Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Faithfulness


The life of Samuel, to me, is a marvellous demonstration of faithfulness. He remained faithful throughout his life Samuel grew up in the temple of God, he was dedicated to God by his mother who had been childless up until that point. He had grown and thrived under the guidance of Eli. Now he, Samuel is the prophet of Israel. He is the one people go to for divine insight and revelation and who encourages the whole nation to follow God. 

We could think that Samuel has had it easy, you know, a sheltered life, after all he was brought up in a priests family. However, Samuel hasn't had it easy, firstly he had to live apart from his biological Mum and Dad and had grown up around the ungodly behaviour of Eli's sons. He had seen and experienced their waywardness but chosen not to partake in it.  As he lived with him, I assume that Samuel must also of been present when Eli died (his sons died on the same day). The only family he'd really known left him in an instant. Samuel grew up knowing what the world was like outside the temple, yet he chose to stay within it. He had seen the lifestyle of Eli's sons and experienced heartache. Yet, throughout he has been faithful. He has a steadfastness that we rarely see. He followed God consistently. Even when he didn't want to.

When Saul was rejected as king (1 Samuel 15-16) Samuel was truly heartbroken. He mourned. He'd invested in Saul's life and was overwhelmed and distressed. Then God tells him to cut it out. What's Samuel's response? He doesn't moan or tell God he's being unreasonable, shake his fist at Him or ignore Him. Instead Samuel listens. He doesn't let his emotions keep getting in the way. He stops and listens to God. How incredible! He lays aside his own thoughts and feelings to continue to live faithfully. Despite his inner anguish he follows God. That's the sign of a faithful heart. 

Samuel led a life of faithfulness to God, but it's not easy. He's been through some hardship, he has known suffering, but throughout he has known God's presence and provision. He has known God's voice and he is willing to obey it. This is what makes him a marvellous man of God. 


We should learn to model Samuel. He clearly relied on the stability of God's track record. God is always faithful, he always has a plan and he always does what is best. We might not like it or understand it, but God is good and we can trust him. Samuel had seen; life, death, celebration, disappointment, rejection and transformation. His life, like yours and mine had its ups and downs. He got through it by serving and honouring God above himself, above his experiences and feelings, do you do the same? 

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Obedience or sacrifice?


'Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, 
as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,'
1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV)

Now, I've known the above verse is in the Bible but I'd not been aware of the context of it until now. Samuel said these words to Saul after Saul had gone into battle against the Amalekites, as God had told him to. However, Saul hadn't quite done as he'd been told. The victory had been won, but the way he did it is not how he was instructed. Saul had won the battle, he and his army were victorious, but they had been told to destroy everything and everyone, but they hadn't. They'd kept the best cattle, and brought back the Amalekite king. So, really it was half-hearted obedience. It's like Saul had listened to the bit that God said about winning and then not listened to how he, Saul, was meant to behave in doing so.

Have you ever done that? 
Kind of followed the rules but not quite? 
Maybe bent them a little to your advantage? Saul had gone to battle as he was told, but he hadn't gone about it in the right way. The instructions were clear yet Saul decided to do things his own way. He knew God had told him to go against this enemy but God had also told Saul to do it without compromise. Saul didn't listen, or he half listened. Ever done that? It's a bit like taking the easy way out with following God. You'll take the step of following what God says but you compromise faith in Him along the way.

Looking again at Saul, he seems to have good intentions. He says he was saving the best of the animals for an offering to God that's why he kept them. That's nice isn't it? It's like he's throwing God a thank you party. He was thinking about God the whole time wasn't he? Saul seems to of been thoughtful and giving glory to God. The thing is though it's like he thinks he's got better ideas than God. God was clear, but Saul wants to do things differently. He decides to go to battle as God said, but to carry out the task his own way. Half-hearted obedience. Don't fall into the same trap. No matter how good your intentions may be, no matter if it seems like you are giving up things to honour God, if you're not doing what He is told you to do, then you're not obedient. 


I'm not saying this is easy. It's usually far easier to compromise to; overlook things at work, turn a blind eye, pretend we have done things when we haven't or don't quite tell the truth to avoid a fall out in the name of peacekeeping. The thing is God doesn't want you to sacrifice your integrity. He wants your obedience, not obedience with some compromise, pure, faithful obedience. If you want to please God, that's how to do it. 

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Who's your armour bearer?

This week I've been thinking through the story of Jonathan and his armour bearer (1 Samuel 14:1-14), and have been struck by their relationship.The one word that I would use to describe their relationship is trust.
It's more than how what we tend to understand the word trust though. It's not just about being trustworthy like with personal information, it's a complete confidence, reliability and certainty.

