How, then, do we act in faith, if what seems like acting in faith is sometimes the unfaithful thing to do?
What Saul did was not "wrong" in that it was rebellious, per se; it was wrong because it was limited in its understanding. Saul had a very specific, context-specific instruction from God, but he let his baseline understanding of the disciplines of the faith get in the way of following it. We could say, then, that Saul believed in God, but he didn't really believe God.
The same is true for us. The tension that we feel and those moments that seem most paralyzing for us are the times when we let our understanding of the basic disciplines of the faith get in the way of what we're certain we're hearing from God. Then, it is our belief in God that gets in the way of us simply believing God.
The things that we do - for Saul, it was the sacrifices; for us, it's usually something like prayer or Bible study or worship - are meant to be the foundations of our faith, not the utmost expression of it. These things are meant to prepare us to hear from God and to be able to listen to Him; they are not meant to be the ultimate way that we hear from Him. In other words, we engage in these things so that when God speaks, we are able to hear Him and obey; we do not engage in these things because they themselves are the obedience.
Think about this: there is not one time in the Bible that God speaks to a person, tells that person what amazing role he or she is going to play in God's grand story, and then tells that person to go back and invest in spiritual milk. There's not one time God sends an angel and says, "What great news I have for you! You should go read your Bible, pray, and listen to some worship music so that you can understand!"
That's not how God works.
God comes to those who have already prayed, read their Bible, turned up the worship music. God comes to those who ought to already be poised to hear Him and obey. God comes to those who have laid the solid foundations of their faith in order that they might know His voice when He speaks. And when you know it is God's voice, it's easier to just step in and go for it. You don't have to go back to the basics because you already have those down.
Saul is a guy who should have known better, especially by that point. He had been hand-selected out of all of Israel and anointed with oil by God. He had the wise priest, Samuel, guiding him every step of the way for a long time. He was a king who prayed and sought wisdom and knew well the foundations of the faith. But when it came time to put his faith in action, he wasn't ready. He couldn't make that transition on his own.
That's where many of us are. It's hard to make that leap. We know what God expects of us with spiritual milk, and it becomes our spiritual comfort zone. It becomes the thing to which we default when we're too nervous to go any further, when we're not sure if we're ready to step out the way that God is calling us to do. And then, we're exactly where we've been talking about this week - faithfully unfaithful at the very moment that God has been most clear with us.
So we have to understand how these things that we do faithfully every day, these little acts that we invest in on a regular basis, are not our faith; they are the foundations of our faith that allow us to live not just believing in God, but believing Him. They are the things that prepare us to act when He speaks, to know His voice and to trust it.
And if your faith is not doing that for you, then it's time to rethink what exactly it is doing. What kind of faith are you building here? Is it the kind that will let you destroy everything when God speaks...or the kind that keeps you coming back to sacrifices because that's all you really know?