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Inspiration for Today’s Motivational: “Stare Master”

In this episode, we see the Cutie Mark Crusaders doing something they’re not supposed to. They’re being watched by Fluttershy, it’s late, and they should be staying in bed and out of the Everfree Forest. Yet they end up heading out and venturing into the dangerous woods in the middle of the night anyway. And why? Because they figure Fluttershy will be more proud of them finding her missing chicken and bringing her back, not to mention getting their special talent for “chicken wrangling”, than she would be if they told her about the missing chicken and stayed put.

That’s something I’m guilty of and I’m sure many of us are guilty of: being told we’re supposed to do or not do something, and then finding an excuse, either consciously or subconsciously, that somehow the better thing to do is the opposite of that, and acting on that impulse.

The big Biblical example I can find of this is way back in the first book of Samuel in chapter 15. In that chapter, the first king of Israel, Saul, was ordered by God to carry out “the Ban” on the city of Amalek; which involved taking everything that was of value, which included sheep and oxen (because, for a nation based on herding like the Old Testament Israel, these were effectively the true “wealth” that most people possessed), and destroying it rather than retaining anything for private use or plunder. However, once the time came to carry it out, Saul and the soldiers with him saw that a lot of the sheep and oxen looked rather fat and nice and would make good additions to their own herds. So rather than carry out the Ban on anything that had any value, Saul got an idea. They’d go ahead and keep that stuff for themselves with the understanding that these would be “sacrifices for the Lord”. God likes sacrifice to him after all, right? Especially if it’s something rather good? (Keep in mind, in the Old Testament, depending on the form of sacrifice, you got to keep part of it for yourself.)

That ended up going rather badly. In 1 Samuel 15:22, the judge Samuel reproved Saul: “But Samuel said, ‘Does the Lord so delight in holocausts and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the Lord? Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams.” Samuel, and for that matter God, would have been upset even if Saul really did intend to sacrifice everything, because that’s not what he commanded. Perhaps somewhere inside Saul, his head probably still swimming a bit from being made king of Israel and the authority it gave, thought he was doing God a favor and that somehow this was good enough to “overlook” what he had failed to do, but the point was it wasn’t the directive God had given him. And as a result, Saul eventually lost the favor of the Lord, his kingship, and his life.

I ask myself if I ever think like Saul. Do I ever hear the Lord telling me to do one thing or talk to this one person or make this change, I find it uncomfortable, and so I pick something else that I think will “make up” for it? Or do I engage in a behavior or vice or sin and then do something good later that I hope will “make up for it”?

As Samuel said, what God desires is obedience to His Will, not trying to end up with a sum total of “good” that outweighs “bad”. What goes hand in hand with that is that God is not looking to “rain on our parade” or go “here’s mud in your eye” when he gives command or warning against sin. God is always looking out for us to become better. He sees what will lead to better outcomes for us and make us “more perfect”. He doesn’t forbid us from doing things to make us unhappy but because he knows those things will make us unhappy or unfulfilled. He also doesn’t tell us to do things that are difficult or even a bit frightening unless he means it both for our good and the good of others. To be able to trust that God knows what is best is a mark of faith, and how the faith is demonstrated is through obedience. It goes hand in hand, and I like to think it feeds on itself.

From a personal perspective, I myself have been guilty of doing things trying to “make up” for deficiencies in other areas. I won’t say I always get it right, but to be sure that when God is telling me to do something I am working in obedience with it and not applying my own “slant”, I know a few things to keep in mind. One is to ask myself if doing “this” instead of “that” will really be what fulfills better work for God, or what will make me feel better. Another is, even if my course of action is producing a “good” outcome, if it will lead to stagnation or if there is something better I could be doing.

Third, and possibly most importantly, is to pray sincerely for a clear heart and motives so that my judgment won’t be skewed and my actions based on anything less than obeying God and carrying out his will.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your command and instruction; both what is included in the Bible as well as what you make clear to us through prayer and fellowship. Help me to discern your Will for my life personally and clearly and give me the courage and strength to carry it out. And when biases or ‘slants’ leak into my heart, or the temptation to try and do something in ‘substitute’ of what your Will is for me, please give me a clean heart and mind so I will clearly see what I am skewing and strengthen me to avoid the temptation of giving you less than what you desire. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”