1 Samuel 3:1-11 “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well), and the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was, that the LORD called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.” Then he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The LORD called yet again, “Samuel!” So Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he answered, “I did not call, my son, lie down again.”
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him. So the LORD called Samuel again for the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli discerned that the LORD was calling the boy. And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”
The LORD said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.”
Ever start something but never finished? I have an intarsia I am working on. I have been working on it for years, probably some 12 years or so. If you walk through our house you see some one dozen projects in various states of repair. The clutter on the counter in the kitchen is mine, for as hard as Bonnie tries to keep the house clean I tend to leave tools and paperwork half-way to where they should be. I am not quite done, so there is something in me that prohibits me from totally cleaning up because, after all, I am going to finish it. How often do you start but get interrupted or distracted. It can be the same way with holiness. We are on fire for God. We have surrendered our life, our future and pastor, our relationships… everything and then a money problem comes up and we get distracted. What do we do with that? Well, the same thing I do with my intarsia. I wake up in the present and start again; I make a fresh commitment to go on from where I am and continue the journey.
In the midst of all this we have to find the balance – the balance between our faith and God’s working in our life. It is the work of God that produces holiness in response to our obedience to follow the Spirit. Sin is real and there is redemption available for us, but following Jesus is just that – a commitment to keep going, to keep following no matter what.
So, a couple months ago the challenge was laid out from Luke 2:52 to keep increasing in wisdom and stature and favour with God and man. How has that gone for you? Today is a fifth Sunday of the month. We have 4 such Sundays in any given year, and this year we will be reminded of the 252 Challenge on each of these days. Let’s look at these 4 areas again.
Wisdom: Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Wisdom is connected with Truth, and understanding ourselves is a big part of Truth. God created you. He created you with an imprint of His image on you. In spite of the reality that it is tainted by sin, both individual acts as well as a root of sin, God created you with a purpose. He created you with gifts and a purpose. Pursue an understanding of yourself in light of the Creator of the ends of the earth. If there was one truth I could give to the homeless person, the drug addict, the patient in emergency, the person in the pew, a truth so strong it would change fundamentally how you look at life, it would be this: God loves you. Allow that Truth to find a home in your brain, to reside there; your life will never be the same. Allow yourself to have a glimpse of how Jesus looks at you. This week, take some time to learn something new about yourself, about how God created you; and read 1 Corinthians 13, understanding that is how God loves you.
Stature: This guy walks into the Doctors office. He has a banana in his left ear, a blue berry muffin in his right, and a piece of toast in his nose. He asks the doctor what’s wrong with him. The doctor takes one look and says, “You’re not eating right!” Sometimes it isn’t the big complicated stuff but the simple things. Sometimes we let life get very complicated and busy and we need to get back to basics. One of the simplest is water. Your task this week is to drink several glasses during each day. Try drinking only water with meals, and then your coffee or tea or juice or pop aside from a meal. Now, I could bring up one of many passages about water in the Bible. It is actually amazing how much water is a part of both Testaments. From Moses and Noah and Jonah and the Red Sea to the Jordan River and Jesus’ baptism and the miracle of the water into wine. Suffice it to say, drink more water.
Social: Jesus kept increasing in favour with man. At the Serve conference at Briercrest I attended the last couple days Scott McKnight challenged us with seeking a correct perspective of the Gospel. When we look at how Jesus spent His time, we see Him surrounded by people from all walks of life; and Jesus talked and related to them all. The challenge for each of us is to look around. The challenge we had in the wisdom section was to see us from God’s perspective. Try to also see those around you from God’s perspective as well. Ask God to open your eyes, to see as He sees.
Spiritual: Prayer: 1 Samuel 2:35 “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Do you remember the story of Samuel and Eli which we read earlier? I remember that story as one of the first stories I learned in Stockade. Here was a little boy, perhaps the age of Benjamin, away from home – in a new home now. And in the midst of this change he wants to do his best with Eli. A voice, calling his name in the night. It’s not Eli – and finally Eli realizes it is God. The God who should be speaking to him as a Judge, but instead He speaks to the little boy. The boy who would grow to become the last Judge and the first Prophet. And it all started with a simple prayer, a simple answer to the God who was calling him. Can I challenge you to say this simple prayer this week? In the quiet moments of your day or night, listen for the voice of God and respond to it. Say simply, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” And then be quiet and listen.
As we finish, let me share 3 thoughts about how Samuel listened:
1) Listen with foundation of worship, of how great God is. He said speak Lord. There was a recognition and acceptance that God is who He says He is. Listen to Isaiah 40:27-31
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
2) Listen with openness to change, to God doing a new thing. Samuel said “Speak, for I am listening.” When you really listen, you listen with an openness to new things. You listen to possibilities. You listen to God’s perspective, not your own. What happens when you listen to the Creator, the One who created this wonderful wastefulness, through our limited perspective of life and faith? When God does something new, we don’t want to miss out because we are stuck in seeing life in only one way. It is a big world. Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” This is about seeking understanding. Understanding of God and His purposes. Understanding that it is God who directs and leads, not tradition or history.
3) Listen with intent to act. Samuel said the simple prayer in faith, and it directed him for the rest of his life. Samuel would always be listening for that voice for the rest of his life. He listened not just with openness, but with the expectation of following those words. And Jesus calls to us today to follow Him. That is the heart of the Gospel. Listen and follow the voice of Jesus. Say, Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”