Sam I Am : Listen Up
August 18, 2019 | Ed Young
I thought we’d begin with a little story time. What do you say? First, a little heads up. Eli never stepped up, an old man now who’s washed up. Three times God would show up causing Sam-I-am to wake up. Again, God spoke up, causing Sam-I-am to sit up. Sam-I-am said,
“Speak up. Lord, I’m ready now to listen up.”
“I need you, Sam, to rise up. It’s time for you to step up.” Sam gave a big thumbs up. It looked like Eli’s time’s up. So, here is what God drew up, a plan for a massive clean-up. Insertion of there was time for Sam to grow up. So, Sam-I-am signed up. Sam-I-am stepped up. And I’m so glad you showed up.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the book “Green Eggs and Ham.” Sam-I-am, the chief protagonist in that brilliant book. Samuel, God’s man, was the chief protagonist at a critical time in the nation of Israel.
The backstory is this. God’s people had conquered the Promised Land, well, they almost conquered it. They didn’t drive all of the ungodly inhabitants out. And because of that, there was a lot of craziness going on. If you think about our world today with mass shootings and mayhem and malcontents, and just the anarchy that’s taking place, a lot of time we throw our hands up and go, what’s the deal? I mean, have people totally gone off the reservation? Well, the answer is yes. And some people think, well, in today’s culture it’s as crazy as it’s ever been. I beg to differ. Read the Bible. Because back in this context, in this culture, everyone was off the reservation. In fact, Scripture says to summarize what was going on during this time period, Scripture says, (Judges 17:6) “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” In other words, what’s true for me is true for me. Who are you to tell me there are any transcendent and absolute truths? When you base your lives on relativism, the result is chaos. When you toss out absolute truth, you’ve got craziness, and that is our culture, that is our world today.
So, the question is, in the midst of this mayhem – in the midst of even the bad stuff, the negative stuff going on at your school, at your office, around your neighborhood, in your context, in your social media feed – in the midst of all that can you hear the voice of God? I mean, people say sometimes, oh yeah, God talked to me. What do you mean by that? God showed me. God is communicating with me. What are you talking about when you say that? Those are fair questions. You mean the God of the universe wants to communicate and call and talk with me? Yes. The answer is yes. So, it’s something that we shouldn’t run away from, it’s something that we should lean into. I’m going to unpack that a little bit today, how can we – I’m talking about you, I’m talking about me – how can we hear the voice of God? I mean, is God really calling?
We make six billion cellular calls a day. That’s a lot. And if you’re like me, it’s all about reception. One bar, two bars, OK, three bars, OK, I’ve got good reception. Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now? Does this sound good? Yes, honey, I missed what you said. I’m driving through a bad area. I don’t really hear… OK, I got you now. Those are ubiquitous words and phrases.
Samuel grew up in a one-bar town, Shiloh. Not much was happening in Shiloh. The reception wasn’t that good. And the Bible pretty much says (1 Samuel 3:1) “words from God were rare in those days.” This word “rare” is like a rare piece of jewelry, that’s what the Hebrew is after. So, I get it. When it comes to communicating and connecting and hearing God, we control the receptivity. We control the one bar, two bars, or three bars. Because just like with a cell phone, we know there are certain places and spaces where we’ve got good receptivity. We also know other places where it’s like, man! The reception out here is horrible! Maybe, just maybe, we have a reception issue. Maybe, just maybe you’re a one-bar person. Maybe two, maybe three, I mean how is the reception in your life? Because, I’ll say it again, God is calling everyone, every single person. God, here, is going to call Samuel and this is a classic, classic text. Because Sam-I-am knew the great I Am, and the great I Am called Sam-I-am.
