When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!”
“Then what is all the bleating of sheep and goats and the lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel demanded. 1 Samuel 15:13-14
King Saul had been given the mission to completely wipe out the Amalekites. He was to take no plunder, receive no personal gain other than the eradication of sin in the lives of the Israelites. He did indeed destroy everything that was not of value to him. But he kept the best sheep and cattle for his personal gain. Of course he was going to use some of these prized animals to offer sacrifices. But even in offering them for sacrifices he knew that his stature would increase among his people. How often do we serve others for our own gain? How often do we obey God’s commands to the extent that we profit?
I have often gone on God’s errands as I hear His calling in my life. Just like King Saul, I have fought battles and won victories for the glory of God. I look back on my time as a pastor and am thankful for the calling and the opportunity to grow. But truth be told, there have been too many times when I have fought God’s battles with my armor. I have too often confused my agenda with His agenda. I have too often co-opted His mission for my selfish gain. It is easy to rationalize the meaning of love and service for others to fulfill my own needs. There have been times when I felt the need to DO something rather than wait for God’s clear direction. And I must admit that there have been times when I sought personal recognition as the spoils of battle while on God’s mission.
I, like King Saul, have argued that I am on God’s errands and thus have obeyed Him. It is true that God can use our actions to help others even when our motives are impure. But this is not an argument in favor of impure motives. This simply highlights the power of God’s love who can transform our acts that come from misguided motives into acts of redemption. But the fact remains that God still desires our heart above all else. He is only concerned with our actions as they demonstrate the condition of our heart. This is why Samuel replied to Saul’s protest that he had done God’s mission when his heart was not aligned with the heart of God: “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. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23
This may seem harsh until you remember that all God is seeking are men and women after His own heart. Enter King David. He had plenty of flaws, plenty of evil deeds. We could talk for weeks about the disastrous choices David had made. And yet David still lived from the heart and allowed God to teach him, mould him, grow him, and transform him. We can only be taught, moulded, grown, and transformed in the heart. God is a heart surgeon, not an orthopedic surgeon. It is with your heart that you submit to Him. It doesn’t matter what you have done or what you will do. The only thing that really matters is the condition of your heart. This is where the battle takes place.
It’s time we focus on matters of the heart, matters of being, and let the doing take care of itself. It’s time to stop judging one another’s actions and focus on allowing God to live in our hearts. It’s time we live from the heart, feel with the heart, and believe in the heart… of God.