Erin glanced out the living room window. She noticed that the young man next door was working on his car. "I can't believe how much time Steve spends on that car!" she exclaimed to her brother. "He's waxing it--again!"
Tim shrugged. "He just wants to keep it looking nice," he said. The kids watched Steve stand back to view his handiwork and then proceed to polish the same spot several times. Tim grinned. "You have to admit that it looks good."
Several days later, Tim came into the kitchen where Erin was doing homework and Dad was having fun with a new recipe. "Hey, did you hear what happened to Steve's car?" asked Tim as he plopped down into a chair. "He burned up the engine--forgot to put oil in it."
Erin raised an eyebrow. "And that wrecked the engine?" she asked.
"Yep," said Tim. "Right, Dad?" His father nodded. "Steve spent all his time working on the outside of his car--so now it looks nice but won't run," added Tim. "He should have paid less attention to the outside and more to the inside."
Dad nodded, "Good advice for all of us."
The kids gave him a questioning look. "I don't have a car," said Erin. "Tim doesn't, either."
Dad smiled. "No, but it's good advice for handling our lives," he said. "Think about it, Erin. How much time do you take to make sure you look just right when you're going somewhere--and Tim, how much time do you spend exercising to develop a strong body? Compare that time with the time you spend on your relationship with Jesus."
"We go to church and Sunday school all the time, Dad," protested Erin. "We go to Bible club every week, too."
"That's a good start," said Dad, "but I wonder if we always remember to apply what we learn to our daily lives. Are we as concerned about living for the Lord each day as we are about the way we look?."
"But it's not wrong to look good, is it?" asked Erin.
"No," replied Dad, "but we should remember that the way we look on the outside has to do with our lives here on earth. Our relationship with Jesus has to do with eternity. We should carefully consider how much time we spend on each area."
How many of you have heard the saying, "big things come in small packages?" What it means is that the greatest things often come from the least significant or most unlikely sources. We see a good example of this in the passage from 1 Samuel. This passage is part of the story of David's development from the shepherd lad in his father's house to his place as the shepherd king of Israel. This story gives us a picture of how God relates to individuals and nations in order to achieve His purposes for creation. The message is to pay attention to what lies beneath the surfaces of life and to look beyond the obvious and discover God in the unexpected, humble and non-assuming realities of life.
David grew up at a time when leadership was in great demand. The judges came to power and presided over a weak and wicked country for a time, but then the people pleaded with the prophet Samuel to appoint for them a king. As the leadership of King Saul began to fail, the nation worsened. Yet God was at work, preparing David to be king of Israel.
The selection of Saul was initiated by the people, but the selection of David was a divine initiative. The people's choice was a terrible king whose life ended in disaster. God's choice was the ideal king whose life and kingdom reflected a heart for God. It is more important that leaders be appointed by God than appointed by humans.
When each of Jesse's sons passed by, Samuel thought that each one was the one chosen by God, but God rejected each and every one of them. This reminds us that God looks at people, situations and circumstances differently than humans do. This part of God's nature is one that we need to remember more often. We are often impressed by the things we can see with our eyes. We live in a world where physical beauty is more important than spiritual depth, where success in business and in church is defined in terms of material wealth, and where charisma is more important than character. As a result, we often choose leaders on the basis of their image rather than the character or their stand on issues.
Our choices and evaluations are often made on a superficial basis. Many of us have a sense of deep inadequacy. We think we're not good enough or smart enough or faithful enough. We feel that we don't deserve God's love or that we can't do God's work in the world. The good news is that God can and does have a preference for the unlikely, which includes me and maybe you too.
Many of you probably remember the TV series "All in the Family." It aired on TV from 1971 to 1979. There were moments of great insight into human behaviour. In one episode, Edith and Archie were attending Edith's high school class reunion. Edith met an old classmate named Buck who, unlike his high school days, had become overweight. Edith and Buck had a delightful conversation about old times and the things they did together, but Edith didn't seem to notice Buck's weight.
Later, when Edith and Archie were talking, she said in her whiny voice, "Archie, ain't Buck a beautiful person?" Archie looked at her with a disgusted look on his face and said, "You're a pip, Edith. You know that? You and I look at the same guy and you see a beautiful person and I see a blimp." Edith got a puzzled look on her face and said, "Yeah, ain't it too bad?"
The first sermon I ever preached was based on both this passage from 1 Samuel and the parable of the mustard seed. I hope that I am a good example of the message in these two passages. God took me-an ordinary person from Liverpool, Queens County, Nova Scotia, Canada-and has used me to spread the Good News within this Parish, this community, the South Shore, this country and throughout the world through preaching, my blog and my podcast. I serve Him with a heart that is open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
When the Lord describes David in Psalm 89:20, He calls him "David, my servant." God looks for leaders who put other's needs above their own, no matter their station in life. Leaders in the secular world want to know how many people are serving them, but leaders in the kingdom of God want to know how many people they are serving.
God reminded Samuel that He bases His decisions on inward character and the caliber of a person's heart alone. Saul was taller and more handsome than anyone in Israel. He looked like a king. David was less impressive by human standards-and even less so than his brothers-but he possessed the heart of a king. He also had a heart for the true King of Israel, the Lord.
Because God sees the secret intents and motives of every person's heart, He actually does reward those who keep their hearts pure. God could see David's heart, and rewarded him even though Samuel assumed that David would be the least likely candidate for royalty. Similarly, Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders of his day. We don't need the world's approval. We are already the apple of God's eye.
What would happen if we looked at people from God's viewpoint? What if we focused on each person's heart or spiritual condition instead of a person's outward appearance? When we are hurt or insulted, we have to stop and look beyond the words and deeds to the heart of those who have hurt us. What is their story? We may never know their story, but we can ask God to give us His eyes and His heart to see them as He does. He knows what is really going on, what is really driving our prayers. When others see us when we are sad, God sees the pain. This doesn't excuse bad behaviours, but it lets us know we have a God whose forgiveness is based on His understanding of why we did wrong.
His forgiveness is based on the contents of our heart. God likes working with inferior people because they are more likely to understand their success is the result of God's power rather than their own power. His standards are different and much higher than human standards. True wisdom is seeing things the way God sees them. If we want to change the way we feel about ourselves, we must change our thinking. We have to see ourselves as God sees us. Jesus gave all He had. He gave himself, and that's what we are worth in God's eyes.
God could have told Samuel ahead of time what to do and who to anoint, but He didn't. He led Samuel one step at a time, teaching Samuel to continually trust Him. God teaches us the same lessons today. We have to go the Lord constantly for His wisdom. Only God sees the heart. If we want to be blessed by God, we have to take time once in a while to go before God to have our hearts purified and cleansed. If we don't, His blessings will no longer flow to us or through us.
God is looking for committed hearts. Does your heart belong fully to Him? If not, commit it to Him today! God's purpose for our lives comes from His heart of perfect love. We can't see the great things He has in store for us, but we can trust His plan completely if we surrender to Him today and say, "Not my will, Lord, but Yours be done."