No sincere Christian has ever set out to become a backslider.
However, it happens again and again in the circles of local congregations all over the Kingdom of God. Regardless of the theological difficulties that backsliding suggests, it is sad and tragic. It marks the supreme loss of influence and effectiveness for the King.
One of the most heartbreaking passages in the Bible is this record of David’s anguish over the death of King Saul. Within this lamentation, I am deeply moved by the sorrow filled sentence which reads: “For there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil.”
Those who have studied Saul’s life see that he grew to love David’s music and loathe Samuel’s words. By placing his own preferences above obeying God’s Word, Saul’s life is an example of what it looks like to fall from grace.
Let me share with you 5 steps that have become apparent to me on how the mighty have fallen.
1) The mighty have fallen into slackness. The fall begins with the neglect of the sluggard. King Saul allowed fear to turn him into a sluggard when Goliath, the Philistine Giant, challenged Israel. He did nothing, and God used the young man David to secure victory for Israel. David had proved himself as a worker. The Bible does not soften the blow when it comes to slothfulness. Proverbs 21:25 says, “The desire of the lazy man kills him, For his hands refuse to labor.”
2) The mighty have fallen into a deep slumber. The sluggard soon finds sleep irresistible. So much so that he falls into a deep slumber. Saul was fast asleep when David snuck up on him. Instead of sleeping, He should have been awake and about the works of the Kingdom. The habit of inactivity lulls the sluggard into this slumber. The sleeper is also mentioned in Proverbs 10:5. It says, “the son that sleeps in harvest causes shame.” This is not to condemn sleep altogether but sleeping while there is work to be done shows a smug indifference. People must sleep, but not when it’s time to work.
3) The mighty have fallen while suffering. The sufferer does not have to fall. I do not believe that King Saul had to fall, but he did not cooperate with his sufferings. His symbolic sleeping is an indifference to the Word of God through Samuel, and his sleep-like stupor brought times of intense emotional and mental suffering. The only relief found for King Saul during his times of spiritual suffering was when the anointing of God was present through the skillful playing of David’s lyre.
4) The mighty have fallen from the fellowship. These are all in danger of becoming the some-timer. Leaning upon the feelings of the flesh, they soon become some-timers in the fellowship of the saints. King Saul followed this path from sluggard to sleeper, and he suffered greatly. It quickly became obvious to the elders of Israel that Saul was estranged from Samuel and the Word of the Lord. Alas, the distance between Saul and the Spirit’s anointing continued to grow.
5) The mighty have fallen from the faith. While the final step in this fall from grace is not meant to be a statement on the eternity of King Saul, we must learn from his fall. He did not have to die, “as though he had not been anointed with oil.” His personal disobedience led him to an oil-less death resulting in his head as a trophy for the enemy.
I’ll end with a cautionary warning. Be careful, you are likely to fall in the direction you are leaning (First Cor. 10:12). Saul’s tragic ending does not have to be your story.
The good news is that there is grace for you today! I shared 5 steps to backsliding, but 5 is a number with great biblical significance. In the New Testament, it is most often associated with grace.
The grace of God is calling you today to return to your first love.
Christian, whatever you do, don’t die like Saul. Please don’t place your friends and family in David’s sorrowful shoes. Don’t leave us as though you were not anointed with oil. Finish well and leave a mighty example to follow.