Consider Your Ways!
Francis Bourdillon, 1881
"Now therefore, thus says the LORD Almighty: Consider your ways!" Haggai 1:5
This was God's message to the people of Jerusalem; but it is His word to us, as well as to them. He would have all to consider their ways. People are too apt to live without thought. They fall into habits almost insensibly. One person does what he sees another do; there are many who follow custom blindly, and numbers have no other rule than their own pleasure.
God would not have us live so. He would have us think — and think seriously. He says to us, "Consider your ways" — set your heart on your ways, think about them, examine them well.
Now this is a thing, not merely to hear about or to read about — but to do. Each person is to do it for himself, to consider his own ways; and a very serious and important thing it is. For every way has an end; there is no way that does not lead somewhere. In order to help us to consider our ways, here are some questions which we may ask ourselves about them:
1. Has conscience anything to say against our way? Do we know, or even suspect, that our way is not a right way? How is our time passed? What are we doing on our week-days? How are we spending our Sundays? Of what kind are our pursuits, our pleasures, our companions? Has conscience anything to say against us on these points, and does it sometimes speak?
2. Are our ways according to the Bible? It is very important to have a clear conscience, but conscience itself must be taught by the word of God. It is not enough that we should do what we think to be right — we must do what God says is right. Are our ways then according to the Bible? With many shortcomings, can we yet take that blessed book and say, "This is what I desire to follow; this is my rule, my guide, my pattern; this is how I wish and try to live"?
3. Another question we should ask ourselves is this: "What shall we think of our ways hereafter?" Whatever we may think of them now, are they such as we shall look back upon with comfort in time to come? Sickness and the approach of death give very different views of things — from life and health. What will our ways seem to us when eternity is near? What will our thoughts be when we look back upon our present time and the way in which we are spending it; upon the opportunities and means, the gifts and talents, which we now have, and which we are certainly using in some way or other? What shall we think of our present ways, when we come to consider them as past ways?
4. Another solemn question may be drawn directly from the Bible itself. We read there of two ways — the broad way, and the narrow way — the way of death, and the way of life. Our way is one or other of these. Which? This is a solemn question; and all the more so on this account, that many are in the broad way — and few in the narrow way. Men do not like to think this. But it is true, as true as the words of God's own truth can make it: "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:13-14). Which are we among — the many, or the few? Which is our way — the broad, or the narrow way? What will our end be — destruction or life?
5. Jesus said, "I am the way." Is He our way? It is not enough to be sincere and in earnest; we must go by that way which God has provided — or we shall certainly find that our way is not the way of eternal life. Jesus is the way — the only way; no man comes unto the Father but by Him — neither is there any other name by which we can be saved. When we are considering our ways, we must not leave out this point. We must make sure that our hopes are built on the right foundation, that we are looking to Christ alone, that our feet are on the rock. If Christ is not to us the way, the truth, and the life — then, whatever our ways may be in other points, they are certainly wrong, deeply fatally and eternally wrong!
6. Once more. We read of Enoch that he "walked with God," and the same is said of Noah — and that too in an ungodly age. Here is another thing to ask of ourselves about our ways. Do we walk with God? Are we in the habit of holding communion with Him in secret? And at all times, in private and in public — do we try to maintain a sense of His presence, to live near to Him, and to follow His holy will? The apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?" Is that true of us? Have we the Spirit of God? Are we growing in grace? Are we making progress? As years advance — do our souls advance too?
Here then are six different points of inquiry about our ways:
Are they against conscience?
Are they according to the Bible?
What shall we think of them hereafter?
Are we in the broad way, or the narrow way?
Is Christ our way?
Do we daily walk with God?
It is God Himself who bids us consider our ways; "Now, therefore, thus says the Lord Almighty: Consider your ways!" It is a plain direct message from Him, as though the prophet had said, "Now therefore it is not I who speak to you, but the Lord Himself! He who knows all your doings, He whose eye is always upon you, He who is aware of every secret motive that influences you — He bids you stop and think. He Himself calls upon you to turn away your thoughts from trifles and from worldly things — and to fix them upon yourselves and your ways. This is the Lord's will, the Lord's command."
Why does God thus command us? That if our ways are wrong — we may amend them; that we may repent and turn; that we may seek and find mercy; that we may be safe and happy. "God is love." In His very warnings and exhortations, He is love. The people at Jerusalem did consider their ways. We read that they "obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord." And what followed? "Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord's message: I am with you, declares the Lord." Even so will the Lord receive, pardon, save, and bless all who consider their ways, and turn and seek Him by Christ Jesus.
"I am with you" — He said to the repentant people of Jerusalem. "I am with you" — He says to all who hear, believe, and obey. When God is with us — then our ways are happy indeed, happy as they never were before. Then we have a Father in Heaven; then we have a Savior; then we have a Friend in all trouble, and a helper in all difficulty. Then we have pardon and peace, a conscience clear, a mind at ease, and a good hope for eternity. This may be ours, freely and fully ours — if we will seek it in and through Christ Jesus; and the very first step is to consider our ways, as before God, asking the help of His Holy Spirit!