How To Keep On Track Spiritually
How to Get Back On Track Spiritually
This is a story of how God’s people had gotten off track spiritually and now with God’s help were seeking to get back on track spiritually. The city of Jerusalem had been destroyed and God’s people had been captured and hauled off into Babylonian captivity in 605BC. The Jewish people had failed to obey God’s laws. They had failed to observe the Sabbatical law which stated the land was to be worked for six years and then given a year to rest. God’s people violated that law for 490 yrs., thereby violating the Sabbath law 70 times. God brings judgment on his people by allowing Babylon under the direction of Nebuchadnezzar to besiege the city of Jerusalem, destroying its city, it temple and stripping the sacred articles out of the temple. After spending 70 yrs. in captivity some of the exiles return under the leadership of Zerubbabel. King Cyrus of Persia has granted the Jews to return and rebuild the temple . In 535BC they return and start the work but then they get busy building their own homes that they begin to neglect God’ house. They did not complete the rebuilding of the temple for 20 yrs. and finally it was completed in 515BC. It was not until 444 BC. About 70 yrs. after the rebuilding of the temple when God burdened Nehemiah’s heart to lead the people in rebuilding the walls around the city of Jerusalem. None of us are immune to getting off track when it comes to spiritual matters. In fact it is far easier to get off track spiritually than it is to stay on track with God.
We can very innocently and almost injudiciously slip into attitudes and ideas that do not reflect the God we worship.
We can develop a smug attitude about ourselves because we do not struggle w. certain sins or habits that other people struggle with.
In order for us to know if we are getting off track we need to look at the symptoms of getting off track spiritually. I want us to give thought to the symptoms because the symptoms are often easier to identify than the root cause. Let me explain.
When your child suddenly becomes ill, you call the doctor and the first thing the doctor wants to know is what the child’s symptoms are. Is the child running a fever, how long have they been running a temperature, do they have a sore throat, are their glands swollen, are they sick to their stomach,
If we see ourselves with one or more of these symptoms we could be getting off track spiritually.
Symptoms of Getting off Track Spiritually
1. Isolation- You begin to separate yourself from God’s people.
Church attendance is decreased and spiritual disciplines are not as important or significant in my life. You still have an ability to talk using spiritual jargon that sounds good on the surface. I find myself spending more time w. people who have different convictions than I do. You begin to avoid other believers who are trying to reach out to you. You will not answer the phone or respond to their emails.
Benjamin and Judah (Ezra 1:5) priests and Levites went to build the house of the Lord. Not all of the Jews returned to Jerusalem to build the temple. They had gotten too comfortable with life in captivity that they no longer desired to return.
There are times when it might be necessary to spend less time w. particular people.
One of the things you will discover as you grow in your walk with the Lord is that not everyone is going to be thrilled with your growth. Some people will attempt to hold you back from giving your all for Christ.
For a person to reach his or her potential for God it may require them to break some relationship strings that have tied them down and has hindered them from going on in their walk with God.
2. Rationalization- Life is busy. I still come to church as long as I don’t have more pressing matters. I don’t have time to be as involved in the ministry. Besides, I need to give other people opportunities to serve.
I rationalize not having my quiet time because of my work and desire for career advancement.
I used to have more time for prayer but now with all my responsibilities I just don’t have the time anymore. I used to pray w. my kids when they were young, but now their teenagers I do not feel comfortable praying w. them.
My wife and I used to pray together but life has just gotten too hectic, so now it rarely happens.
Once I get all of my bills caught up I will start honoring the Lord with my finances, but right now that just not an option.
If I win the lottery I will give a lot of money to the church.
Looking at pornography is no big deal, besides I know other people who claim to be Christians who do the same thing. In this day and age it just can’t be helped.
The Israelites did not trust God to provide for their needs, so they disobeyed God by planting crops on the 7th year when they were supposed to let the land rest for a year. (Lev. 25:1-7) They disobeyed this command for 490 yrs. For 70 Sabbaths, so God used Nebuchadnezzar and his forces from Babylon to destroy their city and capture them and take them to Babylon.
3. Desensitization- Things that used to bother me, no longer bother me.
There was a time when I despised dirty jokes, now I find myself laughing at them and even telling them from time to time.
