The prophet Haggai ministered among the returned exiles in Judah about 500 years before the birth of Christ. He and fellow prophet Zechariah were tasked by the Lord to call the Jews back to the purpose for which they had been returned from captivity. They were supposed to have rebuilt the temple, repaired the walls of the city of Jerusalem, and restored the worship of the Lord. They had diligently done some of this work, but had not completed the full task. Instead, they had become distracted from the Lord’s work by focusing more on their own desires and needs than on His.
Haggai’s proclamation to the people of Israel was a simple one. He said, “Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Consider your ways!'” (Hag. 1:5, 7). The Hebrew phrase literally means, “set your heart on your ways.” In other words, God wanted His people to take stock of what they had been doing and weigh that in the balance against what they should have been doing. In their case, God was scolding them for having lost their focus. Their priorities were out of order.
It is common for us to reflect on the course of our lives as we approach the end of a calendar year. Businesses do this to see how well or how poorly they have met their sales or production goals for the year. Non-profit organizations do the same to measure how successful they have been raising funds to do their good works. Elders of congregations, if they are wise, will also take time to reflect on the year that is about to end. they will want to evaluate the congregation’s success at meeting the spiritual goals that were set at the beginning of the year.
For each of us as Christians, considering our ways should be an ongoing exercise that is particularly appropriate as we approach a new year. We may or may not have set spiritual goals for ourselves, but we still should be interested in where we are in our journey toward eternity. Am I more knowledgeable of God’s word than I was at the beginning of the year? Am I more mature in my faith than I was twelve months ago? Am I more faithful in my participation in the work and worship of the church, or am I still where I was last year at this time? Do I study more, pray more, give more, serve more than before, or am I just treading water?
Each of us knows the answers to these questions, and so does our Father in heaven. It is easy for us to become distracted, just like the Jews in the time of Haggai. We become so busy with earthly concerns that the spiritual side of our lives gets neglected. Very few of us make such a choice intentionally, but the effects are the same, even if done unintentionally.
As we approach the beginning of a new year, should the Lord grant it to us, let us each take a few moments of serious, personal introspection about our spiritual health. The standard for this reflection, of course, is God’s word. If we compare ourselves to ourselves, we will never improve, but when we compare ourselves to the standard of God’s word, we will always see the need to do better in His service.
One of the great blessings of being a Christian is that so long as the Lord gives us life, He gives us opportunity to consider our ways and to change our ways to be more like His. Let us take advantage of the Lord’s grace and mercy, while He still extends them to us. Let’s consider our ways, and consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds in the New Year (Heb. 10:24).