No claims of absolute originality are made for this material. As one man said, "I milk a lot of cows, but I churn my own butter." Please use these sermons as the Lord leads, but nothing on this site may be used for profit without my expressed, written permission!
OVERCOMING THE MOUNTAIN OF DISAPPOINTMENT
Intro: On September 5, 1886, Charles Spurgeon began his sermon on our text with these incisive words:
“Satan is always doing his utmost to stay the work of God. He hindered these Jews from building the temple; and today he endeavors to hinder the people of God from spreading the gospel. A spiritual temple is to be builded for the Most High, and if by any means the evil one can delay its uprising he will stick at nothing: if he can take us off from working with faith and courage for the glory of God he will be sure to do it. He is very cunning, and knows how to change his argument and yet keep to his design: little cares he how he works, so long as he can hurt the cause of God.”i
Satan’s only design is to hurt the cause of God. To do his infernal work, he has many weapons in his arsenal. He may at one time use greed, another time use anger or malice or false accusation, still another time use lust, evil desires, or the temptation to revenge. But of all his weapons, none is sharper than the one called discouragement. If only he can get the saints of God to despair over their efforts, then his battle is already won.
Ill. It was advertised that the devil was going to put his tools up for sale. On the date of the sale the tools were placed for public inspection, each being marked with its sale price. There were a treacherous lot of implements. Hatred, Envy, Jealousy, Doubt, Lying, Pride, and so on. Laid apart from the rest of the pile was a harmless-looking tool, well-worn and priced very high.
“?The name of the tool??” asked one of the purchasers.
“?Oh,?” said the adversary, “?that’s Discouragement.?”
“?Why have you priced it so high??”
“?Because it’s more useful to me than the others. I can pry open and get inside a person’s heart with that one, when I cannot get near him with other tools. Now once I get inside, I can make him do what I choose. It’s a badly worn tool, because I use it on almost everyone since few people know it belongs to me.?”
The devil’s price for Discouragement was so high, he never sold it. It’s still his major tool, and he still uses it on God’s people today.ii
Disappointment is the theme of this passage. The people in Israel during the ministry of the prophet Haggai are disappointed and discouraged. Many years earlier, in 586 BC, the Babylonians had invaded Israel. They had taken the people away to Babylon as captives. The Babylonians had destroyed Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.
After 50 years, some of the people were allowed to return to Israel. When they arrived, they began the process of rebuilding their Temple. The work stopped after just a short time because of opposition from the Samaritans. For 16 years the Temple remained unfinished. Then, God raised up the prophet Haggai to call the people back to their task of rebuilding the Temple.
The people responded to the voice of God's man, and they began to build again. But after only a month, they became discouraged and again they wanted to quit. They were disappointed by the Temple they were building and they were discouraged in the work they were doing.
Haggai writes to them to challenge them and to encourage them to carry on. That is a message I think we could all use today.
Do you ever get discouraged? Do you ever find yourself disappointed in your work for the Lord? We all do! There are times when disappointment looms over us like an impossibly high, impassable mountain. If we are not careful, our disappointments can derail our lives and cause us to lose faith and focus. If we are not careful, our disappointments can even cause us to quit on the Lord.
I want to take just a few moments to look into the words Haggai shared with Israel during their time of discouragement and disappointment. The lessons taught here can help us when we are overwhelmed by disappointment and want to quit. I want to talk to you about Overcoming The Mountain Of Disappointment.
I. THE CAUSES OF DISAPPOINTMENT
(Ill. The reasons for their disappointment are many, and most of them revolve around a bad memory. Memory can be a blessing or a curse. The Jews were guilty of focusing on the negative, and forgetting all about the positive. For these Jews memory was a heavy burden that hindered their progress.)
A. v. 3a The Things We Remember – Haggai asked the question, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?” Haggai prophesied in 520 BC. The Temple was destroyed in 586 BC. Thus, it had been 66 years since Solomon's Temple had been destroyed. Certainly, there were some people among the Jews who had seen the first Temple, the one built by Solomon. They remembered its glory, it's gold covered walls, said to have contained over $20,000,000.00 worth of gold, its splendor, its size, and its breathtaking beauty. They recalled the glory days, when the Shekinah glory of God filled the temple and the house of God reverberated with his praises.
The same people looked at the Temple they were building now, and it seemed to be an embarrassment to them. It seemed so small and so shabby compared to the wonderful Temple that was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. This scene is described in Ezra 3:9-13. These people looked back, and they remembered the past. Remembering the past is not always a bad thing, but they chose to live in the past, and that is never good! All they could consider with how things used to be, and they had no interest in how things were now.
