(PRAY before starting)
Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.2 And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see,3 and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down, 4 that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!” 5 So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”
And he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down.
6 Then the Lord called yet again, “Samuel!”
So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” He answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 (Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.)
8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.”
Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.”
One summer, when I was around 16 years old, a man walked into the pool hall where I was hanging out with some friends. I immediately recognized this guy as a family friend. He approached me and mentioned that someone was waiting outside to talk to me. I didn’t really want to go with him since I was in the middle of a pool game, but he was persistent. However, reluctantly, I agreed to go. Once we got outside, a third person joined us. I didn’t recognize this guy – that is, until he told me who he was; he was my dad. I was standing inches away from my dad and I had no idea who he was.
The same is true with many of you and with many of the people we encounter everyday. God is constantly calling people into a life-transforming relationship and for any number of reasons many people are confused about where that voice is coming from and they are having difficulty discerning the voice of God. What we’ll see in this account of Samuel’s life is that knowing God requires much more than serving. It’s not about how much you do. Knowing God is more than studying. Having a casual familiarity with the Bible doesn’t cut it. We’ll learn why not. In order for us to really know God as He desires for us to know Him, two things must happen. First, He must reveal Himself to us. We need to see God. Second, once He does show Himself to us, we must surrender to His calling. Once we come to the place where we know God as He desires for us to know Him, our lives will forever be changed!
#1 – Serving
The first thing that we can learn from Samuel’s life is that knowing God is more than serving. If you remember the story of Samuel’s life you’ll recall that his mother had dedicated him to the Lord’s service from the time that he was weaned. 1 Samuel 2:18 tells us that “Samuel ministered before the Lord, even as a child…” Hannah, dedicated her child to the Lord, not merely for the child’s good, but for God’s glory. From that time and far beyond, Samuel would assist Eli the priest in the house of God. The logical conclusion is that because Samuel has been serving God for so long, surely he must know God. But there is an interruption in the narrative about Samuel’s life, something we didn’t realize, “Samuel did not yet know the Lord…” (1 Sam. 3:7).
In the book Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission, Darrin Patrick recounts the confessions of a youth pastor and church planter. The youth pastor admitted that his primary reason for being in ministry is because he was a part of “great youth ministry in high school.” Not because Jesus had called him there. Not because he had a passion to see lost youth find new life in Jesus. He went on to say that, “even though he doubted his own salvation, he was already ‘committed to professional ministry’”. The church planter also confessed that he only got into planting churches as a way to “impress his dad” (pg 22).
We may think that because we are involved in the ministry, that because we have volunteered to help with ever new program that we are serving God. Unfortunately, what we will discover – some of us – is that we were never serving God to begin with, we were serving ourselves. All of our good deeds and volunteerism was an act of self-promotion. Am I saying that you gotta stop volunteering, for some of you that may very well be true. Jesus reminds us in (SLIDE 19) Matthew 7:21-23 that not everyone who speaks His name and not everyone who does His work really knows Him; not only do they not know Jesus, but He doesn’t know them. Truly knowing God requires more than service. You can’t just work your way into a relationship with God.
#2 – Studying
Not only is knowing God more than serving, it’s also more than just studying His Word. Again, thinking about Samuel’s life, do you think Samuel read God’s Word? Do you think Samuel had heard about God? It’s highly likely that Samuel and Eli had Bible studies and yet we read in verse 7 that “Samuel did not yet know the Lord”.
If you jump ahead to John’s Gospel 5:39-40 we find Jesus’ own Words; You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. Some of us have committed to having a quieted time everyday, but we have not yet committed to Jesus. We have committed to being in every Bible study possible; but we have not yet committed to Jesus. We are willing to join, host, or lead a K-group, Alpha group, Sunday school, small group, or what have you, but we have not committed to Jesus. Look, I know Jehovah’s Witness and Muslims who are more familiar with the Bible than a lot of Christians. They know the Bible so well that they would make you question your own salvation. But remember, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). It’s possible to know the scriptures, but not know the Savior. We need the Spirit of God in us so that we can understand the Word of God.
In their research on Bible ownership and Bible engagement the Barna group found that,
Being pro-Bible doesn’t necessarily mean Americans use the Bible regularly, however. Only 37% of Americans report reading the Bible once a week or more. Among those who have read Scripture in the previous week, not quite six in 10 (57%) say they gave a lot of thought to how it might apply to their life. While the Bible’s place in America as a cultural icon endures, it’s not always perceived as a transformational text. Even as Bible ownership remains strong, readership and engagement are weak.
