Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Am I Not More To You?

Am I Not More To You?
1 Samuel 1:1 - 2:21

The story of Hannah is found in 1 Samuel, and tells the story of Hannah being the wife of a man to whom she can bear no children. Hannah is barren and other women mock her for her “womb being closed”. She is loved deeply by her God and her husband, but the fact that she could not have a child plagued her. Hannah would weep uncontrollably, and often go without food. One day, her husband asked her, “Am I not more to you than 10 sons?” [1 Samuel 1:8].  The very next scene is Hannah in worship before God, still pleading for a son.

The story is a great one because the outcome is that God gives Hannah a son named Samuel who becomes a great prophet. However, if the outcome was the only point to be drawn from this, the story would start with Samuel’s birth. Yet, it doesn’t, it begins with Hannah.

I had to ask myself if God is enough for me. If my prayers are never answered the way I want them to be; if the church I pastor never becomes what I dream for it; if those that I disciple never see the potential Christ has for them; and, if the lost people I love never meet Jesus; is God enough?

God are you not more to me than all this?

We often read historical accounts as disconnected stories that only serve as background for what God “really wants to say”, rather than reading them as Spirit-breathed words meant for us to read in their own context and setting. The story about Hannah is also a story about a priest named Eli, who has wicked sons who also “serve” God at the Tent of Meeting. However, they steal, extort God’s people, and sin with the women who come to worship. What eventually happens is that God judges Eli and his sons for continuing to take from God what is not theirs to take. 

The same thing thing could be asked of Eli and his sons. Was God not enough for them? Was what God had blessed them with not enough to satisfy them? Were they not satisfied with their place before God? The answer for them, similar to Hannah, was no. What God had provided was not enough.  

Now there is one huge difference in the two parallel stories. In the case of Hannah, what her heart longed for drove her to pursuing God for it. Her heart was unsatisfied, but she brought her cares directly to God. Through tears and fasting we find Hannah always before God in worship and petition. 

This is not so with the sons of Eli. What their hearts longed for they stole and extorted. Their longing for things that God had not given them caused them to sin. This makes all the difference in the the story. God blesses Hannah with Samuel, but God judges the priest and his sons and removes them from ministering.

  1. What does your heart long for?

In our hearts we all long for something that we do not have. Maybe if we are a young man or woman, we long for someone to spend our life with, someone we can love and will love us back. Maybe if we are sick we desire healing. If we are without work, we desire work. If we are lonely, we desire love. If we have, often we want more. Our hearts all long for something that God has not provided.

As a pastor, I often find that I long for things that God has not yet blessed me with. It is too easy to look at other pastors and desire their gifting, their budget, or whatever. All the things that look so appealing from the outside stir in my heart, and I find myself unsatisfied with what God has given me. It hurts to say this out loud, but it is still true, and honesty must come before repentance. 

It is this place, when our hearts long for what God has not given us, that we must search deep within our hearts to see how we are responding.

  1. Does the longing of your heart cause you to worship, or cause you to sin?

Hannah longs deeply for a son, but her longing drives her to worship. She weeps and fasts, as she cries out to God. Hannah gives the desires of her heart over to God. She worships God for years with no answer. 

The sons of Eli, on the other hand, allow their desires to become sin. They sin to achieve what is in their hearts. Eli, their father, calls them to repent, but to no avail. Their hearts are corrupted by their longing, and God judges them for their sin. 

As a pastor this stands as a strong warning to me and to all who are in ministry. However, this is a challenge that we all face. We all want something we don’t have. We all desire something to be different. The question is how we respond to it. Does our desire cause us to worship or to sin? 

Is God enough to satisfy your heart?