The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10
Ever since those very first moments when I began to recognize the call of the Lord on my life – His desire to use me to share His love with others – I have been formulating and re-reformulating a plan. As ridiculous as I can see this is, I have always used exactly the same strategy towards walking out the mysterious and marvelous plan of God for my life that I used to pass my classes at university, or to meet my deadlines in the corporate office.
Generally speaking my planning process has always looked something like this:
Step 1 – Gather all of the available data on the “target audience”.
Step 2 – Assess what I perceive to be the “needs” of that audience.
Step 3 – Weigh those needs against my own apparent “talents” and resources.
Step 4 – Formulate and initiate a plan on how I will be best able to show the audience God’s love.
Step 5 – A few steps after initiation of plan, hit extraordinary wall formed of my own arrogance, ignorance, racism, bitterness, pride, etc.
Step 6 – Spend weeks or months questioning my faith and God’s calling on my life before healing in His love, and allowing Him to bring me back to my feet, hopefully with a bit more wisdom and humility.
Step 7 – Back to Step 1, and repeat all steps again and again.
Two of the most humbling and powerful truths to be learned – and embraced – by those of us called to this work:
1- Our own words and actions will never be able to adequately express the truth of God’s love or nature to anyone. The only voice able to convince a person how much God loves him or her belongs to God Himself. In order to gain any kind of true, transforming understanding of God’s love, each one of His children must have our own real encounter with Him.
2 – The mighty work of God must ALWAYS begin within ourselves. We are not called to preach what we “think” to be true, or what we’ve heard from others, but we are to share our own witness – that which we know for ourselves. This is the testimony of the saints.
And so we look to the example of the mighty servant, Samuel. We read in 1 Samuel 3:19-20, “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and He let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.”
Samuel was a mighty man of God, through whom God revealed great truth to the people of Israel. He was dedicated by his mother to grow up and to serve all of his life in the temple. Of all of the wonderful lessons he must have learned in those early years, it is important for us to consider which ones the author chose to include in the scriptures.
The author tells us that in those days, words from the Lord were very rare. So when Samuel began to hear God calling his name during the night, he didn’t recognize His voice. Samuel thought instead that it was his teacher, Eli, calling out to him. So on three different occasions God called out to Samuel, and each time Samuel ran to Eli.
Finally, it was Eli who realized with great hope and anticipation that the voice calling out to Samuel must have belonged to God. And so Eli said to Samuel, “Go back and lay down. And if He calls you, answer Him, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And so upon realizing that it was God Himself calling his name, Samuel’s response was to do just that, go back, lie down, wait, and listen.
No plans were made, no great sermons written. The mighty weapon of the great prophet Samuel? When God called, he heard His voice, and he answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
I can not count the number of times I have seen my plans to share the love of God fall apart, and have cried out to God, “Where were You? I am trying to serve You! Why didn’t this plan work as I thought it would?”
And then to hear Him say, so patiently, “Miki, these were your plans. I was sharing my plan with you. But you weren’t listening to Me.”
We have bought into a great lie that “busier is better”. We kill ourselves, convinced that in order to serve we must be speaking, or building, or witnessing, or healing, or prophesying to others.
Let us pray that we will be delivered from the prison of this terrible deception, and let us begin to embrace the power and truth that come as we submit ourselves to the Lord, find solitude from the noise of our lives, rest in His presence, and listen for His voice. This is the mighty weapon of the servant of God – so that when He calls we will hear, and we will answer, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”