Rising to Leadership

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1 Samuel 10:9-27 (Saul becomes king)

INTRODUCTION: Our series is called “The Rise and Fall of Saul,” and we are tracing King Saul’s rise to leadership as the first king of Israel to his eventual falling away and replacement by King David. Today’s message is called “Rising to Leadership.” (Read 1 Samuel 10:22-24 and pray.)

All of us are called to leadership in some form. All of us are called to have a good and godly influence on those God has placed around us. The question is how do we get there? How do we rise to leadership in a way that is spiritually healthy, biblically balanced and pleasing to God?

In our passage this morning, we find some key, practical principles that God wants us to follow as he calls us into positions of leadership. And although we are primarily talking about spiritual leadership, many of these principles apply to leadership in secular situations as well.

The three main leadership principles we learn from our passage today are these: 1) Begin with the Holy Spirit. 2) Let God do the promoting. 3) Serve an audience of one.

I. Begin with the Holy Spirit (9-13)

So let’s start with the first principle: begin with the Holy Spirit. It makes sense if we’re talking about spiritual leadership that we would begin with the Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit leading, there is no such thing as spiritual leadership. Why do we begin with the Holy Spirit? There are three reasons we find demonstrated for us in our passage today.

   A. The Holy Spirit changes your heart (9)
      – Titus 3:5-6

First of all, the Holy Spirit changes your heart. Look at verse 1 Samuel 10:9 with me:

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. (1 Samuel 10:9)

Last week we looked at three miraculous signs God would use to confirm his call upon Saul’s life. Now we learn that all three happened, just as Samuel said. But even more importantly, we learn that as Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart.

The first reason we begin with the Holy Spirit is because the Holy Spirit changes your heart. We read in Titus 3:5-6 “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:5-6) Before we came to Christ our hearts were stubborn towards God, defiant and disobedient. But when we come to Christ, the Holy Spirit comes and washes our hearts clean. This is an essential first step before rising to leadership God’s way. The Holy Spirit changes your heart.

   B. The Holy Spirit brings visible change (10-12)
      – Matthew 13:55; Galatians 5:22-23

Next, the Holy Spirit brings visible change. Look at verses 10-12:

When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying. 11 When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 12 A man who lived there answered, “And who is their father?” So it became a saying: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 10:10-12)

When Saul arrived at Gibeah, he meets this group of prophets, and just as Samuel said, the Spirit of God comes upon him and he starts prophesying along with them. The people who witness this are amazed. Gibeah was Saul’s hometown, so these are his friends and neighbors. They know Saul, but they have never seen Saul like this before! So they ask: “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

It’s hard to say whether they mean this in a positive or a negative sense, but there is definitely the element of surprise here. We see a similar reaction to Jesus in the New Testament when he began performing miracles. The people were amazed at Jesus and said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55) Well in the same way the people are amazed at Saul and ask: “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

And then another man who lived there replied: “And who is their father?” In other words, where does their prophesying come from? What is their source of inspiration? And of course the answer is, the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came upon Saul, the Spirit brought visible change – so much so that this became a saying. Whenever something strange or unexplainable happened, people would say: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” referring back to this incident.

In the same way when you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit brings visible change in you. We read in Galatians 5: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) You come to Christ as you are with all your sin and hang-ups, but then the Holy Spirit begins to change you, and you become a new person. People will notice the difference. The Holy Spirit brings visible change.

   C. The Holy Spirit leads you to worship (13)
      – John 4:23-24

Why begin with the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit changes your heart. The Holy Spirit brings visible change. And then thirdly, the Holy Spirit leads you to worship. Look at verse 13:

After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place. (1 Samuel 10:13)

The high place was a place of worship and sacrifice. The prophets Saul met had just come from the high place; now Saul proceeds to the high place in order to worship God.

Jesus said in John 4: “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)

God is looking for worshipers before he is looking for leaders. Here’s a great quote from Pastor Colin Smith: “Intimacy with Christ comes before activity for Christ.” Many of us are quick to jump into areas of service, but we must not forget that worship always comes first.

J. Oswald Sanders says in his classic book, Spiritual Leadership: “There is no such thing as a self-made spiritual leader. A true leader influences others spiritually only because the Spirit works in and through him to a greater degree than in those he leads.” Do you want to be faithful in leadership in the church or in other areas of life? Then the Holy Spirit is essential. The Holy Spirit changes your heart. The Holy Spirit brings visible change. The Holy Spirit leads you to worship. That’s our first leadership principle this morning. Begin with the Holy Spirit.

II. Let God do the promoting (14-24)

The second principle is this. Let God do the promoting. This is a tough principle to follow, especially in our culture where self-promotion is encouraged and even expected. But it is such an important one, and especially when we are talking about spiritual leadership in the church.

