(originally published April 11, 2015)
A decade ago I took my first major faith step in my walk with the Lord. I was nineteen years old and on a warm May evening in the Ozark Mountains, I felt God speak to my heart very clearly that I should enroll in the Master's Commission program at my church. For those unfamiliar with it, Master's Commission was a nine-month discipleship program where individuals could focus on God and ministry with structured Bible classes, Scripture memorization, serving constantly at the church, and building close relationships with other Christians. It was exactly what I needed in my life as a young believer.
Amazingly, at the same time God called my two best friends to do the same and all summer we spent hours dreaming and discussing about how wonderful the next year of our lives would be...we were so excited! I was determined to raise the money I needed, and believed God would provide. I tool an extra job that summer in the tourist hot spot of Branson, Mo. and worked many hours to raise the tuition.
The week I was to start the program, I was lacking the funds necessary to begin the program. I remember crying out to God, believing that if He had called me, He would provide for me. I shed so many tears that week, and with only a day before the program was to start, I was still short. My heart sunk as I woke up that morning because I was unsure if what had been planted in my heart would happen. However God was at work! That day a friend's parent supplied the rest of the money I needed to begin the program!
The same happened two more times that year. At the end of the semester, the final payment came due and I was lacking the funds again. I had a plan to work over the Christmas break but it wasn't going to be enough. Again, I went to the throne of God over and over again with the cries in my heart. At the last moment God came through with an anonymous donor! That Spring, when the finances came due for our international missions trip, at the last moment God came through with a donation from a family member.
I share that story because I saw God perform amazing feats over and over again that year. It was such a faith builder for me and my walk with the Lord sky-rocketed! Looking back at that, I'm reminded of what we read in 1 Samuel 12 today. I feel like the Israelites, who had watched God deliver them out of Egypt and provided for them all the way through to the Promised Land. However, after time they forgot all the amazing things God had done for them and began to doubt the promises and goodness of God. This passage reminds me of my story because a decade after that triumphant year, I have almost forgotten those miracles. As time goes by and I face new challenges, I forget that God has always provided for me, and always will. But today 1 Samuel 12 is here to remind you and me of the power of our God!
When we approach 1 Samuel 12, Samuel is essentially making his retirement announcement. Now that Saul was a successful king who had conquered enemies and the people now trusted, Samuel sought to step back as their leader in his old age. He makes this grand, beautiful speech to the nation.
1 Samuel 12: 7-18,
"'Now stand here quietly before the Lord as I remind you of all the great things the Lord has done for you and your ancestors. When the Israelites were in Egypt and cried out to the Lord, he sent Moses and Aaron to rescue them from Egypt and to bring them into this land. But the people soon forgot about the Lord their God, so he handed them over to Sisera, the commander of Hazor’s army, and also to the Philistines and to the king of Moab, who fought against them.
Then they cried to the Lord again and confessed, "We have sinned by turning away from the Lord and worshiping the images of Baal and Ashtoreth. But we will worship you and you alone if you will rescue us from our enemies." Then the Lord sent Gideon, Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel to save you, and you lived in safety.
But when you were afraid of Nahash, the king of Ammon, you came to me and said that you wanted a king to reign over you, even though the Lord your God was already your king. All right, here is the king you have chosen. You asked for him, and the Lord has granted your request.
Now if you fear and worship the Lord and listen to his voice, and if you do not rebel against the Lord’s commands, then both you and your king will show that you recognize the Lord as your God. But if you rebel against the Lord’s commands and refuse to listen to him, then his hand will be as heavy upon you as it was upon your ancestors. Now stand here and see the great thing the Lord is about to do. You know that it does not rain at this time of the year during the wheat harvest. I will ask the Lord to send thunder and rain today. Then you will realize how wicked you have been in asking the Lord for a king!'
So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day."
I love that Samuel says, "Now stand here quietly before the Lord as I remind you of all the great things the Lord has done for you and your ancestors." When I read this, I picture a grandfather surrounded by his young grand kids at his feet. They all lean in and are captured by the wisdom and stories he imparts to the next generation.
Here, Samuel is taking these final moments he has as the leader to really drive home three points he wants them to never forget:
1. Remember all that God has done for you.
2. Know that when you neglect to do this, you will fall into a dangerous place.
3. Always keep God central!
Remember all that God has done for you. Samuel makes this very evident throughout this chapter because he knows how important it is for the nation of Israel to understand. There is something about remembering the miraculous that stirs faith in our hearts. When I look back on all that God has done for me, in Master's Commission and beyond, faith rises within me and I find new strength for the obstacle ahead.
When you go through the trials in your life, make it your first priority to remember your great God and all that He has done for you. Remember the victories and triumphs He has brought you through. By doing this it will cause instant worship in your heart that honors Him, and it will provide what you need to keep facing the challenge ahead.
Know that when you neglect to do this, you will fall into a dangerous place. Samuel reminds the nation in verses 9-13 that history shows when the Lord is not remembered, people fall into despair, idolatry and sin. It's when we forget about the greatness of God we begin to find comfort in ourselves, other people and the wrong things. All of this leads us down a slippery slope we can't control or make sense if. All we now is that when we hit the bottom, we see just how far we fell.
Samuel is reminding the nation, and us, to not forget in the hopes of not falling again. In every situation where a believer takes a great fall, it can always trace back to a lack of remembrance and gratitude towards God. This point Samuel is making is a guardrail so that we don't fall into this trap again.
Always keep God central! Samuel reminds us at the end of this powerful speech to fear and worship God, and keep His commands. Essentially, make God first in your life. This goes back to what I've been sharing over the last month and what I believe is a key message God is wanting to communicate in this season:keep him first in your life! Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is more important than God. Samuel points right out that not even himself nor the king should take the place of God in their lives. This is the foundation in our walk with God.
Samuel goes on to end the announcement with a sign from God that all of what has just been said is true and right. And the sign of rain and thunder during the dry season, the nation is left in awe of God, which renews their commitment to their one true God.
Today, take these three truths and the Scripture to heart. Allow them to renew your commitment to God, as this moment did for the nation of Israel.
- Take at least 5 minutes and write down every answered prayer and miracle that comes to your mind. Make a list of those things God has done in your life that you know only He could have done. Once this is complete to the best of your knowledge, spend time thanking God for them and allow it to turn into a time of worship.
- Is there an area where you find yourself slipping into a dangerous direction? Identify it and how you can avoid that pitfall moving forward.