Michael Youssef - Know Where You Stand - Part 1
In times when people call good evil and evil good, there is a Word from the Lord. In the times when wrong is called right and right is called wrong, there is a Word from the Lord. In times when millions of people are departing from the truth one step at a time, at a time when thousands of pastors and preachers are slowly but surely undermining the truth of the Word of God and compromising it, in a time when many are unable to stand under the heat of the pressure of culture, in times when whole Christian denominations that once believed and taught the Word of God, now they've departed from it, we have a Word from the Lord.
In the times when people are undermining the authority of the Word of God, denying its relevance, and mocking its power, we have a Word from the Lord. During times like ours, the Lord speaks afresh from the ancient prophet Haggai, and he's speaking to the remnant. And to put it in the words of the prophet himself, both in verse 5 and 7, repeated twice, and the message is this: "Give careful thought to your ways". Give careful thought to your ways. This short series of messages I'm doing from the book of Haggai is truly a Word from the Lord for each one of us, everyone in this room and all of those people who are watching around the globe literally. It's a message for the remnant, and I pray that everyone at the sound of my voice will take it to heart. In periods of history, like our history, we are facing unprecedented challenges economically.
When we're facing challenges morally, spiritually, politically, during these times, times of danger, times of trouble, times of confusions, times when people are asking questions, even those who don't believe in God saying, "Where is God"? times like these, it is of utmost importance for believers to know what to do. It can make all the difference in the world. Not many people like to do self-examination, and yet the Scripture, I don't know how many times, both in the Old and the New Testament, says examine yourself, examine yourself, examine yourself. And here is in the book of Haggai said, "Know where you stand". Examine yourself.
Now, I'm gonna take you back to the year 520 BC, but don't switch off on me. This is not a boring ancient history time. This is a Word from the Lord. The year 520, year 520 would have been just like any other year; but in Israel's history, it was a very significant year. It was so important in the mind of God, that he had to send one of his very special prophets to bring a Word to the people in times of crisis, crisis in faith, crisis in commitment, crisis in dedication. That God had to bring the prophet Haggai in order that he may speak a Word to his people.
You say, "How come"? Well, 18 years earlier, and that is the year 538, the Persian emperor Cyrus, who have taken over the Babylonian Empire, he issued a decree, and the decree says that God's people can return back from exile. They can return back from the land of slavery. They can return back to their own land, to Jerusalem, and that was in fulfillment of a promise that God made through the prophet Jeremiah 70 years earlier. God said, "I'm gonna allow you to get into that exile, but in 70 years' time I'm gonna remember you, and I'm gonna send you back to Jerusalem, bring you back to the heart of God, bring you back to the heart of worship, bring you back to me".
But, alas, of the hundreds of thousands of Jews were in Babylon at the time, only around 50,000 returned under the leadership of the governor that was appointed. The rest of the Jews, well, they were enjoying pagan lifestyle too much in Babylon to go back to God. There were lots of business to be done in Babylon. There were lots of entertainment to be had in Babylon. There were lots of distractions from the faith that we can get into. In fact, in the fall of 538 BC, the faithful Jews who trusted God, who anchored their hope on the promise of God, who were waiting for God to fulfill his promise, they returned in the fall of 538.
By the spring of next year, the following year, that is only six months, they began the foundation of clearing the debris and beginning to build destroyed temple of God in Jerusalem. They were the real deal. These were the real people of God. They are not the ones who stayed in Babylon. They're the ones who came back. The moment they began to lay the foundation of the temple and clear the rubble, trouble began. But, beloved, listen to me. It's always the case in your life and in your life and in mine. It's always the case. Whenever you begin to take your walk with Jesus seriously, whenever you begin to read the Word of God regularly, whenever you begin to rebuild your faith on God, whenever you begin to take responsibility for building your family on the foundation of the Word of God, whenever you do that, trouble always follows.
