A Means to an End
Is God someone that you absolutely trust? Or is He just "a means" to your end?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Let me tell you about my favorite invention on the automobile
Actually, it’s my second favorite.
My favorite invention has to be when your car dings at you as you’re getting out of the car if you forgot to shut your lights off
But in a close second, is the fact that many cars that were made within the last 10 years have electronic service plans built into them.
I’m by no means an expert on cars, so for much of my life my plan for taking care of my cars could be summed up by the following philosophy: “When something breaks, take it in”
But with my 2008 Honda Civic for example, every time I’m scheduled to get an oil change, it will also pop up with a maintenance minder,” which tells me that I’m over 125,000 miles, so thus I should get ____”
And it’s awesome.
And it saves the consumer money over time because you’re being PROACTIVE in taking care of your car, rather than REACTIVE
Well, this morning, I want to talk to you a bit about proactive and reactive spirituality.
And to do so, we’re going to continue in our Monarchy series by studying 1 Samuel in the Old Testament in the Bible.
If you’ve been out of town some this summer, or you’re visiting for the first time today, we are in the early days of King Saul’s reign.
Saul is the very first king of Israel in the Bible.
We’ve seen him do some good things, and today…we’re going to see him do some bad things.
(1 Samuel 13:1-15) – NIV
Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years. 2 Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Mikmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes. 3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!”4 So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal. 5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. 11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel. Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.” 13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” 15 Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.
So this is kind of an interesting passage.
And a hard one to figure out at first glance.
It all starts with King Saul’s son, Jonathan attacking a little Philistine outpost (the Philistines are their enemies to the West)
Then the Israelites all start bragging about how awesome they are for attacking that outpost.
Which is all fun and games until the Philistine army decides to retaliate
And the Philistines come out with 3,000 chariots, 6,000 men in chariots, and foot soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore
It’s like something out of the Lord of the Rings
Where the armies (thanks to the wonders of CGI) tend to go on forever
And this is a problem for Israel.
We’re even told later in chapter 13 that the Philistines have iron weapons, and the Israelites do not
Only Saul and Jonathan do.
The rest probably just have wooden spears.
The world is moving out of the Bronze age and into the iron age.
And so Israel has made a pretty serious mistake by attacking the Philistine outpost.
It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the movie Pearl Harbor (not that I actually have more than 1 favorite quote from Pearl Harbor) J
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a Japanese Admiral is shown saying, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve”
And so Saul and the Israelites are terrified of the Philistines.
They flee…and run and hide in caves and pits
And Saul stays at Gilgal where the great Prophet Samuel is to meet him in 7 days.
And on the 7th day, it seems like Samuel isn’t coming.
Samuel was coming to offer a sacrifice to God, and then give God’s direction on how to proceed…considering there is a massive army on their doorstep.
But when it looks like Samuel isn’t going to make it, Saul gets really nervous.
His men are scattering by the hour…and they could be overrun any day.
Eventually, unable to hold his army together any longer, Saul decides to take matters in his own hands…and he just quickly offers a sacrifice to God himself.
Which, was a terrible decision on a lot of different levels.
For starters, the King wasn’t supposed to offer a sacrifice.
Just the priests…or the prophet Samuel
And just as the burnt offering is wrapping up, it’s now probably the night of the 7th day…guess who shows up (like he said he would!)…SAMUEL!
And Samuel scolds Saul for his actions
So much so that he tells Saul that Saul’s descendants will no longer be the future kings of Israel…someone else (after God’s own heart will be)
This is going to be King David.
A MEANS TO AN END
So what’s SOOO bad about what King Saul did?
Besides the fact that only the priests were supposed to offer the sacrifice?
God is looking at Saul’s attitude and his heart here.
And there’s a lot that’s wrong.
Let’s break it down some more.
Look at Saul’s explanation for what happened in verse 12 one more time
(1 Samuel 13:12) – NIV
12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”
Think about this!
Here’s the King of God’s people
He had been on the brink of war for 7 days
And he hasn’t even thought about asking God about it!
And so when things look darkest, Saul turns to God and uses him.
And by the way, the Bible is not describing a new person calling out to God for the first time.
Or even a person who has been away, and is now calling out to God with a humble heart.
Saul is simply using God as a means to an end.
God is just something Saul is using in the moment to accomplish what HE (Saul) ultimately wants to happen…victory
Saul thinks, “Hmm…things aren’t going well…my troops are leaving by the minute…Samuel’s supposed to come and do a sacrifice and he’s not here……”
And out of fear…Saul just quickly does the sacrifice himself…thinking maybe that will maybe keep his men around and God will now help them win the war…
But in Saul’s fear, he’s just using God…using spirituality…as if it’s some sort of magic charm.
