Today, we will give you a test. It’s ‘thee’ test to see if you struggle with being insecure and if it is impacting your relationship with others and God. How will we do that today? We will be looking into the life of one of the key leaders in the Old Testament and the decisions he made. He was insecure. He was a people pleaser. He struggled to be fully surrendered to God. And because of that, he struggled to be a good king.
In this Old School series, we are learning that the stories in the Old Testament are actually stories about us. That is why we read the Old Testament. It is loaded with relevant stories about God and how people struggled to have faith in God. Some stories are stories about a group of people like the Children of Israel. Some stories are about individuals. In all of these stories, they are real life stories of God entering life to make things happen. And in all these stories, we get a front row seat to see how people struggled to put their faith in God.
Last week Sam walked us through the story of the Children of Israel when they wanted a King to lead them. They again, after God loved them and provided for them, rejected God. To them, God wasn’t enough. They wanted a King to be like the other countries around them. Think about that for a second. They had the God of the universe leading them, personally engaging them but they wanted to surrender that privilege to have a King. What a sad story. It broke God’s heart. Sam showed us how this story is a story about us. He asked us, ‘Why isn’t God not enough?’ He then walked us through five key areas of our lives and pointed out what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Living in a way where we can say, God is more than enough.
Before I jump into today’s scripture, I want to ask you something. If you have been following along in our summer series, do you find it amazing that God continues to love the Children of Israel? All the stories we have walked through prove that God is passionately and recklessly in love with His people. All God does is care for the Children of Israel and all they do is reject Him. How much rejection can God take? What does God do? How does He respond? He gives them a king and continues to love them. Who lives like this? God does. I find God’s love to be amazingly stubborn and relentless through it all.
Today we continue the story. God gives Israel their first king. Now remember, this is around 400 years after the Children of Israel have been freed from Egypt. His name was Saul. He was 30 years old when he became King and he ruled for 42 years. To read about King Saul and study his life, is to read about someone who was insecure. Because he was insecure, he was a people pleaser. Because he was a people pleaser, he struggled to fully surrender to God. And that was Saul’s major character flaw as king and it ruined his ability to enjoy life. As we walk through these stories, remember, we are walking through 42 years of a King’s life.
Early in his leadership as king, God told the prophet Samuel to tell Saul to go to war with the Amalekites and destroy them. Why? Do you remember the story we talked about earlier this summer? Soon after the Children of Israel were freed from Egypt, it was the Amalekites who tried to kill the Israelites. At that time, they were slaves in the desert and were completely vulnerable. The Amalekites wanted to take advantage of them. Saul was told to destroy everyone and everything. Saul fails. He allows the king of the Amalekites to live and kept the best sheep and cattle to live. Scripture shares with us what God thought. God said this to Samuel.
“I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” NIV 1 Samuel 15:11
Samuel goes to confront Saul. Here’s what happened.
13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” 14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” 15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
16 “Stop!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” “Tell me,” Saul replied. 17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”
20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”
22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” NIV 1 Samuel 15:13-25
Did you see that? ‘I know what I did was wrong. The reason I did it was, I was afraid of what people might say so I gave in to them.’ Saul was insecure. Because of that, he was a people pleaser. That means he was more afraid of people’s opinions than obeying God. I believe one of the greatest challenges in life is to be insecure and become a people pleaser and at the same time try to be fully surrendered to God. Why is it a challenge? Because there can only be one God that you center your life around. Have you felt that pressure? The Apostle Paul did.
The apostle Paul said this.
You can see that I am not trying to please you by sweet talk and flattery; no, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please men, I could not be Christ’s servant. TLB Galatians 1:10
Paul said, I can’t be a people pleaser and be Christ’s servant at the same time. It’s a tormented life to try and do both. To be clear, there is a difference between being kind to others and being a people pleaser. You can be kind and not comprise your principles. Being a people pleaser means you want others to like you so much, you are willing to comprise your principles.