Prayer is important, but I find I can make it through my day without it. Reading God’s Word is important, but I don’t have to read it everyday.
Your vocabulary starts changing. Your movie selection is wider. You don’t give a second thought to watching movies that “Take God’s name in vain”.
TV- has caused more damage to critical thinking than we will ever realize. “A perplexed learner is a learner who will turn to another station. This means that there must be nothing that has to be remembered, studied, applied or, worst of all, endured. It is assumed that any information, story or idea can be made immediately accessible, since the contentment, not the growth, of the learner is paramount.”- Amusing Ourselves to Death- Neil Postman- pg. 147-148
4. Intimidation- I don’t think it’s a good idea to pray for my meal in public, what people will think. It’s not really necessary to share the gospel verbally, I mean people can see my life.
I can remember bowing my head and praying over my lunch in the cafeteria at the bakery one day and as I raised my head my eyes caught this guy across the table looking at me and he said, “what’s for lunch?” I said “Peanut butter”. He said, “I ‘ll bet you were praying for ham weren’t you.”
One of the repeated phrases in Haggai’s message was to “be strong”. In other words, don’t be intimidated.
5. Procrastination- One of these days I intend to get serious about serving God. After I attain some of my goals like earning my degrees, getting married, buying a house I will get more involved in Church.
Solutions for Getting Back on Track Spiritually
Haggai- his name means “festive”. 3 of the 12 minor prophets- Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi—are postexilic prophets. Haggai is the 2nd shortest book in the Old Test. His ministry with these four messages only covered a span of about 4 months.
I. Consider where I am right now- Haggai 1:1-7
This helps us determine our priorities.
Story- Are your priorities straight? A couple I heard about in Atlanta read that My Fair Lady was still playing on Broadway in New York City. They wanted to go so badly, so they bought their tickets months ahead of time and planned their vacation.
The long awaited day came and they flew to New York City. They presented their tickets, walked in, and sat down in wonderful seats, seven rows from the front near the orchestra.
To the man’s amazement, the entire place filled up except the seat right next to him. He was curious about that. At the intermission, he leaned over in conversation with lady in the second seat away from him and commented how they had to wait so many months to get tickets to a performance. When there was such a demand for seats, why would someone not come. Did she have any idea? She said , “Yes, as a matter of fact, these two seats are mine. This one and that one.” She explained further, “you see that seat belonged to my husband, and he died.” The man said, “I’m…I’m terribly sorry. But couldn’t you have invited a friend to come with you?” Her answer was classic. She said , “No, they’re all at the funeral home right now.”- The Tale of the Tardy Ox Cart- Swindoll, pg. 468.
A. Honest evaluation.
Haggai offers a farming illustration. Appropriate to his audience, as he was addressing an agrarian culture.
You have worked hard, but have very little to show for it.
You partake of sumptuous meals, but always leave the table hungry.
You consume your favorite drinks, but your taste buds are always longing for something else. They are never satisfied.
You dress well, but view your wardrobe as inadequate for your desires.
You are making good money, but the more you get the quicker it disappears.
Post Biblical literature- partly supported by Josephus it is noted that keeping the Sabbatical law for the land may lead to a shortage of food and to political danger (Lev.25:1-7)
The Mishnah (‘Abot 5:8) asserts that failure to keep the law of a Sabbath for the Lord brings pestilence.
Haggai 1:1 “The word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai
#1 Oracle- Hag. 1:1- Aug. 520 BC- New Moon Festival- at the time of the full maturing of the grain.
#2-Oracle- Hag. 2:1- Oct 520BC at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles (Israel’s Harvest Festival)
#3 &# 4- Oracle- Hag. 2:10; 2:20- Dec. 520 BC- During the growing season for Spring Harvest.
Be willing to ask the hard questions:
Am I daily walking w. God?
Taking time to stop, look and listen.
Stop from the busyness of life and allow time for contemplation.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” 2 Cor.13:5
Does God have first place? Col .1:18 “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”
Just because I am a pastor does not automatically mean that God has first place. Just because you are a deacon or an ABF teacher or a Sunday School teacher does not mean that God has first place in your life.
Do I love God? Do I love His Word, His house, His people.
