By Ron Courter (Excerpt from Article Originally Printed August 31, 1985)
Our last reflections were upon Samuel’s growth and the role ministering had in that growth. We also considered the role of ministering in spiritual growth today. We must lament the void of ministry found among us today. It is sad how few Christians are alert to sharing and meeting the needs of fellow saints and their opportunities to strengthen the church. Do our sisters pick up the telephone and say let us take lunch to an elderly person, a widow or a sick saint these days? Not enough. Do our brothers pick up the telephone and call, saying, let us visit the family missing more and more of the assemblies? Not enough. Do the young members say let us make an arrangement to sing at the local rest home? Not enough.
We cannot completely answer why ministering is lacking, but let us call attention to some definite reasons. It is evident we have a poorly developed perception of the Biblical role of the Christian in the local church. The specialization of the world has been rubbing off on us for years in huge doses. If you do not believe this last statement, listen to conversations regarding what members think is the work of the preacher today and what members think they are not capable of doing for the church. Oh my mighty priesthood of believers, where have you hidden yourself and why???
There is an awesome struggle with idolatry in our midst. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols…?” This truth is known from Old and New Testament teaching. Our problem is discerning the idolatry of the day. Why? Because we think of idols of the hands and not idols of the heart. Now, idols of the heart are not new, for “…these men have set up their idols in their heart… (Ezekiel 14:2).” The selection of wrong priorities due to misplaced affection of the heart and the entanglement of the world leaving no opportunity for Christ is nothing more than idolatry in heart form. Awake, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one and he must be first in the hour of decision. We have lost our wholeheartedness and are unaware of our first love. The trophies that rust and the positions that pass have caught our eye like a people in their youth. We are not a people free of anxiety here. Caution shall not suffice, only repentance. “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things (1 John 3:20).”
When God’s people are not ministering, their improper understanding of salvation by grace through faith is nearby. Misconception here is probably the major cause of so much not being done by the Lord’s people that should be done. Christianity cannot and dare not be reduced to a checklist of items, but must involve an awareness that salvation does not exist without the blood of Christ. Do what you might with all your might and trust in Christ, unworthy servant. The insistence that certain things be done for spiritual maturity and obedience does not make one legalistic as many claim. But an insistence on doing a few things without an understanding of the death of Jesus and the using of the Bible to simply “get around” personal responsibility in the life of the local body is weaving the strands of legalism. Do and boast not; discern, but judge not.
Some of the best advice for the day is serve, serve, then when you are done serving, serve. The cry ‘serve us’ is leaving the local body of Christians desolate. This desolation is too often the result of an undedicated body that wants to believe their problem is not themselves. “But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:26-28).”
Repeatedly, the scriptures view Samuel ministering at an early age. “And the child did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest (l Samuel 2:11).” Again in verse 18, “But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child …” The significance is captured by noting the contrast introduced with the word ‘but.’ Circumstances did not overcome Samuel’s serving. They should not stop us from serving either. But people constantly talk how they would serve, if conditions were only different. This is only talk, unless they are serving at least to some degree at this time. Circumstances do influence us and we lament the hindrances they cause for many, but there is far too much excusing ones self today on circumstances. Circumstances were not given the controlling edge in the church of century one and circumstances should not be given so much lip power in century twenty. It reads, “… And the child Samuel grew before the LORD… And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men (1 Samuel 2:21,26).”
This development was transpiring while sinful events were taking place all around him. The people who grow and who will serve tomorrow are those who are doing the best they can for the Lord today, under whatever circumstances they presently face. True, environments need to be carefully selected and controlled, sometimes they need to be radically changed, but the key factor in growth should be and will always be the truth within us underlined by love of the one who first loved us. There is no spiritual growth without ministry in one’s life.
A different aspect of Samuel’s role in ministering begins in Chapter 3. Those days knew of little revelation from heaven. The Bible reveals times of concentrated revelation and times with little revelation. This is related to the redemptive scheme and the faithfulness of Israel. An overview of miracles in the Bible reveal times of many and times of few. This is no accident, because miracles were primarily tied to the confirming of new revelation (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2: 3,4).
When the LORD spoke to Samuel, the lad thought it was Eli calling. His diligence is very impressive. “And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou callest me…” He continued to go after each call. Eli perceived on the third occasion what was happening and told Samuel when the Lord calls, “… that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD, for thy servant heareth …” When the LORD called, Samuel answered, “… Speak, for thy servant heareth.” We observe another key to Samuel’s spiritual greatness. He was willing to be taught and was fully receptive in spirit. There is not a more noble disposition among men, than that expressed with the words ‘speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.’ We pray the Lord finds this attitude within each of us, as we set before the word of God. Such is the good soil of the parable of the sower. Such are the more noble of Berea. Truth is powerful and the word of God can do all that needs done, but not with a hindering attitude in the hearer. Why? The kingdom is for whosoever will. Samuel served in his youth and when time came to hear and minister the word more fully he grew. Why? Because his attitude was speak Lord, for thy servant heareth. Here is the key to a man of God. He must serve and he must hear. He must hear and he must serve. He who serves before he tells will be heard best.
Foretelling for the Lord must go beyond readiness to receive. There is the responsibility of telling and telling it all. Samuel was given the awesome task of telling Eli the fate of his house. Samuel feared to tell Eli the message. This statement needs appreciation. Truth must be told, but woe to him who has no feelings for those he must tell. Please read 1 Timothy 5:1. Eli again prompts Samuel properly. “… I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and
more also, if thou hide anything from me of all the things that he said unto thee.” People in flesh are not without fears, but Christians must learn what to fear first. The pretending we do not have fears can stop. But we must learn to face our fears, know what is to be feared and in what order. Then we can overcome them through faith. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Samuel told every whit and hid nothing from Eli. Yes, Samuel was ready to hear, but he also accepted the responsibility of hearing the Lord. He declared the whole counsel of what was revealed. We hear here the words of a great preacher of later centuries. “Wherefore I take to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God (Acts 20:26,27).” Read 1 Samuel 12:1-5.
Samuel was willing to minister, willing to receive the word of the Lord, appropriately hesitant to speak, courageously spoke and declared completely the message when time came to speak. These facts in Samuel’s life help us to understand the nature of he who tells the word of the Lord well unto all men. It is more than power of tongue, but of disposition and living. It is more than thinking for yourself, but of hearing the Lord’s thoughts. May the Lord grant us who teach and preach to blend such principles into our lives and may we permit Him the opportunity to do that very thing.
1 Samuel 3:19 contains a great message. “And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and God let none of his words fall to the ground.” God never lets his people down. Although, he does not confirm miraculously today (Acts 4:29,30), he is still confirming us (1 Corinthians 1:8,9). Death cannot take the victory of the true message away (Revelation 20:4). Now, we understand why Samuel was established a prophet from Dan even to Beersheba. May God establish his people from village to village and from sea to sea. He can, he has, and he will, but we must serve, hear, fear and tell the whole truth.