Finding Clarity in My Calling
Pastor Travis Burkett
1 Samuel 3
I’m a big iPhone user. I have an iPhone, MacBook, iPad, and I used to have an Apple watch. I love how everything syncs together just right. However, one thing I don’t like doing is updating my devices. Working in ministry, I’m constantly on my devices. I get a ton of phone calls and text messages, but I don’t always remember to save the numbers.
A few months ago, our church hired a new facilities guy, and we exchanged numbers, but I never actually saved his number in my contacts. We texted a few times, but I never remembered who was actually texting me. Until I updated my phone - and iPhone saved me because when I received a text from him it said “maybe Tim.” You know, it reminded me of a story in 1 Samuel 3 that I want to talk about now.
Leading students for the past eight years of ministry, I often am asked about our calling. “Where should I go to college?”, “Who should I date?”, “How do I hear God’s will?”, etc. Well, in 1 Samuel 3, the Bible says that Samuel was just a child, and he was working in the temple under the influence of Eli.
The story of Samuel starts long before Samuel was born. Samuel's mother was Hannah, and she was unable to have a child. So, Hannah begged God for a child. God answered her prayers and blessed her with a child, Samuel. She was so thrilled by God’s generous blessings that she dedicated Samuel to the Lord. So much that when Samuel was three years old, she took him to the temple to work/learn. She put him under the leadership of Eli (the priest who wasn’t that great of a guy). The Bible says, “And the word of the Lord was precious in those days” (which means the word of the Lord was rare).
We find a sad reality that the people of God treated sin as normal, God became common, so the word of the Lord became rare in those days. This was the culture in which Samuel was being led and influenced.
What I love about this passage is that Samuel had some things right in his life before God ever called Him. (1) He had a mother who pushed her son to follow God. (2) He was doing what God called him to do in the season that God had him. Samuel’s end goal wasn’t to keep the candle lit, but he was faithful until God moved him to where God wanted him to be.
Look at verses 4-5, “That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down.”
Samuel’s job was serious! He was always on call. He had to keep the lamp burning. So, one day he heard this voice, and boom, “Here am I.” He didn’t see anyone, so he assumed it was Eli. He ran over to Eli, 'What’s up boss, did you call?' Eli said, 'I didn’t call you, go to sleep!' He went to sleep and heard the voice again. (In my mind, Samuel had to be thinking that Eli was messing with him). 'Eli, sir, did you call?' 'NO! Go to sleep!'
It’s a funny interaction, but we see that Samuel was in a position to hear. Let me ask you, how accessible are you to hear from your God? Sometimes we want God to show us the big picture, but we ignore what He does show us in His word. Because being in the will of God is just as much about being who God called you to be today. God has called us to be holy as He is holy. God has called us to be faithful. God has called us not to give in to temptation. God has called us to be salt and light. God has called us to love others. Samuel was ready to move because he was living faithfully daily.
Look at verses 7-8, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child."
As Samuel approached Eli the third time, it clicked in Eli’s mind. This must be the Lord. I want you to notice that he did the right thing (he ran), but he ran to the wrong person. We find this a few other times in Scripture: Moses had a desire to help his people (God stirred his heart). But he took matters into his own hands and killed an Egyptian. Peter wanted to stand for Jesus (so he cut off the ear of a guard). But Jesus called him to go tell others about His life not protect it.
So, Eli commanded Samuel in verse 9. His mentor directed him to go back to where God spoke, be still and ready to answer. Look at verse 9: “Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord…. So Samuel went to lie down.”
I love the pattern we see: (1) Samuel was available. (2) Samuel was ready to move. (3) Samuel found clarity.
Samuel would go on to be used by God in amazing ways! What started with a prayer from Hannah who simply wanted a child turned into a man God used to do great things!
During my freshman year of college, I tore my rotator cuff during basketball season. I was frustrated, I was depressed. I knew God had a purpose for me, but I thought it would involve a ball in my hand. The doctors told me I would never be the same player. I would never regain full strength. I was defeated. I knew God had a plan, but I kept running to the wrong place. I went home that break to get surgery and had a lot of time to think. I was bouncing around the ideas of Plan B’s in case this church thing didn’t work out. All along, God started working on my heart in silence. I felt like God said, 'Travis, why do you need a Plan B?' You know, the world was telling me that I needed options, but God was telling me to trust Him.
I’m fascinated by the story of Samuel because God used him in great ways, but there are some characteristics that we can emulate: Be available. Be faithful. Be ready to move.