Jonathan and his armour bearer clearly have great trust, great faith in one another, they have an understanding of each other's character that's withstood some testing. They know the other is reliable, they depend on each other, they literally have each other's backs. They will defend one another, protect each other, and work together. They are a team. Success isn't built on one of them it's both working in their own capacity with the assurance of the other at his side. 

Isn't that incredible? I want a friendship like that. Can you imagine doing life with someone like that? Someone who's totally reliable and with you 100%.

One thing I love about this story is how the armour bearer completely trusts Jonathan even when he suggests doing something crazy - Like the two of them, with one sword between them going against 20-30 philistines! That's undeniable, completely crazy trust! He is with Jonathan no matter what. He even says, 'I am with you heart and soul' You can't be much more onside than that! They are all in together. 

In this relationship it's perfect teamwork, there's no worry about who's stronger or who does the most, they have their own system. In this instance, Jonathon goes first, cuts the enemy down and the armour bearer finishes them off. It wouldn't of been a victory unless they both played their part. Both had an essential element to play in this victory, both took their place, worked hard and succeeded. Their skills complimented each other's. 

In this life there will be challenges to face. Who's going to be your armour bearer? Who has your confidence? Your trust? Who can you completely rely on when things get difficult or a bit crazy? Who's going to be with you whether you fail or succeed?

When you've got someone like this armour bearer with you, it's easier to tackle life's challenges, it's easier to take a risk. When someone is with you, 'heart and soul' they are all in. They have you no matter what. They are not going to back out, they will risk their very life for you.

Who's your armour bearer? 

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Great grace


I don't know about you, but when I think about King Saul from the Old Testament, I don't think of him favourably. I remember that he was proud, jealous and tried to kill David several times. However, he didn't start out being king like that. I was surprised to read the following verses;

1 Samuel 10:27 (ESV): But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace

1 Samuel 11:12–15 (ESV): Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” 13 But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel.” 14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. 

Now what kind of man is described in those verses?
It's someone who; ignores snubs, doesn't seek revenge, is humble, recognises there's a higher authority than himself, sees the bigger picture and knows how and when to celebrate. 
This is the Saul who was chosen to reign; a man with great humility, who isn't jealous, but who is confident in who he is and who God is. He is a man that doesn't choose to get even, even though that would be an accepted and expected thing to do. In fact, Saul chooses to see the good in the situation not the bad or difficult. He rises above the haters and realises God's plan is greater than any personal offence. In this situation, at the beginning of his reign, Saul chose to see the bigger picture and he acted in generosity and kindness. That's a good king! 

Imagine then how those who'd been against Saul must feel now. He's overlooked their snubs for a while, he's just come back from war and is faced with what to do with those who have been against him. They would probably of been in fear of their lives. Instead of punishment, torture or death though, they experience forgiveness and grace. I bet that shut up their complaints! 
I imagine they probably felt quite embarrassed - they'd spoken against someone who was clearly anointed, hand-picked by God, a victorious warrior and they've been let off the hook. They spoke against the great leader and victor of this battle, the one who brought the whole country to triumph. They must of been embarrassed and terrified. They've just seen what Saul can do - he's just led an army to victory - now what's going to happen to them? Instead of punishment, Saul overlooks their wrong. Wow! He refuses to focus on their little rebellion but calls people to focus on the great saving work God has done. What a relief! What grace! What freedom those men must of experienced! 

Can you imagine how that must of changed the atmosphere? Their commitment to him as leader? How would that effect their behaviour from then on? Would they continue to work against Saul?

I imagine those who'd been against him would realise what a lucky escape they'd had! They would probably be grateful, more peaceful men who realise the type of man who is their king. Saul was not one who wants to Lord it over them, but one who wants to work together to bring salvation in Israel. 
What a good king Saul was. He extended grace when others were opposing him. He must of won hearts and influence amongst the people.

Do you want to be like that? The reality is, wherever you are and whoever you are the likelihood is that people will come against you. How do you react when that happens? What is your response? Do you overlook offence and look at God's salvation? Do you extend grace and forgiveness and just get on with what God has put in your hand to do? Or do you react somewhat differently? 

Saul didn't sulk, or consider revenge, he knew he was anointed for purpose and he got on with what he was meant to be doing.
The result? At the end of the chapter it states; 'they sacrificed peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.' 


Great rejoicing follows great grace. Everyone gets to enjoy the victory of grace and forgiveness.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Get more than you bargained for

1 Samuel 9

This chapter tells about when Samuel met Saul for the first time. Saul was informed Samuel was a prophet, a man of God, so Saul went to him to get some information. But, just like in these days, you can't expect something for nothing, so Saul considered what to give Samuel, a bit of a problem as he'd run out of suitable 'payment'. In the end, his servant managed to come up with something to give, so they set off to meet Samuel. Reading this story, it just struck me that Saul went to meet a man of God worrying about what to give. He wanted something from Samuel and wondered how he could pay him. This is what we experience in this world isn't it? if we want something we have to pay for it. 

