Thanksgiving and strategy Sunday -

This is a sermon by Peter Birnie from the Riverside Church service on 17th October 2021.

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Strategy Service; Haggai 2 v 20-23 – “Good Investment”



(Slide 1) The greatest desire that the leadership of Christ Church Riverside could have for every single person associated with our church family is that each one of you would invest your life properly; that you would stake your whole life on the right person. But here is the problem. When it comes to trying to convince people to invest their lives in what really matters most, and to stake their lives on the one person who won’t let them down, from a human point of view we are at a massive disadvantage and that is because people mostly use their eyes and their emotions to make the decisions that matter, rather than using their ears and the truth.


(Slide 2) Here is a picture of where we meet as CC Riverside. I love where we are and who we are but in terms of size and scale we are nothing particularly special are we? It looks ok in that picture I suppose but it suddenly looks a lot less imposing in this next one (Slide 3). CC Riverside is pretty small compared to the area we want to reach. What about it now (Slide 4) – if it looked tiny before compared to the size of the task it looks miniscule now compared to the whole city of Hull, a city that so needs to hear about Jesus. Our eyes show us how small we are and our emotions follow and tell us how hopeless everything is.


And so there is the problem – how on earth can the leaders of your church here at CC Riverside hope to persuade people to invest their lives in Jesus and stake their lives on Jesus when the comparison between small local churches like ours and the massive world around looks so stark?


Here is the answer: (Slide 5) We need to hear and believe what God is saying to us in books like Haggai. The prophet Haggai lived in a time when God’s people had plenty to be thankful about but also had much to cause them disappointment. A time when there was much useful work being done by some but where sin and selfishness stopped others from playing their part. God gave Haggai the job of turning some of the people away from sin and selfishness and stirring others up from disappointment. And in chapter 2 v20-23 I get the massive privilege today of telling those of you who are investing your whole life in the service of God and his people that you are doing exactly the right thing, you aren’t wasting your life, you aren’t missing out on something better, keep going.


But alongside that I have the huge responsibility of warning any of you who still aren’t staking their lives on Jesus to urgently change that, to repent this morning, because everything that matters in this universe comes down to what you do with Jesus Christ – eventually, nothing else really counts for anything.

  • There is a day coming that should change how we live right now (v20-22)


(Slide 6) Firstly from verses 20-22, see that there is a day coming that should change how we live right now;

“20 The word of the Lord came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: 21 “Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. 22 I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.”


At the start of the book of Haggai, the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem following the exile (the time they were enslaved by the Babylonians before the Persian empire took over and gave them permission to go home), they had started to re-build the Temple, the most important task they could carry out (signified God’s presence with his people), but had been stopped by the new Persian King mid-build, and then had never got going again. Sadly, any investment in building God’s house by God’s people soon got replaced by the people investing in their own homes and seeking their own comfort. But praise God, he used Haggai and others to stir the people to repentance and they got stuck back into the work on the Temple that mattered so much. Great but for how long?


Reading through this short message from God to the people, there are at least 2 issues that are important here – firstly, the newly rebuilt Temple that they had worked on was a big disappointment for many of the older Israelites who remembered the splendour and grandeur of Solomon’s Temple before it was destroyed. It is hard to invest yourself deeply in something when the results aren’t as good as you would like (down at the KC stadium at the moment the attendances are down to around 10,000 people for City games compared to a stadium capacity of more than 25,000 – when things disappoint people stop investing).


And secondly, earlier in Haggai 2 there is a passage that explains how quickly sin ruins and messes up everything it touches. It isn’t very long before the people fall into sin again (the books of Ezra and Nehemiah make this really clear). People don’t come into contact with CCRiverside and suddenly become spotless, quite often it works the other way around – God’s people are dragged down by sin and the selfish attitudes of the world around. When you those 2 things together – how easily we get disappointed and disillusioned and how quickly we sink into sin and selfishness, they are a powerful barrier to people living lives that really are all out for the glory of Jesus (where church and God’s people aren’t just a hobby or an add-on to your life). What we see and how we feel can often lead us to settling for what this world has to offer us (so I will just invest my money, time and energy in my own family, or in my interests, my garden, my car, my holiday, my house rather than giving my all to Temple work – the family of faith).  

But God’s word won’t allow us to do this - it tells us that what we can see and how we feel are not THE reality. (Slide 7) The  book of Haggai is absolutely packed with “the word of the LORD” and “This is what the LORD Almighty says”, “says the LORD”, “declares the LORD”? 27 times in 38 verses. We are supposed to get the message that it is God who declares what is true and we are to believe that rather than our eyes and feelings.


In v21-22 God declares that he is going to do great things. Don’t stay disappointed and don’t settle for sin, because the things God has planned are so massive that investing your life in anything but God now is a terrible investment because it is going to be destroyed. It WILL NOT last.

(Slide 8) Look at these beautiful mansions in Australia that are falling into the sea (Slightly less glamourous versions in Skipsea doing the same thing). Would you pour money and time and energy into these? Interior decoration, gardening, extensions, new kitchens etc? Of course not. You wouldn’t invest in something that was about to come crashing down. Here’s an even more serious question. Would you be happy for your family to live in these houses? Would you trust these houses to keep your children safe and secure? Of course not. You wouldn’t stake your life on something that one day very soon will come crashing down. That is what investing in this world is like – there is a day coming when God is going to shake everything and it is all going to come crashing down.