Samuel was growing up in the house of the Lord in a one-bar town, Shiloh. Shiloh was the religious city established when God’s people almost took over the Promised Land. Eli was the chief priest; he was the first card-carrying permissive parent. He had two horrendous pastor’s kids, Hophni and Phineas. They were abusing the sacrificial system; they were having sexual relations with the ladies who worked in the house of the Lord. God had warned him. God had said, “Hey Eli, you had better discipline your kids. You had better wake up and smell the espresso, the cappuccino, the latte, but Eli didn’t. He just went on with it. No big deal. Because, let’s face it parents, as we talked about last time, discipline is not easy. The results are amazing and so often we don’t understand that discipline and love are inseparably linked. The Bible says from cover to cover, God disciplines those of us he loves. Who does God love? Everyone. So, we’ve got Eli, this permissive parent. And God says, (1 Samuel 2:27-36) “Eli, if you don’t wake up, man, I’m gonna judge you and your family.”
Here’s a principle in Scripture that’s not easy to talk about, it’s not fun to talk about, but it’s from Scripture. If we don’t listen and obey the voice of God, God will always have a replacement player to take your blessings and mine, your purpose and mine. Always.
It’s like the NFL. A running back goes down and they’ve got four more on the sidelines who run a 4.3 40 and who can bench press 225 over 50 times. The same is true in God’s economy. God’s not being coldblooded. He’s not being mean-spirited. There’s a point, though, of no return with God. There’s a time, and only God knows the time, when if we don’t respond to his call, his salvation call, if we don’t respond then God will turn us over (Romans 1:24) to our own deviant behavior, to our own lusts, and that’s what was happening, that’s what was going down in this whole situation. Eli didn’t act, he wasn’t decisive, he had poor discernment, he was a permissive parent. Not only that, he was making a mockery of the priesthood back in the day. What did God do? Had Samuel on the sideline. Little Samuel, growing up on one hand in a great environment, the house of God, on the other a hellacious environment, because who were his roommates? Hophni and Phineas. All of their immorality, all of their chicanery, all of their rebellion, it was happening right there. Yet, Samuel heard the voice of God.
Oh, if I only went to a Christian school! If I only surrounded myself with Christian people, and when my toilet was clogged, I could call even a Christian plumber. If everything was Christian, Christian, Christian, Christian, Christian, then I could hear the voice of God, Ed. We live in a fallen and fallible place. Many times, through Scripture God speaks in ways and to people with spaces and places that seem to be, oh, that’s just a one-bar place, man.
Samuel heard the voice of God. 1 Samuel 3:1, “The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare and there weren’t many visions.” Look at 1 Samuel 3:8-9, “Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.” The game is rough. Life is tough. Here I am, Captain Obvious. Life isn’t easy. And as you think about it, you’re going, is anyone really hearing from God these days? I mean, where are the people standing up and saying, hey, in love, this behavior is abhorrent in the eyes of God. Where are young people are saying, you know what? We’re gonna live a pure and holy lifestyle. We’re going to wait until marriage to have sex. Life is not just about popularity and being famous, it’s about pleasing an audience of one. When and where and how are people going to make those decisions? It seems like those decisions aren’t being made very much anymore.
Lisa and I used to live in Flower Mound. And we lived on Lake Grapevine, kind of. You could see Lake Grapevine from our house. The planes from DFW airport, one of the busiest airports in the world, would constantly take off and land. <plane sound effect> Constant. We moved in, we built this house. It’s like, this airport noise is unbelievable. It lasted for about 3 weeks, then the noise was gone. I didn’t hear any more noise. You’re going, did the planes change their flight patterns? Did DFW shut down? No! We got used to the noise. Our friends would come over, “How do you live here?” I mean, even our dogs would like…. The noise, you get used to it. And I’m afraid that large blocks of us have become dull in our hearing. We’re not sensitive to the voice of God. And the book of Hebrews in the New Testament talks about that. The writer of the book of Hebrews, who I think was the apostle Paul, challenges his readers to move on to maturity, but he says, “I can’t tell you some things that will take you to a holy ‘notha level because you’re dull in your hearing.” I gotta ask you, man, how’s your reception? Are you hearing from God? Samuel did. I just read just a little bit of this story. Then Eli realized that the boy was calling the boy.
