“Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. So he demanded, ‘Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!’ And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.”
— 1 Samuel 13:8-9
Many a good man has failed under pressure. His cash flow depleted with critical bills due, he “borrows” his boss’s funds with the intention of returning them in a couple of days. Or with his job on the line and productivity down, he “bends” the rules, alters the facts, and saves the day–or so it seems, until he is found out.
King Saul is a great example. He had been instructed by Samuel, his spiritual mentor, to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel to come and bless the troops and lead them in worship before they went into battle (10:8). Gilgal was remote, a safe haven from their mortal enemies, the Philistines, so the time could be spent in careful, unhindered preparation.
But the Philistines gathered a huge army and went after Saul. They came and camped at Micmash, which is just a stone’s throw from Gilgal. So Saul’s troops became nervous and began to desert. As Saul saw his combat force dissipating, he panicked. In direct contravention of his instructions from the Lord, Saul went ahead with the spiritual exercises, which were not his responsibility. Just as he was concluding them, Samuel arrived, sharply rebuked Saul for his action, and advised him that his days as king were numbered.
The pressure revealed the faults. Saul had a tendency to panic and not trust, and a tendency to take things into his own hands rather than to believe that the Lord had things under control. He bypassed obedience when the end seemed to justify the means. Saul’s lack of faith led to direct disobedience of God, a sure recipe for disaster for the leader of God’s chosen people. He had to go.
Saul’s fatal flaws were neither unusual nor uncommon. Similar faults appear regularly in all of us when we are under pressure. In times of stress, substituting personal agendas and human effort for trusting obedience and obedient faith is like a skydiver dispensing with a parachute and substituting flapping his arms. Such an action will make a brave show, but will not achieve the desired objective. Such decisions and actions are a free-fall to disaster. It’s much better to keep the parachute of faith open.
None of us needs to be reminded that we are living in challenging times. The pressure of the Philistines is on us powerfully. We must draw closer to the Father now! We must trust him completely. Doing the right thing under pressure means turning to and trusting in Him. The soundest advice given to me as a young Christian was this: Stop trying and start trusting!