Monday, October 19, 2015

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One Christmas our kids gave my wife and me a pretty great compliment. They let us know they wanted us to live longer. Isn't that nice? The way they made their point was to chip in and buy us a treadmill. They put Hebrew words on there, "L'chaim - to life!" They figured it was good for our longevity to have a means of exercise that was convenient, all weather, and time-efficient. So since then I've been trying to put in my time on that old treadmill. I know it's doing some good, but it is frustrating for a man like me. I'm a man of action! I like progress. There's lots of motion, a lot of energy exerted, a lot of sweat, but after all that, you're in the same spot you were before all that. It just seems like you're not going anywhere!

I'm Ron Hutchcraft, and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Treadmill Syndrome."

Treadmill might be a good way to describe how you feel about your life right now. There's a lot of motion, a lot of energy expended, plenty of sweat, but maybe it doesn't feel like you're getting anywhere!

The reason might be in our word for today from the Word of God. The book of Haggai is probably not a book of the Bible you were discussing over breakfast. But it's a book for people like us, even though it was originally about God's ancient people. They had returned to Israel from years of forced exile. And in Jerusalem they found the great temple of God in ruins. God wanted them to rebuild it. They started, then they stopped. He sends the prophet Haggai to wake them up.

He describes the frustrations they've been experiencing in words that sounded a little like the treadmill syndrome. Haggai 1:5, "Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it." Much activity - not much progress. Sound familiar? It's that feeling of knowing your life is very full but not very fulfilled.

Listen to God's diagnosis now in verse 9, "You expected much, but see it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?' declares the Lord Almighty. 'Because of My house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house." Their lives were so full of their agenda they didn't have much left for God's agenda. Their stuff was doing fine, but the work and priorities of God were in shambles.

In verse 3, God asks a convicting question "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" Why all this activity and yet the feeling they're not going anywhere? Why were their lives full but not fulfilled? Priorities. It's what happens when our life is mostly self-focused when it comes to the things that really matter. It happens to really busy people like you and me, stressed people, successful people. It happens to people with a lot of pain. You start focusing on building your own kingdom or protecting your kingdom instead of building Jesus' kingdom.

Today God isn't building a temple. He's building a family. Jesus said, "I will build My Church." And He was talking about rescuing lost people and developing them into His followers. That's what the number one priority is supposed to be for our time, our money, and our energy. But throughout God's kingdom, much of His work is hurting because "each of you is busy with his own house."

Jesus promised that all the other things would be added to you if you "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). It's time to make the things that matter most to Jesus the things that matter most to you.

In Haggai's day, when these people finally got the message; when they got busy on God's thing, He said, "From this day on I will bless you" (Haggai 2:19). I believe He'll do the same for you. And you can finally trade that treadmill for a walk that's really going somewhere!