What a shock I got! I was standing over by the desk in the window of my husband’s study when suddenly I heard an almighty crash behind me. Almost a third of the ceiling had fallen; the floor was covered with plaster, dust and stour filling the air. I hadn’t noticed any cracks or sagging prior to this. I’m just so thankful it didn’t land on my head.
It happened just after the Miami building collapse, for me just a tiny taste of the horror created when something you regarded as stable crashes down around you.
‘Stable’ – that’s how Martha Hancock described her marriage prior to last week’s devastating disclosures. I’m sure she feels her roof has caved in.
As Christians we are not immune to the storms of life. Who would have thought our lives could be dramatically changed so suddenly and for so long because of a virus. Yes, we have been shaken and experienced many and various losses during these months. Many feel weary and spiritually lethargic, cautious about a return to live church engagement, preferring to stay virtual.
Our house is old, so we need to talk and get advice from builders and plasterers. Can we repair the ceiling or does it all have to come down? We’ve cleared the rubble, but I’m sure there’s going to be a lot more dust along the way. As we consider local church expression post- pandemic, what changes need to take place? Are we ready for the hard work? We need God’s wisdom to envisage the future and move forward.
Coming out of lockdown is a bit like coming out of exile. In the Old Testament it was a small proportion of the people who returned to rebuild the ruined temple and the city. They soon became despondent, disappointed by the slowness, feeling small in the face of opposition. Any enthusiasm they had was directed towards themselves; not many were concerned for God’s glory. They excused themselves by saying it wasn’t God’s time for action (Haggai 1:2).
How does the prophet Haggai motivate them to get on with the work needing to be done? Perhaps he can motivate us too.
Haggai addresses the leaders Zerabbabel and Joshua individually by name, and then also the people. He rebukes discouragement that has led to fear by stirring up strength and courage; they serve an almighty God. ‘Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts (Haggai 2:4).’
The prophet goes on to present them with a big vision, for he knows that without vision God’s people lack focus and forget their calling to ‘seek first the kingdom of God.’ He tells them God will shake the nations and to get ready for a great ingathering. There is an immediate fulfilment to his prophecy when the Persian King Darius decides to pay the builders’ wages from the royal revenue (Ezra 6:8)!
Shaken and Stirred
God is shaking the nations, including ours. This is not the time to hang loose, but the time to be stirred and energised for action. The felt needs around us are great in the aftermath of the pandemic. Lives can feel ruined through loss of loved ones, earnings and opportunities. People are looking for help and hope as they struggle with mental and physical health crises, loneliness and broken relationships.
Worldwide people continue to be displaced by war, and the refugees continue to flee to the west.
Viyan had fled the war in Syria and found herself living as a refugee. One night as the family slept, she was restless. Her body felt heavy and dirty and she cried out for deliverance from darkness. In a vision she saw herself walking high on top of a crumbling building, and filled with fear she tried in vain to find a sure foothold. This was a picture of her life. Her city, her business, her home and even her religious faith were in ruins. Just as she was about to fall, a shining figure in white caught her from behind. She learned it was Jesus who had saved her and her whole family.
Let’s keep praying that in all the shaking, God would be stirring hearts to seek and find faith in Jesus, the solid rock. Haggai brought a sense of urgency with his message to the people of God. Likewise, we need to be stirred, for if our hearts are right, God will work with us. We Christians are the ones with true hope. What a comfort to know we are in the hands of a sovereign God and belong to a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Our gratitude should overflow in Christ honouring worship and witness (Hebrews 12:28).