What do Richard Nixon, Tiger Woods, and Jimmy Baker have in common? You can read about Nixon throwing a grown-up tantrum in the White House because of how his family was treated decades earlier. Woods lost some influential and healthy people in his life and found new friends which led him to Sin City and collided with regret. Baker admitted he overextended himself because people idolized him and he didn’t want to fail those expectations even if he had to cut corners.
While you’re at it, you might as well throw Saul of Gibeah in the list as well. These are leaders who rose to prominence, yet crashed and burned. You probably have mixed feelings when you read through 1 Samuel 10-15, but the prevailing emotion is probably grief. Samuel presented Saul as the hope for the nation of Israel. His height, his humility, and his early heroics launched him on the path of legends. He was unassuming, but eventually, intoxicated with pride, Saul loses his lineage, legend, and life. What happened?
One author wrote about the signs of a leadership crash. Some of these indicators are blindingly obvious in Saul’s life. Bitterness, we know, is described as a root in Hebrews 12:15 which will crowd out the beautiful things in your life. Saul was ripe with bitterness, but we only see the first sprigs of it in 1 Samuel 13:3-4. “Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines…and all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines.” Saul would not allow anyone to darken his publicity. Often you will find Saul alone or with a very small band of men. His isolation from healthy relationships contributed to his downfall. He loses touch with why he was crowned king of Israel and begins to live in this robotic, mafia-like world where even his own son was not safe. He is surrounded by a group of people who are intimidated, so instead of confronting him about his weaknesses, they simply say, “Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee” (1 Samuel 14:36, 40).
The greater you become the larger your shadow and many unscrupulous decisions are made in the shadows. The bigger Saul got, the more space it made in his life for poor decisions. Samuel put his finger on the problem in Saul’s life when he said, “When thou wast little in thine own sight” (1 Samuel 15:17). Paul gives us a similar warning, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
In your life, you need a Samuel. You need someone who knows you well, loves you sincerely, and is not afraid of you. Samuel knew Saul and cared deeply for him. You can sense his despair when we are told: “Samuel mourned for Saul” (1 Samuel 15:35). Take inventory of those closest to you. If they are not helping you draw closer to God or if you are pushing away those who are confronting you, then take heed lest your name be added to the list.