DID YOU KNOW THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE SELF-DECEIVED WHILE CONVINCED THAT ONE IS ACTUALLY OBEYING GOD?
· We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn't come naturally. It's a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith (Charles R. Swindoll)
· Unconfessed sin is the cancer of our souls, metastasizing until it destroys all it touches. But confessing sin is the doorway to gratitude for grace, ministry to our fellow sinners, and worship that changes our lives and empowers our witness (Jim Denison)
· Both worry and stress reek of arrogance (Francis Chan)
· Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved (Augustine).
TEXT: 1 Samuel 15: 10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night. 12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.” 13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”
It is scary to think that one is obeying God, while God is regretting having given the person the responsibility. That was Saul, selected, anointed and appointed to be king over God’s chosen people. That meant the battles he fought were God’s battles because he was God’s representative. Was it a contradiction or self-deception to hear Saul say that he had obeyed the instructions God gave him while causing Samuel great stress? How does one know that he/she is following God’s instruction not one’s greatly concealed desire?
POWER DESTROYS THOSE WHOSE CHARACTER IS UNPREPARED
Power is double edged in that it can be used to encourage and it can be abused– Saul who did not do anything to be selected, anointed and appointed King of Israel enjoyed God’s presence in the battles he fought. He was in charge of a winning army and people sung praises to him. Saul was moving from victory to victory until he could not stand any delay to what he saw as his next success. To be a Christian is to be given power to not only be a witness of Christ but also ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19-20). That power enables one to be assured of God’s presence, experience divine provisions and direction. As a result of that power ‘And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”(Mark 16:17-18). With the alleviation of fears about various kinds of insecurity, it is possible to start taking credit for what God has done. A person who knew ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9) starts having a feeling of being the one who is doing it. A believer who was dependent on the voice of God gets zealous for his own honor and interest. Titles, people’s opinion and legacy become the mission. The danger in living one’s life in order to be remembered is that it can distract one from listening to God and start listening to self and others. Saul listened to himself with an eye on what people thought of him while believing that he was obeying God.
Self-interest inevitably results in being lukewarm to God’s instructions- A sense of satisfaction for having made it, can open the door to a sense of self-importance which manifests as pride and arrogance. That self-conceit makes one unconsciously adjust God’s instructions. Disobedience to God’s instructions makes a person blind and deaf to the inner voice and consequently to sin. What was completely obvious to Samuel, causing him to have a sleepless night, was invisible to Saul. Christians are people who have been saved through the mercies of God and that means God’s mission is their mission is ‘For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you’ (Romans 12:3).Taking credit for God’s work can subtly lead one to veer off the mission without realizing. Since human beings are like colorless glass windows that attract dust over time, there is a need to take time for self- examination regularly. Repentance, confession of sin to God and to one another is what cleans the heart of a believer and raises one’s consciousness of the need to depend on God.
Set aside time to enter into the inner chamber and shut the door – Saul saw himself as important before his soldiers. Their cheers encouraged him to venture further in what would immortalize him –he built a monument in his honor. We all have blind spots that could be entrances to thoughts that bring complacency, haughtiness, and self- sufficiency that make it difficult to realize that one is lost. Desire to leave a legacy that makes one remembered positively is a temptation that should be resisted. ‘Sabbath’ is a time set aside to be with God and that requires one to not only enter but to also shut the door to outside ‘noises’. To go to any function and be the center of attention, to be told that was ‘the best message I ever heard’, and all kinds of praises, feed the ego and if not careful, one slips in order to follow those voices. It is possible to remain conscious of God’s voice but get confused by other voices of passersby. People’s voices get mixed up with God’s voice in the ears and one assumes he is still listening. One starts assuming that following orders and whatever else alleviates fears that cause insecurity is obedience to God.
The discipline of waiting – Waiting begins with hope of what is expected, and then doubts, mistrust and fear stealthily enter, making the person bait for the enemy. In the case of King Saul, he was waiting for pre-battle blessing through Prophet Samuel who was running late while the enemy Philistines soldiers were gathering. King Saul’s soldiers were getting scared out of fear and that must have driven them to wonder whether there was nothing he could do. The measure of success he had had in previous battles must have contributed to his impatience. He had tasted success and could not stand the thought of losing. That is how pride comes in and is one step into an area that is not God given. This is where great servants of God, having waited so long for a contract, a spouse, promotion, child, etc., start doubting whether waiting on the Lord is faith or foolishness. It would be unfair to fail to acknowledge that there is no easy way to resolve that tension between faith and foolishness. “Is ‘wisdom’ killing my trust in God or does my ‘trust’ in God disregard all wisdom” (Carey Nieuwhof). Nieuwhof continues to say that what people claim to be faith can easily be ego drive, insecurity, and a cruel disregard for other people or irresponsibility. ‘Teach me Lord to wait’ should be our prayer. It is during the time of waiting that who we are and who God is to us comes to surface. The real test is the ability to persevere in the trying time because of the grace of God. Waiting time, though very stressful, is an opportunity to meditate on who God is, and that in his master plan has you in mind because ‘no one who waits upon the Lord will ever be put to shame’ (Psalm 25:3). To wait on the Lord is to believe in His word, His reliability and His unchangeability. Saul missed it. ‘For the Christian, waiting is not an interruption of the plan. It is the plan’ (Paul Tripp).
Due to the pressure to deliver or meet targets, a believer can become susceptible to act in ways that are less than the best. Giving in to unworthy emotions, being rude, angry, dominating, silencing and blocking others from visibility reveal that one is not fully yielded to God. A spouse, fully prepared, is left while locking the door because the time for the engagement that could be preaching has come. What Samuel told Saul remains true today, ‘that obedience is better than sacrifice’. It is possible to be devout, committed and zealous in what one assumes is God’s battle, while it is not. Self- deception is dangerous because what is assumed to be zeal for God is more about one’s vision of being viewed as an achiever. Thoughts of the image one bears as God’s selected, anointed and appointed can lead one to act in ways that cause grief to the body of Christ. Thoughts of immortalizing one’s memory can so dominate the mind that it becomes difficult to beware of having veered off the way of the Lord. The tell- tale signs include pride in the achievements that God has given. When pride is given room in the mind, humility disappears. It is more about the individual vision than it is about the grace of God, prayer becomes conspicuously absent, achieving the cause gets more attention than abiding in Christ, the spirit of competition and comparison is nurtured and there is a utilitarian view of people. God's mission cannot be held captive because of people’s ignorance or self- delusion that makes them assume that God will be pleased by their sacrifice. God told Samuel not to continue grieving for the ‘blind’ and deaf’ Saul, because there was another person ready for appointment. Saul’s inability to remain faithful to God’s instructions led to generational loss. No more kings were to come from his line including his son Jonathan. It is true that the status of being a child of God will destroy one whose character is not prepared for it. Might your zealous service to God be so unaligned with his instructions that it is cutting off your family and future generations from inheriting the kingdom of God?
‘It is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began’ (C. S. Lewis).