In 1 Samuel 28, King Saul’s fear and insecurity rear their ugly heads as he faces the Philistine army. He had already lost the assurance of God’s protection, and he was scared of everything—the future, going bankrupt, losing his status, what others thought of him. But what he didn’t know was that these feelings of fear and jealousy were indicators that he was out of fellowship with God.
In his lack of communion with God, Saul was met with silence. Time and time again, he tried to hear from the Lord, but time and time again, the Lord didn’t answer him. God had shut out Saul from his direction. That’s a terrifying place to be.
In his attempts to save himself, Saul visits a medium—i.e. a fortune teller—and has an encounter with the deceased Samuel (probably). Samuel asks why Saul has disturbed him, to which Saul replies, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do” (28:15 ESV).
The reply Saul got was true, but it wasn’t what he wanted. Nor did it fill him with courage. Samuel’s response: “Tomorrow you and your sons will be joining me here in the land of the dead” (v. 19).
What is going on here?
Saul was so desperate to know what God wanted him to do that he missed God completely. He wasn’t interested in knowing God. He only wanted God’s protection from the Philistines to preserve himself. So he resorted to tactics he knew to be sinful, because God’s will had replaced God.
The truth is that God never promises that following him will keep us from failing. Rather, he tells us that in all things—success or failure—he will sustain and be enough for us, and he will use our lives to bring glory to him.
Like Saul, a lot of Christians today make an idol of finding out God’s will. They may not actively visit fortune tellers or pray to demons to do it—though New Age spiritual practices like this are on the rise, even in churches. More likely, they put all of their energy into knowing God’s will instead of knowing God himself. They’ll use Scripture verses for encouragement and peace of mind, but they’ll never read the Bible to know for themselves what God truly wants for their lives.
These people are religious, but like Saul, they’re only using God for what they think they can get from him—some kind of guarantee against failure in the future.
But the truth is that God never promises that following him will keep us from failing. Rather, he tells us that in all things—success or failure—he will sustain and be enough for us, and he will use our lives to bring glory to him.
Should we seek God’s will? One hundred percent, yes. We should even be active in it, praying for guidance and provision wherever God sends us. But we should do so knowing that our lives aren’t given to us for the purpose of success; they’re given to us to be used by God for his purposes.