And God’s not going to have a king that operates that way
And as crazy as it sounds, we do this too.
Let me explain this in an interesting way.
Let me talk to the father’s for a moment.
Some of you have daughters who are old enough to get married…but they’re not married yet.
Or maybe you will have a daughter old enough someday…so play along like it’s the future.
When your daughter meets a guy…you probably would like it if that guy came to you, and asked permission to marry your daughter
But what if…he asks your daughter first…they get engaged…and then they come to you and say, “Daddy! We’re engaged! We’d love your blessing on this marriage!”
Well now, that’s totally different than asking your permission.
Asking your permission is like asking, “Can/should I go forward with this or not?”
Asking a blessing is like: “Hi, I already did this. Please bless and say you like it. P.S. You don’t have a choice” J
And in our spiritual lives, what we often do is seek God’s blessing on choices WE’VE ALREADY MADE!
We’re not really asking his permission, we’re just asking for his blessing.
We’re saying, “God, I’m applying for this job…please bless the interview.”
That’s TOTALLY different than: “God, should I apply for this job?”
Sometimes we don’t ask God…because we don’t want to hear what he might say”
I see this sort of thinking with Christian singles a lot…particular women.
There is a fear of “What if I never get married?”
So many will end up marrying the first guy that really shows interest in them.
And rather than ASKING God, “Should I marry this person?...”
They’re simply going forward with it and ask God to bless it
And see, Saul is doing everything his own way.
He didn’t even ask God if he should attack that outpost in the first place…and look where that fiasco got him.
He’s got a massive army on his doorstep!
And now, rather than just be patient and wait for Samuel to come and give God’s direction, He just grabs a bull, sacrifices it, and is essentially saying:
“God, hurry up and bless this battle we’re about to go have”
Saul has a total lack of faith in God’s ways.
God is no longer someone that Saul completely depends on, but God is only a means to an end for Saul
God is a nice “tool” in Saul’s tool-belt that he can whip out if he needs it.
And for many of us as Americans…this is what God has become for us.
A means to an end.
And the reason that we treat God as a “means to an end” in the first place is because we don’t truly trust Him.
We trust OUR way…
We just want to sprinkle a little God on top to super-charge “our way”
That’s a “means to an end”
OUR WAY IS NOT THE BEST WAY
And of course you could apply this passage to all sorts of people that don’t really know God…
…like people who only pray…or say the Lord’s prayer or something if someone they know is desperately sick…
But I don’t really think that’s who this passage applies to.
Saul is a person who once KNEW God…like you and me…and yet has fallen into a pattern of thinking that their way is working just fine
But our way is not just fine.
What do we know compared to an all knowledgeable God?
And what can we do compared to an all-powerful God?!
Be wary of running ahead of God in your life.
For instance: Maybe you’re married, and the two of you are thinking of having another kid…
Did you ask God?
Or are you just going to ask him to bless it?
Do you see the difference?
One is asking permission/seeking his will
The other is going YOUR way…and asking him to just make “YOUR way go better”
That’s a means to an end…which always comes from a lack of faith in GOD’S ways
Our own ideas aren’t very special if they aren’t God’s ideas.
Think about 1 Samuel as a whole.
All the people wanted was a king!
And now they got one, and their king has messed up and is about to let their entire nation get annihilated by the Philistines.
Turns out their way wasn’t so great after all
DO TRUST THE WORD OF THE LORD
And so we often just use God as a means to an end…an end that WE want.
And we do it…because we foolishly think our way is better.
But we would be so much better off if we would trust God’s ways and trust His Word
This is what God wants from you.
He’s not looking for a self-reliant heart.
He’s looking for a man or woman after his own heart.
That’s what verse 14 said, “The Lord has sought a man after his own heart (King David)…”
And HE will be the future King.
The Lord wants somebody who will just trust Him even if it looks crazy.
It doesn’t matter that there’s a massive army at your doorstep…and all of your friends have deserted you.
No situation is “too hard” for God.
Do you hear that?
Don’t take matters into your own hands.
It makes me think of the story of Gideon in the Bible.
God actually makes Gideon whittle down his army until there were only 300 men left…against a massive Midianite army.
Because God wanted to show that His ways are much higher than ours.
There’s no point in going your own way and asking God to bless it.
His way is always going to be superior to yours…even if it looks crazy (like when he was asking Gideon to keep making his army smaller
We need to trust in God…even in the darkest of days.
