Lie #4 – “A life filled with worthy activities will give me contentment.”
Over Easter week-end a few years ago our family went to stay with my mother-in-law. And, as tradition we went to my mother-in-law’s church to celebrate the holiday. Unfortunately I was not celebrating as I left the church that morning because the sermon delivered made me cringe. In a nutshell the main message spoke that morning was: “Sit down today and write your epitaph – do great things for God! Make your life a legacy.”
Are you wondering what made me cringe? Well, compare that command with the next scripture verse I have written out below.
“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22b
If I were to sum up the first part of the above admonition declared by the prophet Samuel, which was directed toward King Saul over his arrogant disobedience of God’s direct command, I would state it as the following: Only obedience is counted towards our faith. We need to remember our grandest ideas, not matter how holy and worthy they look to the world and seem to us, do not add up to anything in the kingdom of heaven if we do them instead of a command God had given us.
Now let’s move onto the second part of the verse from 1Samuel which transitions from obedience into heeding. If you were to look up the Hebrew definition of the word heed in this specific verse you would find that it equates to the term “prick your ears”, basically to ready your ears in such a way that they are on the alert. Then the verse gives an indirect correlation (as it did with obedience and sacrifice) with the “fat of rams”.
OK, if you do not know the significance of the “fat of rams”, here is a very short lesson in Levitical law. The fat of the ram was considered the choicest burn offering that could be offered up to the Lord, so to Saul in hearing this correlation he would have understood the priority Samuel was giving heeding/intently listening.
Now, in light of what we have already covered, consider these scripture:
“Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesized in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:6-8
What great truth and insight the Word of the Lord gives to us to combat the lie we are talking about today. Don’t the words of Jesus from Matthew 7 just hit you to the core? I sure do not want to be on the receiving end of that reprimand when I stand before my Lord and I am sure you don’t either.
So, what are we to do? Well, that is where the verses from 1 Samuel, Hosea, and Micah are needed to shed some light for us. Here are some of the Hebrew definitions of the key words in those last two verses:
- “mercy” = the Hebrew’s closest word to “grace”
- “knowledge of God” = knowing God (not facts, but rather an experience – if you want to understand that concept a bit better check out my blog from January 28th entitled “Knowing Leads to Eternal Life”)
- “do justly” = live by the law God has set
- “love mercy” = have affection to gifting grace
- “walk humbly” = live in a lowly manner
These 5 things that Hosea and Micah say God requires of His servant completely miss the mark in relation to what our world calls a worthy calling. There is no personal gain, no way to boast in our accomplishments, and no way to make sure that we get our fair share. No accolades, no merit badges and no glowing praise to boost our ego, yet no way to become prideful.
You may recall a man from the bible who had much to profess as the way of accolades and merits. Hear what Paul had to say about them:
”If anyone things he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, for the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the day, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith…”Philippians 3: 4b - 9
Sound familiar to the previous verses we went through together above? Paul comes to the conclusion that above all he could earn on the earth through his own associations and actions that “being found in Christ”, his ability to abide, and “righteousness..from God by faith” were the greatest things to be gained.
If you have been with me all this week, these truths should sound familiar because we have already talked about how abiding and faith lead to joy/completeness/restfulness.
The summation of the truths we have just covered to counteract the lie we are talking about today is this: Empty personal gain falls outside of the will of God and keeps us running in circles trying to do “good things for God”. Seeking ways to add leave a legacy of good deeds is not what God commands us to do, rather He desires for us to seek His will and live humbly for Him, which in turn will leave a legacy of His glory. In this pursuit you will find true rest because it only requires abiding and faith.
So again, back to my lessons from our house sale. The year we sold our home I felt God impressing upon me to drop out of all activity in our church. On the outside it looked like I wasn’t carrying my weight for the church body. Yet, as I prayed I sensed that God was preparing me, my family, and our church for the upcoming separation He knew would be coming. In the end, God did move us further away then it was possible for us to continue being part of that particular body of believers and the transition was much easier on everyone because I had been obedient.
This call from God to exhibit obedience over sacrifice, was a lesson I had many issues with previously in my walk with Him, and it was comforting for me to see how my past struggles in this area paired with reminders of God’s unfailing provisions during those times made it much easier this time to just step back and not question God on His decision.
You see I used to be the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Area Coordinator for MN, ND and SD, providing leadership training and oversight for all of the MOPS groups in those states. Unfortunately, I have to admit, I placed a lot of my contentment on the accomplishments I made doing that ministry. After two years of serving in that position, God clearly spoke to me that my time was up and He desired for me to step down. So, I stepped down just expecting God had a bigger and more worthy assignment for me (hear the pride in that line of thinking?). But, every time I prayed for God to show me this new assignment all I heard was “Be still and know that I am God.”
Instead of what the world calls a worthy calling of prominent ministry, the Lord led me to mentor a wonderful woman from Bulgaria into a saving relationship with Jesus, he also called me work with a group of young women who were all battling depression, I mentored my babysitter and saw her fall in love with the Jesus she only had knowledge about before we started meeting, I finished my spiritual counseling training, and I walked a close friend through a difficult transition.
Oh God is so good to break us of our strongholds! AND, I will let you know that not until I found contentment in being still and just finding rest in God did I get a call for another speaking engagement or an inquiry regarding a new direction for public ministry.
Today, if you are feeling rather small in this big world remember that your legacy is not for you to fabricate. God alone has numbered your days. Take time to rest in His legacy that has no beginning and no end by abiding in a relationship with Him and faithfully and humbly following wherever He leads.
Tomorrow is our last day, with one more lie to disprove. I look forward to sharing with you more of the lessons that God has been so good to share with me. Until then.