Making the Most of a Godly Influence—1 Sam. 8-9
The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.
He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end.
It may be true that there are two sides to every question, but it is also true that there are two sides to a sheet of flypaper, and it makes a big difference to the fly which side he chooses.
It happens in sports all the time. You’re watching your favorite team, you watch your coach or staff make a decision on a play, on choosing a player, and you know without a doubt—“That’s the worst decision I’ve ever seen???!!!!”
Maybe you’ve seen your friends or children date someone and decide to marry them, someone you know is bad for them and for anyone else for that matter. And you dread it because it will be a source of strife for years to come. How do you still relate how do you still live and function when a horrible decision is made? How do you have any influence to help or improve the situation? Samuel saw the people of Israel make a bad decision—so he knew what that was like—he’d just seen it—8:6
God had a plan for the life of his nation Israel, but Israel thought they understood better what they needed than God did. They wanted a king, and they wanted one for all the wrong reasons. They wanted to be like the other nations. When we as God’s people desire more than anything else to be like the other people of this world we are in trouble. When we know what God wants in our lives and yet chose to go another direction we are at the very best, choosing second best, often it’s not even close to second.
In this moment we see Israel making a choice that was less than God’s best for their lives. Through it, we can see some things we can learn about Choices. And how to
maintain influence when you’re watching a bad decision being made.
I. Things We Can Learn About Choices.
1. We are free to obey or disobey God.
God desires each of us to reflect His character and love, but God gives us a great deal of freedom to make our own choices in life. For example it is God’s will that I honor others above myself. However, God will permit me to honor myself above others. But when I do, I’ll suffer some negative consequences—broken or strained relationships. It is God’s will that I be generous in sharing my personal possessions. Does God allow me to be selfish and stingy? Yes, but when I am selfish, I will face negative consequences—God is under no obligation to bail you out for an ungodly decision—but despite that, the second thing we learn is that…
2. When we choose less than God’s best he still does not abandon us.
It grieved God and Samuel that Israel demanded a king. Samuel was sent to reason with Israel but they replied, “No, we want a king like all the other nations.” They thought that they knew what was best, they took counsel of their own hearts and having chosen a course independent of God, they proceeded at once to follow it up. Sometimes the severest judgment God can give us is to let us have our own way. And yet even when we reject God’s best he does not forsake his people. Most of us are painfully aware that things would be far better in our lives if they had made wiser decisions. I believe that it is especially frustrating in your own life, or when watching someone you love and realizing that what you or they are going through now is the result of poor past decision in our lives, times when we settled for less than God’s best.
We have a tendency to excuse ourselves, but as hard as it is to deal with our own choices, it’s harder to watch those we love making a bad decision. Ranging from where to go to school, engagements, etc., church, marriage…
Samuel didn’t hide or ignore his reaction, but Samuel took the situation to the right place—vs. 6—He prayed. He didn’t become so upset and bitter that he prayed less for them, he prayed more for them—“But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.”
He made them aware of the consequences and what they could expect from this decision 8:11—“This is what the king who will reign over you will do:”
He was faithful to Follow God even in the face of Refusal—he didn’t cut them off or leave them to suffer the consequences alone but sought to Influence as best he could—vs. 19-22
We see others make horrible decisions all the time. You may know it, but beating them over the head with it isn’t the way to make it better. Constantly reminding of a past failure will only hinder their future. It is important in our relationships to try and use your wisdom and influence to guide.
A Bad Decision Fulfilled—Introduction of Saul—9:1-2
He’s tall, he looks the part, he’s “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others”—Saul is the Hebrew version of Goliath—from the outward appearances, he looks like a great man, a great warrior, a great leader. But about the only job for which height is the defining issue is the NBA. Imagine if next week when the search committee presents a candidate and we say—“we’re confident he is God’s choice for UBC because he’s really tall.” I have no way of knowing how tall he is, I just know he’s not allowed to be taller than me, or smarter, better at ping-pong.
He’s sent off for a relatively menial task—not a huge responsibility. And he rightfully does so.
While many people interpret vs. 5 as a demonstration that he’s concerned about the feelings of others, it could just as easily be a sign of his own lacking work ethic (vs. 5)—of a desire to quit and take the easy route home. “I’m sick of looking for these stupid donkeys, let’s go home.”
You can also see that Saul is also not particularly interested in matters of faith—vs. 6—the servant knew more about Samuel’s existence than Saul did. And when Saul, the master’s son didn’t have any money, the servant was prepared. Why would the servant have more money than the son? Was it his own money or money Saul’s father gave him?
