1 Samuel 15:22, "But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams."
Jason Brown was the highest paid center in the NFL, playing for the St. Louis Rams. In late 2011, Jason had two children, and a mansion with two fully-stocked bars, yet he and his wife were "dying inside" and were likely headed toward divorce. As a professed Christian, Jason had to admit that his relationship with Jesus was a ticket to forgiveness and little else—until he released his grip on money and football. Jason said he started releasing his grip on his lavish lifestyle by pouring thousands of dollars of expensive liquor down the drain.
After leaving the Rams and turning down three other teams, the Brown's put their home up for sale and bought a 100-year-old farmhouse with a dairy barn and 1,000 acres of uninterrupted land in North Carolina. Jason would become a farmer and give away what he grows. Jason learned farm basics from YouTube, which resulted in First Fruits Farm, an organization that seeks, through community and service, to boost Bible literacy.
Ten thousand pounds of cucumbers, and one hundred thousand pounds of sweet potatoes later, Jason says, "I literally still know nothing about farming." But Jason can summarize his business plan and his life these days with one word: "Obedience." [Adapted from Andrew Branch, "Farm Team," WORLD (1-24-15)]
The hymn writer sings, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." Jason Brown was a successful football player. He had everything the world associates with success: wealth, fame and power. Yes, he was a successful football player, but under the surface, he was a failed human being. In your life you can be successful in your career, successful on the outside, but a failure as a person. What makes a person successful?
Saul was king of Israel. In fact, he was Israel's first king ever. He had all the trappings of success—money, fame, and power. Saul thought he was being successful. He says in verse 20 (1 Samuel 15), "But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king." Saul had accomplished great things. God was not impressed. It is not accomplishment that leads to success. This is incredible to consider. Saul could have defeated every enemy of God and still been a failure.
Samuel tells Saul that only one thing brings success in the eyes of God. Only one accomplishment matters to him. It is obedience. "To obey is better than sacrifice." You could say it this way too, "To obey is better than accomplishment." When we obey God takes us places we never imagined we go. We do things we never imagined we would do. That's the point. On our own we would never have done these things and never been successful in God's eyes. One way to gauge whether you are being successful in your obedience to God is to ask how the world views you. If the world looks at you and says, "They are so successful," then you are probably not successful. you just may be in trouble. But if the world looks at you and says, "They're crazy!" then you just may be on the right track. To succeed, obey.
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, we are grateful that being successful in your eyes does not depend on our talent, money or ability. We can all be successful when we learn the skill of obedience. You grant us the success we could never achieve on our own. We praise your name! Help us to learn this life-transforming truth. Help us to be successful. In Jesus name, amen.