After Falling

1 Samuel 18:6-9 (NLT)

When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song:

“Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!”

This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.


By Chuck Griffin

Sunday during sermon time, I preached the story of David and Goliath, the classic Bible tale that I suspect even most unchurched people know. Today’s verses are the beginning of the story of what happened afterward.

It’s painful to watch this story play out in the Bible, and then repeatedly throughout history, into the present day. Some people just cannot let go, particularly if they have become accustomed to honor and power.

Saul knew he had fallen out of God’s favor, and that another was to take his place. The cry of the women likely confirmed for him what he had begun to suspect: David was the one. Read on in 1 Samuel, and you’ll see the lengths Saul was willing to go to cling to what was never really his, anyway, descending into madness in the process. The Lord had given, and because of Saul’s lack of faith, the Lord had taken away.

It’s unlikely any of us will ever achieve the lofty status of King Saul, and I hope none of us ever loses our place in God’s kingdom because of faithlessness. Even so, it may be that we find ourselves moving through our lives from roles that seem honorable to roles that seem like demotion or outright rejection.

Maybe the change needed to happen—it’s possible the Peter Principle kicked in—or maybe life has once again proven to be unfair. Regardless, we have to be very careful how we react.

A soft, obediently spoken “What now, Lord?” is always a good prayer at such a time. Christians keep serving God regardless of their perceived station in life. I have seen pastors do great work on behalf of the kingdom after receiving church appointments they considered slaps in the face.

And never forget, from a worldly perspective, the kingdom is an upside-down place. It never hurts to return to the Beatitudes for a refresher course.

Lord, today is a good day to remember John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

To Be Seen as God Sees

1 Samuel 16:6-7 (NRSV)

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”


By Chuck Griffin

At this point in 1 Samuel, God had rejected Saul as king, sending the Prophet Samuel in search of a new leader for the chosen people. Samuel arrived in the right place, but his eyes were drawn to the wrong person.

Israel was led by a man who looked “kingly” but could not follow God in a sustained way despite God’s Spirit resting on him. A little later, God would tell Samuel that David was Saul’s successor, and the prophet would anoint David to fulfill the role as a man after God’s own heart.

It’s clear from David’s physical description that the people would find him physically attractive, but that was not his qualifying characteristic, the aspect of his being that would make him the greatest earthly king of Israel.

We always should remember that David certainly was not perfect. What seems to matter is that he was very much inclined toward seeking and following God’s will, an Old Testament example of the pursuit of holiness.

We are reminded that if we are to act righteously, we first have to desire that God’s will be accomplished. Developing such a desire can be a complicated step in our life-long walk with God.

After all, we have to overcome the tendency to look out for ourselves and pursue what we want, which so often has to do with how we hope to appear to other people rather than to the God who looks within us.

My mind goes to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” Implicit in this statement is that our asking, searching and knocking should be driven by a holy desire to see God’s will fulfilled in every aspect of our lives.

Lord, bring our hearts fully into alignment with yours, so our desires match your desires. Amen.

Those Who Would Lead

Mark 10:42-45 (NLT)

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


By Chuck Griffin

Don’t be distracted by the “rulers in this world” reference. Self-promoters will always be with us, making up the vast majority of those who lead in secular settings.

Jesus’ message is aimed squarely at leaders in the church, and that is where our minds need to be today. They are supposed to lead in very different ways, perhaps influencing the world just a little by their example.

Pastors need to take all of what Jesus says to heart, of course. Certainly, pastors who rise to positions of higher authority (and higher pay, accompanied by other trappings of success) need to take Jesus’ words quite seriously.

And let’s never forget that lay Christians need to lead, too. If we don’t have laity taking a strong hand in running the church at all levels, we are going to be disappointed in our results for the kingdom.

So, what do servant leaders look like?

Well, such people have Philippians 2:4 hearts: “Look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” They plan their day around what they can do to improve other people’s situations. In particular, they’re thinking how they can help others receive eternal life and peace in this life.

That alone is not enough to make them leaders, though. Another step is required; leaders also take measures to ensure godly order.

In other words, they seek God’s will through prayer and Scripture, and they work to structure the church at all levels in accordance with what they find, usually building on what previous generations of leaders have determined. After all, the Holy Spirit works in each generation, and the Holy Spirit always gives consistent answers. Think “mission.”

Obviously, servant leaders also need to be bold. No hiding allowed. As Jesus indicated, the world and the church are two very different settings, so Christian leaders shouldn’t be dissuaded or deterred simply because the world sniffs in disapproval of their actions.

Servant leaders should have at least mild disdain for the prosperity the world may offer them. At a minimum, they don’t see what resources they control as really being theirs. It wouldn’t hurt servant leaders to read John Wesley’s sermon “The Danger of Riches” from time to time.

For those of us who are professionally trained, it’s also a good exercise to reflect on our original sense of calling and what we were imagining during those earliest years in licensing school or seminary.

Did we really make all those life changes and commitments to pursue what we pursue now? (We did see this as a calling, right?) Has the maintenance of an institution taken priority over Christian mission?

If preaching Christ crucified is no longer your focus—well, please go seek a worldly path to riches and power. The church is no place for such games.

Lord, raise up new servant leaders among your laity and clergy so we may be your vibrant church. Amen.

Houseful of Servants

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Matthew 24:45-51
Jesus Discusses the Need To Stay Ready

“A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”


Just in case you’re missing the meaning—we are the servants. In a culture where we have a tendency to exalt ourselves, we can fail to recognize this all-important starting point.

We have hit a place in the cycle of Bible readings where we’re getting daily reminders that our situation is temporary. Christians believe Jesus Christ will return one day to set the world right, restoring holiness and driving away evil. This servant metaphor is embedded in a long section of Matthew where Jesus talks in very apocalyptic tones.

Servants have responsibilities; we are to understand ourselves as being in charge of each other’s well-being. Remember Philippians 2:4? “Look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

In a lot of ways, a narcissist—a psychopathically self-centered person—is the behavioral opposite of the perfect Christian. Most of us fall on a scale somewhere in between these two extremes, and we of course want to be “going on toward perfection,” to use an 18th-century Methodist term.

How will we be found? Caring for others, or obsessively taking care of our own needs and wants?

These are good questions to ask ourselves as we arise each morning. They could very well shape what we do each day!

Lord, help us to look out for those opportunities to support our fellow servants. As we care for each other, we know your household will grow stronger day by day, until the day we see you in full. Amen.