Whenever you do that, opposition will rise its ugly head. Whenever you do that, discouragement will set in. Whenever you do that, some will mock you, others will distract you, and others still will place obstacles in your way. And so, with that kind of opposition, the work of God came to a standstill. Please hear me right on this one. Today, we don't have temples. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Bible said it again and again that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we are the temple of God. We are the ones who are worshipping God. We are the one with whom God is present. We don't have to go to a building to find God. He is dwelling in us, and I'm not exaggerating to say right at this moment of our time many a Christian life, many a Christian home, many a Christian Church, they're living in a greater ruin than the temple of God in the days of the prophet Haggai.
And in many ways, the Lord has a Word for us from this very same prophet. Today be forewarned of the danger of not building our homes on the foundation of the Word of God. Be forewarned of the danger of getting too busy with life's problems and falling away. Be forewarned of the danger of following the popular culture. Be forewarned of neglecting your spiritual life. Be forewarned. Who is this prophet Haggai? Where'd he come from? We have absolutely no idea. He is one prophet that we don't know much about at all, but not as well, because, you see, the messenger means nothing. The message means everything.
The truth is Haggai was one of the very last prophets that God sent in the Old Testament and then revelation stopped. There was no Word from the Lord. It was Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, and then it ended, but his message is very simple. It really is a very simple message, but it's also a very different message from the rest of the prophets. The prophet's message was always to those who are sinful, living in a sinful lifestyle, and those who are self-righteous to repent, because the judgment of God is around the corner. That's the message of all the prophets, but Haggai's message is very different. It really is.
You say, "Why"? Because his audience was the believers. His audience was the remnant. His audience were those who knew God. His remnant were those who worshiped God. True, they neglected the rebuilding of the temple. True, they lost heart and interest halfway through, but, nonetheless, they had spiritual sensitivity left. To be sure, their priorities got muddled. To be sure, they began to live for self-interest, not the interest of God. To be sure, they temporary forgot the glory of God and why they even came back from exile, why they were delivered from the slavery. To be sure, they had shifted their focus but, nonetheless, they were the right people at the right place doing the right thing for the right reasons. And these are my four points. These are the four points of the message. If you're taking notes, write them down.
As I begin today going through the book of Haggai, this message is for the right people, who are in the right place, who are doing the right things, and who are doing it for the right reasons. That's what the message is. It's to everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, everyone who claims to know him as personal Savior and Lord. What do I mean by the right people? Are there right people and wrong people? Yes, their devotion and zeal were unquestioned. After all, they could have stayed in Babylon, but they didn't. They choose to return to the heart of God. They chose to return to the Lord, and that is why they were called the remnant.
The word "remnant" always refers to the ones who remained. That's where it comes from. They remained faithful believers in spite of opposition, in spite of difficulties, in spite of distractions. But out of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were in slavery in Babylon, a handful, 50,000, returned. That's it, so these are the right people. This were not the compromisers, were not the people who are halfhearted for God. No, they were the right people. In fact, 42,360 to be exact, plus 7,337 servants, and 200 singers, the only ones who came. They left the life of comfort. They left the life of ease. They dedicated themselves to God. They are the ones who made the long journey back to the heart of God. They're the ones who came to follow this man, Zerubbabel, which was an expression of their devotion to the Lord.
It's an expression of the zeal for his house. They distinguished themselves from the masses who fell into the cultural pressure of Babylon and ended up in conformity. That you can hardly distinguish them from the non-believers. This message of Haggai is for those who claim to know the Lord Jesus Christ, those who are submitted to him as Lord, those who took him as Savior of their life. This message today is for those who have not stained their garments with the stain of sin, for those who refuse to conform to the increasingly godless society, for those who have stood firm in the midst of the pressure of compromise. It's for those who have been separated and set aside for God and for his work. It's for those who love people enough to tell them the truth about the gospel, and here's what the Lord's saying.
Stay strong. Examine your life. Determine where you stand. He's speaking to the right people, but he's also speaking to those who are in the right place, the right place. They were in Jerusalem. They were not in Babylon. They were in Jerusalem. They sacrificed everything to prove their love for the Lord. This is not an insignificant matter. It's very important, and the fact that you are here today or watching around the world is a fact that you love the preaching of the Word of God. It means that you have not departed to one of those compromising places where they tickle your ear, and the reason you come back again and again is because you know that the preaching of the Word of God and the obeying of the Word of God is the secret for blessing.
