"To obey is better than sacrifice." 1 Samuel 15:22
God gave King Saul specific instructions to be followed. However, Saul disobeyed God and tried to justify his disobedience by presenting a sacrifice to God. God describes Saul's disobedience as rebellion that is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry (see 1 Samuel 15).
The greatest obstacle to doing God's will, or the will of another, is one's own will. It is not difficult to do the will of another when it conforms to one's own will but when it requires denying one's own will for the sake of the will of another, we are faced with a massive internal conflict. We will avoid submitting our will to the will of another in various ways. Either we simply disobey and don't do the will of the other, or we say we will obey the will of the other but don't actually do it, or we do the will of the other in our own way as a cover-up for actually disobeying.
True sacrifice or false sacrifice?
True sacrifice means I lay down my own will (die to self) and do the will of another for their sake. True sacrifice is determined by the will of another. False sacrifice is different. It appears to be a genuine sacrifice but is actually self-determined and for one's own sake.
When my boys were little, I encountered "false sacrifices" many times. Rather than tidy their room, they would draw me a picture instead. In other words, rather than obeying a clear instruction, they presented me with something that could please me but was self-determined - a false sacrifice! Clearly the cute picture was precious but I would have preferred them to tidy their room as instructed! To obey is better than sacrifice.
The deception of false sacrifices
The more we justify disobedience with false sacrifices, the more insensitive we become to the will of God. For example, someone will justify not forgiving someone else by spending hours serving the poor. God requires us to forgive one another and to feed the poor. However, when we determine the sacrifice to cover up our disobedience, we deceive ourselves.
Grace and obedience
A fundamental question a Christian should ask himself or herself is: Does God require anything of me? You may think this an odd question to ask but I believe many Christians have the idea that grace replaces any requirement from God. Grace, however, has never replaced God's requirements of man. Just as Jesus came to do the Father's will, so every believer is called to the obedience that comes from faith (Rom 1:5). Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). Clearly God indeed requires something of us that we are called to obey if we truly love Him. Thankfully God gives us His grace to empower us to live according to His will.
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and wordly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.." Titus 2:11-12
Finding out God's will
Unless we seek the will of God, we cannot know whether we are doing His will or not. Paul's prayer for the Church was that the believers would know God's will in order to live obedient lives that pleased Him (Rom 12:1-2; Eph 5:17; Php 1:9-11; Col 1:9-10).
Who is Lord in your life?
Jesus is Lord of all. However, He is only the believer's Lord when s/he lives in submission to Him. The writer to the Hebrews writes,
"In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him." Heb 2:8
Only those who surrender their will to God's will are subject to Him. We deceive ourselves when we call Jesus, "My Lord" when our own will is still seated on the throne!
Who are the sons of God?
The Bible is clear. Those who are led by the Spirit of God, have their minds on what the Spirit desires and do His will are the sons of God (Rom 81-17). How can we call ourselves disciples of Jesus and not do what He commands?
"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31
Find out God's will and obey it
I believe every believer should be seeking to know God's will in every area of their lives. Although the Bible doesn't always reveal God's specific will on various issues, it is as we grow in our knowledge of God that we will know what His will is according to His nature.
Sacrifice or obedience?
It is important that we identify God's will for our lives and that we do not ignore the conviction or the prompting of God's Spirit. If we know what God requires of us, we must obey. False sacrifices may cause us to feel better about ourselves but do not justify our disobedience. The more we ignore the Holy Spirit, the harder our hearts become even whilst seemingly doing what pleases God. Spend time with God and find out what His will is concerning prayer, reading the Bible, your relationships, your resources, your church, your gifts, your leaders, your occupation, your children, your parents, your colleagues, the poor, the lost, etc..
"We make it our goal to please him." 2 Cor 5:9