As the New Year began many made resolutions dealing with all sorts of things such as weight, health, finances, relationships, etc. According to the experts (whoever they are) today, January 14, is the day that most people will give up on those promises they made to themselves to change. Maybe our resolutions don’t make it past the two-week mark because we are going about it all the wrong way. Maybe instead of resolving to do something we can never do on our own, we ask the only One who can make change happen to help us. But first, maybe, just maybe we should consult Him on what type of changes He wants us to make. I’m not referring to your spouse, your boss, your significant other or any person other than the One True God, the Lord, Jesus Christ.
God’s story recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible is about his choosing a people to make Him known to the rest of humanity and how they kept messing up because they tried to do things their own way instead of God’s. God would allow the consequences; the people would cry out to Him for help; He would deliver them and they would listen to him for awhile. But it wouldn’t take long for the crazy cycle to begin again. Finally, after many years of this cycle, God allowed the ultimate consequence- the fall of the nation of Israel, his chosen people and the captivity of these people by other nations. (God in his mercy had warned them this would happen. Leviticus 26:33, Deuteronomy 28).
Many read this and think who could serve a God like that, but God is compassionate and merciful. He would not forsake them forever. After seventy years they would be allowed to return home to Israel and rebuild. They began to rebuild the temple but stopped after opposition from neighboring provinces. So they proceeded to build their own houses and sow their own fields. But they made one huge mistake! They didn’t complete the rebuilding of the Temple for many years. The Temple was God’s dwelling place at that time and He was not pleased. They had totally forgotten again all that He had done for them and went about living their lives in their own way, so God caused a drought on not only the land but EVERYTHING including all their labor (Haggai 1:11).
As I read the passage in the first chapter of Haggai (a book of the Old Testament that we many of us rarely read), one question that God asked the people stood out to me. He asked, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?” I felt the sense that God is asking the same today. “Is it time for you to live in your spacious, modern houses full of stuff and mortgage debt while my house lies desolate?”
You may wonder, what house is desolate? There are churches everywhere (especially in the South!) and the parking lots are full of cars every Sunday. But I’m not speaking of a physical building as God’s dwelling place, but of his people today who are His temple. True children of God believe that He loves them so much that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus to take their place on the cross, taking the punishment of death that they deserve and that Jesus rose from the dead and returned to Heaven with his Father. Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of those who believe. Believers are now the temple of God.
So, the question for all who believe is this, “Is God’s dwelling place (you) lying desolate?”
The word desolate in the Hebrew language is “chareb” which means waste, dry, parched, ruined. Do any of these adjectives describe your life? Do you feel desolate, parched, dry, even ruined?
Here’s where the New Year’s resolution idea comes back into play. God told the Israelites to consider their ways. All they had been doing was for nothing. Until God’s temple was restored, they would be wasting their time and energy on things that would be destroyed. The same could be said for us today. We must consider our ways. We must restore God’s dwelling place.
God is our Creator, Provider, Savior and Lord. He deserves to live in a beautiful palace. His dwelling place is more than just our outside physical body. It’s also what’s inside of you. Ask yourself if God would want to reside in a house that is dry and parched; one that is filled with anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, sexual immortality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, and lying (Colossians 3: 5-9). I think not!
So, is it too late to change?
First consider your ways and ask God to forgive you where you’ve messed up (He’s good at doing this). Then ask Him to show you what areas you need to change this year. But remember we can’t do any changing on our own, we must have his power working in us. Wake up every day asking God for his help and trust that he loves you and will give you exactly what you need. Then we can truthfully say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).