“What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of the ram. Rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23
As a Christian, I pray to the Lord for direction in knowing and following his will for my life. I ask him for guidance with decisions I face. I seek his protection for my family and myself. And I ask him to reveal himself to me. But when I stop and think about those kinds of prayers, I must really ask myself if I am ready for God to answer them.
How often do I wait for God’s answer, or His timing? How many times do I convince myself that what I want for me is also what God wants for me? Am I really staying in the center of his will when I’m headed off in a dangerous direction that leads to the world? Is it really His still small voice I hear, or is it my own mind telling me its okay to follow my desires? Surely as a believer it must be God, right? Doesn’t the Bible tell us that as Christ-followers He will give us the desires of our heart?
In being honest with myself (and you), I would have to say that there are more times that I act and react in ways that gratify me and my desires, but they do not line up with God’s way and desires for me. There are many times that I become impatient with God’s timing and I go ahead and do what I feel is best for me. And since hindsight is 20/20, I am able to look back at my life and see where I didn’t listen and heed God’s words to me, but instead I headed in my own direction, and before I knew it, I was as lost as a hiker without a compass.
All too often we live with the mantra that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. But when it comes to our spiritual walk and well-being, that’s not the way the Lord intended for it to work.
1 Samuel tells us that obedience is far better than sacrifice, and that refusing to listen to God is equal to being involved in witchcraft. Translation – asking permission first is far better than asking forgiveness later. When God speaks to us, he is doing so for our benefit, not his. When we choose to ignore his words, we are in complete disobedience to him, which is no place we want to be since it leads to God’s rejection of us (just like in Saul’s case).
My husband tells a story from his days as a missionary in Scotland, where he tried on a number of occasions to give a Bible to a local young man who lived a very troubled life; and the man continuously rejected his offer. Not because he wasn’t willing to accept a charitable gift from someone, or because he was too proud and tough to be seen with a Bible. But simply because he knew that if he had God’s word he’d have to read it, and then he’d have to follow it; and he wasn’t ready to make those kinds of changes in his life. This young man knew and understood something that I as a believer often forget…that when God speaks I must listen and act.
“Dear Lord, help me to be ready and willing to listen to your voice, even when it tells me something I don’t want to hear. Help me to be obedient to your word in all aspects of my life, even when I don’t want to be. Help me to more quickly recognize the times when I’m following my own desires and not yours, and give me the strength and courage to immediately change my course so it lines up with the direction you have in mind for me. Thank you for Jesus…it’s in His name I pray…amen.”