Spare the Best, Lose the Rest
I finished Kisses from Katie (Howard Books, 2012). Where I couldn’t put it down, now I can’t shake it. Like a pebble in my running shoe, conviction demands my attention. I can’t walk away from it without taking action because with every step, the pebble reminds me there’s something that needs my attention. Something God wants me to do in response to what He impressed on me through her story. The discomfort He’s allowing in order to bring about conformation to His will.I think I know what God is trying to show me. What He is asking me to surrender to Him. What He is trying to expose about my habits and affections, areas of my life He desires to alter.I want so bad to surrender everything, to live like Katie, totally abandoned to Christ. When I picture it in my mind, I can actually feel the anticipated joy I know it would bring. Not the joy of getting something I really want in this world, but the joy of being smack in the middle of God’s will, holding nothing back, and experiencing the fullness of what He has for me because I’m right where He wants me to be doing what He wants me to do.I see myself in the story of King Saul in 1 Samuel 15. God tells him through Samuel to utterly destroy the Amalekites, killing “both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (verse 3) as punishment for ambushing Israel when he left Egypt.Saul almost obeys, but not quite. “He and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed” (verse 9).They kept what they deemed too valuable to destroy.I do the same thing. I don’t have any problem giving up the things in my life I despise and find worthless, but when it comes to the things I value and enjoy, I hang on.And I offer God consolation obedience, convincing myself that whatever I am doing is somehow an acceptable alternative, reasoning away my rebellion. Like Saul did.
Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed” (verses 13-15).
Let me console You, Lord, with what I think is an even better idea!But look at what Samuel tells Saul:
Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king (verses 22-23).
What do we lose because of our rebellion? What do we miss out on because we don’t want to do exactly as the Lord says?The Lord may not reject us as His children, but what does He want to do in, through, and for us that we’ll never experience because we aren’t fully surrendered to the point of complete, unhindered obedience?I’m tired of being stirred but unmoved. I don’t want to read God’s word, hear a sermon or a story like Katie’s and find myself challenged and convicted but unchanged.I feel like a parent determined to exact correct behavior from myself with an iron fist, like I sometimes attempt to do with my children. Sure, I can force my will on them and somehow force the behavior I want, but that’s all I’ll get. Behavior. Isn’t the goal a heart change, though, and because something changes in their hearts, their behavior changes as a result?That’s what I want in me! I don’t want to do the right thing because I’m forcing myself to. I want to do the right thing because the Lord has changed my heart.Conviction isn’t enough. There has to be repentance. I must turn from my sin and head in a completely different direction, higher with God, to the place He wants me.Feeling stuck, I remember God’s words to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).Thank You, Lord.I remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”I’m ready for the next glory, Lord.Are you?Lord, align our hearts with Your will and ways. When our flesh spares the “best” and we console ourselves with partial obedience, convict us. We thank you for Your grace and Your perfect strength. Please forgive us for our rebellion and stubbornness as we become more wholly Yours today.