We are going to be taking our thoughts, this morning, from John 17:6-18. But before we start on these thoughts, I’d like to take you back for a few minutes to an Old Testament book. Turn if you would to Haggai. The context of the book is the Israelites, out of bondage, having a continuing problem with sin, which brings bad consequences for them. They have an occasional outburst of good, but evil far outweighs good. The Babylonians destroy God’s temple and the Israelites are conquered by the Medes and Persians.
I. Message from the book of Haggai
In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, God put in on his heart to send the Israelites back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. There were 43,000 Israelites who returned under Zerubbabel, a Jew, who was made governor over Judah by Cyrus. Their main purpose was to rebuild the temple, but they lost their fervor. There were two reasons for this. There was the difficulty of the task because of opposition and lack of resources. And the home front was in need of food, homes, water, clothing, etc.
Twelve years go by and God gives Haggai a message to give to his people. Haggai 1:2 “….” We all can understand that there are many things in life we don’t want to do. We procrastinate and come up with excuses. But, in v. 3-6, Haggai hits the heart of the matter. “…..” Surely we can, at times, relate to this problem. It is work, work, work! There is no money or savings. It is a vicious cycle with no end! At times, this causes a lack of priority in our lives. The people heard God’s message and renewed their efforts, v. 12.
But then, they became discouraged. Ch 2:3-4. “…” Some had seen Solomon’s temple and told grandiose stories, remembering its wealth, which was now so insignificant to them. Surely we can understand that too! (in church).
For the solution, see v. 7-9. Don’t be beat by discouragement. Let go and let God. He will bless you – not in how much you have, but in the great God you serve. His blessings were fulfilled under Herod the Great when the temple was refurnished and enlarged. The apostles commented in Luke 21:5 regarding the grandeur of the temple.
The lesson we get from this is to give God what you have and let Him do with it what he will. Who do I trust really?
So the Israelites got back to worshipping God and keeping the temple going. Worship became a priority once more, after Haggai’s second message. However something else soon came up.
The people started to grow cold in their heart for God. They still went through the rituals of worship, but when they went out they went back to living a corrupted life. They were proclaiming one thing inside the sanctuary and living another on the outside.
So one last time, God sent his prophet with a last message. Let us read Haggai 2:12-14. “…” This passage is hard for us to understand because of a lack of knowledge of the Old Testament. The idea is this, a little contact with impure things could soil their holiness, it only takes a little bit of sin to quickly make us impure. But to be clean, in communion with God, you need a whole lot more than a little contact with holy things. Just attending worship is not going to cut it. Rubbing against religious rituals is not going to make you pure. Your whole life needs to be aiming for God if you want to be united with him.
This should make us think, if we believe that coming to church every so often can satisfy God, without really committing to Him.
So by his preaching, Haggai was trying to motivate God’s people to become, once again, a holy people with God as number one in their life. In summary he told them to do three things:
Two statements could summarize even better the whole book. What was God trying to say?
II. Message from Jesus’ prayer
Now hold on to all of this and turn to John 17:6. The context is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, before his death. Part of this prayer is for us, part is for Him and part is for the apostles. In v. 6-8 - 17, the part for the apostles, says this. “…” So, in other words, the apostles are clean. See also, John 15:3. He wants the Father to keep setting them apart; to conserve them as they are. “Please, anything, my God, but keep the fire they have in them from being extinguished.” Such is Jesus prayer. Why? v. 18. “…” The apostles have a task. They need to remain available. Eleven men have been hand-picked and trained. The clock is wound. They can set the world on fire. But they need to be willing to be used every day.
And God answered that prayer powerfully. The eleven went out and, for the rest of their lives, carried the task given them.
For some years, thereafter, whatever God directed them to do, they did it no matter what the price to pay. Satan poked, picked and hacked, but didn’t crush them. God never allowed Satan to give them more than they could bear. With every trial and temptation, God gave a way of escape and God used them.
So, as I look to the book of Haggai and study the message and look at what Jesus prayed, I figured out a key secret to life.
It’s very simple. At times, does it seem you life is covered with dark clouds, pressures and etc. The only way to eat and have enough, to dress and be warm and to work and find reward is to be clean and available for God. There are many passages in the Bible that state, “be clean”. See 1 Peter 1:22-23, Eph 4:27 and Col 3. We are not of this world so we ought to keep ourselves from evil. So be careful in what you read, what you watch, where you go and with whom you associate. But even more than that, you ought to remain available. It’s not enough to be free of sin. It is not enough to be filled with words. We ought to be available. Don’t take care of yourself, first. Don’t give leftovers to God. Selfishness isn’t blessed. It never pays. When self comes first, no one ever wins. God never gets what he wants nor will you! Be available.
I am impressed with how common men made themselves available for God in scriptures - simple men, like Noah, for 100 years, like Moses and like David. It always paid. That’s why they became heroes. Will you?
A while ago, Oct. 14th, in the 1980’s, in a Parade magazine, this article was published by Richard Rose.
“I was 13 months old, in 1938, when my mother committed suicide. She left me and my 14 ˝ year older brother with my dad. Our father continued to rear us. These were hard years. They were depression years. They turned into war years. Finally, when I turned 10, my dad remarried. However, my step mom never learned to love us.” And he goes on and tells this horrible story of child abuse that lasted for 2 ˝ years. He said, “Finally, after 2 ˝ years, my older brother ran off. He was found sometime later and returned to the authorities. When the authorities talked to him, they learned about my situation – his and my abuse. So they came to get me. They finally took me to a decent home. But for those 2 ˝ years, the step mom would hardly ever cook any food. When she did, it was a meager portion and usually burned or was fixed in a way that was hardly eatable. She would never wash the clothes we would wear. She wouldn’t allow us to bath and would beat us with a belt buckle. She would also take high heel shoes and hit us with the spikes. We would go to school with those thin, battered, dirty bodies. The only way we survived those 2 ˝ years was because of people willing to help us. One was Miss MacFarland, a grade school teacher. Miss MacFarland would send the two of us off on an errand. And as we would be ready to go downtown, she would give us a few extra dollars and say, “Why don’t you buy some milk,” or “Why don’t you buy a little food for the two of you. She would look for ways we could take a bath or for ways to get us more clothing. But it wasn’t just Miss MacFarland. Other people in town began to learn of our circumstances. They saw what was happening in our home. So quietly, they started to sneak us things to help us survive.”
Now I read this article for one reason – its title. Richard titled that article “DON’T BE A BYSTANDER!” He encourages all who read, “When you see someone who needs something, don’t stand idly by!” And what you find in the book of Haggai is people who are standing by. They are watching God’s house falling in abandonment and they aren’t doing a thing but taking care of self. So God comes through Haggai and says, “Quit being a bystander!”
And then I look at Jesus’ prayer. And what I find is the eleven are clean. He knows they are ready to go. But he never wants them to become bystanders. And I believe something here applies to me. He doesn’t want me to be a bystander. He wants me to be clean and available. Would you? If so, He’ll take care of you!
If your life isn’t what it should be, take a look at your holiness and availability.