Fear of the Future

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Overcoming Fear of the Future

Haggai 1
A month ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving and last week it was Christmas. Today is New Years Day and people are wondering what the future will bring. Tomorrow they will know! The future is paying off credit card debts!

Few people fear the past. There are crooks who have done illegal things and may fear getting caught, but that is also future. Unless you happen to be standing before a firing squad, the present is not your greatest concern. You are probably busy preparing for the future. Nearly everyone is concerned about the future – and that includes Christians.

Major Causes of Fear
Current headlines are not encouraging. The danger of all-out war in the Middle East, the unstable political situation in America and world-wide Islamic terror are only a few of the great dangers facing us. But most Americans don't feel personally threatened by these great dangers. These threats have been around for centuries and history just keeps marching on. The Middle East is far away and the damage inflicted by Islamic terrorists in America has been minimal and concentrated in heavily populated areas. Besides, didn’t Timothy warn us, In the last days perilous times shall come (II Timothy 3:1)?

Actually, there are far greater dangers than war and terror, but few are concerned because they are unaware of these threats. There is always the real possibility of a nuclear meltdown in one of our aging reactors, or of a widespread health calamity. Another danger is that of a large solar storm like the Carrington event, the strongest solar storm on record, which began August 28 and lasted until September 2, 1859. Such an event today would wipe out our electric grid and destroy anything that uses microchips. Experts say that recovery would take 2-4 years and at least 100 million Americans could die!

God promised us that there would never again be a world-wide flood, but world-wide judgment is promised in II Peter that will place all previous catastrophes in the shadows. II Peter 3:7 tells us that the present world will be destroyed by fire.

Minor Causes of Fear
It is often the less significant threats or dangers that instill fear in us because they affect us personally. If the doctor tells me that I have cancer or some debilitating disease for which there is no cure, I am tempted to panic. The loss of a job or death of a loved one is at first a shock, but it soon causes a deep-rooted fear of the unknown. What to do about aging parents or wayward children; the fear of losing retirement savings and a myriad of other matters hit close to home and cause many to fear. Perhaps the greatest fear of man is death, yet death is inevitable for all of us.

Many fears will accompany us into the new year and others will be added in 2017. As believers, however, we are to be “overcomers.” The proper response to fear is the subject of Haggai.

The background: Cyrus, King of Persia, conquered Babylon in 539 BC. A first group of Jews returned from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem after the edict of 538 BC. It must have taken at least two years for the trip and preparations, and it would have taken time to get settled, but the leaders, Zerubbabel and Joshua immediately rebuilt the altar in the midst of the temple rubble and commenced worship. They then led the people in rebuilding the temple. Although Ezra was not yet in Jerusalem, he describes the joyous scene when the foundation was laid: Ezra 3:10-13 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.

Ezra then describes the opposition which succeeded in stopping construction in 530 BC during the reign of Artexerxes in chapters 4 and 5. That brings us back to the book of Haggai.

Ten years later, work on the temple has still not commenced. Haggai encourages the people to finish the job. The edict of Cyrus was still in effect. Artexerxes was gone, replaced by King Darius. There was no reason why the Jews could not return to building the temple, but they were too busy!

Haggai 1:1-2 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built.

Why should the people say that? They were living in difficult times. Money was tight and life was hard. Verses 5 and 6 describe those conditions: Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.

Ten years earlier, conditions were much worse! The Jews had just arrived in Jerusalem. The city had been reduced to rubble. Most homes were destroyed and fields had been untended and were full of weeds. If anyone had an excuse it was these people, but they began building the temple and they were happy! Ezra said you could hear the rejoicing from afar when the foundation was laid. That was back then, but now? Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled [paneled] houses, and this house lie waste? (Haggai 1:3-4 )

The real reason why the people were not building was concern for their own personal affairs. They needed nice homes; they had fields to plow, to cultivate and harvest. They had flocks to care for. There was no time or money for God's work! God says, "Consider your ways!" God was not blessing because they were not obedient!

The reason why Christians don’t serve God and build his church today is fear. We fear what others may say about us or think of us. We fear what it might cost us in time, effort and money. We think of what we need to do with our time and to buy with our money. There is never enough of either.

And the reason there is never enough time and money, is because we are not serving God.

The problem is selfishness. When we think of our own needs, desires and hopes, we lose sight of God’s will and his desires for us. We tend to think that God expects too much of us or doesn't really care about our personal needs. We don’t have enough and even have needs that are not being met. How can we build the Lord’s church?

The solution is fearing God! To fear God means to look away from self. When we concern ourselves with what God wants to accomplish instead of being concerned about our own personal needs or problems, fears soon vanish or become less important. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his listeners, (Matthew 6:19-21…) Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…(25-26) Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?…(31-34) Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Haggai asked in 2:3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? We need to do the same. Let us look back and see what God has done, how he has provided and catch a glimpse of his glory! Now look at your present situation. It doesn't look very encouraging does it?

You look at God and see his glory. Then you look at your own situation and ask, "Where is God?" God is there all the time! Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.

Your problem is, you fear the future; you fear running out of money; you fear what people will think, may say, could do… but you don't fear God! In effect, Haggai asks the people, "Why do you keep looking at yourself instead of God?"

Haggai 1:8-9: Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. Haggai 2:9: The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts. Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.

The believer's greatest enemy is fear.
Fear leads to resignation and a feeling of hopelessness.
Fear leads to an inferiority complex. We feel defeated, inferior and weak.
Fear causes us to look out for ourselves.

We need security, insurance, refuge, safety! We build and save and plan for the future. We work hard, invest much, build savings, and even have a back-up plan, but somehow feel that it's not enough.

Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD. Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD. And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD. (v.12-)

Haggai 2:15-19 shows the results of this attitude: And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD'S temple was laid, consider it. Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.

No one knows what the New Year will bring. The Lord says simply: "Seek me first and fear not!"

Will things get worse? Fear not.
Will I lose my health? Fear not.
Will I get cancer? Fear not.
Will I keep my job? Fear not.
Will my loved ones struggle? Fear not.
Will my investments collapse? Fear not.
Will I run out of money this year? Fear not.
Will tragedy strike in my family? Fear not.
Will my children disappoint me? Fear not.
Will others ridicule my faith? Fear not.
Will my dreams turn to ashes? Fear not.
Will I face death this year? Fear not.

Ralph V Harvey