THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
1 Samuel 15:16-23
Many Christians have turned away from God. Many others are
still there but not really living lives in Christ. Still others
try to live Christ and even serve him, but do so on their
own terms. They quit or lie low or withhold their resources:
they do not get their way;
they are no longer enjoying their life or service;
they do not get the recognition or service assignments that
they think they deserve;
they do not like, or think they are better than, the leaders
placed other them;
they have their own ideas and preferences and these are
not being adopted;
the work becomes difficult and they begin to suffer.
But authentic service to God engages as in spiritual warfare.
We are warriors! And for an army to move forward as one and
to become an effective fighting force, there has to be discipline
and obedience. Can you imagine officers in an army not obeying
other officers over them (unless of course the orders are
illegal or totally contrary to the mission)?
Such was the case with Saul and his army. God’s orders,
given through the prophet Samuel, were clear. Samuel told
Saul that God “sent you on a mission, saying: Go and
put the sinful Amalekites under a ban of destruction.”
(1 Sm 15:18a). They were to destroy everything and not take
any prisoner nor plunder. But instead they took the best of
the fat sheep, oxen and lambs, aside from sparing the life
of the Amalekite king Agag. Why? Saul tried to justify what
he did. He said the spoils of war were “to sacrifice
to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” (1 Sm 15:21b).
knew what he was doing and did not think that he was doing
anything displeasing to God. In fact, he thought he was obeying
God. “I did indeed obey the Lord and fulfill the mission
on which the Lord sent me. I have brought back Agag, the king
of Amalek, and, carrying out the ban, I have destroyed the
Amalekites.” (1 Sm 15:20). In other words, “I
accomplished the mission; the victory was won.”
not some servant leaders that way sometimes?
they do something not according to instructions but, by
the mercy of God, are still able to do something good, they
say: “What’s the problem? We accomplished the
they do things on their own apart from the directions of
the overall leadership because they prefer to do things
their way, they say: “What’s the problem? We
are still serving God.”
when we disobey the Lord, that is wrong. And what we see as
the good we do might be considered as bad, even evil, by God.
“Why then have you disobeyed the Lord? You have pounced
on the spoil, thus doing what was evil in the Lord’s
sight.” (1 Sm 15:19). What is important is not how we
see things, but how God sees them. What is important is not
just to serve, but to serve according to how God calls us
has His ways, and oftentimes God accomplishes good things
through us despite our disobedience, as we insist on our own
ways. But stop to imagine what God could do through us if
only we were totally obedient to Him. Obviously our wisdom
is nothing compared to God’s. Obviously our human vision
is far short of God’s eternal vision. Obviously how
we do things is often so pathetic compared to how God could
act in and through us, including signs and wonders.
we might have our good intentions, but what God wants is obedience.
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obedience to the Lord’s command? Obedience
is better than sacrifice, to listen, better than the fat of
rams.” (1 Sm 15:22).
God is about a mighty and urgently critical work in the world
today. In this he raises up His saints, martyrs and warriors.
He has His plan and His ways forward. He, not we, decides
on what we are to do. We might be good people, trying to live
Christ and to share Christ, and desiring to do what we believe
is pleasing to Him, but at the end of the day, the servant
has to obey the Master, the army needs to obey the Commander-in-Chief
(Jesus) and the whole people of God need to obey their King.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you, your burnt
offerings are always before me.” (Ps 50:8). What does
God want? “Offer praise as your sacrifice to God; fulfill
your vows to the Most High.” (Ps 50:14). In other words,
be holy and obedient.
And as to being an army, there must be discipline, for unity
and good order. This is not just token nods to community ways
and structures but actual obedience. Otherwise, even as we
think we are doing good and accomplishing the task, as Saul
did think, we might be accomplishing evil and are considered
wicked and not holy. “But to the wicked God says: ‘Why
do you recite my commandments and profess my covenant with
your mouth? You hate discipline; you cast my words behind
you!” (Ps 50:16).
we might think that has to do with really bad things such
as thievery and adultery (Ps 50:18). Yes of course. But how
about speaking against our brethren or even leaders, maligning
them, telling lies, spreading misinformation, distorting truth,
judging, gossiping, and so on? “You give your mouth
free rein for evil; you yoke your tongue to deceit. You sit
and speak against your brother, slandering your mother’s
son.” (Ps 50:19-20). You can see how this evokes disunity,
dissent, infighting. And when this happens, the army is weakened
and can no longer win the victory that God has already prepared.
Those whom God has called to leadership need to be obedient
and disciplined, and as servants, act in humility. This is
the way God can accomplish His purposes in and through them.
It is not about intelligence, secular accomplishments, personal
abilities and resources. While God certainly makes use of
those, He can use and empower anyone, even those who count
for nothing. The scribes and Pharisees were very learned and
held positions of honor and prominence, but it made them arrogant,
while actually being hypocrites. They disdained the disciples
of Jesus for not fasting (Mk 2:18). In their intelligence,
they actually showed their ignorance of the ways of God (Mk
2:19-22). Samuel as such referred to “arrogance, the
crime of idolatry.” (1 Sm 15:23b).
to ourselves, and in effect not to God, is always fraught
with danger. “Now understand this, you who forget God,
lest I start ripping apart and there be no rescuer.”
(Ps 50:22). Not being totally obedient to God, especially
for those called to engage in spiritual warfare, is disastrous.
“Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, the
Lord in turn as rejected you as king.” (1 Sm 15:23c).
On the other hand, abandoning ourselves to God, in obedience
and humility, is always the way to go. “Those who offer
praise as a sacrifice honor me; I will let him whose way is
steadfast look upon the salvation of God.” (Ps 50:23).