They Weren’t the Good Old Days [Lessons from Haggai]

Ah, the “good ol‘ days,” when tea was cheaper, people were nicer, and nothing bad ever happened. I think every young person has had to sit and listen while those older than them tell them how terrible things are now, how wonderful things were in the past, and how they will never be that good ever again. Everything was better then.

There is no point in arguing. Those days were the best, and they will never be that way ever, ever again… or so we are told.

In my youthful naivety, I used to believe what they said. I believed that the youth today just didn’t care as much anymore. I believed that the church was dying. I believed in the depravity of the present. I believed that the past growth was unable to be replicated.

But I don’t believe that anymore. In fact, I have come to believe that this attitude of pining for the past and putting down the future is one of the very problems we have with moving forward and experiencing church growth today, and I believe I have the Bible’s backing for my beliefs.

There is a verse that every person needs to hear, young and old:

“Say not, “What is the cause that the former days were better than these?” for you do not ask wisely concerning this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).

Solomon was an old man full of regret. If he were to look back, he could definitely say that the past was better for him, yet he said that this was an unwise thing to do. To paraphrase, he says, “It’s foolishness to talk about the “good old days.”

But why is it so unwise to dwell upon the “good old days? Well, when you look back and wish for the good old days, you have a number of problems that you face (as outlined by my amazing husband):

It wasn’t as good as you remember. You remember one thing, but the reality is in fact that those days were far, far different from what you remember. It’s like when you live overseas and dream of the food back home, then when you get back and eagerly order your first dish, it just isn’t quite right. Hindsight is not completely 20/20. It’s seen through rose-coloured glasses.

Even if it was as good as you remember, it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t change your present situation. It can never be that way again. If you look backwards instead of forwards, you will never be able to grow as God has asked you to.

It is very likely the failings of the past that have led to the problems of the present. Okay, so those days may have been good, but there must have been something lacking for the next generation to be “so bad.” As small but important things get neglected over time, things change for the worse.

Dwelling on “the good old days” gets you nowhere. When you look back, you miss the beauty and opportunities that are right in front of you. As long as you are looking backwards, you will never see the opportunities you have today to further the Lord’s cause.

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The Israelites had a problem with looking backwards instead of forwards. At a time when they should have been filled with joy at progress and excitement about the future, they were crying for the past.

“And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy” (Ezra 7:11, 12).

They thought that this temple would be much less important and no way near as beautiful. God addressed them, asking:

“Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

They saw the temple that was being built and cried. They remembered how incredible Solomon’s temple was—and to be fair, it was pretty incredible. Just read 2 Chronicles 2-5 to see all the work and wealth that Solomon put into making the temple. This new temple would have seemed so small and insignificant.

It is very likely that this older generation discouraged the younger generation to some degree. We find the Israelites some 70 years later and the work on the temple has halted.  A lot of things have gotten in the way, and it is likely that the older generation were not helping, saying things like, “This temple will never be as beautiful as the last one!”

…and it wouldn’t be as beautiful physically. Ever. It was going to have to be built on government funds with limited resources.

But God didn’t care about that. He wanted them to do the work now. God had great plans for this new temple. This new temple had to be built. It was going to be the temple that Jesus Himself went to, which in God’s eyes made it all the more glorious.

“The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts’” (Haggai 2:9).

They saw it as insignificant. They saw it as less important. They saw it as never having the potential of the past—but God saw differently. God’s perspective is different to ours. He sees all the possibilities and potential—and He can bring it all together if we put our hands to the work. He can take something that seems unimportant and insignificant to us and turn it into something glorious. We simply have to trust Him.

How can we cultivate a different attitude and seize the opportunities available for us today?

Have hope for the future (Haggai 2:3-9).

Have you seen what some of these incredible young men and women in the church are doing today?! The church is not dead. Growth is happening and growth is possible. The church will only die when you let it die. I am not going to let it die—and I know many young men and women who will fight for it to their last breath. Be encouraged about the incredible things that are happening with the next generation.

I asked two young Christian ladies about their dreams for the future of the church and this is what they had to say:

“I want the next generation of the Church to have the Solid Faith of the generations before, and the ability to use their gifts to reach out. I attend at a congregation where the majority of Christians are senior citizens. I am constantly amazed at their love for God and how conscience they are about staying on His narrow path. If we can carry this on along with our ability, as the younger generation, to work for The Kingdom in ways that the older folks can’t anymore, then I will be secure that we can have a wonderful relationship with God.” ~ Miriam Sparks, 16 years old

“By the time I die, I hope to see people who are okay with being told that they’re wrong. Far too often people get offended when someone tells them that they’re wrong. But how can we grow as Christians without seeing where we need to improve?  I hope that in the future, people will be more accepting of change in their own lives without attempting to change what the Bible says.” ~ Jayla Sparks, 16 years old {See more of what she has to say here}

Terribly foolish and depraved teens everywhere today? I think not. Dwell on the past and you will miss delightful girls full of wisdom like these two. Follow the excellent youth at Tomorrow’s Church to keep up with all the wonderful, exciting things they are putting out!

Throw away negative thinking and be positive about the future.

Who wants to be a part of a group of people that complain and gripe about the future? Who will be encouraged to work if they believe that there is no bright future to work towards? Don’t allow negative thinking to creep in for even a moment – when you allow it, it will hinder progress and cause you to be weakened. God encouraged the Israelites about their future.

“Yet now be strong […] Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD […] The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.'” (Haggai 2:4, 9).

Use the past as a tool to remember God’s providence and grace to teach the next generation (Deuteronomy 6:20-25). 

Don’t complain about how bad things are now–and don’t make those days, “the good old days” that can never be relived. Use the story of your experiences to teach the next generation of God’s love, grace, deliverance and providence, as the Israelites were told to. They were told not to look back to Egypt, but they were instructed to reflect upon it and learn from it.

Remember that God will give you what you need to work (Haggai 2:4, 8).

God can move mountains to make things happen. You never know the plans for the future. You may be small now, you may not have so many resources—but God can give you what you need to do the work He wants you to do. We are in the care of the One Who is in control of the world and all its resources. God reminded the Israelites:

“I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts […] The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:4, 8).

Remember that God wants you to live and work here and now (Haggai 1:2-4).

God will be with you and give you all that you need to make things work, because He is the One Who wants you to work. He won’t leave you alone or without the tools you need. Trust Him and take hold of the opportunities that are all around you—today.

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Let’s take encouragement in knowing that the future can be amazing and stop looking back. We are still alive, which means we still have opportunity. We cannot afford to look back.

“Yet now be strong, declares the LORD. Be strong, all you people, declares the LORD

Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts,

The latter glory of this [church can] be greater than former, says the LORD of hosts.”

So don’t tell me about the good old days, unless it is to learn from them how to create a bright new future together.

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Other Posts in this series:

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