The Presumption of Self-Imposed Duty

The Holiness of the Here and Now – Part 61

So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.

–1 Samuel 13:12 (ESV)

In a word, be active with regard to all that the present duty demands, but passive and abandoned with regard to everything else, not adding anything of your own, but waiting in peace for the divine motion.

–Jean Pierre de Caussade

The words from 1 Samuel 13:12 are the words of King Saul, as he was explaining himself to the prophet Samuel. The context: He was supposed to wait for Samuel to come and offer a burnt offering before engaging in battle. When Samuel was late, he took it upon himself to make the sacrifice. In his own words, he admits to forcing himself, as if something within him was resisting the action.

The lesson for you is that passive faithfulness is not easy when you feel the pressure to do something. It takes faith and discernment to engage wholeheartedly in doing your duty, without “adding anything of your own,” as Jean Pierre de Caussade said. To use the expression of King Saul, this means not forcing yourself to do what you think should be your duty.

This takes discernment to know what your duty is. Fortunately, most of your duty is easy to figure out. It is dictated by your position and responsibility in the world, daily circumstances and events, and the will of God as revealed and taught in the Bible. As for the rest of your duty, the less obvious stuff, this is spiritually discerned. Faithfulness to your clear duty sharpens your discernment of your special duty.

This kind of faithfulness demands steady faith. There will be pressure to move out of the realm of duty and into presumption. To be fair to King Saul, the pressure on him was enormous. The task before him was bordering on impossible, and the freedom of Israel was at stake. Nevertheless, his duty was clear, and somewhere deep down inside, he knew that.

The Holiness of the Here and Now is a daily devotional that I am currently working on. When I am finished, there will be 365 chapters like the one above. Meanwhile, I am sharing this work-in-progress. Like the Facebook page to see content like this in your feed.