I have been saved and in the church for nearly 28 years. I am the first to admit that the church of 2011 is not the same at the church of 1983. Many things have changed in the last 28 years. Some of you have been around a lot longer than I have, and you have truly seen many changes in the church. Sometime, we are so tied to the past that we have no interest in the future. We just want things we way they used to be and we have no interest in things as they are now.
Memory is a good thing if you remember the right things. For these Jews memory became a curse because they not only remembered the past, they chose to live there! When we hold so tenaciously to the past that we refuse to serve God in the present, we are remembering the wrong things!
B. v. 4-5 The Things We Forget – In this verses God reminds them that He was with them in the past. He was there when they crossed the Red Sea. He was the Author of all the great miracles that adorned Israel's past. He had always been with them. He was there during the glory days of Solomon's Temple. He had always been there. And, He still remembered the promises and covenants He had made with them 900 years earlier! He was standing by every promise He had ever made to His people.
They had heard the stories about God. The problem was, the stories from their past had become just that, stories. They had ceased to hold any real meaning for the Jews. They were sure that the glory days of the past, and the God Who blessed them then, were gone!
Then, God tells them that He is still there! He says, “My Spirit remaineth among you.” God said, “I am still here, just like I have always been!” Think about what the Lord is telling them. He is saying, “Abraham is gone. Moses is gone. David is gone. Solomon is gone. The first Temple is gone. But, I am still here! Fear not!”
You see, they looked at the Temple built by Solomon and they remembered its grandeur and majesty. They looked at the Temple they were building and were discouraged by the differences. What they could not see was that God did not see a difference. He was not concerned about the external glory of the house. As far as He was concerned, this house was as much His house as the first house had been. He was just as prepared to dwell there, meet with His people there, and bless there as He had been in the first Temple. It wasn't about what they used to have, it was, and always had been, about the God Who dwelled in the Temple!
He is telling them to forget about the past. Forget about who isn't here. Forget about the things you don't have any longer. Those things are gone and they are gone forever! In spite of that, God is here! He has never left. His power is still the same. Therefore, keep working! Don't look back to the past. Don't worry about who isn't here, focus on Who is. Don't be intimidated by daunting circumstances, the Lord has never left us, and He never will, Heb. 13:5.
That is a lesson they needed to hear, and it is a lesson we need to hear too. Far too often we get caught up in the same trap. We look at how things used to be, forgetting that the God of yesterday is still here and still able to bless. Our duty is to forget the past and reach forth into the future, Phil. 3:13. This work is His work! He stands just as ready to bless today as He did years ago. He will not leave us, nor will He forsake us. He will meet with us, dwell among us and bless us for His glory. Our primary concern is that we remember what life is really about! It is about Him and His glory. As long as we keep our eyes fixed in His direction, we will be fine, Heb. 12:1-2.
C. v. 3b The Comparisons We Make – God asks the people this question: “and how do you see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” The old people wept when they saw the new temple and as they remembered the old one. In their eyes, the new Temple was less than nothing. It seemed that it was not worth their time, or their energy. They hated it and they wanted nothing to do with it.
If we are not careful, we too will get caught up in the comparison game. When we do, it can be easy to get disappointed. We compare our husbands, our wives and our children. We compare the way things are with the way they used to be. We compare what we have now with what we used to have. We compare the church with how we remember it being. We remember the past as being better than it was so the present seems worse than it is.
Ill. In the 1930's one of the most famous race horses in America was a horse named Seabiscuit. Seabiscuit was an incredibly fast horse. One the right kind of track, he was almost uncatchable. When he was training, his trainers had to be careful to properly choose the other horses he trained with. Some of the horses lost to Seabiscuit so often that they refused to run. Seabiscuit would toy with other horses, allowing them to come neck and neck with him, then he would unleash his speed and leave them in his dust. His training partners knew they were going to lose, and they refused to let Seabiscuit beat them again. Losing to such a fast horse, so often, caused those horses to become discouraged and quit. The same thing can happen to us! Comparisons are always foolish, but they can be especially harmful when we are constantly disappointed with the outcome of our comparisons, and we will be!
It is foolish to play the comparison game because only God is qualified to make proper comparisons. Remember the story of Jesus and Peter from John 21? Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” Three times Peter responds in the affirmative. Then Jesus tells Peter to feed His sheep, and he even tells Peter something about how he will die. Then Peter looks at John and says, “What about him?” (John 21:20-21) The Lord's responds by telling Peter what happens with John is none of his business, John 21:22.
This just reminds us that God is not obligated to treat us like He treats others. He is not required to bless us, use us or anything else. He is certainly not obligated to do for us today what He did on the past. He has the right to do as He pleases with us, and we are foolish to make any comparisons. If we do, it will only lead to disappointment!
