by Paul Benson
Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. Haggai 1:8
If we are going to someday hear Jesus say, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant!’. we will need to have actually gotten something done along the lines of his will for our life (a faithful servant does the bidding of his master). Not just works of religious duty, or good ideas about how to help out the world; but God working through us to accomplish his plan.
But this concept can be a little intimidating. Even though we know God’s ability, and we know our call as believers is to reach out in his name, we still have a very real tendency to draw back from any idea of God supernaturally working through us.
Selling Ourselves Short!
We have all our lives been subjected to influences of one sort or another which seek to bring about a limitation of what we think we might accomplish in this life. Some from other people in our lives, and some from ourselves. So we shrink back from the idea of being involved in any kind of Spirit-led ministry; stuck in a rut of self-imposed inactivity. Let’s see if we can climb out of that rut.
Let’s look at our personal responsibility in a different light. I believe we can all find good success in service to God by understanding what it is he wants to accomplish through us; and then seeking the Lord for the grace to do it. To hear God’s voice and do his will is a growth process; and the more we move in this direction the better we will get at it.
I don’t make any claims at being a giant in the things of God, or to have any huge accomplishments I can testify to (although I am petitioning God for increase and trusting him for the same). I am in the same learning process as everyone else, and have to ward off the same tendencies of self-limitation and personal fears that others do.
But I have found some things that are working for me. I don’t believe I have to accomplish huge things to receive a huge reward. A little here and a little there over the course of a lifetime will bring a mountain of reward in eternity. A little bit at a time is not a frightening standard to set before us.
We can all do that!
I am so thankful for the way God can, by the anointing of his Spirit, make a passage of Scripture come alive and speak to our needs. Here is one that has spoken to me personally in a very profound way:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Haggai 1:7-9
I had the Lord speak to me through this passage in such a personal way that it seemed as if it had been written for me and me alone. He spoke things into my heart about his will for my life that will be a foundation for every thing I ever do in his name. I would like to share a few of them with you.
The Lord spoke through the prophet Haggai and told the people ‘consider your ways’. Self examination is key to forward progress as a believer. Honestly comparing where we are against where we ought to be can be quite convicting. Getting uncomfortable with where you’re at is good motivation to move ahead. But before we can move ahead we need a vision or goal to work toward, or we will just wander aimlessly.
That vision must come from God!
The setting of the Book of Haggai was just after the nation of Israel had returned from the 70 years of captivity in Babylon. The city of God had been in ruins for years and so had the Temple; but in spite of their given responsibility to rebuild the Temple they were slacking off. They were just worrying about building their own houses and getting their own affairs in order. The Lord was patient with their pursuit of personal prosperity for quite a while but the day came when He moved upon the prophet to speak. He said, ‘I want my house built!’
We Are God’s House
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22
Somewhere among the hustle-bustle of Christian life and ministry lies the true responsibility we carry as believers. Although we have various ideas about how we should do his bidding, and an endless list of things we feel he has called us to accomplish, ultimately the purpose and calling of the Body of Christ is to build a habitation for God.
Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. The Lord wants his house built, and that house is comprised of people. God help those who have lost sight of the fact that ministry is about people. Not about building organizations, not about building names, not about building buildings, not about promoting social or political change, and definitely not about building a stash of cash!
Seeing God’s desire to reach people is key to understanding his plan for you and I, the everyday ordinary Christian. There is no reason to wonder about God’s will for your life, or to fret about finding it. It’s not some divine mystery out there floating across the cosmos. It can be summed up in one word: people! What does he want from us as believers? He wants us to reach out; to lead people to faith and strengthen the faith of those who do believe. To build his house.
As we lead persons into a life of faith we are increasing the size of God’s house. As we build up and encourage one another in the faith we are strengthening God’s house. When we lift up a standard of holiness and exhort ourselves and each other to seek God for the grace to live up to that standard we are cleaning God’s house.
Going After The Good Stuff
Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; He told them to go up the mountain to get the wood to build his house. He did not want his house built out of the common wood found down in the valley. God’s house deserved better than whatever could be scrounged up in an easy fashion around the outskirts of the city. He wanted it built out of the cedars and firs which grew high in the far away mountains.
This was no ordinary wood. The cedar was beautiful in color and it had an awesome fragrance to it; and the fir was exceptionally strong. These were the choicest wood to be had but also the most difficult to get.
Only the best for God’s house!
If you read about Solomon doing the original construction of the Temple it describes an amazing amount of labor involved in traveling to Lebanon, climbing the mountain, felling the trees, hewing the timbers, and bringing the wood down the mountain. And then by traversing land and water transporting it to Jerusalem. Thousands upon thousands of laborers were needed to accomplish this feat. All this so that the Lord might have a house built out of the materials of his choice. The strong mountain fir and the beautiful aromatic cedar.
Go up to the mountain. When I think along these lines I remember the rock quarry we used to work as a family years ago. It was basically a steep draw up in the mountains with a rock slide on each side and a road going up the center. You had to park at the bottom and walk quite a ways up the draw to get to where we would work. The road was not fit for a vehicle; only the big old loader we brought the rock out with could handle that draw.
Each spring when we would return to work after being shut down for the winter I would dread that climb up that draw. The road was steep and uneven to walk on. I would have to stop several times and rest to catch my breath. By the time you got up to the work site you almost wished it was time to go home. What a chore!
But each day the climb would get a little easier as you got used to the effort involved. After a few weeks you would almost be jogging up the draw; enjoying the exhilaration a good workout gives someone who is in shape. What a difference!
It’s quite the same climbing the mountain to get some decent material to build God’s house out of today. If you exercise yourself in that area it becomes easier as you go, and can even get to be exhilarating. But if you are out of shape spiritually it’s a real chore and quite draining.
