The Fool and the Fighter!
Inspired by James Brown
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to go to the “Men’s Advance” at Charis Bible College, sponsored by Andrew Wommack Ministries; and I got to hear James Brown, a CBS Sports announcer and Tony Dungy an NFL player and Coach turned announcer. Two outstanding Christian men. The message I want to share today is informed and inspired by James Brown.
James shared a practical principle: “If something is true in the physical it is also true in the spiritual. If you know it to be true in the physical world there is a parallel truth in the supernatural.” So being a fan of football there has got to be a lesson to be shared. In the game of football there are four quarters. Let’s say in the journey of life there are four quarters. Looking at actuary tables the average lifespan in America is between 76-78. [if you are 19 or under you are in the first quarter of your life. At age 38 you are approaching half-time. At age 57 you are at the end of the third quarter. And at 76 you are approaching the end of the fourth quarter. Some of you here are in overtime, and we won’t talk about sudden death! That is a football term]
If you watch much football you know that a lot of games are won or lost in the 4th quarter. What matters most in life is not necessarily how your start, it’s how you finish that really matters!
I want to build my message today on two simple text, the first is from the Old Testament, 2 Samuel 26:21, “Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will no more do you harm, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Behold, I have acted foolishly, and have made a great mistake.” Hear this, King Saul’s dying words are “I have sinned, and been a Fool!” That is not how you want to be remembered!
Now turn to the New Testament, to 2 Timothy 4: 6f, “The time of my departure has come.7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.” Here are the words of the Apostle Paul that he wants to be remembered by: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith!” Here is a strong finish to a life that was lived for God and he knows he will be rewarded.
Now consider: both men were named Saul, both from the tribe of Benjamin and both men were called by God to initiate Gods’ new activity; both made defining statements near the end of their lives. The end of King Saul’s live was focused on his jealousy of David. At the end of Paul’s life his focus was still on serving the Lord and preparing young Timothy to continue his ministry. King Saul and the Apostle Paul were divided by the way they lived their lives. One was negative, and one was positive. One faced the end of life with hope, confidence and love. The other faced the end with shame, hatred, and foolishness--knowing he had disappointed God.
The two can represent all of humanity. Those who have sought God and lived for him; and those who sought to live their life their own way. Two camps of people: one the fools and the others are the fighters.
Let’s take a closer look at King Saul. He began with humility, and actually had the right approach to God (he had a good start). For years the Israelites begged the Lord to give them a King, so they could be like the other nations. God finally gave in. God arranges for Saul to meet the prophet Samuel. And Samuel tells him God has chosen him to be Prince over Israel. When Samuel gets all of Israel together, to announce the new King, Saul is hiding in the baggage, humbled and uncertain that he is ready or fit to be king. 1 Samuel 10, describes Saul as being “taller than all the people from his shoulders upward. There was no one like him.” Saul had the look of a King! Saul began to grow into the role of King of Israel, he liked it, and he was good at it because the Spirit of the Lord was upon him. God gave Saul success over the Amorites and everyone said, “God has brought Salvation to Israel.”
But it wasn’t long, and Saul began to think that being King set him above certain things. Saul’s first big mistake was taking the role of prophet and priest. The Philistines were threatening Israel. A message came from the Lord wait, let Samuel offer a sacrifice and pray for the troops. After the seventh day Samuel delayed in coming and Saul took it upon himself to offer the sacrifice. He didn’t wait.
Saul forgot to recognize it was God who raised him up. It was God who chose him. It was God who gave him success. We have to stay in a humble spirit and recognize what God is doing in our lives and how He is blessing you! If we recognize the authority of God in our lives--there is nothing that God can’t do for you or through you. You might be looking at it in the natural world--I’m doing good at my job. I’m popular. I’m getting the job done!
With failure number one, Saul’s faults and character begin to emerge. The first Fault is Self-reliance a strong self-will. The people are all gathered waiting for a sacrifice. They are restless; how often do we react to the people around us? I can take charge here. Be careful don’t fall into the trap and think that you hold the keys to your own success--that you don’t have time to wait on God--Big Mistake! Isaiah 40:30 “Youth shall faint and be weary and young men shall fall exhausted, but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” God can do more in a minute than you can do in a lifetime!
Because of this mistake, in 1 Samuel 13:14 God tells Saul that he has rejected him and taken the kingdom from him; but, hold on God gives him a second chance. Perhaps you know the story of the Amalekites; they troubled the Israelites in Joshua’s day and God wanted them dealt with. In chapter 15, Samuel comes to Saul and tells him: God wants the Amalekites completely destroyed. Every man, woman and child, and all the livestock, every oxen, cattle, horse and sheep are to be killed. Saul nodded his head like he understood; but under his breath he said, “no way am I going to kill every horse and cow—they’re too valuable!
Fault #2. Disobedience. Saul and the army went out and God gave them a great victory. Afterwards, Samuel came to Saul, “Did you destroy the Amalekites and do everything God commanded?” “Yep. I sure did!” About that time one of the cows in the background said, “Noooo!” “Saul, what have you done?” “Well I saved some of the best to offer God a sacrifice.