Well, what happened? Everyone was asleep in the house of God. Have you ever stayed at a hotel, I mean a really nice hotel, and you said to yourself, the amenities here are amazing. Maybe you’ve been on a cruise, or maybe you’ve stayed at this hotel, and you’re like, wow. The amenities. This room is just fantastic. Maybe it’s a view, maybe it’s the balcony, maybe it’s extra food. I don’t know. Whatever it is. Where Samuel lived, he had the ultimate amenity. The Ark of God, the Ark of the covenant, was in his room. I mean, the Four Seasons couldn’t compare with that, could they?
“Hey, and by the way, there’s the Ark of the Covenant. The presence of God.” Well, Samuel grew up right there. He, and he was the only one in the whole house, heard the voice of God. He was asleep. Everyone was asleep. And he heard this voice. He thinks its Eli, old man Eli. He runs in, (1 Samuel 3:2-9) “Eli, did you call me?” “No.” This went on three times. And finally Eli, Eli was a little slow, as we discovered last time, a little sluggish.
But see, Samuel was woke. Millennials, did you like that? If you’re a millennial, cheer for me right there. Those who are older than 24, you don’t even know what I’m talking about.
Samuel being woke means he was alert, he was ready, he was on point. So, he talked to Eli. And Eli did give some good advice. He goes,
“Hey, Sam, I think God’s talking to you, my man. I think God, the God of the universe, is communicating to you.” And Eli gave Samuel awesome advice. He goes, “The next time God speaks to you, say this: (1 Samuel 3:8-9) ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.” Let’s say that together, 1-2-3, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
I want to challenge you, give you some handles. Every time you walk into Fellowship Church, if you’re here or at one of our many other locations, if you’re watching online, when you see this, many will see this on television. Whenever you walk into Fellowship Church or another church that you’re attending, say, “God, speak. Your servant is listening.” Your servant. Not like, yeah, I’m the man. I’m listening. God, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do and slap a God sticker on me, and you bless me. No, no, no. That’s not what Sam-I-am said. “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Whenever you read the Bible. Man, I wish God would text me. This is his text. It’s a long one, from Genesis to Revelation. God personally texts us and it’s right here. From Genesis to Revelation. It is God’s word to you and me.
You might want to note this. Rarely, even in the Bible, did God speak to someone specifically. (1 Samuel 3:10) Here He stood before Sam-I-am and Sam said, “All right, I’m listening.” He called Samuel’s name twice, as you read the text. Samuel. Samuel. This is significant. Because Abraham right before he was going to sacrifice Isaac, what did God do? Abraham. Abraham. Twice. Moses was on the back side of the desert. He’s thinking, I mean, do I matter to God? Does God have a call on my life? God spoke to him through a bush that was on fire. God said twice, “Moses. Moses.” So, this twice thing is tremendous. Samuel. Samuel. Don’t you love it? God called Samuel repeatedly. My friend, he calls you and me repeatedly as well. God called him by name. Samuel. Samuel. God calls you by name. He calls me by name.
The Bible says that you and me so well he knows the number of hairs on our head, even if that number is increasing or decreasing. God calls us repeatedly. He calls us by name. And many of us can go back and think, wow. I remember when God called me. God called you. And God is calling everyone to salvation. Salvation means when you became a follower of Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he rose again. We have an opportunity to ask Christ to come into our lives. We respond to his call. That call is not always gonna be there. Many of us can go back and go, I remember that.
I remember when I responded to the call of God’s salvation. Our church at the time was meeting, and dad is a pastor, was meeting in a little (we called it) a fellowship hall. It was a little dining hall with metal chairs. There were about 150 people in there. And there were some big windows behind where he was speaking. The sunlight was coming in just super bright. I could just see a silhouette of him and he simply said, I was maybe 8, “If you want to give your life to Jesus (he didn’t know he was talking to me), if you want to commit your life to Christ, respond to his call.” And I remember just running down the aisle and falling into my father’s arms. That was my call to salvation. Many of you are like, Ed! I have the same kind of story! Ed, I can tell you the same situation. Maybe you were 8, maybe you were 18, maybe you were 58, I don’t know. Others here, you’ve never responded to that. You feel this strange nudge, this strange pull, this kind of vibe that’s speaking to your spirit even right now. You don’t know how to describe it or really explain it, but it’s the call of God. Have you responded to the call of God?
