Revival and building houses
In this region we have been praying for revival for some time. Revival is when God's Spirit comes down on his church in a powerful way and first restores the church and its members. It lifts slumbering Christians to a sight of their own status before God, humbling them in repentance and then lifting them up to a sight of how marvellous is the grace of God. The revival leader Duncan Campbell referred to revival as a "people saturated by God."
I was preparing a while back for a potential sermon series in Haggai. Haggai is writing to a people who had returned from exile and, although they had begun to re-build the temple, the house of the Lord, they had stopped. And the reason, Haggai tells us, is because the people had become busy with their own houses. Now that is not that surprising. Jerusalem had been made into a ruin by the Babylonian invasion so people had to re-build their own homes. But in doing so they prioritised those homes over the house of the Lord. And the result, according to Haggai, was that the people were not experiencing God's blessing.
In chapter 1 and verse 6 he says that the people had "planted much, but harvested little."
These verses are an important challenge to our current times. How many times have we prayed to the Lord for a special blessing on his church? For great things to come? How often have we felt, spiritually speaking, that we have “planted much, but harvested little”? How dry we feel spiritually. And I wonder if the challenge is that we need to hear these words from Haggai: “‘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 a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.”
I do not think God, through the prophet, is calling on his people to neglect their homes. But he is asking them to come to see what is primary. Their own homes and families are only theirs because they have been given them by God. And yet they do not have the time to build God’s house because they are too busy with their own. And the house of the Lord is his temple. In the New Testament era that is Jesus and the church that is his body. What are we doing to build up his body? Are we doing just the bare minimum? Are we coming to church gatherings for what we can get out but never putting in? Are we making time for outreach? If not, then how are you building the Lord’s house? Is our excuse that we are too busy? That seems to have been the excuse of the Israelites as well. They busied themselves with their own houses and neglected the house of God. The result was that their lives were impoverished. They saw no lasting gain. And their spiritual lives were dried up. Heaven had withheld its dew. Do we cry out to the Lord to pour water on a barren land? Do we seek spiritual renewal from the waters of life? If we seek to do so whilst all the while busying ourselves with our own houses and finding no time to build the Lord’s, can we expect any more than was the case for Israel? Or will not the Lord who withheld the dew from them, withhold it from us as well?
So let us take heed and, as the Lord, through Haggai, says, "Give careful though to [our] ways." If we truly want to see revival then the church as a whole needs to wake up to its need to accept responsibility for the building up of the body of Christ, the church. And each individual has to awaken to that responsibility as well.