Samuel the prophet delayed. He was late. Samuel failed to fulfill his responsibility; at least that was what Saul thought. So the king felt entitled to take initiative, usurp the command of his spiritual leader and act on his own initiative. See 1 Samuel
Eventually, when Samuel arrived he declared, “You have done foolishly!” Further, the prophet Samuel announced that
Saul’s kingdom wouldsoon come to an end. Because of his foolish mistake, God revoked the king’s authority and would raise another to replace him.
What did he do that was so terrible? What sin had Saul committed that was so heinous in the sight of God that it brought about harsh condemnation and swift rejection? Was it greed or adultery? Was it idolatry or murder? No, but it was something equally destructive for leaders in the Kingdom of God: Saul usurped the authority of his leader.
Never is one’s character more on display than when he is out of sync with his leader. It may be a season of patiently waiting; it may be an issue of disagreement; it could even be a matter of disrespect and contempt that one holds toward his authority. It any event, it is how one responds to his authorities in times of disparity that reveals the true quality of his or her character.
“But I’m under God’s authority!” This is the foremost objection people raise against submitting toward human authority. Because of their relationship with God or close communion to His presence, they feel that submission to a man is beneath them. However, nothing can be further from the truth.
Anyone can be humble before God; however, true humility is not demonstrated until we humble ourselves before man. Hebrews 13:17 commands: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive.” Andrew Murray wrote: “It's easy to think that we are humble before God, but our humility toward others is the proof that our humility before God is real.” In other words, God is not impressed when you humble yourself before Him. Any fool can do that. What impresses God is one’s willingness to humble himself before other people. This is especially true when those people seem less powerful, less talented, less intelligent, and less capable
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the example of our Lord. Jesus said of Himself, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). No one had more power, more ability than Jesus Christ the Son of God, but He humbled Himself and submitted His will to the will of man. Meekness isn’t weakness; it is strength under control. Meekness is the awareness that one is strong and talented and capable but chooses not to act on that strength or assert his ability in deference to the will and wishes of another—usually his leader.
“But how can I submit when the authority over me is wrong?” Anyone can submit when he or she is in agreement with their leader. Saul could have easily obeyed Samuel had Samuel been doing what he was supposed to be doing; it was Samuel’s absence and perceived dereliction of duty that tested the sincerity of Saul’s submission.
True submission is demonstrated, not in times of agreement, but in seasons of disagreement. In fact, there is no expression of submission without the context of disagreement. Without disagreement, submission is merely compliance. There is no need to restrain one’s impulse or force one’s obedience; one needs only to agree with that which he already views favorable.
On the contrary, it is one’s ability to resist that surge of disagreement rising in one’s heart—it is that discipline to quell an impulse of assertiveness against the leader that proves true submission and the presence of real humility.
Consider David before he became king. No one was more wrong than King Saul and no one was more right than David
(1 Samuel 18). In fact, Saul was spiteful, bitter and influenced by evil spirits. David, on the other hand, was singing psalms and killing Philistines. But David never lifted his hand against his authority. The one time David did act against him, he felt great remorse and publicly repented (1 Samuel 24:6). In those times when the authority is wrong, God is not looking for your help. He is more than able to work all things according to His will. More often, God is trying to work out issues of character in His future leaders—issues such as submission, humility, and faithfulness. Sometimes He does that by putting you under a Saul.
This is not to say, however, that Christians should never disagree with or challenge the authorities over them. Spiritual leaders are not authoritarian demigods wielding absolute power in the name of Christ; they are mere people—infallible flesh that often makes mistakes and exercises severe lapses in judgment. As such, there are times when leaders should be challenged. The question is “how” such authorities can be challenged without compromising our own humility and sense of integrity.
In my next blog I will provide practical steps in how to address concerns with authorities while maintaining a submissive and respectful attitude.
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