How about how God calls us into an occupation? I believe some here, and I’m so excited about this at Fellowship Church, we have had many young people to respond to God’s call to full-time ministry. Is that phenomenal? So many kids, so many students have responded to God’s all. I’ll never forget when I thought I was being called into the ministry, I said, “Hey dad, I think I’m being called into the ministry.” He goes, “Well, you would know it. It’s not something you can think about because if you can do anything else other than become a pastor, do that.” I go,
“What do you mean?” He said,
“Well, you have to know that you know that God is calling you into the ministry, son. So if you can do anything else… I know you like art, you like athletics, you like this and that. Go do that. Don’t go into the ministry.” He’s told me that, my father. “OK.” Wow. I never felt a definite call until I was in Tallahassee, Florida at basketball practice right before my junior season. And I was dribbling a basketball, warming up before practice, and I walked by the free throw line and turned and looked up at that glass goal with my teammates. I knew. That was the moment God was calling me into the ministry. I knew it. I did not hear a voice. I didn’t have a Samuel experience. I knew, though, that I was supposed to go into the ministry. As I’ve said before, when I knew I was going into the ministry, I knew then I was supposed to pastor, and I told all of my friends there’s one place I’ll never go: Dallas/Fort Worth. I said there are too many churches here. There are too many big steeple/few people places here. There are too many phony Christians here, too many obese, overweight Christians here. There are too many Bible study naval gazers here. I want to go to northern California. I want to go to south Florida. I want to go, maybe to Fiji. I don’t know. I don’t want to come to Dallas/Fort Worth. Seminaries are here, and churches on every corner. Don’t ever say never in God’s economy. I love Dallas. God has called me here, there’s no doubt about it. I’m just saying that’s what I said before I heard God’s call specifically to come to Dallas/Fort Worth. I love Dallas, and it’s great. We have churches and all that. Awesome. I’m just telling you I was called into the ministry in a very impure and ungodly place, playing for the Florida State Criminoles… I mean Seminoles. Back in the day. So, maybe God is calling you into full-time Christian ministry.
God has called some to be in the real estate business. God is maybe calling you to be – I don’t know – maybe an actor, an actress. Maybe God is calling you to work in the technology industry. Whatever you do, you’re working for God. Have you received, have you made his call? So, Samuel went back. He obeyed Eli’s word. He goes, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And God put some serious, serious word on Samuel. He told him some tough stuff. And sometimes we’re gonna have to take some tough stuff and live it out. Many times God tests us with the tough stuff to see if we’ll be obedient, then we’re ready for the good stuff. Did you hear that? Oh, it’s easy to say, “Oh, I receive your blessings, God! Awesome! You’re such a good God! Rain! I want some favor, God!” I can do that. But how about discipline? How about rebuke? How about hearing those tough words? Whoo! Now… now we go to school. Now we go to character school. As a pastor, so many things I say I don’t like to say. Samuel had to tell Eli, “Hey Eli, I mean the fire is going to fall.” and the Bible says Samuel was afraid to tell Eli.
But Eli was like, “Spill the tea.” It’s another cool millennial phrase. Those of us who are over 50, would you google that? It’s a great, great text? What’s the tea, sis? Spill the tea. That means, let me hear it. You know? I respect – man I’m on fire today with these phrases. I really am. I’m feeling so young, even though I’m 58 I feel like I’m like 18. I’m just … bars. Look it up. All these young people are going, how does he know that? I know a lot more than you think I know, I’ll tell you that.