(Slide 9) The people listening to Haggai could trust those words because God had done this sort of thing before. God shook things so that they walked free from Egypt back in Exodus. God shook things so that the Northern Kingdom of Israel got destroyed due to their sin. God shook things so that the Babylonians took God’s people into exile and destroyed not just Jerusalem but the Temple itself. God shook things so that the Babylonians faded away and the Persians let God’s people return to rebuild what had been destroyed. God shakes, and everything tumbles except his people endure (the Persians would crumble, followed by the Greeks, then the Romans and so on).


But we are in an even better place than those in Haggai’s day to believe God because we are on the other side of the cross of Jesus Christ. (Slide 10) Haggai was pointing further forward to Calvary. The cross of Christ was the day when the most evil foreign power (Satan and sin) was shattered and when spiritual forces were overthrown and defeated. There was nothing disappointing about the cross and the empty tomb! There was no day like that since the beginning of time – the earth itself shook, darkness overcame light and then life started to overcome death as sin was crushed. We are people who must avoid disappointment and can shake off sin and selfishness by daily looking back to the “that day” of the cross.



(Slide 11) But even better we also get to constantly look forward to another “that day” when Jesus is going to return. The bible trains us to keep looking forward to the day when God will completely fulfil (consummate) all of his promises to his people. That day, the final day of judgement that Scott preached about in Revelation 20 and 21 is coming soon and that is a really good thing for people investing their lives properly (and a horrendous truth for those who aren’t).


(Slide 12) On that day everything will be shaken for the last time and Satan, sin, sinners and death will be dealt with for eternity. And on that day God will make everything new so that his children, with new bodies, living in a new heaven and a new earth, in his very presence, will never be disappointed ever again and they will never suffer under or struggle against sin again. Listen to Haggai, shake off our disappointment, leave our sin, and invest our whole life in God’s concerns now.

            2. There is a person coming who will change who we are forever (v23)


But what does that sort of life actually look like? (Slide 13) Verse 23 helps us with that by telling us that there is a person coming who will change who we are forever, who will help us live properly and allow us to be secure (Boris?). God says that on that day he is going to make Zerubbabel like his signet ring (explain). In other words, all of God’s great plans are going to put into effect by this promised Zerubbabel.

God did use Zerubbabel to lead the people well in Haggai’s time – he was a leader who helped the people to live properly and he was a leader that accomplished some sort of temporary safety and security for them. But like all people, Zerubbabel soon faded away, and the people soon started to live sinfully again (read that in Ezra and Nehemiah). In Haggai 2 v 23 it is Jesus Christ who is being talked about, it is Jesus Christ who is God’s signet ring. 


What does the life look like that will stand when God shakes everything on that day – it is the life that is tied to Jesus, the life which has him at the centre. Everything for you as an individual and for CC Riverside as a local church, depends on your response and attitude to Jesus.


Right now are you staking your eternity on yourself? Have you still not come to Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and new life. If so you are in the greatest danger imaginable (in fact it is unimaginable really, the prospect of facing God’s wrath and the reality of Hell is a terrible truth). That’s the very first thing that needs to be said as we finish today – if you aren’t a Christian yet, become one this morning, go to Jesus Christ and admit you are a sinner and that you need saved. And he will accept you and make you his. Because our God is full of love and grace, because the blood of Jesus can cover all your sin.


Praise God many of you here have done that already and so you can look back to the cross with gratitude and forward to Jesus’ return with confidence and certainty. But these verses in Haggai are mainly for us believers today – the “Give careful thought”, “Return to me”, “DECLARES THE LORD” throughout Haggai are supposed to shake us up now so we aren’t shaken up then!

As Christians who have come to Jesus already for forgiveness and new life, investing your life in Jesus, staking your life upon Jesus will mean, most importantly among other things, investing properly in your local church family (Slide 14). I am so grateful and thankful for what God has made us here in CC Riverside. The last year has grown me in my gratitude for you all and towards God so very much. Many people here are INVESTED. I love this church family and the Network it is part of so much - you could fill my bank account with millions of pounds and I couldn’t buy a better life for my kids than the one here where the church family model to them what real faith in Jesus Christ looks like. This is the most important investment.

And so today’s message to many of you is this; Keep committing to what our church is doing to please God and lift Jesus’ name up in this area. Go with your leaders all the way; when we ask you to be there get there. When we ask you to pray, get praying. When we offer a chance to learn from God’s word, be eager. When we put on an evangelistic event invite others and commit. Be interested in what the young people are doing at J Club, offer to help clean up after ABC, listen to the sermons, ask questions and then go away and do it.

The book of Haggai says there is no more important work to invest in than Temple work – and as you do what you can in this local church, God is brought glory, new people are reached with the gospel, things are accomplished that will last for eternity. Things might look small and feel slow right now but God declares that he is building his church and that one day soon Jesus is coming back - Jesus is the King and living for him will never disappoi

Home Group Questions on Haggai 2 v 20-23


1) In verses 21&22 what different things are going to be shaken by God? What are we tempted to invest a lot of our lives in that one day will simply crumble? (Reading Revelation 20 v 11 - 21 v 5 might be helpful here).



2) Are you disappointed with spiritual progress in your own life or in the life of the church? How should the “that day” promised in Haggai help us to put disappointment behind us and invest properly?   



3) Verse 23 is ultimately speaking about Jesus. How is your daily life affected by your faith in Jesus? (Do you know when an apparent lack of devotion to God’s people in your life is legitimately down to the demands of life and when it is you settling for sin?)



4) Have you any practical responses to Sunday’s sermon and strategy presentation?

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