Eight Words That Can Lead You To Disaster
When I saw… I thought… So I felt.
I was reading a familiar story in scripture when eight words in it jumped out from the page. I suddenly got an insight into how King Saul had ended up in sin. The choices he made here cost him the kingdom of Israel. It was a critical, tipping point moment in his life, but his defense of his actions revealed a truth to me that every one of us needs to learn from.
After being instructed by the prophet Samuel to wait for him at a certain place, Saul gets impatient in the face of a looming battle and he offers sacrifices to the Lord instead of waiting. No sooner has he done that than Samuel arrives on the scene and confronts Saul about his disobedience:
11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.
Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”
13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” 1sam13:11-12 NIV
If you filter out the ‘content’ of Saul’s story you see a clear path that led him to sin…
When I saw (my troops deserting, Samuel is not here when I expected, the enemy are gathering against me)
I thought (the battle will start and I can’t wait any longer for God’s blessing)
So I felt (like I had no other choice but to do Samuel’s job and offer the sacrifice)
And as a result he acts in disobedience and the Lord rejects him as king and chooses David instead. Wow. Big moment in Saul’s life, and it all came down to a few crucial things.
Sin often starts with how we see the world. In one sense, Saul wasn’t wrong – the things he saw were real. But we have to be so careful what we ‘see’ or what we focus on, especially when we’re under pressure. How might the outcome of the story have been different if it started instead with, “When Saul saw the faithfulness of the Lord to Israel, the honor it was to be their first king, the promises of God for his people and Samuel’s word that he would come…” It could have been a very different outcome. But instead all he saw were problems.
Or what if he changed how he thought? Despite all the problems in front of him, he would have waited for Samuel if only he’d had thoughts of faith instead of fair. No wonder the bible says “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he“.
Or what if he’d changed what he did in the face of great pressure? What if the story story had read, “When I saw… I prayed… so felt”. Too often my response to challenges is like Saul’s – I lean on thinking instead of praying, and often the obstacles become bigger and my view of God becomes smaller when I do.
Fear directed what Saul saw, how Saul thought, and in the end it caused him to feel ‘compelled’ to do something he knew he shouldn’t do. It was a slippery slope. And he tried to justify his sin because of these circumstances. How he saw impacted what he thought, what he thought impacted how he felt, and how he felt impacted his actions in a moment that would be his undoing.
Feelings are important and we should pay close attention to them. Our feelings are often telling us something. But we should be very careful about being led by our feelings, especially when those feelings are not aligned with God’s word. Before I assume that my feelings are accurate and I should do what they’re compelling me to do, I need to come back to how I’m seeing the world, and how I’m thinking as a result.
Saul felt the way he did because of the way he saw and thought.
What a powerful thing it would be to stop in moments like these and simply pray, “Father, show me how You see this situation right now. Help me to think Your thoughts and to have the mind of Christ. Amen”
The fruit was how Saul felt, but the root was how Saul saw. If you want to avoid disaster make sure you address the root, and not just the fruit, of your life.
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