When we live in the past and downgrade the present, the inevitable result will be disappointment and discouragement. We will miss God's promises and plans for today and for tomorrow. We will be so trapped in what we feel and believe, that we will forget that God has some big things planned for the future, Ill. v. 9. If we are not careful, we might just fail to see that the greatest days of our lives, the greatest days of our church, the greatest days of our ministry, might be the days in front of us, not the days behind us!
If we are not careful, we can become a source of discouragement for others. Can't you hear some of the older folks in that days as they talked about the glories of Solomon's Temple and belittled the humble Temple that was rising from the ground before them? If we are not careful we can be so against everything that is new and different, that we end up discouraging others in their walk with God. We can kill their enthusiasm for the work of the Lord by being negative towards anything that isn't the same as it was 50 years ago!
I. The Causes Of Disappointment
II. THE CURE FOR DISAPPOINTMENT
(Ill. When we find ourselves looking at that high mountain of disappointment, how do we get over it? This passage offers a couple of simple steps we can take to conquer disappointment in our lives.)
A. We Must Let Go – The Jews had to let go of their memories of the first Temple, v. 3-4. This Temple would never be as grand as as the first, and they had to accept that. The past had to be relegated to the past, if they were going to accomplish anything in the present.
In the spiritual sense, this is a truth we need to hear. It may be that you need to let go of some painful memory from the past. It may mean that you need to forgive someone even thought they won't admit they have done anything wrong. It may be that you need to let go of some dream that is always pulling you in the wrong direction. Regardless of what it is, if it is holding you back, you need to let it go! Let it go! (Ill. Give examples!)
As hard as it may be for you, you must let go of the past. Until you do, you will never be able to move into the future!
Dr. Park Tucker, former chaplain of the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, told of walking down the street in a certain city, feeling low and depressed and worried about life in general. As he walked along, he lifted his eyes for a moment to the window of a funeral home across the street. He blinked his eyes a couple of times, wondering whether his eyes were deceiving him. But sure enough, he saw in the window of that funeral home was this sign, in large, bold words: “Why walk around half-dead? We can bury you for $69.50. P.S. We also give green stamps.” Dr. Tucker said the humor of it was good medicine for his soul. Many people are walking around half-dead because their circumstances have built a mountain of disappointment and discouragement over which there is no path, and they have given up.iii
B. We Must Look Up - The people are called to look up, v. 4. They are called to turn their eyes away from their pain, their problems and their disappointments to view the God Who was greater than anything they faced. Six times in these verses God is called “the LORD of hosts”. The word “hosts” translates the word “sabaoth”. It speaks of “the armies of earth and Heaven”. It literally means “the Lord Almighty”. It is a military name for God. This name reminds us that God is greater than all the combined forces of Heaven and earth. No one can stand against Him. No one can defeat His purposes. No one can hinder Him in the least. As God says several times in Isaiah 45, “I am the LORD and there is none else!”
The same God Who stood with David in the Valley of Elah when he faced mighty Goliath is the same God Who stands with you in all your battles. (Ill. 1 Sam. 17:45-47) When your God is big, your battles will be small! David's God was so big that even Goliath seemed small. To the Jews in Haggai's day God seemed small so their task appeared to be overwhelming. In the same way, your view of God radically affects how you approach life. Take a good look at the God you worship. Is He big enough to handle the challenges you face? If He isn't, you need to look up and get a new view of God. He is the LORD of Host! He is the LORD Almighty!
C. We Must Look Ahead – God only sends His people in one direction: forward. He never sends them back to the past. The Jews in Haggai's day had romanticized the past and completely forgotten the future. What was that future?
1. v. 6-7 God Would Shake All Nations – This passage is quoted in Heb. 12:26-27 and there it is linked to the coming of the Messiah. Taken together it tells us that God shook the earth when He gave His Law and He will shake it again when the Messiah comes. One day, this world with its false religions, it dead works and it ever increasing iniquity will be shaken to pieces and it will fall at the feet of the Messiah! Right now, the world is in turmoil. This has been the way of the world for thousands of years. The Persians toppled the Babylonians. The Greeks defeated the Persians. The Romans conquered the Greeks, and so on. The nations are in a constant state of agitation. The day will come when the Lord will shake this world system to its foundation! He will topple every king and earthly power and He will rule this world world that mocks and rejects Him today!
What will be left in that day? The things that cannot be shaken! Ill. Heb. 12:28! His Kingdom will stand. The things of the Spirit will stand. The truth of the Word of God will stand. Your soul will stand! That is a future worth looking to!
