Chapter 1

God knows what satisfies.

In addition to being a stay-at-home mom and a church musician, I am a freelance writer/editor. One of my clients is a very wealthy Canadian businessman who publishes a monthly newsletter for enterprising entrepreneurs, full of advice from business experts across a wide array of fields. I edit the publication. (You might be surprised to know that many “experts” have difficulty forming a coherent sentence! That’s where I come in.)

I just recently finished the January 2013 issue. And I have noticed that these New Year’s editions are invariably devoted to one subject: how to work smarter and, if necessary, harder to achieve more success in the coming year. So, naturally, I thought about my rich authors and their trying-to-get-rich readers when I read the first chapter of Haggai: “Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but 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.’” (vs 5-6)

This is such a great reminder that hard work doesn’t always equal success. Sometimes, we can work very hard, even tirelessly, only to find that we’re still just as empty as before. Somehow, working solely for wealth and material gain has a way of leaving us very unsatisfied in the end.

Rabbi Harold Kushner once said, “Nobody on their deathbed has ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’” That is so true. When Steve Jobs died, I remember reading an article that mentioned how he regretted that he hadn’t spent more time on his relationships with his kids. In the last days of his life, it seems he suddenly wasn’t thinking any longer about all of his technological achievements.

God knows what will satisfy the human heart, and it’s not Stuff. We like Stuff. We work hard to acquire it. And, no matter how much we have, it’s easy to feel like we don’t have enough. There is always more Stuff to be had.

But God wants to remind us that the Stuff will never satisfy us. It’s not that the Stuff is bad or evil; it’s just that when we give it first priority in our lives, we miss out on the one thing that can satisfy—a relationship with God. When we give Him first place in our lives, we’ll find that we are never lacking anything. When we don’t give Him first place in our lives, we’ll find that we never have enough.

So, while there’s nothing wrong with working smarter and harder to achieve more, I hope my Canadian business friends (and we!) aren’t missing out on the most important thing. Success is one thing; satisfaction is quite another. And God wants you to have both!

Chapter 2

God is with us.

The sad thing about Christmas is that many Christians only celebrate it in December each year. But the message of Christmas is one that we should take with us all the time—that the very God of the universe is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” That’s the deepest desire of God’s heart—to be with us—and that’s why He keeps coming to us.

We are reminded of that once again in this chapter of Haggai: “‘Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’” (vs 4-5)

God promised the Israelites, His Old Testament people, that He would always be with them. And God always keeps His promises. And Jesus promised us, His New Testament people, that He would always be with us—to the very end of the age (Matt 28:20). And God always keeps His promises.

If God said He was going to be with us, then He is with us.

It doesn’t matter what we face in this world. It doesn’t matter how bad things get, how dense the darkness becomes, or how awful the suffering feels. We will never be forsaken by God. Never.

So, as God said through the prophet Haggai, be strong! Keep calm and carry on! God is with us, even now, and because of that, there is no reason to fear.