Often times we treat God’s Word like a good luck charm, if I just carry a Bible, maybe if I could just get close enough to smell the leather cover of the Bible, or if I just throw a verse in the air somewhere surely God will bless me, He will forgive me and protect me right? But it doesn’t work that way. Jesus said, the Scriptures testify of Him.” The Bible testifies that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17). It testifies that “God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). It testifies that Jesus – the Sinless One – became sin on our behalf so that we could be righteous before God (2 Cor. 5:21). “But you are not willing to come to [Him] that you may have life. The second thing we have to realize is that we cannot know God just by having a casual familiarity with His Word.
#3 – Seeing
You’re probably saying by now, ok Tre, so how do we know God? Great question and I have two answers for you. First, in order for us to truly know God, we must see God. Or to put it another way, God has to reveal Himself to us. Just as I mentioned at the beginning, we can be standing in the presence of God and not know it, in much the same way as I stood before my dad and didn’t know him.
According to 1 Samuel 3:1, the main reason why Samuel “did not yet know the Lord” is because the “Word of the Lord was not yet revealed to him.” However, once God revealed Himself to Samuel, because of God’s prevenient grace, Samuel could know Him. God reveals Himself to us in several ways. Here are just a few:
- Creation: according to Romans 1:20, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” Abraham Lincoln once said,
I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”
- People: Another way that God reveals Himself to us is through people. The Great Commission doesn’t exist without God’s people. This is why we must never be ashamed of the Gospel! We must never forget that as we go in the Name of Jesus Christ preaching Light to those who are lost in darkness the Holy Spirit gives us power and boldness so that we can give a reason for the hope that is in us. Then the prayer of our Lord will be answered, “I do not pray for these alone, but for all those who will believe in Me through their word…” (Jn. 17:20)!
- Bible: God also reveals Himself through scripture. Faith in God comes by hearing from God (Rom. 10:17). That’s why Bible study is important. Being in a K-Group is important. Coming to Sunday school is important. As we study God’s Word we get to know Him. Jesus confesses that eternal life can be found by reading God’s Word. In the Word of God we find the Son of God. This brings us to our final way God reveals Himself.
- Jesus: God reveals Himself through Jesus. Jesus who “…became flesh and lived as we live” (Jn. 1:14). Jesus, the visible image of the invisible God, Jesus, the firstborn over all creation, the Creator of all things. He is before all things and He holds all things together. Jesus, the Preeminent Head of the Church. He is the Redeemer of the lost (Col. 1:15). Knowing God begins with God revealing Himself to us so that we can believe!
#4 – Surrender
Finally, knowing God requires surrender on our part. Three times Samuel heard the voice of the Lord, but he had no idea who was speaking to him. The fourth time, “the Lord came and stood and called” as He had done the previous 3 times. At Eli’s instruction, Samuel responded, “Speak Lord, for your servant hears.” Hearing means that Samuel was listening, from the heart, with an eagerness to obey! At this point, it wasn’t about how much he had done for God, it wasn’t even about how much he had read about God. He was ready to surrender!
Let me close with this true story about how God revealed Himself to a young lady named Vivian.
On June 9th, a friend of mine, who is a missionary with Frontier Ventures, shared this inspiring story about a God-appointed encounter their team had with a young lady named Vivian and how God revealed Himself to her. Listen.
“23 years old, and until today, no one had ever told this dear girl about God’s great love for her. After asking the Lord where to go and who to talk to, we approached her as she sat on her doorstep, unaware of the hunger for God and the readiness we were about to encounter.
Vivian has a tattoo of a two-faced bird on her forearm because ever since a severe trauma took place seven years ago, she has felt like she has two minds (James 1:8). Terrified by the voices in her head and ready to be done with the drugs that only give her temporary relief, today she put her trust in Jesus! Tears streamed down her face as she prayed to him in her heart-language, experienced the presence of God, and received his deep peace for the first time. She said she felt like she had taken off her old self and that she was brand new (2 Cor. 5:17)!
Honestly, what happened today is the most authentic, whole-hearted, visceral transformation I have ever seen. The Lord had prepared her in so many ways for that conversation; all we had to do was show up and be available.
Thank you, Jesus, for your love that pursues. Thank you for bringing your daughter to yourself! Vivian means ALIVE and today Vivian stepped into what it means to be truly alive!!”
Call to Respond
Vivian is not the only one. There are plenty of people who are hearing God’s voice for first time today. Maybe it’s you. Maybe, like me, you have been standing before the Father with no idea Who He is, today He had revealed Himself to you. Will you surrender?