God clearly gives us God principles to live out. What messes with us? What will people say? What will people think? Those questions haunt us when we make decisions – right? Isn’t this your question at home? What would my spouse say? Isn’t this your struggle at work? If I decide this, what will people say? In church world, church leaders often ask, ‘If we do this at church, what will people say?’ On the bigger issues, Sam and I say, ‘Regardless of what people say, what does scripture say?’
What people might say messes with us – right? And when we see someone living with clarity and integrity and courage, it’s inspiring. Why? We struggle to be that person because we are worried about what others will think. We admire someone who is kind and is able to live with integrity, someone not willing to comprise their God principles.
Questions for you: Does the pressure of pleasing people cause you to comprise? Or, do you find courage in doing what God wants even if it disappoints those around you? When you make decisions, what is in your head most; what others would think or what God would think?
Saul was so insecure, he wanted to please people around him more than obey God and it grieved God. Saul just couldn’t fully surrender his life to God, and it destroyed his ability to be a good king.
Soon, the Philistine army goes to war with Israel. Saul and the Israelites are terrified because the Philistines have a giant named Goliath. They had good reason to be scared. He was close to being ten feet tall and a battle tested warrior. A shepherd boy named David kills Goliath and David goes viral. When they come home from the victory, the women were in the streets cheering. This is what happens.
7 As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” NIV 1 Samuel 18:7
If they had Instagram or tic-tok, every young girl would have made David viral. He would have been more popular than Chris Hemsworth [modern day Thor]. That’s who David would have been in his day, even more so.
King Saul was saved because of David’s courage. You would think Saul would do anything to support and honor David. Actually no. That’s what a secure leader would do. Think about how an insecure person would react. Let’s read the next verse.
8 Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” 9 And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David. NIV 1 Samuel 18:7
And there you go. Insecure people can’t celebrate others. Other people are a threat. Other people are objects to compare yourself to or get something from them. Other people aren’t humans you love and celebrate. When others do well, they get angry or jealous. Do you see it? King Saul’s character flaw is damaging his ability to lead the way God needs him to lead.
Questions for you: When others do well, can you celebrate them and really mean it? Or, do you struggle when others do well? Do you become secretly jealous or angry? How do you view people or leaders? Are they objects to get something from or are they people who are to be loved and celebrated?
Let’s keep reading. Same chapter now verse 14.
14 In everything David did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.
17 Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord.” For Saul said to himself, “I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!” NIV 1 Samuel 18:14-17
How does Saul lead as a King? He is manipulative. Because he is insecure, he is always thinking about himself. He is the center of every story and everyone around him is a threat. So he has to manipulate and create schemes to kill David.
Questions for you: Do you avoid dealing with issues head on? Do you put yourself in the middle of every story of your life? Do you view others as a threat and secretly feel jealously? Do you find that you use guilt, anger or keeping score to get others to do what you want? Can you engage issues head on with grace and clarity and with no manipulation? Can you love your spouse? Can you follow your leader? Can you be kind to others even when you don’t get what you want from them?
Saul’s jealousy and hatred for David grows.
10 Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape. 11 Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed.” NIV 1 Samuel 19:10-11
This begins Saul’s attempt to hunt down and kill David. Stop and think about this for a second. What is Saul’s job? He’s anointed by God to be king. He’s supposed to be leading Israel. He supposed to make the country safe. He’s supposed to keep the country focused on God. What is consuming his thoughts and his time? His jealousy and hatred for David. Saul has lost focus. He was living in a small and distorted world he created. Because of that, he was failing at being a good king. How sad. Saul wasn’t living in reality. He was living in a made-up small world.
Questions for you: Do you seem to lose focus and care about small things at the expense of the more important things? What consumes your thoughts and your time? Is it hard for you to prioritize? Do you stay focused on who you are and what God has asked of you? Are you allowing your wounds or insecurities to distort your world?
Later, Saul and his son Jonathan were at a banquet. David didn’t show up. Saul asked Jonathan where David was. Here is what happened.
28 Jonathan answered, “David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.”
30 Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? NIV 1 Samuel 20:28-30
Saul was so insecure, it lead him to be suspicious of everyone. He didn’t even trust his son.
