When I first saw him, I assumed he was an ambitious hotel manager, enhancing public relations. His smile was warm and welcoming. He chatted with guests at each table as he made his way around the dining area. Cindy, Ben, and I enjoyed our Sunday morning breakfast. He progressed, guest-to-guest, table-to-table, toward a divine appointment … with me.
When he approached us, I realized he was a friendly guest rather than the manager. We were pleased when he asked to sit with us. He informed us he was in town for a motivational speaking engagement and asked what brought us to coastal New Hampshire.
“I’m here for a speaking engagement as well,” I said. He was good. He immediately turned the conversation toward our common interest in communication.
His motivational specialty was life-priorities. “Realize it or not,” he said, “we all have priorities. We reveal them in how we spend our time, talents, and treasures. While I encourage people to list their priorities on paper, there’s a bigger problem. Most never begin living them. My specialty is helping people live out their priorities.”
I was intrigued. “How do you motivate people to move from having a priority list, to actually living their priorities?”
“I teach them how to tap into the power that lies deep within each of us,” he said. “We all possess the power to
change. We all can live out our priorities. We just don’t realize it.”
Our new friend’s problem diagnosis was spot on [living is more important than listing], but his prescription was a powerless placebo. We’ll circle back to the breakfast table in a moment. For now, allow me to ask a vital question I ask myself often: “Are you living God’s priorities for your life?”
While pondering Haggai’s messages in recent months, I have discovered three principles that help me live God’s priorities daily. They may help you as well.
Jerusalem—536 B.C. God returned some of His people to the Promised Land from exile in Babylon. Their assignment: rebuild the temple. The reason: Levitical worship and sacrifice will instruct, bless, and prosper God’s people once again.
Jerusalem—520 B.C. The temple remains in ruins.
The problem: misplaced priorities. They aspired to please God, put Him first, and rebuild the temple, but their actual priorities were different. They built their own houses and careers, and neglected God’s assignment.
Their excuse: “What more can we do? Times are tough. The climate has changed. Crops have failed. The economy is collapsing. We’d like to rebuild, but now isn’t a good time.” (1:2-5).
The reality: No matter what their aspirations or excuses, their will, not God’s, was first place in their lives.
God was gracious in spite of their procrastination. God sent Haggai to declare His present judgments [the true cause of the bad climate and crops (vv. 6, 9-11)], and offer future deliverance. Repentance would renew God’s favor and restore His blessings (vv. 7-8).
Twenty-four days after the sermon (v. 15), the people responded. They “obeyed the voice of the LORD” (v. 12).
What changed? How did they begin living God’s priorities? How can you? Let’s apply three key principles prescribed in Haggai 1:12-15.
1. RESPECT HIS PRESENCE
First, respect the Lord’s presence. Instead of ignoring the Lord, the repentant people “feared the presence of the LORD” (v. 12). They corrected a 16-year pattern.
Old sinful habits can be broken. Isn’t that encouraging? How? Realize He’s always with us; He sees and knows all we do. Respecting Him revolutionizes our choices. We consult Him about how to invest our time, use our talents, and spend our treasures. We choose our Lord’s priorities when we respect His presence.
2. RELY ON HIS PROMISE
Second, rely on the Lord’s promise—“I am with you, says the LORD” (v. 13). Sometimes He corrects and sometimes He comforts, but He’s always with us. He never promised living His priorities would be easy. He only promised to be with us no matter what. “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you’” (Heb 13:5).
When the road is easy, He is with us. When the road is difficult, He’s with us. When we have all we need, He’s with us. When resources evaporate, He’s with us. When we rely on His promise, we can stop worrying, trust Him, and get busy obeying. His presence and promise empower us to live according to His priorities.
3. RESPOND TO HIS PROMPTINGS
Third, respond to the Lord’s promptings. The Bible says, “So the LORD stirred up the spirit of … all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God” (Hag 1:14). By respecting His presence and receiving His promise, they were prepared to hear His prompting.
God called them to His work for 16 years. This time they heard. This time they went to work. How about you?
When the Lord prompts you to share the Gospel, hand out a tract, pray for someone, give to His work, or accept a new ministry role, you are faced with a decision. Will you ignore or obey His prompting? Do it! and you will live out His priority.
BACK TO BREAKFAST
My new friend finished his story and asked about my specialty. “I speak about living your priorities as well,” I said. “I agree with your diagnosis, but I disagree with your prescription. We need internal power, but I don’t believe everyone has a power within to release.”
He was surprise. “Where would we get the power to change?” he asked.
“From God,” I said.
“Oh sure,” he said. “The power within is God. Don’t you believe God is in everyone?”
“Do you believe God was in Hitler?” I asked.
“Hmm. No. I guess not.”
“Then God isn’t within everyone. Yet, everyone can have Him within. We are talking about different things. You think God must be released. I believe He must be received.” And I stepped through the door God opened. With joy, I lived one of my life-priorities: sharing the gospel. I gave a clear, simple gospel presentation and invited my new friend to receive Jesus Christ into his life.
He didn’t respond that day, but as he left with my phone number, he said, “This is very interesting. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”
Because of His presence, promise, and prompting, I was able to live out God’s priority for my life at a breakfast table in New Hampshire. You too can live out God’s priorities wherever you are. The amazing bonus: God will “take pleasure in it and be glorified” (v. 8).
Respect His presence. Rely on His promise. Respond to His promptings. Live your life priorities.
With Great Anticipation,
Mark H. Ballard