It is so easy to become distracted. Most of us have goals and plans in mind, but it is usually when we begin to focus on those goals that distractions come into view. You know what I mean. You sit down to work on a project, and all of a sudden your favorite tv show comes on. Or you have every intention of completing the work on your house, but it is Saturday and college football is begging for your attention. Distractions keep us from doing what is really important.
This isn’t a new struggle. As a matter of fact, the entire book of Haggai is focused on this particular subject. We know very little about the prophet himself, but we know exactly when he wrote his book. The book of Haggai was written in 520 BC, approximately 18 years following the Jewish return from exile. The Jews had everything they needed to rebuild the temple, including the blessing of the most powerful empire on earth at the time.
However, like many of us, the Jews became distracted. Instead of focusing on the temple, they began to build their own houses and get comfortable. Their focus should have been on restoring the central place of their worship to the Lord, and yet the temple wasn’t even started 18 years after their return! For 18 years the Jews were distracted by things that simply did not matter.
As stated above, this distraction thing is common to the human experience. Distractions are often effective because of misplaced priorities. We know what we should be doing, but something else takes priority and we become distracted by lesser things. I have been in ministry for many years, and I have seen many things. The main issue that people have in serving the Lord is not putting him first in their lives.
I am reminded of the parable of the sower that Jesus told when he was walking the earth. One of the types of ground that he mentions is the thorny ground, in which the cares of this world choke out the effectiveness of the word of God in our lives. To put it simply, these types of people become distracted by trivial things that don’t matter in the end. Therefore, the word of God is not able to produce anything in their lives.
Haggai most certainly would have agreed with this parable. In both chapters of his book his message is essentially the same: God is not pleased with the misplaced priorities of his people. However, Haggai is unique in one very important way in that the people actually listened to his message! They got to work rebuilding the temple and God blessed them for it. When we put God first, and his priorities first, he will take care of everything else.
A person without goals will never accomplish anything in life. In much the same way, a person with misplaced priorities will become easily distracted by things that don’t matter. The reality is that the kingdom of God is what matters. As 21st century individuals it becomes very easy for us to put our houses, jobs, cars, or even family first. But Jesus told us to do the opposite. Seek FIRST HIS KINGDOM, and then everything else will be added to you. Those words are just as applicable today as they were then!
I am writing this from personal experience. I have always tried to make God the priority in my life, even though I haven’t always succeeded in doing so. Yet, I find the times I am most successful are when I seek his kingdom first. We must remember that our main goal on this earth is not to become popular, rich or successful according to worldly standards. Our main priority should be the building of the kingdom of God, and the demonstration of that kingdom for all to see.
Even though it is very short by biblical standards, the book of Haggai serves us a very important reminder. We must always put God first. To say that something else is more important than our devotion to God is equivalent to idolatry. The very first commandment is to put no other gods before the Lord. Nothing is more important than our devotion to him. Christianity requires taking up a cross and following Jesus. He is the focus, and his kingdom is the priority.