My toxic trait is laziness.
It’s not exactly what you’re thinking. It’s not like I lay around, choosing not to get up and do things. My laziness kicks in at a certain threshold of effort. After I’ve worked exactly this much, I declare I’m too tired to go any further.
Could I? Probably. Will I? No. But it’s okay, I tell myself. This was the best I could do.
F for effort
Just about everyone in 1 Samuel 2 is better than me, then, because it’s a chapter filled with activity.
Hannah has dedicated her only son, Samuel, to God and composes a song of praise.
Samuel officially moves in with Eli the priest and starts helping him and learning from him.
And even Eli’s sons are busy – though not in a good way.
Imagine if your pastor had adult sons who were stealing tithes and offerings and sleeping with every young woman they could find in the church.
That was Hopni and Phinehas.
They were the priest’s sons, but they were not good men. They ran wild, hurting people in the process. And what did their daddy do about it?
He sat them down for a talk. “Why do you do such things?” Eli scolded. “The report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. If you sin against God, who will intercede for you?” (verses 23-25)
His questions were pointed. His anguish was real. His sons didn’t listen, but Eli had tried. It probably took a lot for him to do that. He had done his best, right?
Right, our hearts whisper back. We are all sinners just trying to make it and we can’t be perfect. God knows our hearts. He sees our effort. He knows we tried, and that’s all He asks of us. We are good enough Christians. We’re going to be okay in the end.
But God’s response to Eli suggests that maybe this is not true.
God does not pat Eli on the back. He does not offer him a shrug and a smile, or say “good effort!”
God rebukes him. He rebukes Eli and his whole family. He says that for their sin, they will be cut off from His priesthood. He will put them to death, and strike their offspring with poverty.
And with these words, God sends us a strong message.
Our hearts are deceitful. They soothe us into complacency, reassuring us that we are pretty good people and that’s all we need to get by. They excuse our sins and convince us that God does too.
And they do it by mixing truth with error. Because God certainly knows our hearts. The problem is that we don’t.
“I am capable of so much better than your best. But you have to let Me in.”
The solution to this problem is not to try harder. Our next step is not to grit our teeth, pull out the legalistic checklist, and try to earn our way into heaven and God’s good graces.
The solution is much simpler than that. And in some ways, it’s harder: surrender.
Surrender is a difficult concept to wrap my head around. It’s a topic we all need to study. And the Bible shows us that one of the things at the core of surrender is humility.
Surrender means admitting how badly we need God to change us.
Surrender means acknowledging that we can’t help ourselves by ourselves.
Surrender means letting go of our right to make all of our decisions.
Surrender means asking God to take complete control of our lives.
Because when God is in control, we aren’t doing our best. We’re letting God’s power and righteousness enter our hearts, transform them, and make them His best.
It’s not easy, but it is the least we can do. And God will do the rest.
What do you think? Are you doing your best or does God have control?