - Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.
Psalm 118:5-6 ESV - Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. 6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV - For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV - Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Philippians 4:6-7 ESV - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.