Unfinished Projects

 

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“Be strong, all you people of the land,” declares the LORD, “and work. For I am with you.” –Haggai 2:4 (NIV)

Have you ever started a project with gusto, then quit when it became too hard to complete? Or perhaps you ran into unexpected roadblocks and got tired of fighting. Or maybe the task was too tedious. Or became more expensive than you’d originally thought it would be.

But for whatever reason, the project was abandoned. Our attics, garages, and spare rooms are filled with unfinished projects.

Take my study, for instance. It’s amazing how quickly it becomes disorganized, overrun with paper, books, documents, and other stuff I plan to look at “sometime.” It’s not a hard job—sorting through the papers and documents—just tedious.

13935132_10209085730013242_8476825238055730622_nAt the beginning of August I couldn’t take it any longer and delved into the stacks, boxes, and drawers. I spent an entire Saturday going through a large box of files, some dated as far back as 1993—most of which were pitched. By the end of the day, a stack of garbage waited by the door to be hauled away.

Sad to say, but it’s mid-November and I’ve only gotten back to it. Maybe by the end of the year I can cross this project off my to-do list.

I don’t know about you, but an unfinished project bothers me. It may be out of sight, but it’s definitely not out of my mind. I can avoid it so long then I have to get back to it.

Some of my projects are ones God has called me to. Like writing. I began the second book in a mystery series earlier this year, ran into roadblock after roadblock, lost my enthusiasm for the story, and quit. I’ve started two other stories I haven’t finished. Lately I sense God nudging me to get back to them.

Unfinished projects—even the ones God gives us—aren’t anything new.

The Jews returning to Jerusalem after the exile in 538 B.C. also had an unfinished project they were forced to deal with. They were supposed to rebuild the temple but worked on it only two years, setting the foundation, before they ran into opposition, became discouraged, and quit. After giving them 14 years to get back to it, God finally sent the prophet Haggai to stir them up again. They heeded God’s message, got back to work, and finally finished the temple five years later.

As I read this short Old Testament book, I saw three things we can expect when God gives us a project.

First, expect sacrifice and hard work. Sometimes what God calls us to do isn’t easy or convenient. But obedience isn’t an option for the believer.

Second, expect opposition. When you’re obeying God, His infernal enemy will do all he can to thwart you, discourage you, frustrate you, make you inefficient and your efforts ineffective. Just remember: The battle is not yours, but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15). So don’t be discouraged or afraid. Do what you were called to do. You work. Let God fight.

And finally, expect a blessing. Especially the blessings of His presence and His Spirit, who will give you the strength and courage to complete the task.

Forgive me, Father, for abandoning the work You’ve called me to do. Give me the strength and courage to get back into it so You can fulfill Your purpose through me (Psalm 138: 8). Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on the book of Haggai

 

Even When You Don’t Understand

 

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But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him. Habakkuk 2:20 (NKJV)

Have you ever prayed, “How long, O Lord?” Or wondered if God really does hear and answer?

Looking at world conditions today, do you question God’s sovereignty, asking, “Is He really in control? And if He is, why does He allow such evil to exist?”

Perhaps you’ve even wondered if God even exists.

If so, join the prophet Habakkuk—and the rest of us.

Who’s Habakkuk, you may ask. An Old Testament prophet who questioned what was going on in the world around him and how God was and wasn’t dealing with it.

The book he wrote (three chapters tucked away in the latter part of the Old Testament), rather than a direct message from God to the people of Judah, is a dialogue between Habakkuk and God. It’s a record of Habakkuk’s wrestling with the same issues we wrestle with today, God’s answers, and Habakkuk’s response to those answers.

Written in about 607 B.C., the book describes the social corruption and spiritual apostasy of God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Habakkuk asks God two questions: “Why does evil in Judah go unpunished?” And, when God answered that judgment was coming by way of the Babylonians, “How can a just God use wicked Babylonia to punish a people more righteous than themselves?”

Does that sound familiar? I don’t have to go into detail about social corruption and spiritual apostasy in today’s world, do I?

But I’d like to share with you five truths I gleaned from the book of Habakkuk—truths I believe Habakkuk also learned.

First, God is sovereign. No matter how chaotic and out-of-control the world seems to be, God’s plan and purpose will prevail. He is in control.

Second, God’s timetable is not our timetable. “For a thousand years in Your sight is like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4).

Third, God always keeps His promises. What He says He’ll do, He’ll do. The Old Testament is filled with God’s promises and how He kept them, prophecies that history has shown to be fulfilled. How can we doubt that the prophecies that haven’t been fulfilled to date will not be? As He told Habakkuk, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).

Fourth, trust God—wait patiently (hard to do sometimes, I know) and live by faith (not fear). “The righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4b) was God’s answer to Habakkuk—and to us. Be faithful. Keep doing what is right regardless of what’s going on around you. Remember the words of Paul to the Galatian church: “Let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up” (Galatians 6:9 TLB).

And finally, it’s okay to question God—as long as you’re truly seeking to understand Him, His ways, and His Word and not questioning Him out of defiance and rebellion.

Habakkuk’s book ends with a prayer of praise to God even though he didn’t understand God’s ways.

What about you? Will you still praise Him when you don’t understand?

May I cling to You, Father, even when—especially when—I don’t understand. Amen.

NOTE: Too often we avoid the Old Testament with the mistaken assumption very little is relevant to our modern world. The more I read and study God’s Word, the more I’m convinced that all of it—I repeat, all of it—applies to us today.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on the book of Habakkuk