2. v. 7 The Desire Of All Nations Will Come – This is a reference to the Lord Jesus. It is just a reminder to the beleaguered, discouraged and dispirited people of God that Jesus is coming again! He will take us to be with Him in glory, John 14:1-3; 1 Thes. 4:16-18. He will set things right in the world! That is a future worth looking to!
3. v. 7, 9 The Latter Glory Will Be Greater Than The Former Glory – How could this be possible? Hope could this puny, pathetic building ever possess a greater glory than the Temple build by Solomon? God knew what these discouraged workers did not know. He knew that 500 years later, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the very glory of Heaven itself, would walk the very grounds upon which they worked. They did not know it, but they were building the Temple that would greet Jesus one day! This is just a reminder that we never know what we are doing and how God will use our efforts for His glory in the future.
My friends, keep your hands on the plow and keep going for the Lord! You never know how the Lord will use you and your efforts.
Ill. Several years ago Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia had to turn away a little girl named Hattie May Wiatt from children’s ministry because of overcrowding. That day Hattie May Wiatt started saving her pennies to help the church make more room in their children’s ministry. Two years later, Hattie May tragically died. In her pocketbook next to her bed her parents found 57 pennies and a piece of paper with a note saying that the money was to help the church build a bigger children’s ministry. At Hattie May’s funeral, her mother gave that 57 cents and the note to Pastor Russell Conwell, the pastor of Grace Baptist Church. That Sunday, Pastor Conwell shared Hattie May’s story with his congregation. People’s hearts were touched; a realtor give the church a piece of land to expand the children’s ministry, asking for 57 cents for a down payment. A local newspaper carried the story, and soon news about Hattie May Wiatt’s 57 cents spread across the country. The pennies grew far beyond Hattie May’s initial 57 pennies. Grace Baptist Church not only built a new children’s ministry wing, but also a new ministry center, today seating over 3,000 people. Out of that movement of generosity from Hattie May’s example the church built Temple University in Philadelphia, and Good Samaritan Hospital. In fact, you can visit Temple University today and find a picture on the wall of Hattie May Wiatt, a little girl who’s 57 pennies were used by God far beyond the limits of her life.
Ill. Consider the discouragement of a young missionary named David Brainerd. In the 1700s David Brainerd felt called to bring the message of Christ to the native Americans. Brainerd faced constant discouragement, as he tried to share Christ’s love with the native Americans. You, see they’d seen too much American greed and abuse to believe Brainerd’s message of grace.
Brainerd wrote in his journal, “My heart sunk. It seemed to me that I’d never have any success among the Indians. My soul was weary of my life. I longed for death.” For two years nothing happened, as he constantly battled one discouragement after another. Finally three and half years into his work he saw about 150 native Americans come to faith in Christ. Not much by today’s mass evangelism standards, but a real start. Unfortunately, David Brainerd died a year later at the age of 29, and his work seemed to stop completely.
But that’s not the end of the story. Someone published the journals David Brainerd kept during those times of discouragement. Those journals fell into the hands of a guy named William Carey. William Carey is widely known as the father of modern missions, because he ignited the modern missionary movement that continues to this day. Carey’s efforts and inspiration have been the impetus for literally millions and millions of people coming to faith in Christ. When someone asked William Carey what inspired him to devote his life to missions, he pointed to the journals of David Brainerd. God used David Brainerd beyond every limit.
D. We Must Get To Work – In verse 4, God tells the people to “be strong” and “to work”. We like to sit around and “stew in our juices.” When we get discouraged and disappointed, there is a tendency for us to want to quit on God. God says, “Get up and get to work! Don't let anyone side track you, derail you, or stop you.” We all find ourselves discouraged and disappointed from time to time, but we should never allow that to distract us from the work God has given us to do. In fact, our marching orders are found in Rom. 13:11-14.
Conc: Is there a mountain of disappointment looming in front of you? Do you find yourself looking back more often than you find yourself looking ahead? Do you ever find yourself making fruitless and foolish comparisons? Do you ever find yourself asking, “What's the use?” How will you get past that mountain that threatens to stop you?
Do what these verses teach and “Let go, Look up, Look Ahead, and Get to Work”. If you can do that, and God will help you, you will see mountain of discouragement and disappointment evaporate into nothing.
Someone once said, “Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” What will you do with your disappointments? Will you allow them to stop you. Or, will you allow God to use them to strengthen, temper and intensify your life?
Do you need help? Come and get it!
Do you need to be saved? Come to Jesus!
Do you need to be encouraged? Come talk to Him about!
i The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church, September 5, 1886
ii Swindoll, C. R. (2000, c1998). The tale of the tardy oxcart and 1501 other stories (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Swindoll leadership library.
Nashville: Word Publishers.
iii Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.