Church Life

By Alex Russon / February 20, 2024

Before any church sermon is preached, a prayer is first lifted to God, asking him to make known his will for our lives through the preaching of his word. When listening to a sermon we’re not looking to be entertained, necessarily, although that’s a happy bonus, we’re in truth seeking God’s message for us, discerning his will for our lives. This week our sermon was based on a section from the Old Testament, a scripture from the first of two books named ‘Samuel’ (1 Samuel 2 : 12-26).

The theme was; pressing on in our relationship with God, getting to know him not getting to know about him. It was a message challenging those of us with faith in God to deepen our relationship with him and not let it grow cold. To move closer to him not further away.

It’s perhaps the assumption of many that ‘once a Christian always a Christian’ and that the moment you declare yourself as such, a Ready Brek advert style ring of warm insulation encircles you and you’re set for life. In some ways that’s true, you are indeed protected by God and faith in him ensures his eternal safe keeping, but if all we do is rest in this perceived insurance policy we’re hardly going to grow as people.

Today’s scripture taught us about two different types of believers; the ones who value their relationship with God enough to devote themselves fully to the pursuance of his will and the ones who claim faith but in truth carry on regardless, not really ‘walking the walk’.

Some look to God for guidance, keeping short accounts with him despite the hard times endured and bitter experiences suffered, remaining resolute and steadfast in their trust in him. Others become weary, arrogant and selfish, diminishing God and turning from him when it all gets too much, living out their lives with little or no regard for any opinion but their own. Big fat know its alls! There’s nothing you can tell them, it’s their way or the highway, never mind God and his grand plan.

To ignore God is one thing but to oppose him quite another, that’s when the wheels can well and truly come off. Many of us don’t so much oppose him as behave in lukewarm fashion towards him, kinda believing he’s there in some fashion but not bothering to engage with him in any meaningful manner. Where would you or I place ourselves in that regard? On nodding terms with our creator or enjoying a full-on bear hug?!

You might be surprised to learn that many church goers aren’t really that close to God in their spiritual journeys, not that they’d feel comfortable conceding it. They may attend church on a Sunday but it’s something of a charade really, it’s a comfy social gathering, a chance to rub shoulders with folk in a social setting over tea and tiffin, a cosy wee set up.  Others listen studiously to sermons and liturgy, drinking in the content from the bible and enjoying the academic nature of it, and, like the societal bonding, this too is good. But in terms of getting to know God, truly listening to him and engaging with him that’s not what church represents.

What God wants though is a genuine relationship with us. He doesn’t want us to possess mere head knowledge about him or experience warm, fuzzy feelings when attending various church groups. He yearns for us to get to know him, to fully embrace and enjoy him.

Some of the characters in the story (1 Samuel 2 : 12-26) were caught up in themselves so much that they had no regard for God’s law, they simply made up their own rules rather than diligently seeking God’s will. And the question we’re posed is; are we living that way too? Or do we ask God for guidance? Do we bowl on in a self serving fashion, as De-La-Soul put it, focussing purely on ‘Me, Myself & I’, with no recourse to God, or do we seek to be faithful servants?

Being a servant of God is, in part, to cherish others, but often times, perhaps most of the time, we just don’t feel like serving him through selfless action. Particularly when we’re being oppressed or resented, taken advantage of or insulted. At times like that we don’t want to turn the other cheek or go back for more, but sometimes that’s precisely when our deportment, behaviour and attitude can truly resound. What an example we might be if, despite hostile opposition, we stay faithful, sound and true, exhibiting an integrity and reliability that others may not have. In these moments of challenge God’s strength can come through as he helps us becalm those who’re full of bitterness and anger. To turn the other cheek doesn’t mean to show weakness, it shows strength, demonstrating to those who hurt us that nothing will conquer us that’s not of God. We don’t run for the hills, we stand firm and resolute, facing the music, putting our shoulders back and responding in love. For what’s the alternative? The old ‘if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em’ approach? Falling into line with those who know only bitterness and getting pulled down into the mire alongside them?

No, better to stick with God and his will for our lives. There are consequences when we drift from him; our behaviours change, our habits worsen and when they go unchecked we’re on a downward spiral until the really bad stuff happens. Discipline doesn’t have to be a dirty word, it can be life changing when it’s of God, when he chides and encourages us to live the life he intended for us, the one that’s pleasing to him. If it’s His way or the highway I’m quite happy to leave my motor in an A90 layby and head in his direction instead. Maybe you and I will meet on the way!

1 Samuel 2:12-26 NIV – Eli’s Wicked Sons – Eli’s sons were – Bible Gateway