So how do you let God to the promoting in your life when it comes to leadership? There are several things we learn about this from our passage today.

   A. Wait for God’s timing (14-16)
      – 1 Peter 5:6

First of all, wait for God’s timing. We are often in a rush, but God never is, and we need to learn to wait for him. Look at verses 14-16:

14 Now Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where have you been?” “Looking for the donkeys,” he said. “But when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” 15 Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.” 16 Saul replied, “He assured us that the donkeys had been found.” But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship. (1 Samuel 10:14-16)

When Saul’s uncle asked him where they had been, Saul answered truthfully: “Looking for donkeys!” But when he mentioned Samuel, his uncle’s ears pricked up. Anyone would be interested in what a prophet had to say, so he asked Saul what Samuel said to him. Once again Saul answered truthfully – “he told us about the donkeys” – but notice Saul didn’t share everything Samuel said to him. Saul was still adjusting to all this himself, and the timing was not yet right.

We need to learn to wait on God’s timing, too. If you think God is calling you in a certain direction, don’t be in such a rush to share it with others. Don’t post it on Facebook right away. Take your time. Keep it private. Let God do his work first.

I was in this situation several years ago before I was called to this church. I was in between churches for three years and wondering what God’s plan was in all this. I had sent out so many resumes and cover letters, and God was closing every door. Eventually I felt God was telling me to wait for whatever he had for me. So I stopped sending out resumes. I stopped contacting churches. And then God very clearly led me back to ministry here at Plantation Community Church.

1 Peter 5:6 says this: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6) Don’t rush the process. The first step in letting God do the promoting is to wait for God’s timing.

   B. Trust God to open the right doors (17-21a)
      – Joshua 7:16-18; Psalm 75:6-7; Proverbs 16:33

Secondly, trust God to open the right doors. Look at verses 17-19:

Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the LORD at Mizpah 18 and said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, ‘No, set a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans.” (1 Samuel 10:17-19)

Here Samuel summons the people to a public assembly in order to present to them their new king. But before presenting Saul, he begins with a word of rebuke to the people. He reminds them that they have rejected the God who saves them for a human king who may or may not save them. This was not God’s will for them at this time, but God was answering their prayer anyways. Remember, be careful what you ask!

Then after rebuking them, he instructs them to present themselves before the Lord by tribe. Historically, this was not a good sign. The last time the people presented themselves before the Lord by tribe was back in Joshua 7 when Achan sinned against the Lord and God judged him and his family. But now God calls the people of Israel to present themselves to him once again. Look at verses 20-21:

When Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was chosen. Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. (1 Samuel 10:20-21)

So God had Samuel publicly choose the king by lot. The order here was people first, then tribe, clan, family, and finally the individual. By starting with the whole people, it showed the people of Israel that any one of them could have been revealed as God’s choice. No one is overlooked in the process, so no competitor can later try to lay claim to Saul’s place.

Proverbs 16:33 says: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” This choosing by lot was a public confirmation of what God had told Samuel privately. The prophet’s word should have been enough, but this will remove any doubt among the people that God has chosen Saul as their first king. God opened all the right doors for him.

Letting God do the promoting means trusting God to open the right doors for you, too. Psalm 75 says: “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. 7 But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.” (Psalm 75:6-7)

Now that does not mean that it is wrong to send out resumes or pass out business cards or let your boss know that you’re interested in a position or to ask for a raise. The Bible says we should work hard at all we do, and so we shouldn’t be waiting passively around for God to do all the work for us. There is a time and a place to put your name forward. But we should recognize that God is the one who ultimately promotes and we should trust him to open the right doors.

   C. Humble yourself and let God lift you up (21b-24)
      – Luke 14:7-11

Which leads us to the third aspect of letting God do the promoting: humble yourself and let God lift you up. In other words, your attitude in all this is key. Look at verses 21-24:

But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?” And the LORD said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” 23 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!” (1 Samuel 10:21-24)

Saul had just been chosen by lot, but he was nowhere to be found! So they asked the Lord, and the Lord responded, presumably through Samuel, “He’s in the luggage!” Saul has just been chosen king, and he’s checked himself into the baggage claim section! Now we’re not told Saul’s motivation here, whether it was humility or fear, but it was certainly not pride or arrogance.

They run and bring him and out and the people marvel at Saul’s height, which has nothing to do with being a good king. God has given them the king they wanted, not necessarily the king he wanted. Samuel emphasizes that this is the man “the Lord has chosen.” You might wonder, why didn’t God choose a better king for them? The answer is found in the earlier rebuke. God’s choice of Saul is partly God’s judgment on them for their wrong and foolish request for a king.

