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Shared Confidence

I grew up in a home where many decisions were made out of fear. We limited our contact with others because we were afraid of people. We spent many weekends in the mountains because we were afraid of what might happen in the neighborhood. We avoided opportunities because of the responsibility that went along with leadership. As a result, I struggled with confidence during my adolescent years. I had an internal desire to be a competitive athlete and a successful student. I was afraid, however, of failing and had a strange sense that I didn’t deserve to accomplish what was in my heart.
I determined that my adult life would be different so I set out to discover what could help me be strong in the face of fear. In this context, Haggai 2 sheds some interesting light on what it takes to be confident when faced with significant challenges. The challenge before them was the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?” (v. 3) Enemies of Israel had torn down the centerpiece of Israel’s history and the task of rebuilding would be resisted by intimidating neighbors. When faced with a daunting challenge, where do you find the confidence to move forward? In Haggai 2, we see the following ingredients:
• Remind yourself you are doing the right thing. Rebuilding the place where God met His people was a critical element in the life of Israel. God’s presence was always the secret of their success and honoring God with a house that was better than any other citizen was vital to their attitude. The people knew without a doubt that this was the right thing to do.
• Remind yourself that God is with you. “. . . I am with you . . . my Spirit remains among you . . . I will fill the house with glory . . .” (v. 4-7) The greatest source of humble confidence is the presence of God Himself. The New Testament echoes this principle over and over as evidenced in Hebrews 13:5, “. . . Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
• Stay busy with the work. Thinking too much about obstacles is the fastest way to paralysis. Life is big and many tasks appear to be impossible. When you get busy doing what you know is right even when you can’t see how it will all work out, things begin to change. Progress raises your confidence and reorients your perspective. Every step forward encourages another step forward. As a result, part of God’s encouragement is “Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD, “and work.” (v. 4)
• Remind yourself of the promises of God. God is an active partner in life. He consistently adds His strength and influence to the circumstances of our lives. Every challenge we face is easy for Him because all His attributes are limitless. He, therefore, utilizes the conditions of our lives to increase our character and influence. At the right time, He then intervenes so that circumstances do not crush us. “But now be strong . . . all you people of the land, declares the LORD, “. . . For I am with you . . . In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations . . . The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house . . . And in this place I will grant peace.” (v. 4-9)
Jesus, thank you for sharing your confidence with us!

Closing in on Contentment

It seems the more we progress, the harder it is to be content. We have better televisions, better phones and better appliances than we have ever had. We have better modes of transportation than any generation before us. We have technological advantages that seemed like science fiction just a few years ago. I was reflecting yesterday just how connected I am to my sons even though they all live in different states. Just to give you one example, I was disappointed that I was going to miss one of my youngest son’s college football games while he was playing against his older brother’s alma mater. I was going to be driving from Western Indiana to Louisville, Kentucky at game time. But, I have a cellular broadband card for my laptop. I was able to connect to the internet while Pam drove on the freeway and I watched the game at 65 miles per hour. It was awesome but it created a whole new level of expectation. I now fight disappointment any time I miss a game because they are all projected on the internet.
I am also amused how impatient I have become with computer issues. It was not long ago that the internet was just a topic of discussion. Now it has become an expectation of constant and immediate connection with anyone at any time. Rather than marvel at the advancement and remain patient with the problem-solving, I find myself irritated and stressed over processes that were not even possible a couple of years ago.
The details have changed but the struggle is nothing new. The book of Haggai begins with a similar scenario. The people of Israel had focused on pulling their lives together. They had built homes and businesses. They had their city functioning well and their needs were being addressed. Contentment, however, was elusive. “You have planted much, but 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.” (v. 6) The point of the chapter is that Israel could not find the contentment they were looking for because their priorities were out of focus. There was nothing wrong with their houses, their food, their clothes or their professional pursuits. The problem was they were ignoring the fact that the spiritual foundation of their nation was in disrepair. The temple, referred to as the house of God, was unusable because it was in shambles. ““Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (v. 4) They couldn’t find contentment because the issues of the heart were being ignored.
This creates quite a challenge for me, my family and my friends. Every advancement is a potential distraction from the real source of life. It is easy to rely on social networking, virtual research and computer-driven processes to meet the needs of our lives. It is much harder to value the simple skills of personal devotions, quiet times of prayer, personal reflection and simple conversations with family and friends when life is filled with impressive gadgets. It is not an either or scenario. God never told the Israelites to get rid of their houses or the advantages in their lives. He simply reminded them to do first things first, which is the secret to contentment.
Lord, give us wisdom in the coming year to recognize the priority of things as we are inundated with new possibilities.