So, Eli was like, “Tell me, Samuel.” And Samuel really didn’t want to tell. Samuel was like, “No, I don’t really feel like it.” And many times I don’t always feel like saying what I have to say here. I don’t. The gospel is the good news. Obviously, the good news overshadows the bad news. So often, though, I have to deliver some tough news. If you think about the gospel, we have to realize that we’re sinners, that we’re depraved, that we’re away from God, that we’re criminals before him before we can get ready to receive the good news. And we’re the ones who caused our condition.
When I had heart surgery two years ago, tiny little valve that wasn’t working right. I mean, it was working but it was just like not what it should be. I was able to get in through a strange set of events. I was able to get in to a top surgeon who specializes in these little valves. He told me,
“If you don’t have surgery in six months, you’re gonna die.”
“Yes, sir, Dr. Lawrie. When can we schedule the surgery?” And they cut me from stem to stern, cracked open my chest, as I’ve told you before, stopped my heart, stopped my breathing, and five hours later I’m now as good as new, and better than I was beforehand. And I’m thankful to God for people like surgeons, doctors, and especially a guy like him, who is so brilliant. Now, what if he had said this to me?
“Ed, my man, you’re in pretty good shape. I mean, you’ve run marathons and you played for the Criminoles, and you’ve eaten pretty clean, and taken care of yourself. Wow. You look pretty good. Your hairline’s strong.” The reason people laugh at that, I had hair transplants and we’re going to do something about that in a little while. We’re calling the series Hair. That’s gonna be great. Hair is mentioned so often in the Bible you won’t believe it. “You have a strong hairline, Ed. You’re looking great, you’re smelling good. Man! Keep on doing what you’re doing! I’ll see you later!” Had he told me that I wouldn’t be here. I’d be dead.
He had to tell me the truth. I have to tell you the truth. I have to tell you for some here, this right be your last opportunity to respond to God’s call. Could be. In fact, I know it is, because we have thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of people here and at our other locations. For some of you, it’s your last chance. I don’t say that to be morbid, I’m just telling you the facts, you know? Keep it real for the moms. Have you responded to God’s call?
Samuel responded. “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” And this is where he really understood about this personal relationship with the Lord. He told Eli and Eli took this stuff like a man, and it was over for Eli. It was over for his kids. He passed the point of repentance and God rose up Samuel. Are you sensitive to the voice of God? I said, are you sensitive to the voice of God?
This past week, Lisa and I kept our granddaughter, Sterling, for 5-6 days because Sterling’s parents went on a little trip. It was very interesting to keep a nearly two-year-old again. It was a lot of fun. And we tried to stay away from using ‘mommy’ or ‘daddy’, because those words would cause hysterics. She would realize they’re gone, so we just stayed away from those words. And for the most part it went well, except her mom, Landra, called and we had her on speaker phone inadvertently for just about 5 seconds. Sterling turned in our kitchen when she heard Landra’s voice and she goes, “Mommy! Aaaaahhh!!!” I mean, tantrum, hysterics, crying, drama.
Then I thought, that’s powerful. That voice, that voice. What did Jesus say? My followers hear my voice and they respond to it. So, it’s one thing to go, yeah, I hear ya, man. Oh, God, I hear ya. But how about doing and obeying what he says?
The rest of Samuel’s story is just one for the textbooks in this text and we’ll get into it over the next couple of weeks. But, I want to finish up today just by telling you how God speaks to you right now. Because I said earlier, we’re gonna learn earlier how God speaks to us, how God calls us. How does God call us? First, this text. Scripture. This is God’s word. The word of God. This is the only book that when you read it, the author is present. Are you reading the word? “I wish God would call me! I wish I knew his word!” Here it is. “I wish God would give me more of a word!” Well, have you obeyed what you already know, what he’s already told you? He speaks through Scripture. That is why Fellowship Church is under the authority of Scripture. The Bible is the word, it is the truth. Scripture is totally and completely and supernaturally sufficient.