It’s hard to be in a healthy relationship with someone riddled with insecurities. Because they aren’t secure in themselves and in God, they tend to only think about themselves. They tend to view others as a threat so they may be suspicious of others.
This is how it can play out in relationships, at work or church. With insecurities, people can expect and need more than usual compliments or validation or a title to feel good about themselves. It’s the boyfriend or girlfriend who is always needing more than normal compliments. And the moment you give the compliment, the validation or title, it won’t be enough, they will need more. In relationships at work or church, insecurities can make a person someone who tends to always be needing more from others while at the same time struggling to give to others. This makes others around them tired. And when others get compliments, validation or a title, they can get as angry as king Saul.
What do we do? How do we live if we see that we wrestle with insecurities?
Paul gave this advice.
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – then do me a favor: …Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. MSG Philippians 2:1-4
You have to be a secure person or be fully surrendered to God to put yourself aside to help others. Insecure people struggle to do that. Saul couldn’t do that.
Questions for you: Do you find it hard to think about others around you and how what you do impacts them? Are you searching for compliments, validation or a title? When in your relationships with friends or at work or church, if you aren’t validated how do you respond? Maybe with gossip, anger or being hot and cold? Do you have the inner strength to put yourself aside to help others with no strings attached?
As the years pass, Saul continues to try to find and kill David. In one story, Saul was marching with his troops and needed to rest in a cave. What Saul didn’t know was that David and his men were in that cave and could have killed him while he slept. But David refused to harm the king who God placed on the throne. David understood God’s authority and fully submitted to it. When Saul left the cave, David calls out to Saul.
16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. NIV 1 Samuel 24:16-19
Saul is confronted with the integrity and love of David. It smashes through Saul. Saul realized how insecure he was and how secure David was. It exposed who Saul was. Saul could never be David. Saul realized how his jealousy and anger had blinded him and how pure hearted David was. In that moment, Saul is crushed.
Questions for you: Do you have moments when you see integrity in someone and it reminds you that you struggle with integrity? Do you have moments when you realize that your negative thoughts and emotions have led you to a bad place – a small, made up world? Do you live with ferocious integrity like David?
Near the end of Saul’s reign as King, he is at war and wants to know if God is on his side. Saul goes to a medium to conger up the spirit of Samuel. The problem with this was simple. Not only was this tapping into the demonic, Saul had a law that mediums were illegal. To get around the law he created, he had to disguise himself and hope the medium didn’t recognize him.
9 But the woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?”
10 Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this.” NIV 1 Samuel 28:9-10
What do we see? Saul breaks his own rules to get what he wants.
Questions for you: Do you find that you are willing to break the very rules you tell others to live by? When you break the rules, do you look at it as okay, maybe even necessary? When others break the rules you create, do you struggle to tolerate it?
King Saul is a study about someone who struggled to be fully surrendered to God. Why? He was insecure. Because of that, he was a people pleaser. Because of that, Saul was tormented in life and failed at being a good King.
How are you doing? Do you see yourself in Saul’s story? Remember, these stories are about us. If you struggle like Saul did, I would say you are normal. We all struggle with these things. If we know that, how do we move into life? Before you leave today, you need to wrestle with who you will surrender your life to? The opinions of others or obeying God.
Assuming you want to surrender to God, pray and tell God you want to fully surrender everything to Him.
Then leave here and live everyday putting yourself aside to help others get ahead. Your spouse, family, friends, work and church. And when you find that a struggle, it’s time to surrender again.
As you live life, if you are slowly becoming upset with others because you need more than usual validation, more than usual compliments, more than usual titles, it might be time to surrender again.
So here is ‘thee’ test that I promised. Right out of Philippians 2. Has the love of God so impacted you that you put yourself aside and help others get ahead with no strings attached? Do you find that you are obsessed with getting your own advantage or has the love of God made that obsession go away? Has the love of God so impacted you, it overcomes your insecurities and desire to be a people pleaser?
I want you to see that if king Saul would have fully surrendered to God, he would have bene able to live in freedom. However, because he struggled, he lived a life of unnecessary torment.