Editor’s Note: The AMI Quiet Times for March 2nd-8th are provided by P. Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
1 Samuel 11:6-14 (NIV):
When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. 7 He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. 8 When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand.
9 They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be rescued.’ ” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. 10 They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you like.”
11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.
12 The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.” 13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.” 14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.
Some years ago, I had a discussion with a friend on whether if would be preferable to have a large ministry whose leaders were powerfully gifted but lacking in character, or to have a small ministry where the leadership was high in character but not as visibly anointed. It was a fun conversation because I think we both knew the right answer. But admittedly, it was difficult not to entertain the thought of being highly successful without having to pay the cost of growing in integrity. In a perfect world, we would want the best of both scenarios—high character leaders impacting large numbers of people with their anointing; but in an imperfect world, you can have one without the other.
In Saul’s first act as king, we see that he leads Israel to a resounding victory over their enemies, the Ammonites. In the process, he appears to be more than a capable leader who is able to rally the people to a just cause, and coming up with a brilliant strategy to ensure the conquest of the enemy. Even afterwards, he shows mercy towards those who questioned his right to be king. On the surface, this appears to be the best possible beginning for the new monarch. Perhaps, the Israelites were justified in asking God to give them a king and that everything would turn out well after all.
However, just because something appears to look good on the surface does not mean that trouble is not brewing underneath. What is even more disturbing in this passage is that Saul is described as being empowered by the Spirit of God to accomplish this specific task of leading Israel into battle. I think this is one of the saddest facts regarding the life of Saul, because even as the Holy Spirit worked through him, the Spirit of God never worked in him. In reflection, given a choice, I realized that having a relationship with God through the Holy Spirit and yielding to His intimate work of inner transformation is more valuable than simply having some powerful gifts of leadership. Remarkably, when we ask for the former, God graciously gives us the latter.
Lord, it is easy to fall into the temptation of success without integrity and character. There are always shortcuts in life. Help me to yield to Your Holy Spirit as He brings about conviction of sin and leads me into the righteousness of Christ. Also, help me to use the gifts of the Spirit to impact people—great and small—and to be faithful with every opportunity that comes my way.
Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 3
Lunch Break Study
Matthew 7:15-23 (NIV)
15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” 23 Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”
Questions to Consider:
- What is the good fruit that is the evidence of a true relationship with Christ?
- How can people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus perform the mighty works described in verse 22?
- What is the end result of doing ministry in the name of Jesus without having a personal relationship with Jesus?
- The good fruit that Jesus speaks of is a life of obedience to God. It doesn’t matter how big your church is or how many miracles you have performed. Without personal devotion and love towards God, these things are actually in vain.
- Not surprisingly, we see many people who don’t have the right motives, using the Spirit of God and the name of Christ for personal gain. There are two possible answers: Like Balaam (Numbers 24:2), God can choose to give His Spirit to non-believers to fulfill His purposes; or these signs could be performed through a deceiving spirit.
- There is absolutely no benefit to doing ministry or good works in the name of Jesus without a saving relationship with Him. The end result is eternal separation from the One whose name was used for selfish desires and to promote personal gain.
In our modern world, it is so easy to judge everything by the outward appearance, and to be tempted by the world’s standards of value and success. In what ways are you attracted to outer success, whether in your choice of churches, career, or even relationships? How can you learn to see through the eyes of God and judge people not by the outward appearance, but by their inward character?