Vs. 14—it didn’t take long for Saul to find Samuel—in fact, Samuel was expecting to see Saul. God had warned him—vs. 15-16. This must have been hard for Samuel, he knew the Desire for a King was a bad one—he knew it was really a rejection of God—8:7—but Samuel was still a Prophet to the people, God had told him to do it, and even in it God intended to use Saul to answer their prayer for deliverance. VS 16—and so, even though he didn’t like it, even though it wasn’t the ideal, he faithfully followed and Listened to the wisdom and will of God. This willingness allowed Samuel to be a man of influence even in the times of poor choices.
God knew what he was doing. Perhaps if Saul had not been leading the people and calling up armies to fight against the Philistines, David would have never had the opportunity to deliver Israel from the hands of Goliath.
• In order to maintain True & Genuine Godly Influence you must Listen to and be Faithfully Obedient to God—your personal relationship with God must be vibrant and you must follow him whether it makes sense to you or not.—17-19. Samuel could have heard this news and walked the other way—he could have refused, he could have ignored Saul and his servant, could have lied about his identity. But Samuel didn’t—to do so would remove him from really serving God in this situation.
Consequences of sin and our unwillingness to listen or follow many times keeps us from fully experiencing the blessing and harvest God has for us and to watch. We miss the opportunity to be a blessing to others and a godly influence. In order for us to truly have a good and lasting impact in the lives of others, our own walk with God must be strong and Trusting--
• Second, Samuel had to reveal the wisdom God had given him—a small demonstration of God’s wisdom—he knew all about the donkeys—vs. 20. Then in 10:1—“Has not the LORD anointed you a ruler over His inheritance” Whether Samuel liked the idea or not—God still chose Saul, God still anointed Saul over God’s own inheritance—the people of Israel. Samuel had to reveal this to Saul and eventually to everyone.
Saul and the people didn’t need good advice, they the Word of God. My words, my example are of no good to you unless it is built upon the Word of God and not my own inadequate wisdom and ramblings. Scripture, all of it—as 2 Timothy 3:15-16—“is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
What I say must be submitted to the test of the Word of God just like the Bereans wanted to check up on Paul in Acts 17:11—“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true”
If you want to have a good and godly influence, you must reveal what God has given us in the Word of God, that means we’ve got to read it, study it, live it in order for our words to any real and lasting, eternal impact.
• Third, Samuel Encouraged more than Discouraged—vs. 20b-24
He spoke well of Saul’s family—he saved the best place at the table for Saul—vs. 22, the best cut of meat. He encouraged and tried to give confidence for Saul—not in his own abilities but in the fact that God had chosen him. Samuel used kind words to do so—he was attempting to build what would turn a relatively shy and fearful leader into a character that was as big as his body.
If you want to have a godly influence, even when someone is making a horrible decision—find a way to speak positively to them and build them up rather than tear them down. Show them mercy, show them you care, show them you love them and want the best for them. Let them know you are there for them—and build them up to make the best decisions based on their faith. Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
• Fourth—Build & Cultivate Relationship—Even after the meal, and the invitation and all the small talk, Samuel still wanted to influence Samuel, so they continued to talk and reveal God’s will to Saul even after the meal and the next day—vs. 9:25—10:1—Dialogue was ongoing—Samuel didn’t feel the pressure that we sometimes feel that we have to get everything said in one conversation.
Through it all, Samuel never forgot his goal, his duty, his calling—to influence Saul and make him the best king he could be for the Israelites. The amazing thing is that Samuel still wanted Saul to do well. If we’re going to have a king, let’s have the best king. Saul certainly looked the part, and now Samuel wanted to work on Saul’s heart to be the part—to be the kind of godly king the people needed. Samuel sought to see Saul changed by the power of God—10:6—Samuel didn’t just want any guy of the street, but the one who would be a champion of faith.
• Fifth—just like Samuel did in the previous chapter—Pray and bring it all before God. Prayer is a powerful influence, an influence that is at work even when you are not around. You are calling upon the God of the universe to act on behalf of someone who needs Him.
So if you Want to have a Good, Godly influence even in the midst of struggle and poor decisions, then
1. Faithfully Listen to and Follow God Yourself
2. Share the wisdom, experience and Scripture that God has given you
3. Encourage more than Discourage
4. Build & Cultivate Relationship
My life shall touch a dozen lives before this day is done;
Leave countless marks for good or ill, ere sets the evening sun.
This is the hope I always hope, the prayer I always pray:
Lord, may my life help other lives it touches by the way.