20 Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 1 Samuel 12:20 NKJV
If we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that there are times we do the wrong things. We each have areas of weakness. My weaknesses may be totally different from yours, but we all have them. Only Jesus was able to live His life without ever giving in to temptation, not even once.
What happens after we sin and find ourselves on the other side of where God wants us to be? Sin always creates a separation from God – how can we get back into His presence? Samuel tells us to confess our sin and to turn back to God as quickly as possible.
Samuel was on earth before the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is the source of all grace and forgiveness for those who believe in Him. But God spoke through Samuel, assuring us that if we humble ourselves before God, we can freely confess our sin to Him and experience complete forgiveness. We can then turn to walk in the way that God wants us to go, and to keep walking, serving the Lord with our whole heart.
21 And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. 1 Samuel 12:21 NKJV
We want to return to God as quickly as possible because He is the only One of true value. Every treasure in our hearts, be they loved ones or pets or precious memories, was a gift of love from Him. Spending our life chasing after empty things is a waste of precious time spent in vain. Turning away from God to pursue selfish desires cannot deliver peace or contentment. They leave us with nothing.
23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. 1 Samuel 12:23 NKJV
Samuel also reminds us how important it is for us to pray for each other. In fact, he even says that it is a sin if we do not pray for those who God has put in our lives!
Thus, God has given us the responsibility to help care for and instruct those around us, especially those who are new or fragile in the faith. As Jesus is the Good Shepherd to us, we have a debt to be a good shepherd to those around us. As He said in Luke 12:48, to whom much is given, much is required.
To help us pray for others, many believers find it useful to use a prayer list. Some keep one on paper or in a journal book, others on an electronic device, such as in a Notes app.
By keeping a prayer list, we can regularly lift people up before God, especially those that He has put on our hearts. We can pray for specific things for that person, or just ask that God’s Spirit to descend upon them and bless them, giving them faith and encouragement and providing whatever they need.
It is especially powerful to pray for those we may not like or have a resentment against. By praying for them, we are honoring God’s will to love our enemies, and will find that our hearts will often soften towards them over time, as well.
Samuel gives us assurance that, even though we have sinned, forgiveness is freely available to us through God’s grace. Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross is the source of that grace.
Samuel encourages us to quickly “close the sin gap” we have created with God, and to get back on track in service to Him. He also reminds us of our responsibility to pray for our fellow believers and for all who touch our lives, be they friend or even a perceived enemy.
Is there a sin from my past that needs to be confessed to the Lord today? It may be recent, or it may be from the distant past. As a fellow believer says, “We are not sinless, we want to sin less”. Confession and repenting before God helps to make that possible.
Who can we be praying for who needs prayer today?