Understanding God Sermon Series Part 3
1 Samuel 13:11-13
When we look at the life of Saul, we see the tale of a man who lived two lives. One tale reveals a young man who had a promising future filled with the potential to reach the highest of heights. The other tale highlights a tragic figure whose demise was of his own doing. As we examine Saul’s life in totality, we are reminded that we cannot please God by proving things to other people.
Saul who was hand picked by God to be the first king in the history of the Nation of Israel was not perfect, but he was capable and suited for the job. In spite of his ability and the fact that he was well suited for the job, he just could not get out of his own way.
The life of King Saul provides us with many lessons. One lesson we can glean from a survey of Saul’s life is that no matter how well suited a person is and how capable they are to fill a job, it does not mean that they will do the job well. As was mentioned previously, Saul just could not seem to get out of his own way. Like many people we know, the inability to get out of our own way informs us that sometimes we are our own worst enemy. This principle also demonstrates that a lot of the things we blame God for can really be attributed to us. Consider that God hand picked Saul, equipped him and empowered him for the job of being king. Yet, Saul sabotaged and undermined God’s best efforts. Another lesson we learn here is that, no matter how well God has set us up for success we have the power to undermine God’s best efforts.
How could this have happened? How could a life and a career filled with so much promise and potential end so tragically? The answer is found in verse 12. In verse 12 we have Saul’s response to Samuel’s question of what have you done. Saul replies, “I thought, now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’S favor. So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.” The crux of Saul’s problem can be summed up in two words, “I thought.” In essence, Saul could not get out of his head. Someone once said that, “a Christian who lives in his or her head is living in bad company.” I would submit to you that the mistake Saul made is one that is common to many, we try to serve God living in our head.
One of the challenges to trying to serve God in our head is that we are serving God in isolation. Whether God calls us to be leaders or supporters we cannot do either by ourselves. Leaders need people to lead and supporters need leaders to support. People who lead in isolation are leading themselves and people who support in isolation are supporting themselves. Ministry requires collaboration. Leaders and supporters have to collaborate with each other. Leaders have to work with supporters and supporters have to work with leaders. When we act in concert or together, it provides a forum for the exchange of thoughts and ideas. The sharing of thoughts and ideas helps everyone to get outside their own head and hear what others have to say on a particular matter. No one person has all of the answers or solutions to any problem. As individuals, we have our own perspective and approach to situations and because it is ours, it does not mean that it is right. It only means that it is the way we see things and the way we choose to approach matters. Everyone needs a sounding board. We all need someone or even a small group of people that we can bounce ideas off of and get feed back from. Anyone can be a genius or a legend in his or her own mind. But, if we want to serve God we cannot do it in isolation. Who is your sounding board? Whom do you bounce ideas off of, and whom do you go to for feedback?
Another challenge to trying to serve God in our head is that eventually the voices in our head will drown out God’s voice. As Saul recounts his thought process to Samuel he points out first the reality of the situation. His men were scattering, Samuel was late, and the Philistines were marshalling their forces. Next Saul attempts to identify the reason he is in such a dire situation. Saul concludes that God is punishing him and he needed to assuage God’s anger by doing something. This sounds good and even makes perfect sense except for one problem. Saul forgot that God through Samuel had already instructed him about what to do. If we go back to chapter 10 Samuel advised Saul that after the Holy Spirit came upon him, he could do whatever his hand finds to do but he had to wait a specified period of time until the sacrifice was made and then he would be advised about what his next steps should be. It is interesting that Saul conveniently forgot that part.
To be fair, Saul simply exhibited a condition that has plagued both men and women from the beginning of time. The fact is that we all have built in forgetters. This condition becomes a little more evident as we age. Saul fell victim to something that men and women have been dealing with since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. That is, if we allow worldly concerns to flood our minds they will flush the Word of God out of our minds. Many people say, I don’t know the Bible that well and I wish I could remember and recall Scriptures on the spot. The truth is that if we let some of our worldly concerns go; we will discover that we will retain more of God’s Word. How can we hear God say, “Be still and know that I am God,” when our minds are filled with how am I going to accomplish this or that, how is this or that going to work out, or what if this or that does not happen. We cannot hear the small still voice of God over the raging voices of worry, fear, anxiety, resentment, anger, and hurt. I promise you that if we continue to give these voices a forum they will drown out the voice of God every time. Someone defined ego as Easing God Out. Saul reminds me so much of myself. There were times when no sooner than I stepped out of worship that I had forgotten everything I heard. All of the stuff that I was concerned about entering worship and let go of during worship returned to clutter my mind and Ease God Out after worship. How about you? Do you have difficulty hearing God over the voices in your head? Do the problems and concerns of life flood your mind and fill your head making it difficult to concentrate on what God is actually saying to you?
While there are many problems here, a third challenge to serving God in our head that I would like to lift up is while our desire may be to please God our focus and concern will turn from God to ourselves. Notice that, between verses 11 and 12 Saul uses the personal pronoun (I) four times. He says, “I saw, I thought, I have not, and I felt compelled.” In two short verses, the equivalent of one paragraph he refers to himself four times. Clearly, Saul’s intentions were to please and honor God. However, it is extremely difficult to please and honor God when we stop looking at God or for God and start looking at our situation, our circumstances, or ourselves. It is difficult to please and honor God when we stop expecting God to show up and start believing that if we do not do it, it will not get done. It is difficult to please and honor God when we begin to believe that the favor of God, the grace of God, and the love of God are things we can work for, or earn and attain.
The predominant theme in this passage is, GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD. God uses Saul here in this passage to illustrate to believers that we cannot serve or please God by living in our head. While Saul’s greatest mistake was that he could not get out of his head, his most egregious action was disobedience. He simply did not do or follow the directions that God laid out for him. Saul tried to use reason and logic instead of simply exercising his faith.
This much we know, as long as we live life will happen. We will find ourselves in all kinds of situations and circumstances. What we must remember is that while we are trying to figure things out, God has already worked them out. There is a saying that says, “This too shall pass.” An addendum to this saying is, “but when?” That my friend is the hardest part of serving God, we know and desperately want to believe that God is going to show up and will show up, but when? This is a question and an issue we all struggle with, myself included. When life is happening we need God to show up not now, but right now. However, as out text points out Samuel did not show up when Saul thought he was going to show up, but he did show up.
Beloved in Christ, we must encourage ourselves in the knowledge that God does not always come when we expect Him to come, but God is always right on time! It boils down to two things:
a) Do we trust God?
b) How much do we trust God?
Parents look to build trust in their children. One of the ways they seek to accomplish that is by putting children in situations where they have to learn to develop trust. God wants us to trust Him. God helps us to develop our trust in Him but putting us in situations that will specifically accomplish that purpose. The next time you and I are looking for God to show up, please, please, please do not retreat into you head. But rather, exercise your faith by living it, and allow God through the situation to build and develop our trust in Him.