For some people, success is very difficult to handle. The more successful they become, the more they become strangers to humility. Irving Berlin shone a spotlight on the dilemma of successful people when he observed, “The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success.” In other words, it comes with its own seduction. Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates summed it up well when he said, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
King Saul found himself in such a situation. God had sent him to destroy the Amalekites, but he felt he could do as he wanted instead of what God had instructed (1 Samuel 15). Drunk with his success, the narrative tells us that he left for Carmel to set up a victory monument in his honor (v.12, MSG). Bible scholar Matthew Henry observes, “By his wars and victories he hoped to magnify and perpetuate his own name and honour.” The narrative tells us about God’s conversation with Samuel which resulted in Samuel’s conversation with Saul. Totally ignorant of his haughtiness, Saul boasted to Samuel of his obedience (v. 13) which the prophet immediately challenged (vv. 14-15) before pronouncing judgment upon him (vv. 16-31).
The primary verse of interest is verse 17, “And Samuel said, ‘When thou wast little [insignificant] in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?'” (KJV). The most convicting words, “when thou was little [insignificant] in thine own sight.” While Saul was still humble, God made him king, but as success came he forgot to remain humble. He started working his agenda instead of God’s (v. 19); he forgot that it wasn’t about him, but all about God. Unfortunately, this problem is not unique to Saul. Many, including ministers of the Word, have become caught up in the successes that God has allowed them. Believing their own hype and that of others around them, they lose sight of the fact that the God who promotes is the same God who demotes. None of us, no matter how successful, can afford to forget where we are coming from. We are where we are all because of God’s grace.
As you move in the realm of success, how do you see yourself? How are you handling that success? Are you still little [insignificant] in your own eyes and following God’s agenda, or are you all “grown-up” and following your own?