Considering our ways and the mission of God
I am the boldest evangelist I know.
I have a great theology of evangelism. I theoretically trust that God will work through an ordinary guy like me to draw people to Himself. I know that whether someone comes to Christ ultimately doesn’t depend on me, but on Him.
And yet when it comes down to it, I kind of stink at actually evangelizing people. My tongue gets tied. My mind goes blank. My confidence leaves me. (And sometimes, I just forget.)
I often feel a mix of guilt and conviction about my timidity as an evangelist. I know I should evangelize, but it’s hard. Yet, strangely, I’ve found a great deal of encouragement about this from a semi-obscure book in the Old Testament: Haggai.
When we look at the Minor Prophets, it’s easy to think of God as only speaking to prohibit or punish. And while it’s true that God warns of the consequences of sin, in His justice He explains what He will do to those who defy Him or assail His people.
But it’s not the whole story. When we read Haggai we see God telling His people, “Think carefully about your ways” (Haggai 1:7).
Refocusing on their mission
The people returned from their long exile in Babylon. They were brought back to rebuild the temple, but their work was not yet complete. Some said the time was not right (1:2). They started rebuilding their own lives instead—building houses and farming their land. But their work was hindered—the harvest didn’t yield good fruit; water was scarce. When God spoke to them His question was, “Why do you think this is happening?”
“Because My house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house” (1:9).
The remnant of the Israelites returned to the land to rebuild God’s Temple. They repented of their former rejection of God, and they longed to worship Him as He commanded. Yet they soon became distracted from God with the very mission He had given them. The stuff of life began to choke out their passion for the Lord, and they experienced hardship because of it. And God, the good Father that He is, told them why. Through Haggai’s message, God was calling them back; He was drawing them toward Himself.
This is good news, isn’t it? Imagine being one of the people hearing this prophecy. How would it have affected you? In the case of the remnant, they were confronted with their sin; but instead of doubling down as their ancestors had done, they repented. The people responded to God in faith—they “obeyed the voice of the Lord their God” (1:12). They turned away from restoring their own lives, and focused on restoring the Temple. And the Lord told them, “I am with you” (1:13)— His Spirit would be among them (2:5), and He would provide them with peace and blessing (2:9–19).
God is still speaking to us the way He did to the remnant through Haggai.
Focusing on our greater mission
We are all prone to distractions in our calling as Christians—especially with the call to make disciples. Our fears get in the way. Confidence leaves us. Tongues become tied. And there are bills to be paid. Lawns to be mowed. Rest to be taken. Netflix to be binged. We’ve all been guilty of being busy building our own houses rather than going about our Father’s business.
But by reading this ancient message, God continues to call ordinary Christians like you and me to focus on the mission He has given us. He reminds us that there is still work to be done, and it is a greater work than building a Temple of wood and stone. As God’s people today, the work He has given us is greater than that. We are called to carry the good news of the gospel to the world. We were made to share the greater blessing that God has given His people, the perfect peace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. He has called us to be the instruments through which He builds His church.
We can be confident that when we are distracted from this mission, God will continue to draw us back to what really matters. May we heed the call He gives—the call to consider our ways.
Aaron Armstrong is the Brand Manager of The Gospel Project, and an author, blogger, and speaker based in the Nashville area.