Things aren't always as they seem.
But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. | 1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT)
Here’s a question…..
Imagine you were offered a deal to go to a heaven which had all those same exciting attributes that describe a place of paradise:
You get your mansion.
You experience perfect peace (which sounds especially poignant given current events in Ukraine).
You enjoy genuine love and true community with others, without any of that messy stuff like offence and jealousy getting in the way.
You experience ZERO pain, sickness or sorrow – That’s an incredible promise, that needs no further commentary
There will be NO Death – Eternal life in paradise? Count me in!
Here’s the catch….. God won’t be there!
Okay your kidding me, right? Heaven without God! It sounds like a no brainer but in reality, how long would it take to give your answer? Do you desire God more than the blessings of heaven?
Or should I rephrase that question to a much more cutting one – Are you in love with Jesus?
I ask this question in conjunction with today's verse for reflection which comes from 1 Samuel 15v22
But Samuel replied:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of ram
I find it interesting that these words are written by Samuel – Someone who was very acquainted with both sides of the coin.
Firstly, the heart-wrenching act of obedience by his mother Hannah, who, having pleaded with God for a child in her barren state, fulfilled her vow to return her son to the Lord in Temple service. In giving up her son, it led to personal sacrifice on Samuel's behalf, as he had to put aside his childhood and any future family plans to become a priestly servant in Gods house.
According to my mum I first got saved, at the age of 4, but I think I prayed the sinner's prayer at least 50 more times up until the age of 15.
I would describe myself as a kid as being quite passionate about Jesus and I think it tended to flow through my relationships with my parents, my friends at school and the folks at Church.
As a pastor's kid, I started to feel the sense of obligation for Church ministry during my late teens and stuck my hand up for most rotas going. The greater sense of ‘Christian Maturity’ I felt, the more I would happily sacrifice my time and energy to get ‘stuck in’ to various Church activities.
A bad thing? Probably a 'No' in most cases but definitely a 'Yes' in my case.
My service in Church started to flow from a place of ‘obligation’ or ‘people pleasing’ rather than my relationship with Jesus.
What’s worse – I elevated ‘service’ above ‘obedience’.
Publicly I looked as if I had my Christian faith together but privately my heart was full of disobedience and spiritual neglect.
This pattern continued into my 20’s and even 30’s and I can honestly say that if you had offered me the Heaven deal at the top of this page, I’m not 100% sure how I would have replied.
Thanks be to God that because of his covenant of grace he doesn’t let us stray too far away before he grasps our lives and puts us back on that right path.
Our service to God is precious but ultimately it's obedience rather sacrifice as the litmus test to check our love for God.
John 14 v 15 - “If you love me, you will obey my commandments’’
Is God calling you back to first love today? Confess your sins to God and ask for the Holy Spirit to help guide your steps into the path’s of obedience. His grace will be ever the more real to you.