Number two, The Holy Spirit. When we become followers of Christ, what happens? The first thing Jesus does is he places the Holy Spirit in our lives. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Three in one, one in three. No one can explain the Trinity. You’re not gonna do it. Yet, the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit, has a personality. The Trinity gives us wisdom. The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom. The Holy Spirit counsels us. The Holy Spirit convicts us. The Holy Spirit trains us. The Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture. That’s why we’re reading and things just jump off the page. Or maybe I’m speaking and all of a sudden, whoa! Has Ed been following me around? No, no. That’s the Holy Spirit of God. So, Scripture, the Spirit of God, sermons, the Bible says, the good news. Those who preach, who are gifted to teach. We hear the voice of God through sermons. Something, I don’t know how to explain this, supernatural takes place when a bunch of people get together who are followers of Christ, and also those who are seeking, to hear God’s word proclaimed. Yes, we’re to read the text individually. We’re also commanded and demanded by God to come together and to hear the message of a sermon. What’s God saying to you through today’s message? I spend at least 20 hours in study before I speak. So, God has to speak to me first before I can even speak to you.
Another way God speaks to us is through situations, just things in life. So hopefully every day we’re saying, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Are you open to that? I think one of the reasons we love technology, and one of the reasons we love travel so much, is because it keeps us so busy and so tied up that we kind of take a wide berth around God. I mean, we know God is calling but man, I don’t want any of that. Because it’s risky, #1, and #2, I’ll be responsible. When you respond to God’s call, it’s the best.
A friend of mine that I’ve known for 30 years just passed away several days ago. I met him in a weird way, and one day I can tell you this story. A very influential man, a very powerful man, died. And, many times he sat in these seats. Last time he was here he was right there where you’re sitting. I didn’t know when we got together the last time that it would be the last time. <snap> That quick. I went up to see him, because his wife wanted me to pray before they removed him off of life support. I’ve been in situations like this before. I went in and we joined hands around his bed and prayed for him. They removed him off life support, he passed away peacefully. When I was there in ICU, I don’t know why I did this, but I walked outside of the glass room. In ICU there was a glass corridor and you could see all the patients, you know, in the rooms. I just looked at him lying there and I thanked God that I had the opportunity to talk with him and share with him Jesus. And I thought about all of his accomplishments, and I thought, “Lord, I can’t even believe I met this guy.” A multi-billionaire, knew everybody there is to know. Quintessential dealmaker, truly a legend. And I looked at him, and he was alone. I mean, the family was there but he was just out of it, just moments away from dying. Then I looked to his right and I saw another person in another bed who obviously was not a billionaire, and then another one, who was just normal person, another one, another one. And God spoke to me, not audibly, we bring nothing in. We take nothing away. Ed, you’re 58 years old. What are you doing with your life?
I’ve got to ask you the same thing. What are you doing with your life? I’m glad that gentleman, my friend, accepted Jesus. I’m thrilled. But I’m just saying, what are you doing with your life? All that time, all that energy, all that emotion, doing deals around the world. There he is, gasping for breath in a hospital bed.
The final way I want to talk about God speaking to us is through the Savior Jesus. And I’ve got to ask you, have you accepted the call from Jesus? I mean, just straight up. Have you accepted the call? You’re called. Have you accepted it? Have you? Well, Ed, how do I do that? By just simply saying, Jesus, come into my life. I give my all to you. And if you have just mustard-seed faith, Christ will come into your life. That’s it. The Bible says that. A mustard seed is a tiny seed. You can have this much doubt, mustard-seed faith, Jesus will come and save you. Have you responded to his call?
Others of you, maybe, have. Maybe God is calling you into the ministry. We have the University of Next Level here at Fellowship Church. It’s a program, a school, we can help you and teach you and train you. I believe some here need to be called into the ministry. Have you accepted the call? Others are like, what? OK, I’ve accepted the call to receive Christ. You’re called to be a student. You’re called to be involved in real estate. You’re called as you work with technology.
Sam-I-am was great because he knew the great I Am. do you know him? Let’s bow our heads.
[Ed leads closing prayer.]