How Long? (Rising From The Ruins)
To be fair, it’s probably a question that we have all asked at some point in our Christian journey. But before we go too much further in this blog I need to be totally up front with you. In this specific instance the question might not mean what you think. Usually when we ask it we are referring to suffering. You know, “Lord, how long will this go on? How long before something changes? How long before You step in and show forth Your power?” Usually, it’s an expression of our pain and sense of despair. We desperately want God to intervene, to heal, to deliver. And so, much like the Psalmist, we cry out to Him for relief and rescue. But that’s not what I’m talking about in this particular instance.
Instead, this “how long” has to do with the time we spend in prayer, Bible study, etc. It’s a question that I have been asked many times over the years. “How long should I spend praying? How long should I read my Bible?” I’ve wondered the same thing myself at different times in my life. At one end of the spectrum you have people who use Jesus’ garden experience as the standard. “So, you could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” At the opposite end is a mindset that embraces spiritual discipline like it is some sort of punishment, i.e., get it over with as quick as you can. Rush in. Rush out. Get it done. Mark it off the checklist. Go on about your business. Personally, I don’t think either approach really answers the question.
For me, an appropriate response to the question of how long can be found right here in this short passage from Haggai. In fact, the answer can be summed up in two simple words. “Bring wood.” I know, I know, I just lost some of you on that one. But if you will allow me a couple more paragraphs, I will gladly explain what I mean.
In the book of Haggai God reminded His people it was time to be about His business. For 16 long years the people had languished in spiritual apathy and indifference, busy remodeling their own homes while God’s house lay in ruins. Step one in this process of rebuilding was to go to the mountain. Simple. Straightforward. No confusion. Step two was even easier. Bring back wood. Sounds elementary, doesn’t it. You can’t rebuild without proper materials. Construction on the temple required wood. And so, God had given His people a very clear directive. Go look for wood and when you find it… bring it back.
In other words, stay out there until you find what you’re looking for. Keep after it until you obtain the necessary building materials. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t come back empty-handed. There’s wood out there but it’s not going to magically climb down the mountain and assemble itself into a temple. You have to look for it. You have to extend some effort and energy. Invest some time. Make a decision to go after it. But it’s there. You just have to be willing to stick to it until you get it. And then, once your arms are full, head back down the mountain and start the work of rebuilding.
Get the picture? When it comes to things like prayer and Bible study, the same philosophy should apply in our own lives. Spiritual discipline is not a checklist of items that need to be accomplished. God doesn’t stand behind us with a timer while we are busy interceding or studying. In fact, the issue is not how long. The crucial consideration is staying until you find something useful. Think about this verse for just a minute. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives,and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Here’s another, “…He (God) is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” And one more, “…those who diligently seek me will find me.” God promises to meet us when we seek for Him. I am convinced that most of us are experiencing disappointment in prayer and Bible reading because we give in and give up way too early.
So, how long? Bottom line? Stay until you find Him. Sometimes it happens immediately. Other times you have to search for a while. But either way, determine not to come back until you have found Him. The only reason you need to come back empty-handed is because of your own choice to do so. Be determined. Be diligent. And be not deterred. Keep at it and you will be rewarded. Every single time.