Do I have a consumer mind-set?
We have far too many spiritual junkies in churches today. A spiritual junky is someone who comes to church to get a spiritual fix and unless everything touches them just the right way they don’t get their fix. They come in looking for everything to be tailored to their liking and to suit their needs.
The Israelites were more interested in staying in their place in Babylon, rather than moving on with God. The ones who did move on to rebuild the temple, became so wrapped up in establishing their own homes they neglected God’s temple- God’s house of worship which represented His presence among them.
By keeping an eye on your spiritual account you can know if you are making deposits or only withdrawals.
II. Carry out God’s instructions daily- Haggai 1:8-11
A. God disciplines the person who does not carry out God’s instructions daily-
God’s hand was against them. God withheld blessing their work, their finances, their health- Haggai 1:6
God shut off the rains. They relied on the rains for the crops to grow. No water no crops. Drought will cause people to panic. Food shortage is serious.
How many trips up the mountains would have to be made to get all of the timber necessary to build?
What distance are you willing to travel with God to receive His blessing in your life? If he says you need to make 25 trips up that mountain, are you willing? If he says you need to make 50 trips up that mountain, are you willing?
How many times did the Israelites have to march around the walls of Jericho before God displayed His divine power and caused those walls to crumble like a pile of crackers?
How many times did Naaman need to dip in the water before God would cure him of his leprosy?
How many years did the Israelites have to wander around in the desert before they could inherit land promised to their forefathers?
Some people live with what I call a merry-go-round mentality. That is they go around and around the same old track and see the same old scenery and complain because they get the same old results. They take the same path and run into the same ruts and never get out of the rut.
Illustration- I tell you to meet me at church and on your way you hit a big chuck hole, you blow a tire and bend your rim. Your disappointed, but you manage to get the jack out and attempt to digest the instructions and change the tire. You get it changed. We meet again next week and you come down the same road and hit the same chuck hole and blow your tire and bend your rim and this time your more than disappointed you are disgusted. You do it a third time and this time your more than disappointed and disgusted, you are depressed.
Answer to your problem is to change your route. For a man to change his route he goes out and buys a new GPS. For a woman to miss the chuck hole she goes out and buys a new car.
How does God’s Word intersect with what I am doing right now in my career, in my decisions, in my relationships.
Have you been hitting some spiritual chuck holes? Perhaps a spiritual chuckhole for you is when you log into the internet and your find your fingers clicking on buttons you should not be clicking on and you find yourself gazing at images a believer ought to despise let alone take pleasure in.
Maybe you have hit a spiritual chuck hole in your devotional life. Boredom with the Bible means you have become numb or indifferent to truth.
Your spiritual chuck hole might be that you have gotten your priorities out of order and now your life seems confused and chaotic.
B. God Blesses the Person Who Carries Out His Instructions- Haggai 1:12
III. Choose God to be the First Priority on My Agenda- Haggai 1:12
A. Repent of my sin against the Lord- Zech. 1:2-4
|Matt 6:33||But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.|
|Luke 9:59||• To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”|
|Luke 9:61||Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”|
|Rev 2:5||Remember therefore from where you have fallen; • repent, and do the works you did at first. • If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.|
The third temptation of Jesus was the temptation of power. Matt. 4:9 “I will give you all the kingdoms of this world in their splendor,”
Why do so many people abandon the Church and throw in the towel on their walk w. God. It is because they cave in to the temptation of power. I am going to take control of my life. I am writing my script. I will set my agenda. I will determine my destiny.
Henry Nouwen- writes in his little book- In the Name of Jesus- pg. 77
“What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life. Jesus asks “Do you love me?” We ask, “Can we sit at your right hand and your left hand in your Kingdom?” Matt. 20:21
Ever since the snake said , “The day you eat of this tree your eyes will be open and you will be like gods, knowing good from evil (Gen. 3:5), we have been tempted to replace love with power.”
B. Return to my first love toward God- Rev.2:4
|Rev 2:4||But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.|
Have you taken time to consider where you are right now?
How important is Yahweh’s (God’s) presence in your life?
Are you washed in the blood, in the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are you daily walking by the Savior’s side?
Is God your First and highest priority?