Dear, wonderful, gifted King Saul.
Few biblical characters compare with this tall, dark and handsome leader of Israel. And what a resume! He was chosen by God, commissioned by Samuel, confirmed by a military victory, cheered by an adoring public over whom he reigned for 40 years as the nation's first monarch. Still, in the end, "He was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him."
Poor, pathetic, hopeless King Saul.
How does a guy fall from a divinely appointed penthouse to a self-imposed outhouse so quickly? Samuel knew: "You did not obey the Lord!"
Godly leadership has less to do with public opinion and everything to do with obedience to God. In the final analysis, obedience covers a multitude of leadership weaknesses. That's because obedience to the Almighty always produces confidence while disobedience always produces fear.
Opposition was the proving ground for Saul. It's the same for any leader. Testing showcases our belief system. We either wait on the Lord or go forward in our own strength. Saul chose the latter. He saw the overwhelming odds against him, became impatient for God's answer and took matters into his own hands. He flopped badly. His fear was conceived at the union of impatience and self-reliance.
Today, opposition can bear ugly children; and their intimidation has paralyzing effects. Not everyone can deal with it; but those who "stand firm" and "wait upon the Lord" will learn lessons taught in no other classroom. For example:
• Joseph spent 13 years between his brothers' betrayal and when God elevated him to prime minister. During that time, he learned the Almighty's sufficiency.
• For 40 years, Moses sat under the finest teachers in the world; but not until he was tutored in the backside of the desert did he learn how to lead effectively.
• David was in exile for 11 years because a jealous king saw him as competition. During those years, David became the servant leader who revolutionized a nation.
Mark Twain said, "A man who carries a cat by the tail will learn something he can learn in no other way." Joseph, Moses and David were all great leaders because of the claw marks.
Successful cat-carriers are rare. Leadership never has been easy.
It's no wonder that God was forever encouraging those whom He picked as leaders: "Be strong; be courageous, be careful." In fact, He specifically told His finest, "Do not be afraid!" Why? Because, they were!
• God told Abraham, "Do not be afraid."
• God told Isaac, "Do not be afraid."
• God told Jacob, "Do not be afraid."
• God told Moses—on three different occasions—"Do not be afraid."
• Three times God told Joshua, "Do not be afraid."
• God told Elijah, "Do not be afraid."
• God told Ezekiel, "Do not be afraid."
• God told Jeremiah, "Do not be afraid."
• God told Daniel, "Do not be afraid."
• On 10 occasions Jesus told His disciples, "Do not be afraid."
• Twice God told Paul, "Do not be afraid."
The list continues today.
Shepherding is a skilled occupation. It isn't for everyone because worrisome sheep can be exasperating. If the shepherd runs, so will the sheep. The best of sheep-herders wear a fleece jacket to—in the minds of the sheep—become one of them. During the long, cold nights, the sheep will sleep because the faithful shepherd watches them.
That's what the Good Shepherd does it for us, and that's how we do it for His flock.