The beautiful thing about this situation is that Samuel, the man of God, had himself been out preparing for Saul's arrival! 
God had informed Samuel who was going to show up, so he was preparing to meet Saul in style and give him much more than he expected! Samuel saved the best meat, prepared somewhere for Saul to stay as as well as answering Saul's concerned mind. Isn't it awesome how God does that?! Saul got much more than he bargained for; His worries were relieved, he was catered for, honoured and anointed. 
What an incredible experience meeting 'the man of God' was for Saul. He left Samuel with a sense of identity, assurance and hope, when he'd gone with just one question. 

That's how it is when we go to God. There's not a lot we can give God in terms of 'payment', but when we do go to God with the things we are worried about, He gives us back more than we bargained for. He doesn't always give us what we want, but He certainly gives us what we need. He may even change our direction and call us into new adventures like Saul - there's no way his eyes were set on becoming king! God gives us more than we bargain for when we ask him to relieve our concerned minds.

Now, if you are a man or woman of God, imagine if people came to us, like Saul went to Samuel, with a need or worry, and left feeling relieved, honoured and hopeful. What a great demonstration that would be of the love of God! Wouldn't it be wonderful if those who come to us get more than they bargained for!


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Are you in the castle?

This week we were talking to the kids about how being in God's kingdom is like being in a castle. 
As christians, we are part of the King's family, we are heirs, princes and princesses with free reign in the castle. We have authority and power, we can command, we can get what we want, and we can talk to the king anytime we like. We have permission to seek out hidden places, we have freedom to enjoy the pleasures of the palace. We can eat, drink, have fun, explore and rest in the safety of the castle. We have so much freedom.

So, why is it that we want more? 
We want more freedom, we are not content with the confines of a castle, we want to leave and enter enemy territory, we want to see what the rest of the land is like and have new experiences outside the walls. It's a typical Christian feeling that we have limitations, we have boundaries there is almost a list of things we can and can't do; we shouldn't have sex outside of marriage, we can't try drugs, we must love other people, we should pray. Why are we worried about the list of limitations? 

The truth is, if we do/don't do these things, it's not God's best for us. It doesn't mean that we get kicked out of the kingdom. There is love, forgiveness and grace. We have freedom to make our own decisions, the reality is that God knows what is best for us. Some of these things would mean having less than the best life we could have, and why would we choose that? 
If God's kingdom is like a castle, there's so much to be enjoyed within it - why would you want to step outside? There are people outside of the walls that want to bring you down. That want to tear you away from your father, the king. 
If we all were aware of the boundless; joy, provision, adventure and peace that are within the castle we would never want to leave it! But our eyes get drawn, drawn to the things we have not yet seen, the things we see those outside having a go at, the exploits they enjoy and we feel like we are missing out. 
What about what those people are missing out on? 
They are missing out on an almighty adventure that you are a part of. They are missing out on the peace that surpasses understanding, the hope of eternal life and the security of being loved without end. 

So, are you in or are you out? Are you ready to explore the castle? 

'in my father's house there are many rooms' John 14:2
'Peace that surpasses understanding' Phillipians 4:7

'My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.' Phillipians 4:19

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Samuel grew

1 Samuel 3:19 
'Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground'

There are three aspects to this verse;
Samuel grew - he matured, got bigger, stronger and taller. His presence was becoming more visible, but he had to go through a process. He had to wait, he had to rely on God, he had to live in obscurity before he had of his grown up enough. He was growing up both physically and spiritually. He and other influences around him, some good, some not, but he had the choice to decide how he grew up. He chose to follow God. 
As you grow and mature as a person, what is influencing you?what are you growing up into? Are you feeling like you're in obscurity right now? If so, that's ok, you've got the opportunity to grow, to learn some things, to become stronger.

The Lord was with him - God was with Samuel, to me this sounds like he was at his side. Is He at yours too? Have you chosen to walk with him in your daily life? Are you aware of God's presence - his support, comfort, strength, protection? Do you know He is with you always? He's got your back if you choose to believe in Him. 

None of his words fall to the ground - every word Samuel spoke came to be. He spoke truth. His word could be trusted. Is that something you're known for? What would come to pass if every word you spoke happened? Would that be a good thing? Words are powerful, they can change lives, they can build up people or tear them down. There is power in your words, how are you using them, in public or in private?

I think the secret of Samuel's later success is in this verse. He allowed himself to grow. God was with him, and he was a man of his word. If you want to aim for something better then do the same; grow up, know God is with you and watch your words.