That’s why, instead of climbing the mountain of the Lord for material of their own with some anointing to it, most ministers use ‘pulpit helps’ or sermon outlines of messages preached by others. (Ask your ‘pastor’ how big his library of ‘helps’ is! Or how much he relies on the resources available on the internet instead of seeking after fresh manna.)
Most folks don’t realize how common of a practice this is. They have an image in their mind of ministers crying out to God for inspiration; and agonizing in prayer over what to feed the flock on Sunday. But in reality this is seldom true. More often than not they take someone’s material, and spruce it up with some comments of their own, and no one is the wiser (except God and anyone hoping for a message with some anointing to it).
Willing To Pay The Price?
All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee. 24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 2Samuel 24:23-24
When King David was instructed by God to build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah, the man offered it to the king as a gift out of respect; even throwing in the oxen to sacrifice and also the wood for the fire. But David would have no part of it. He thought it absolutely unfitting to offer something to the Lord which had cost him nothing. I wonder what kind of messages we would be hearing if all of the folks claiming to be preachers and teachers today had the same attitude as brother David here?
It is quite apparent when someone gets behind a pulpit and has made the climb to get some fragrant material to build with; and (unless you are in a religious slumber) it’s also quite apparent when they haven’t. And, to bring this bus down the street you and I live on, the same goes for every aspect of service for Christ. This is where we stop picking on Pastor Sermon-Stealer and point the finger at us. You need to hear this and so do I! (Sometimes if no one is around to prod me I have to preach to myself.)
Whether its witnessing, exhorting, doing a good deed, or even showing a little concern for others; it can be dead and dry, or have a beauty and a sweet aroma about it. I believe there is an aspect of effectiveness in all ministry only found in great personal sacrifice. I have done well in this regard at times and also quite poorly at other times. I have a continual need to be stirred up in the things of God, just like you. We are not here to brag on Brother Paul, but hopefully to figure out what actually gets the house built.
Getting Our Attention
Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Haggai 1:7-9
Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little. If you read this chapter from Haggai it appears God had really been curtailing the flow of his blessing to get the people to a point they would listen to the words of the Prophet. Now, there’s another concept you don’t hear the ‘faith teachers’ proclaiming: God bringing a time of lack and hardship upon his people as a means of chastening them, and bringing them back into line with his will. Although this is a sound biblical teaching, many reject such a notion.
We hear so many preachers and teachers declare that anything negative or painful is from the Devil that many have a tendency to rebuke God for dealing with us in this manner thinking it is merely the enemy at work. I wonder if God ever gets tired of being called Satan? I sure would! How would you react if you spanked one of your kids for some misbehavior and they turned on you and said, ‘I rebuke you Satan, get thou away from me you evil thing!’? They might take a few extra licks! But, thank God, our Father corrects us for our own good, and not because he has any problem with anger management.
King David had, through experience, learned the balance of God’s blessing and his Fatherly correction. He knew just like Paul that whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth (Hebrews 12:6). Reading the Psalms it appears more than once David had been taken to the woodshed. It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes… …and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. (Psalms 119:71+75) Notice here he saw this correction as a sign of God’s faithfulness, as do I.
Once the pastor of a church I was attending remarked from the pulpit that he had heard someone declare, ‘Boy, God really smacked me a good one!’ His answer was to reply, ‘God does NOT smack his children!’ I thought, ‘Man, you must have a different God than I do!’ I had to spit that sermon out; it just didn’t taste right. Blah! Phew!
I heard an old time preacher once say, ‘Yes, God is a God of love. He loves me so much He holds my hand all the way to the woodshed, and then all the way back again!’ Now that’s a balance of truth; I can chew that up and swallow it.
Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little. Sometimes we get so dull of hearing we can’t discern him knocking on our spiritual door so he has to knock on the physical one. Maybe if we are in a time of spiritual (or financial) drought we should take a look at our priorities. Perhaps God is showing us some of that Fatherly faithfulness, and dealing with us?
Out Of Focus?
What is the main focus of my efforts as a believer? What’s first and foremost in my life? Is it my responsibility to build God’s house or the desire to build my own? Boy have I wrestled with that one a few times (and with God’s assistance!). But when I genuinely commit to putting God’s purposes for my life ahead of my own wishes there is a rest that comes upon me, and a confidence I can count on his provision no matter what things look like.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33
I wonder if Jesus had our passage from Haggai in mind when he spoke those words? He was saying, ‘Take care of God’s business first and everything else will take care of itself. Build my house and I’ll look after yours!’. May God give us grace to always put the things of God ahead of the things of self.
The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. Proverbs 11:25
God is wanting us to make the effort to sacrifice our time and energy, and make that climb up the mountain (praying, fasting, studying, waiting on God, crying out for some measure of anointing on our efforts). Then when we reach out with what we receive from God, whatever form it might take, there will be a grace upon it that is beyond what we can give forth of ourselves. There will be a supernatural quality expressed that will touch hearts and lives in a significant way And not just those we are reaching out to, but our own selves as well!
He that watereth shall be watered also himself! The grace we go get from God to give to others will in turn also be a blessing and edification to us. I think this is why generous and helpful people are so much happier than stingy self-centered ones. They are not just bringing happiness to others, but to themselves also. We can see the same spiritual benefit by seeking God on the behalf of others.
Go Up The Mountain!
What are we building God’s house out of today? Are we going after the costly materials? Are you? Am I? Is God pleased with what we are building him? Does anyone even care? Or are we just using whatever is easy to get; using whatever has no personal cost to it? Let’s be willing to make the climb to get something strong, beautiful, and fragrant to build the Lord’s house with. Then our Lord will take pleasure in it, and he will be glorified.
Let’s go up the mountain and get the good stuff!
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