(originally published May 1, 2015)
When I was in high school, I remember being so insecure and afraid of what people thought of me that I use to be nervous just to walk across the cafeteria because I didn't want people to critique me. I've often struggled over the years of what people think about me.
Do they like me?
Do they dislike me?
How does my outfit and hair look?
Am I funny or annoying?
On and on and on the thoughts played in my head like the dripping faucet that won't allow one any peace. I can relate to Saul's actions in 1 Samuel 15, unfortunately. But thankfully, I can also "not relate" to him because God has helped me over the years to care less about what others think and more about what He thinks. Saul missed that one.
In this chapter, God orders Saul (through Samuel) to battle and defeat the Amalekites. And not just defeat them, but annihilate them. As in, kill every single human being and livestock from that nation. At the core of this, God wants remove any trace of a wicked nation. Back in Genesis 17, in the famous scene where Aaron and Hur hold up Moses' arms during a battle, the Amalekites fight Israel. Although Israel wins, God declares back then that he will remove the Amalekites from the Earth. God always does what He declares to do.
Back to 1 Samuel 15, Saul and the nation of Israel go to battle against the Amalekites and they do win! However, "Saul and the army" spare the life of the king and keeps the best livestock. In the next few verses following this, I remember just why Samuel is one of my favorite people in the Bible. Scripture says that Samuel cried out to the Lord all night because God says he regrets having made Saul king. I want to be like Samuel, who stays up all night to intercede and cry out to God. To have that kind of determination, perseverance, humility and relationship with God. A raw intimacy that supersedes self.
Th next day Samuel goes to find Saul, who ironically is building an altar to the Lord. See, Saul thinks he has done well by God. He thinks he has been obedient. However, Samuel confronts him on his obvious disobedience, having failed to kill the king and livestock. Here's a powerful truth: partial obedience is still disobedience. Saul did not fully carry through on God's command and therefor is deemed disobedient.
Now here's where to deadly trap comes in:
"I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them."
I'm so convicted by this! Saul's disobedience can be traced to his desire to please men above God. Wow. It provides a powerful example of what the deep desire for men's approval can lead to. I learn in this passage that caring about what people think, particularly above what God thinks, does lead to disobedience.
How does one avoid such a trap? Fight the urge to care! It seems to simple, yet vague, but it''s not! You have been given a moral compass and as a Christian, have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. Chances are you're pretty set to know when something is wrong or not. And when you feel something is wrong, don't do it! Even if people are directing you to the wrong thing. Fight the urge to care about what people think about you. You do this by finding comfort and security in your Heavenly Father, which grows as you spend more and more intimate time with Him. What He thinks and desires is what really matters.
- Do you believe you struggle with the desire to please men? If so, in what areas is this particularly a challenge?
- Having identified potential pitfalls, what process will you take to remove yourself from the trap when it arises?