The right people will always be in the right place. It is absolutely true. The true and discerning believer, listen to me, the true and discerning believer could not sit for too long where the gospel is being compromised. It cannot happen. I've seen it over and over and over again, and Haggai was speaking to the right people who were faithful, and they found themselves in the right place worshipping and serving the living God. But also, thirdly, they were doing the right thing. They were doing the right work. Of course, there were too many good things that needed to be done. They're all good. Coming back from exile, they need to provide homes for their families. They needed to make a living. They needed to establish schools and shops and businesses. All good. All good stuff.
These are valued and important things to do; but above all, these right people at the right place wanted to do the work of God. They placed their desire to serve God above their desire to serve their family or serve themselves. No wonder Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all of your needs will be met". In fact, the book of Ezra, for those of you not familiar with the Old Testament, the book of Ezra gives you the details about these folks who returned from Babylon. Ezra, Nehemiah, both are books written for that time period, but in the book of Ezra give you more detail about these folks who came back to Jerusalem from Babylon.
As soon as they got back, the first thing they did, they took a freewill offering. They were the right people at the right place doing the right things. And their freewill offering, let me just give you a little bit of example of what it meant for those 50,000 folks. I don't know how that makes how many families, but they gave 1,100 pounds of gold, 3 tons of silver. They were the right people in the right place doing the right things. They gave of themselves to the work of God, and God blessed them. They put God's interest above their own interest, and that was not forgotten by God. Make no mistake about it, God will not forget your labor of love, and Haggai was speaking to these right people, who were in the right place, who were doing the right things, and they were doing it for the right reason, which is my fourth point.
Today, every time you watch the news, you find that atheists, agnostics, pagans, they're all doing good things through the United Nations. Oh, my goodness, I mean, the United Nations are feeding the hungry. They're digging for wells. They're trying to stop human trafficking, all the good things. They're doing that, but if you ask any of them, "Why are you doing this"? they would say to you, "It makes me feel good. It makes me feel good". In other words, it's just helping me ease my guilty conscience, but, beloved, you know and I know the only thing that eliminates the guilt from our conscience is the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on Calvary. But when God's people, when God's people serve, when God's people give of themselves, they're doing it for the right reasons.
In thanksgiving to the faithfulness of God, they come back to Jerusalem. They turned down the luxury and the comfort of Babylon for the hard work of serving the living God. Don't miss what I'm going to tell you, but, tragically, they're now being tempted to give up before the work is finished. They were tempted to say, "We've done enough. We've given enough. We served enough. We prayed enough". And that temptation came at the most crucial time in the history of God's people, the most crucial time. Always, always Satan will tempt you to give up at the crucial time; and, beloved, as I look around and see the saints of God who have prayed for revival, the saints of God who wanted to see God do his work with power, saints who have zeal for the gospel, and their zeal is undeniable, but they're today discouraged.
Beloved, this is the crucial time, and I really believe this is a prophetic Word. So many believers are discouraged. So many believers are so discouraged today. They just, kind of, want to take it easy. They want to give up today. This is not the time to fall in the temptation of giving up. This is not the time to lose hope. This is not the time to stop going to prayer meeting. This is not the time to just show up at church few minutes late and leave few minutes early and think you're a great spiritual giant. This is not the time. This is the time for you to text everyone on your list to say, "Hey, I'm going to church, come with me".
This is the time where the work of God needs to be rebuilt. This is the time. We're not building buildings. Thank God he provided us all the buildings we need, but this is the time to begin to build the kingdom of God. The faithful Israelites were facing these temptations, and they fell for them. They fell for them. In the next message, we're going to see if they took heed of the words of the prophet, the warning of the prophet or not. The question is, will you take heed? Will you take that as a Word from the Lord and a warning for us not to begin to relax our grasp? Will you consider your ways? Will you renew your zeal, a new commitment to be united in prayer, to seek God now more than ever before? Examine your life.