Meditations in 1 Samuel 10. Growth of a ministry
1 Sam 3:19-21 The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word
I realise that I ran out of space in the previous meditation and there really was so much more to be said. For instance, how do you know it is God, is the most familiar question I get asked. First, if it runs contrary to the Bible, it is most unlikely to be God, although on one occasion when we were planning a summer mission for Scripture Union in Wales without any accommodation for a team of seventeen young people I think it was, the Lord spoke to me while walking to work through the streets of the City of London and said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I have prepared a place for you.” In my temerity as a young Christian I answered, “Lord, your word says, “I go to prepare a place for you,” (as if the Lord needed telling what His word said.) With grace He replied, “Son, I have said what I have said.” On the basis of that word, we asked the team, of young people scattered around the country, to tell their parents what the situation was but we felt God had said to go and so we at least would be going. Bless them, they all said they were coming. My wife and I drove to Wales the day before the start of the mission and although the local Citizens Advice Bureau had told us beforehand that all holiday accommodation in the entire area was booked out in these two peak weeks of the holiday, by the time the team arrived at midday on the Saturday we had accommodation for them all, and that mostly all together in a place we then used for the following six years of that Mission.
Samuel we read, “let none of his words fall to the ground” i.e. he held on to every word God spoke. Perhaps that is a key feature of any ministry: we listen to God and hold on to everything He says! Also note the words, “as he grew up”. A ministry takes time to develop, our Christian lives take time to develop. It is not an overnight job; the Lord has to bring changes in us. Maturity is the result of a process, a growing up process. When speaking of God-given ministries to the church, Paul says they are given “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature.” (Eph 4:12,13) It is clear that those words speak of a process that has an end product.
As Samuel exercised his prophetic gifting gradually the people of Israel came to recognize who and what he was. That is an order that follows whether it is in respect of the Eph 4 ministries or of elders or deacons. The individual starts doing what God puts on their heart to do and enables them to do, and the people of God recognize what is already under way. Appointing people to church leadership before they show all the signs of God on their lives, their character and their service, is premature and foolish. This is nothing to do with man-created exams and qualifications, this is all about the working of God in this person’s life. It is something which comes about, something that grows and develops and is recognized. This is what was happening with Samuel.
It is also an ongoing relational thing, a thing with the Lord: “The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.” The Lord continued to interact with Samuel and share His heart with him and it came in the form of Samuel hearing ‘a word’ from the Lord. Thus we then read, “And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.” (1 Sam 4:1) and that is the last we hear of Samuel for a moment while other things happen, but it is a significant verse for it tells us that Samuel’s renown spread and spread so it wasn’t just in the area of Shiloh but across the whole land that he was known as a prophet of the Lord.
Now I emphasise that and this growth of ministry aspect because Israel are about to do something foolish and they get into it without asking the Lord, which is silly because He has given them His mouthpiece, Samuel. It sometimes takes the people of God a while to recognize the channel to heaven that He has given in the local church in the form of a gifting or ministry, and if that is you, be patient, you don’t have to promote yourself, the Lord will do it in due season.
We find this same thing in the New Testament. Of John the Baptist we read, “And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.” (Lk 1:80) Again a process until the time was right for his ministry to be fully revealed in the land. Even more we find it was true of Jesus: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Lk 2:52) The Son of God restricted himself to a human body and therefore had to wait until that developed and grew. It wasn’t until he was about thirty that he moved into public ministry. The Son of God was not frustrated by his waiting period because he knew that there was a time planned for it to all come about.
In your own life, work and pray to grow in the Lord, in gifting and in ministry, but let Him lead the way and open doors and guide you into what He has for you. Remember Jesus is the head of the body and he is the one who directs the body and all of its members. Rest in him, do what he gives you to do, change as he challenges you to change, and let it all come about as his Holy Spirit works in and through you.