On Monday I talked frankly about my own strengths and weaknesses. Yesterday I walked you through the Bible’s impressive description of Saul before his life blew up. He began well, so I asked the question, How does a good guy become a bad guy?
For all his strengths, Saul was crippled by four deadly character streaks: An independent streak, a dishonest streak, an insecure streak, and a “stuff it streak.” These tendencies eventually derailed him, until his whole life became a giant train wreck.
Which brings us to today’s post. How did that happen? And could it happen to us? Again, please follow along with me and look up these verses so I don’t have to quote them in their entirety here. I’ll pick up Saul’s story in I Samuel chapter 13:
13:3 — Saul marches Israel out to war without consulting God or his prophet. There’s no prayer, nothing spiritual about his approach. Right out of his Kingly gate, thatʼs Saul’s independent streak flexing it’s prideful muscle.
13:8-12 — When Samuel doesn’t show up before the battle to seek God’s blessing, Saul feels the pressure to perform in his new role and takes things into his own hands. That’s his insecure streak showing. He wants to be the man more than he wants to be God’s man.
13:11,12 —When heʼs questioned by Samuel about this moral lapse, he fudges out a crafty half truth. Thatʼs his dishonest streak rearing it’s sketchy head. Sure, he wanted Godʼs blessing, but he also wanted the peopleʼs affirmation. Thereʼs the insecure streak talking again.
Samuel rebukes Saul. I mean, he tears a strip off him and exposes the spiritual ramifications of his stupidity. After the confrontation, whatʼs Saul’s reaction? No repentance, no sorry, no anger, no disappointment. Nope. Once again, he internalizes the criticism. In fact, itʼs this internalizing and stuffing of his emotions that makes him an easy target for an evil spirit later on in life.
So what does he do after Samuel’s rebuke? He caters to his independent and insecure streaks again, by counting his little green army men (13:15). “So, whoʼs with me?” he wants to know. Who cares? What about God, Saul?
13:16-22: Later on, when the battle has escalated and the Ammonites close in on his army, Saul folds like soggy cardboard and does… nothing. What happened to his decisiveness, his tactical ability? Heʼs paralyzed by insecurity and his kingdom crumbles around him while he watches it go up in flames.
In one short chapter, the golden boy of Israel has already tanked his life and taken all of Israel with him. What can we learn from Saul?
One, good people conflicted by their weaknesses can do very stupid things. Me too.
Two, in many ways, Saul was a better man than I am. I must admit: If it can happen to Saul, it can happen to me.
Three, a handful of unchecked weaknesses can sabotage the effect all our strengths put together.
Four, do you ever make decisions without consulting God first? Do you ever let insecurity affect what and why you do things? Are you always entirely honest and forthcoming? Do you ever internalize criticism and let it fester there in your heart? Me too. Which means Saul and I are similar enough to concern me.
The most critical human weakness, of course, is an independent spirit. Nearly all other weaknesses can be overcome by depending on the power of Christ instead of trying to manage life on our own. Doing it on our own dooms us.
So that’s it for now. What are you learning about your strengths and weaknesses?