Saul doesn’t fail on day 2…or day 5 or 6.
He fails at the end of the final day.
Even if he just would have waited one more hour…Samuel would have made it.
And at the core, he failed to trust in God’s word
And that’s what it was
In verse 13, Samuel says, “You have NOT kept the command the Lord your God gave you”
God is looking for people who will trust Him (And his word, the Bible) no matter what!
That’s why Saul is found wanting here.
He didn’t really trust God.
It was revealed that God was just a means to an end for Him…not a God He trusted His life with.
Saul was a man after his own heart…not God’s heart.
Do you trust God? Do you really trust Him?
Will you trust Him when life gets hard?
What if your life gets really hard?
So what if your life does get really hard?
What if someone in your family (your spouse…even a child) were to unexpectedly pass away? (This happens! We always think it won’t be us, but it happens)
Will you still trust God?
What if you unexpectedly get let go at your job? Will you still trust God?
If God calls you to trust Him with a portion of your finances…will that change if your situation gets tight?
Isn’t that eerily similar to Saul’s mistake?
Saul is saying, “This is an emergency…it calls for me to take matters into my own hands…ignore the command of the Lord…and do it my own way”
But it’s just a lack of trust.
What if your marriage takes a turn for the worse in the next two years?
Will you trust God? Trust Him that you should stay in your marriage? And honor your vows?
Or was God just a means to help you achieve certain ends?
IF we really trust Him…we’ll trust His ways…in ALL things...even if they’re really hard.
The central point of this passage is Saul’s lack of faith.
And often one of the first visible symptoms of a lack of faith…is when we start using God as a means for the end that WE want.
See, we can say that we trust Him…and that His ways are best…but often in our darkest hours…we betray our spoken beliefs.
When it’s the evening of the 7th day, and God hasn’t come, we tend to just go on with out Him.
But never doubt.
Don’t doubt His ways even if they seem mysterious or hard.
So my encouragement to you this morning is to start walking a different path.
Most of us are on the following path:
We LIVE like we are in charge…like we absolutely know what’s best…and if we should get into a bind…we’ll use that “God thing” to help us get out of it
But that’s using God as a means to an end…your end.
But God’s not a means to an end…He is the end.
Walk a different path.
Walk a path where you live like you are absolutely NOT in charge (He is)…
Walk a path where you live like HE absolutely knows what’s best…and you don’t
And thus…you consult Him…on everything
Walk a path where your prayer life is like the cars I mentioned in the beginning.
Walk a path where you prayer life is proactive…not reactive.
And here’s how you can know that you’re making changes in this:
Get in the habit by yourself, or with your family if you have one, where you just pray about a lot of stuff:
You’ll know your making changes in this area if you’re just regularly consulting God about decisions that affect your life.
I just heard a story this week about a guy who got a new job offer.
He was a bit reluctant to take it, but he took it to God…and prayed about it a lot…and he felt like God told him to take it.
And just before he could put in his two weeks at his job, his position was eliminated…with a nice severance package as well.
Trust God…trust his ways.
And you can do it because you know your God loves you.
He sent His son for you!
He loves you…and He wants…and KNOWS…what’s best for you.
So trust Him.
This morning, we are going to take communion together as well.
Communion is a powerful time for us to remember WHO this God is that we should TRUST instead of ourselves.
He’s not just some all wise stoic God sitting on the throne with a long beard
You can trust that He knows what’s best for you…because He’s already demonstrated How much He LOVES you…
And what incredible lengths He’ll go to show you that.
In the NT, Paul writes this about the reason for communion:
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26) – NIV
23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
We can trust in this God so much because He sent his one and only Son to die on a cross for us!
And if we believe in Him…He will forgive everything we’ve ever done!
And so we want to remember that this morning.
But Paul also writes in this passage that we ought to examine ourselves before taking communion.
To 1) not do it in vain. To only do it if we truly believe it. And if you’re still just seeking, that’s ok. You’re on a journey. 2) Communion is an opportunity for believers to examine themselves (ask yourself some tough questions)
In the back, there are 2 tables….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice. When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice.
However, take some time to examine yourself before you go back.
Sometime to remember what He’s done and what He will do
And when you’re ready, at any time during the next few songs (if you need to wait, wait), you can go back and take communion.
If you would like to pray while you’re back there, we encourage you to do so. With each other, by yourself, or our prayer team will be in the back to pray for you as well (POINT THEM OUT)
We really just want you to encounter God during our service.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.