Summary: To be available for what God wants to do in us we must downplay disappointments, pick perceptive people, consider the consequences, and accept affirmation. Revision of an earlier message
Montgomery Hills Baptist Church, Silver Spring, MD June 25, 2006
It is said that the sculptor Michelangelo could sense that in a rough block of marble there was an angel struggling to get out. He said that his job was to free that angel. Isn’t that remarkable?! To know that in a rough exterior there is something beautiful, something available for shaping. Personally, I cannot fathom how anybody can shape a sculpture. How can anyone take a hammer and a chisel and remove unwanted stone to create a likeness out of marble? It takes a special genius to do that.
But then how much more remarkable it is to know that inside your rough exterior and mine there is a life available for shaping! How much more wonderful even than one of Michelangelo’s stone angels is a life made beautiful by someone shaping it! It can happen, if you and I are available for life-shaping. What will it take for us to be ready to be shaped and sculpted into something beautiful?
The boy Samuel was born in a troubled time. The Bible describes it as one in which the word of the Lord was rare and visions were not widespread. It was a difficult time. But Samuel, if you remember, was born as the result of his mother’s prayer. Hannah had cried out to the Lord to give her a child, and God had heard that prayer. Samuel’s grateful parents dedicated him to the service of God. They sent him to the temple at Shiloh to be trained as an aide to the priest Eli. Samuel, there in the temple with Eli, became, like Michelangelo’s angel, available for life-shaping. How did that happen? Are there clues for us?
There are four simple truths I want you to see in this story. Let me share them first and then we’ll develop each one. How can we be available for life-shaping? We can be ready for sculpting and shaping if, first, we downplay disappointment; if, second, we pick perceptive people; third, if we consider the consequences; and, finally, if we accept affirmation.
I am going to repeat those four points and ask you to recite them with me. We can be available for life-shaping – we can free our angels from their rough exteriors – if we: downplay disappointment; if we pick perceptive people; if we consider the consequences; and if we accept affirmation. Let’s work on these together.
First, to be available for life-shaping means that we need to downplay disappointment. If you want to become something worthwhile, do not be distracted when you when you feel as though you are heading down a dead-end street. The fact is that it takes time to shape a life, and we may start some things that don’t pay off. But we must stick with our life vision and downplay our disappointments, or else we will not be well shaped.
Young Samuel heard a voice calling, and he said, “Here I am”. He reported to Eli, who told Samuel that it was not he who called. A little later he heard it again, and once again went to Eli, who once more told Samuel that, no, he had not called. And then a third time, the same thing.
But look! Young Samuel kept on going back and kept on saying, “Here I am”, despite the disappointment of finding out that he was mistaken. Samuel didn’t give up. He didn’t surrender to his disappointment. He knew that he was in the right place he knew his own mind. It would have been easy on that third time to have said, “I must be hearing things. I’ll ignore this call. I’ll just give up on this thing.” But Samuel didn’t give up. Samuel trusted what was in his heart. Samuel downplayed his disappointment, and started to become available for life-shaping.
I’m afraid the landscape is littered with those whose lives don’t count for much because they let something get in the way of doing what they really feel led to do. They let disappointments stop them. My own father used to talk about how, when he was about eighteen, he felt called to preach, but his father, my grandfather, stopped that with a snarl, “We aren’t having any preachers in this house.” And then, a number of years later, my musically gifted dad got an offer to move to Cincinnati and sing for a radio station – but this time it was not his father, but my mother’s father, my other grandfather, who stomped that out, declaring that nobody was going to take his little girl way out there to Cincinnati. And so, throughout much of his life, my dad nursed a deepening disappointment. He had not followed his own heart, he had not downplayed his disappointment, and it held him back. In many ways, it poisoned his spirit.