We all have to learn how to serve God. It does not come naturally to us. We start our journey with God from a position of nothingness. God does not call us because of our talents, our possessions or because we are ready to serve Him. We were dead in our sins and trespasses. God’s salvation is a result of His mercy and grace not because we are worthy. It is from this position of complete lack that we begin our life with Jesus. There is nothing wrong with being a “baby Christian”.
In order to follow God as He intends we must be taught by God and by others how to serve others like Jesus did. It is not just a flip of a switch in many ways. Most of us don’t go from completely lost to a selfless servant in a moment. It often involves trial and error and many hours of watching others serve before we understand what they are doing and why. We are saved in a moment but it takes time getting to know Jesus and just learning before we can understand how to walk like He did.
If we look at the life of Samuel we can see an excellent example of this process lived out in his life. Samuel’s mom, Hannah, is a wonderful woman of God. When she is first introduced in the Bible she wants nothing more than to have a son but has endured years of barrenness. After years of struggle and pain, she makes a vow in her prayers that if God would give her a son she would dedicate that boy to the Lord’s service for his whole life. After Samuel is born when he about 4 years of age, he is taken to the Temple in Jerusalem and given over literally to the service of God. It is here that we see our picture of the discipling and maturation process.
Though Samuel would grow to be a great prophet, when he is dropped off at the Temple he is a regular old 4-year-old. He is not much more than a baby. Hannah may have made little Temple robes for him, but Samuel is not ready to act as a priest or prophet. He is a little boy with very little idea of what God has in store for him or how to do anything. He was likely of very little practical use in the temple for the first few years growing up.
As Samuel grew older, he remained around Eli the High Priest and other men who were serving God and learned what it meant to serve God. Eli was certainly an imperfect example but if we have discernment sometimes these flawed people are the best lessons for us. We see what not to do as clearly as we are told what to do. God was certainly working on Samuel as well. He was dedicated to God and spending his life with more mature servants of Christ learning. The Bible also says that Samuel was ministering to God during his youth. He was doing what he could do as a young boy to serve the Lord.
He may not have been doing much more than sweeping the floor but he was doing it in service to the Lord. This simple service to God within his abilities prepared him for the much greater tasks later in life.
Samuel is eventually called as a prophet directly from God. Even here, we see God’s working on Samuel and teaching him how to serve. Samuel is sleeping in the same room with Eli when God speaks to Samuel for the first time as a prophet. Though he is believed to be 11-12 years old, Samuel is still so young in the Lord that he thinks it is Eli calling him. Samuel goes and wakes up Eli to ask him what he wants.
God is speaking to Samuel directly, God to prophet, and Samuel doesn’t recognize God’s voice. It takes older, wiser Eli to help him along his way. He points Samuel to God and tells him to listen and do what God says. Great advice, no matter the circumstances. God calls Samuel to his ultimate calling as a prophet. Eli helps him along his path to get there. God leading and teaching with Eli helping.
Samuel is going to do great things for the Lord. He is going to be a prophet, a judge and a priest. He is going to anoint two kings and hear the voice of God. Yet, when God first calls him to service at 4 years of age he is barely capable of feeding himself. He is none of the things that he will be. It takes growth, patience, and teaching from men of God and from God Himself to make Samuel the amazing servant that He will become.
This is the same process that each of us must go through in our lives with Jesus. When Jesus saves us we are all in the same position as young Samuel on the day of his arrival at the Temple. We are ready, willing and may even have the right clothing but boy do we have a lot to learn. We need time spent around other mature believers doing what we can while watching and learning what it means to serve the Lord. When the Lord is ready, he will call each of us individually to step out of our time of immaturity and follow Him in our own specific calling.
It is a lot like learning to ride a bike. We first watch others and are told how to stay upright. We then have training wheels. This is followed by Mom or Dad running along beside us holding us up until we are ready to stay up on our own. Soon we are zipping about and getting up the nerve to trust our balance and jump off the curb.
Serving the Lord is a learned skill.
It takes growth in the Lord that follows time spent with Jesus. It comes after walking with Jesus and doing whatever we are able to do at that point for God. It is helped by spending our lives with others who are also seeking Jesus and watching what they do.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul is not disappointed with the Corinthian church because they are drinking milk and not meat. Everyone has to start like babies and drink milk. It should just be the starting point for growing into a great life of service to the Lord wherever we may be called.
We all start as babes in Christ. Let us grow into our roles as prophets, priests, and servants.