All of those opposed shout, “Nay!”

 

The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun, except for maybe sunscreen. Seriously, what Solomon teaches us from that oft-quoted verse is that people, their tendencies, and actions scarcely change over time.  People do now what they did then, and will continue to do so.

Given an introduction to the never-changing nature of human nature, I want us to peek into how people respond to leaders or authority. We now do this knowing that as it was then so it will be today, and tomorrow.

To do so we will look at a short passage from 1 Samuel 10 to see that being a leader or in a position of authority is not easy for any of us.

Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the LORD. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. 26 Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.” 1 Samuel 10:25-27

Let’s begin by understanding that there is no such thing as a perfect leader — other than Jesus — or a perfect follower. King Saul was by no measure a perfect leader. He wasn’t even a good one. Although Saul was Israel’s first king, he was not first rate. He made rash decisions, was selfish, and couldn’t stand on his own. Evidence of the latter is shown here:

“And when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he attached him to himself.” 1 Samuel 14:52

This post is not about the quality of Saul’s leadership, though it does provide some context. Rather, it’s about the fact that there is no shortage of those who respond negatively to leaders.

Please go back and read 1 Samuel 10:25-27. Really, read it slowly.

Saul had become king of Israel. He had laid out, in verse 25, the manual on kingship. He then left, and the crowd dispersed. Except for a few knuckleheads. These men are described — by God’s Word no less — as “some worthless fellows.” As their progeny read about them years later their cheeks must have flushed with pride. “Oh yeah,” says one of the fellows’ great-grandsons while playing with his chums, “my dad is mentioned in the book of 1 Samuel (or One Samuel as Trump would say).” I digress. I will try to un-digress. Give me a minute, I am snickering at the thought of it all.

Yes, that’s better.

So, these bozos made a statement about their new king that provides insight for us to consider. Here are four pithy principles to ponder:

1. Naysayers use questions to undermine leadership. Verse 25 quotes the worthless fellows, “how can this man save us?” This technique wasn’t new then and isn’t old now. It’s been used since the beginning of time and has no visible expiration date. If you are in a leadership position at work, church, or in a civic group — in other words, in a situation with three or four of human beings gathered — then you should expect people to question you and your ability to lead. Whether their motive is envy or apathy, the effect is the same. This leads us to the next principle.

2. Naysayers are saturated with bitterness and jealousy. They are vipers who hope to inject their hatred into others. Their fangs drip with the venom of envy. They are not happy unless others are unhappy. Nothing is enough, no one is good enough, and things can’t be bad enough enough for others to suit them. They can quickly list a dozen reasons why your idea won’t work. Never mind the fact that they do not have a solution, or have ever had an idea of their own. Their glass is half-empty yet full of malice

3. Naysayers will not do the right thing. While others presented the new king with gifts those scoffers only offered scorn. Observing a naysayer doing the right thing for the right reason would be like spotting Bigfoot in a Zumba class. Never expect anything good from anyone who cannot see the good in anything. For this reason they will not do what is right even when the right thing is demonstrated in front of them.

4. Naysayers can be shut down. The most effective way is by use of the Guillotine. Just kidding, but it would be effective. Or, while referring to medieval methods of punishment, imagine a naysayer being drawn and quartered. As the process begins the ole nagging Nellie or Ned would shout, “those ropes won’t hold, and your horses are too puny to do this right!” They can be shut down by “holding your peace.” (verse 27) Don’t argue with them. Leave them alone. They can’t be cured because they like to marinate in misery. Do not answer a fool according to his folly, because in doing so you become like him, said Solomon in Proverbs 26:4.

Saul didn’t do well as king. It wasn’t because of the naysayers. But, you can do well regardless of critics around you. You can do well at home, at work, at church all the while circled by cynics. They are everywhere; they dislike leaders, authority, and those who earn the right to be either. Good leaders move on despite pessimists. Elijah did; Jesus did; Paul did; you can too. Each of those Bible folks mentioned held to truth and grace, and persevered. You can too.

Ignore the doubters. Rise above them. Or, if you have the proper authority, have them drawn and quartered.

For a hard time call…

“You are going to have a hard time in life,” he said. It was true then, and it’s still true today.

Those tough words won’t ever be the title of a popular Christian best seller. Heavens no. Heck no, too! As a side note — or sarcastic note — here are some titles that you might find on a Christian best seller list:

  • Happiness in Seven Minutes, or Less
  • Full life, full pockets
  • Raising Pets that Honor God
  • Fulfill all of your dreams: God dotes on you because you really are that special and deserve it

Snicker.
Sigh.

Pardon the hyperbole in the titles, but some “Christian” books suggest things that are almost this absurd. And they sell.

Back to life being tough. Who spoke those dreary words in the intro to this post? Uh, Jesus did. Dang.

We all like to receive good news. Personally, I prefer to hear the truth even more. If the two happen to be the same, then great. If not, that’s to be expected in this world. I am not a pessimist. I am far from it. I am an optimistic realist. Moreover, I try to be a biblicist. So, let’s see what the Bible has to say about a tough life for those who follow Christ.

Jesus said things to His early followers like:

  • “count the cost…” Luke 14:28-33
  • “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:14
  • “In this world you will have trouble…”John 16:33

In Romans 8:18 and James 1:5, Paul and James add to this line of thought showing that the Christian life isn’t an easy meander from here to eternity. Rather, its a uphill climb, and at times requires some rock-climbing-like effort.

Being a genuine, biblical, non-bandwagon or trend-following Christ-follower means that you will endure some tough times as you live by faith and because you live by faith in Christ.

I don’t want to be a spiritual downer, but the Bible paints a picture that many Christian followers would like to keep swept under the rug. Namely, that the Christian life, though full of God’s best for us, is ripe with difficulty.

I want happiness, comfort, and ease as much as you do. But, those aren’t the primary components of the Christian life. Rather, Jesus promised peace, joy, and abundant living. Please don’t confuse happiness and ease (based on circumstances) with joy and peace (based on Christ and his provision for our needs). Happiness comes and goes like a vapor; joy abides forever, and it can also blossom during hardship.

The abundant Christian life is full of joy, gladness, peace, and purpose. Indeed, those very things are often borne during hardship, and raised up through difficulty.

So, for a hard time call…call yourself “His.” And mean it, and live it.

Know that through hardship comes growth, depth, and a strong message to others.

For example, in Acts 16:16-34, Paul and Silas were attacked, stripped down to their boxer shorts, beaten, thrown in jail, and locked down in stocks. All this happened because they were sharing Christ and upset someone’s apple cart. Please read those verses, it’s amazing stuff.

While in jail, and aching from their beating, Paul and Silas began to pray and sing hymns to God. The last phrase in Acts 16:25 is poignant, “and the prisoners were listening to them.”

The hardship that Paul and Silas had endured amplified their sincerity and steadfastness in honoring Christ. Keep in mind that they were not visiting the prison passing out Gospel booklets, or at home praying for those in the prison, they were in the prison because of their obedience to Christ. When genuine Christ-followers are steadfast during awful times, it points to the greatness of Christ, His promises, and His Holy Spirit. It also reveals to those who do not know Christ precisely what they do not have, or have to rely upon in their lives.

So, for a hard time call yourself “His.” It will lead to some hard times, but to even more great times.