The people gather around Saul and shout: “Long live the king!” Wow! What an amazing moment that must have been for him. It was like standing on the Olympic podium or receiving the Super Bowl trophy. Saul has gone from hiding in the baggage to long live the king! Talk about humbling yourself and letting God lift you up!

When God is ready to promote you, he will promote you. You do not need to flaunt yourself. You do not need to push yourself forward. Even if you’re hiding in the baggage claim section, God will bring you forward when he is ready. Humble yourself, and let God lift you up.

Jesus told a parable about this once when he was at a feast. This is from Luke 14. Listen to his words carefully here:

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)

III. Serve an audience of one (25-27)

We are talking about rising to leadership, and we have looked at two leadership principles so far. 1) Begin with the Holy Spirit. 2) Let God do the promoting. And now we come to the third principle which is so important for all those called to leadership. Serve an audience of one. No matter who you serve in leadership, you are serving God first and foremost. No matter how many people God may grant you leadership and influence over, God is your primary target. Serve an audience of one.

   A. Honor God and his word (25)
      – Deuteronomy 17:18-19

So how do you do this? How do you make sure you are serving God first? There are two principles we find here in Saul’s story. First of all, honor God and his word. Look at verse 25:

Samuel explained to the people the regulations of the kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the LORD. Then Samuel dismissed the people, each to his own home. (1 Samuel 10:25)

Samuel does three things here. He explains God’s regulations; he writes them down on a scroll; he deposits the scroll before the Lord. These are covenant actions, and these three actions make this a sacred, legal agreement between Saul, the people and the Lord.

God had already written down the regulations for the kingship through Moses back in Deuteronomy 17. One of the instructions was that the king was to honor God and his word. We see this in Deuteronomy 17:18-19: “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees.” (Deuteronomy 17:18-19)

There it is. The king is king. He is ruler over his people, but he serves an audience of one. He must honor God and his word. In the same way you must honor God and his word if you are to lead well. Otherwise your leadership will lead people away from God instead of towards him.

After Samuel gives the instructions to the people, he dismisses everyone back to their homes. Notice it is Samuel who dismisses the people, not Saul. Saul is king, but Samuel is still in charge. The king is accountable to God’s word, so prophet trumps king. How do you serve an audience of one as a leader? First of all, honor God and his word.

   B. Know that you will have supporters and detractors (26-27)
      – John 6:41-42; Galatians 1:10

And then secondly, know that you will have supporters and detractors. Look at verses 26-27:

Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some troublemakers said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent. (1 Samuel 10:26-27)

Saul went home like everyone else. There was no place for the king to live yet anyways. And Saul like every leader had both supporters and detractors. He was accompanied by valiant men. The main function of the king at this time was military, to defend the people, so these men will form the core of his new army. Notice that God moved their hearts to join him. When you serve an audience of one, there is no need to manipulate or dominate others. Let God touch people’s hearts to support your leadership.

And then Saul also had his detractors – the troublemakers who publicly questioned his leadership. Verse 27 tells us that they despised him and brought him no gifts. If you are a leader, you will have your detractors too. Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone will like your style of leadership. That’s okay. Your job is to please God, not necessarily the people around you. As the apostle Paul said in Galatians 1:10: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

It’s not easy having detractors but it’s part of leadership. There’s a great saying: “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader – go sell ice cream.” This is where serving an audience of one is essential to leading well. When you serve an audience of one, you measure your leadership by God’s approval rather than by people’s approval.

Notice when these troublemakers criticized him that Saul said nothing. He kept silent. That’s a good approach. The best way to silence your critics is not through words but through action, which Saul will do in our very next chapter when he is used by God to rescue the Israelites.

CONCLUSION: We live in an age of self-promotion and self-glory, and these leadership principles we’ve discussed today sound foreign and strange to our ears. Begin with the Holy Spirit. Let God do the promoting. Serve an audience of one. These are countercultural principles which cut against the grain, and yet they are essential to true spiritual leadership in our time.

Saul was the first king of Israel, but there is another king whom he foreshadowed. Jesus Christ is the true King of kings and Lord of Lords. Like Saul, Jesus also was anointed by God, filled with the Holy Spirit and given a specific task. Like Saul people questioned Jesus’ qualifications and his ability to save. (see John 6:41-42) Like Saul God confirmed Jesus’ authority through many miracles, especially through his resurrection from the dead, and yet there were many who rejected him then, and many more who reject him today. “How can this man save us?” they ask.

Jesus saves us through his perfect life offered up as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins and through his resurrection from the dead demonstrating his power over sin and death. Jesus is the true example of spiritual leadership. He began with the Holy Spirit, he let God exalt him, and he served an audience of one. As God calls you and me to various positions of leadership in life, may we do the same.

© Ray Fowler

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