The prophet Samuel was second string when it came to ministry. He wasn’t from the priestly tribe of Levi. He had to take a Nazarite vow just to be allowed into temple service. And yet, despite this, he was the one God chose to be a prophet and priest in Israel. Why? Because God doesn’t seek gifted vessels; he seeks surrendered ones.
When God called Samuel, Samuel’s response was, “Speak, LORD, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:9 ESV). This has got to be one of my favorite statements in the entire Bible. Before God even asked the question, Samuel had put his “yes” on the table. That’s the spirit God seeks in his servants. God, I don’t even know the question, but I want you to know my answer: I’m all-in.
Think about how radical that was. Samuel gave God no conditions with his “yes.” He didn’t say, “Yes, God, but …” That’s how we tend to approach God, isn’t it? We want God to give us suggestions about what to do or to say or to believe, but we have a death grip on our veto power, ready to ignore or tweak anything we don’t like. We don’t usually tell God “no”—at least not right away. We tell God, “Thanks for the advice; I’ve got it from here.”
It reminds me of my experience with Driver’s Ed. When I was learning to drive, my instructor had a special car with an added brake pedal on his (passenger) side. So even though I was behind the wheel, the instructor still had that annoyingly powerful brake pedal. Maybe my guy was particularly salty—or maybe I was a particularly unruly student—but every time I did something he didn’t like, he would slam on that pedal. It was never subtle.
What was going on in that car? I was “in control” most of the time, but ultimately, I didn’t get the final say. The instructor had veto power (and he would not hesitate to use it). And if you hold the veto power, you’re still in charge.
That’s a great picture of the way we interact with God. We let him drive the car most of the time. But the moment he does something we don’t want, BAM! Our foot slams on the brakes.
What’s your posture toward God? Is it, God, I’ll say what you want me to say? I’ll follow you, even if it’s uncomfortable? I’ll obey, even when it costs me? Or is it, Yes, but …?
We don’t get to vote on or tweak what God says to make it more palatable—even when the Bible says challenging, or even offensive, things. When we decide that Jesus is Lord, we can’t have conditions. If God says it, and you know he says it, by his grace you’re going to be committed to it.
God wants to use you powerfully, like he did Samuel, but as he did with him, it starts with surrender.