"Encourage one another daily" (Hebrews 3:13).
A daily, Bible-based perspective of hope, encouragement and exhortation.
Brooksyne with Sara
"The Blessing Of Obedience"
“But Samuel replied: Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22).
Last December Stephen, Ester and I visited Faith Community Church in Easton where Stephen's brother is the pastor. During the Sunday morning service opportunity was given for an extended greeting time. I walked toward the back where I caught sight of a very small elderly woman somewhat bent over who was inching her way into the sanctuary. Her steps were very slow and her breathing was quite labored.
After my troubled observation I thought I might be able to help so I made my way toward her and asked if I might be of assistance. She told me she was going to the last pew in the back of the sanctuary and if I carried her purse it would be less difficult for her to reach her destination.
It made me feel good that there was some small thing I could do to help. I sat beside her after we finally made it to the pew so that I could learn more about her. I was heavily burdened and could not leave her side before offering to pray. She's a tiny woman and it seemed very natural to put my arms around her for support in a loving hug as I prayed. I asked God to renew her strength and bring His healing touch to her body. I then went to sit with my family. At the end of the service she came to where I was sitting and gave me a postcard with a cardinal. She wrote a note on the card telling me she was thankful for my prayer. I let her know that cardinals are my favorite birds and it made her thoughtful card even more meaningful.
One month later I received a card in the mail from this same woman whose name is Sara. She wrote a note to me on a Christmas card that had Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal sitting on a mailbox filled with Christmas gifts. Snowy fields and snow covered trees made the cardinals even more striking in their brilliant feathery red wardrobe. The card is still sitting on my desk and these are Sara's words:
“Dear Brooksyne, I call you Brooksyne because I feel you are my friend. On December 26, 2007, when I went to bed I felt very, very ill. I kept thinking of you praying for me at Faith Community with your arms around me. I walk in faith for my recovery…..Thank you for your prayers, they gave me the courage that I needed.”
When we visited Sara’s church a week ago Sunday I prayed that I would see her again. Sure enough, there she was, looking much better than in December and she sat in the front row instead of the last. When Sara saw me she lit up and repeated the story she had written in the card and told me that the mental picture of my arms wrapped around her reminded her of God’s presence during her fiery ordeal in December and kept her from making the 911 call she would have otherwise made.
In our Scripture text Samuel is confronting Saul with his partial obedience. Yes, he did follow the Lord’s command in part but that was not enough. God wanted Samuel’s full devotion, not just a partial commitment or selective obedience. To offer a sacrifice but to ignore God’s voice is simply going through the routine but not applying one's heart. This was such an insult to God that He stripped Saul of his kingly title as a result of his partial obedience.
God wants our whole heart in the midst of our spiritual sacrifice. Most of our readers have been going to church for so many years we don’t even see it as a sacrifice – it’s instinctively in our schedule and it’s a major part of our Christian culture. But I challenge you to go beyond the routine of church attendance and consider the sacrifice God wants from you. Do you go to church simply for what you will get out of it? So that you can assess the quality of the pastor’s sermon? Do you go just to critique the selection of music, judge its style or tempo, etc? Is it certain friends, personalities or programs that keep you going back?
Or do you ask yourself, "How can God make me a blessing today?" Do you seek to remember those who’ve been undergoing trial and make a checklist in your heart about how you’re going to seek them out – shake their hand, give them a hug, assure them of your prayers, or even better, offer a prayer on their behalf upon greeting them. Best of intentions are often forgotten when we say we’ll pray but our minds drift to other matters once we leave the building.
I tell the above story about Sara because it reminds me of the importance of seeking out those who might need encouragement, prayer, or just a word to let them know their presence is important. It doesn’t have to be in a church setting since God wants to use us wherever we are to reach out to needy people. Their inner needs may be masked or they may be revealed in their countenance. Don't go simply by what you see, but ask God to lead you. Perhaps you won’t get a warm follow-up note as I did from Sara, but you will have the reward of the Lord Jesus saying to your heart: “Your obedience is the sacrifice you offer to me. Well done good and faithful servant!” What better reward can that be!
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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