1 Samuel 15:22 tell us God is not as excited about sacrifices as He is about obedience.” You see: Obedience speaks of faith, trust and commitment! Saul failed the second test. 15:23 “For rebellion is a sin of divination or witchcraft, and stubbornness is idolatry. Because you have rejected the Word of the Lord, the Lord has rejected you!”
Saul had missed out on his second chance. Take note, trouble should cause us to examine our lives. When we see our sin and our failure we should see a chance to change. But so many see trouble and get entrenched in the same bad attitude and only make things worse!
Fault #3. Jealousy and envy. Saul knew that God’s favor was now with young David; and Saul tried to kill him. It is a dangerous thing to try and destroy or harm something God has blessed.
Fault #4. Not seeking the Lord. Saul persisted in his wicked behavior and even consulted with witches to try and get the upper hand on David.
In the end, Saul took his own life and fell on his sword, saying: “I have played the fool.”
King Saul had a good beginning but a bad ending. Saul who became the Apostle Paul had a bad beginning but a strong ending. I would rather have a bad beginning and have a victory at the end of my life--especially regarding heaven and hell.
Let’s talk about Paul the fighter. Paul knew the customs of the Jews and laws of the Romans. He studied the Scriptures from his youth; graduated from the University of Tarsus--then he went to Jerusalem to study under the fine scholar Galileo. He was a Pharisee and thought all this nonsense about Jesus was incredibly foolish. To believe that Jesus could obtain forgiveness of sin for all humanity by his death--and then proclaim that he was raised from the dead was contemptible and foolish. Foolishness in the eyes of men, but to God it was the perfect plan.
There was a deacon in the church by the name of Steven and his witness was drawing many into the church. It was Saul in his zeal who organized his stoning. Then he approached the High Priest to be sent with papers to persecute the church. The papers gave him the authority to knock on the door and drag you off to prison and confiscate your possessions.
Then one day Saul was on the road to Damascus when the High Priest, the King of the Universe sent down a bolt of light. The light was so intense it knocked Saul off his horse and blinded him. Then from the light came a voice: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul, trying to catch his breath, very humbly asked, “Lord, who are you?” “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting!” Saul suddenly realized the resurrection was true. The Son of God, the Messiah was talking to him. With great sorrow and remorse, he repented of his sins and offered himself to the King of the Universe. Jesus may be speaking to some of you here. You have played games, tried different things but life seems empty there is no lasting satisfaction no lasting joy. Jesus knocks on the door--but you have to open it and invite him in. Nothing but Jesus gives life. Nothing but Jesus satisfies! Nothing but Jesus gives lasting joy!
Paul surrendered to Jesus and asked him to be Lord and Savior of his life. #1. Paul made a commitment. Paul committed his life to Jesus to serve the Lord and to be led by the Lord and to live for the Lord. Some of you know Jesus but you have not made a commitment to Him. Today is the day to say yes to Jesus. You don’t know when you will have the chance again. Easter is about new life. Easter is about the power to change your life and to make a difference for God.
#2. Paul said yes to the will of God. There on the ground in the bright light Paul said, “Use me however you will.” In other words, he was saying: “I will go wherever you send me. I will speak to whomever you want. I will do whatever you want. Your will be done.” It was that attitude and desire that enabled Paul to go on three missionary tours, establish churches, write letters and speak in front of kings.
Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man. But its end is the way of death.” Probably better known is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with some of your heart--no, all of your heart. And lean not on your own understanding; in part of your ways--no, in all of your ways acknowledge Him. And he shall direct your paths.” If we can get into God’s will He will direct every detail of our lives--because that is what He is supposed to do!
#3. Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. In Acts chapter one, Jesus told the disciples that after the Holy Spirit came they would be filled and have power. In Like 10:19 Jesus said, “I will give you power to tread on serpents and power over all of the enemy and nothing shall hurt you.” Throughout his ministry Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, he was led by the Spirit. He was inspired by the Spirit and the Spirit game him the words to speak.
#4. Paul lived a sanctified life. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote Romans 12: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Paul is saying every day live your life for God. This is a reasonable idea to follow through.
So many of us are scattered and busy doing so many things. In Philippians Paul said, “One thing I do.” This is a challenging statement. “This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind me. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul had developed such a close intimate relationship with Jesus, that he was driven by the idea of serving the Lord. Yielding himself to the leading of the Spirit that Christ might be glorified by the things that he said and did. To live for Jesus that Jesus would be seen in him.
I pray that at the end of our lives we could say like Paul, “The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. I know that a crown of glory awaits me on the other side!”
This is the victorious finish we all want! This is a shining example of the power of the resurrection. Paul lived his life both as a witness to the power of the resurrection and he lived in the power of Christ living in him. I pray that this is the path that you have chosen! Be a fighter and not a fool!
May God bless with peace and grace,