Being a part of a building project in God’s work is a life-altering experience – in the ancient Israel of Haggai's day or in, say, Northern Ontario today, writes Nat Reed
Being a part of a building project in God’s work can be a life-altering experience. Such an enterprise might be physical in nature, as in helping to erect a new church building or a cabin at a Bible camp, or it might involve growing a Sunday School work, starting a seniors’ Bible study or simply building someone else up in love (I Corinthians 10:23). Such opportunities are often the source of real spiritual growth, and may even represent a turning point in an individual’s walk with Christ.
Several years ago my wife Joyce and I were granted such a challenge. We were attending a small evangelical church in northern Ontario. After meeting in homes for a time we were able to purchase an older house with a small auditorium attached. Even after extensive renovations and improvements, the building still had a sad, rundown appearance. It was also rather far off the beaten track.
One spring weekend our congregation was visited by a preacher from southern Ontario. After the Sunday service we invited him back to our house for dinner.
“You know,” he told us. “You are never going to be able to grow your work until you get a more suitable building to meet in.”
“We have a fund set up,” I said. “But because of our small numbers, we presently only have enough for a building lot.”
Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work for I am with you, declared the Lord of hosts. . . . My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. (Haggai 2:4b, 5b)
He didn’t say too much on the topic after that, but a few weeks later got back in touch with us. “I have started a fund-raising initiative to help with your new building,” he said. “I’ve already sent notices to other churches and individuals expressing your need. In the meantime, why don’t you step out in faith and use the money in your building fund to buy a piece of land in a suitable part of town?”
“We’ll get on it,” I said. “In fact, we already have our eye on a property that is large enough and quite central.”
“Good. Put a bid on it and see if you can find someone to take charge of the actual construction. I’m sure God will bless. I’ll keep in touch.”
Within a few days we were able to purchase the land and brought on board a local Christian who agreed to head up the construction.
It wasn’t long before our friend from the south got back to us. “We now have enough in the kitty for you to do the excavation and put the basement in.”
And that’s the way it went for the rest of the summer. Although we never had a large amount of money in the building fund at any one time, through the Lord’s working and the generosity of His people there was always enough to complete each stage of construction.
We also had abundant help from brothers and sisters who joined us from far and near to lend a hand for a couple of days or longer. The fellowship and encouragement they provided was invaluable. Within a few months our lovely building was complete.
Although more than 30 years have since passed, the lessons we learned remain on our hearts. The Lord’s faithfulness was evident during every phase of the construction, His hand providing for all our needs.
Those experiences also came back to me recently as I was going through the book of Haggai and reading about the building project he kick-started.
In Haggai’s little book we read how the Lord told the Jewish people – newly returned from their 70-year Babylonian exile – to rebuild His house, the temple. Although the project got off to a promising start, the builders faced fierce opposition and discouragement until finally the project was abandoned.
Sixteen long years later the Lord’s servant Haggai appeared on the scene with orders from God to get the people working again. Fortunately Haggai was preaching to a people who were already under conviction, and they willingly set to work.
As the story unfolds, several concrete steps mark how the Lord dealt with the people of Israel during this building project. It’s encouraging to note how similar they are to our own experiences.
- Identify the issue. God’s house needed rebuilding (Haggai 1:2). This was an initiative quite similar to the challenge we faced. We needed a new church building.
- Confirming that the issue is of God. For the Jews of Israel, it took the form of an attention-getting drought, and then a stern reminder from Haggai (Haggai 1:4,11). For us it was the visit by a respected man of God, who confirmed the need of a better place to fellowship and proclaim the gospel.
- A willing response. For both the people of Israel and our own congregation, it was a willingness to trust God, assume responsibility and get the task done (Haggai 1:14).
- Encouragement from God. Through Haggai, God tells the people to be strong and fear not, for His spirit will be in their midst throughout this project (2:4-9). He even reminds them that, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine. . .” (2:8), assuring them that He will provide for all the practical requirements to complete this important task. In the construction of our church building, the Lord provided abundant encouragement by supplying all our manpower and financial needs until the building was completed. There were times when the brother in charge of the project would approach me (as treasurer) to go over plans for the following week. He would say, “Well, we have to complete the roof and begin shingling. How much do we have in our building fund?” Not nearly enough to do that. But he would simply shrug and reply. “Well, let’s make it a matter of prayer. I’m sure the Lord will provide.” And you know, He always did. Every time. In the several weeks it took to complete the project, not once were we delayed by a lack of funds or willing hands.
It was a deep learning experience for me and many others. Like Haggai and his countrymen, we learned that when God is behind such a project He is faithful. Whether the enterprise entails taking up a hammer and saw, or a Sunday school teacher’s manual, He will always will be there to back up those who are called to do His bidding . . . and His building.
Nathanael Reed is a writer in St. Thomas, Ont. Adapted from a chapter of Designated for Assignment: God's Love in the Minor Prophets (John Ritchie Ltd, 2023), available at Gospel Folio Press, Christian Book Distributors and Amazon.ca.