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Fired with enthusiasm

Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the LORD. — Haggai 1:8

Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, once told his players, “If you are not fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired—with enthusiasm!” Nothing of substance can be accomplished without enthusiasm.

After 70 years of exile in Babylon, the people of Judah returned to their homeland, led by Zerubbabel the governor and Jeshua the high priest. As soon as the people had settled in, they immediately set about rebuilding the temple (Ezra 3:1-7)—with enthusiasm!

They believed they were called to do something significant, and with great energy they set to work. But the initial enthusiasm for the rebuilding program slowly drained away. The people had volunteered for a project that was as demanding as it was worthwhile. But as time went by, discouragements came, and sacrifice began to be less appealing than self-interest. Why, they may have pondered, should we expend so much effort on building a place of worship when we don’t have adequate living accommodations for ourselves? So they stopped building the temple and started building their own fine abodes (Haggai 1:2-4).

This went on until Haggai came along and roundly condemned the people’s failure to complete the work they had begun. Recognizing that their enthusiasm for the temple had waned in direct proportion to the waxing of their self-interest, Haggai addressed that same self-interest. He pointed out that everything they were interested in was turning out to be a disappointment (1:5-11). There was a shortfall in their experience, and Haggai saw a definite cause in their self-absorption. The remedy he prescribed was quite simple: Get your priorities right and put the Lord first. “Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord” (1:8).

Haggai’s message fired up the leaders and the people. Their enthusiasm was rekindled, they “worshiped the Lord in earnest” (1:12), and they began again the work of rebuilding God’s temple (1:14). And the work was finished (see Ezra 6:15).

In the community of believers, people are motivated in different ways. It is a challenge for leadership to know how to kindle enthusiasm and maintain it. Some will work hard motivated by a grand vision, others are less nobly motivated. Wise leaders know how to keep the fires of enthusiasm burning while avoiding burning people out with exhaustion.

For further study: Haggai 1:1-15

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.