By Dena Johnson Martin, Crosswalk.com
If only I had a dollar for every time a woman has said to me, “He’s not the same man I married.”
In all reality, I hope every couple looks back years into their marriage and is able to say their spouse is not the same person they married…but in a good way. We should all be changing and growing all of our lives, becoming more like Christ in the process. I would love to see every partner grow and mature so that their former self is only a shell of who he or she becomes.
Sadly, most people who tell me, “He’s not the same man (woman) I married,” are not using this phrase in a positive connotation.
This phrase is typically used when one finds him/herself in the midst of a divorce. When he/she is reeling from the pain of betrayal. When a spouse has wandered from the faith of his/her earlier years. When the person one married has become only a shell of the person a spouse once knew.
I know this was true of my life. There were always signs that my ex-husband had some issues to deal with, but he entered life and marriage with a true desire to serve God, to be a minister of the gospel. He was an incredible preacher with a gift for explaining the Word, for making it applicable to life. He had the ability to communicate with others in a way few people can.
But when we divorced?
I hardly recognized him. His heart had hardened to the Church, to his calling, to God. His mind was so twisted and deceived by the lies he told me and himself. The man I once considered genuine was gone, replaced by someone I honestly did not know…even after 17 years of marriage.
Have you ever wondered how someone can change so much…and in such a negative way?
I was recently reading through the book of 1 Samuel when I came across the story of Saul, the first king of Israel. We often remember Saul as an evil king, the one who repeatedly hunted down and attempted to kill David.
But Saul wasn’t always the angry and vengeful king we remember.
Saul had a calling on his life. He was hand-picked by God, anointed by Samuel to be the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 10). Scripture states clearly that God gave Saul a new heart and the Spirit of God came upon him powerfully (1 Samuel 10:9-10). He was courageous, fearlessly taking on the Ammonites and mobilizing the army of Israel (1 Samuel 11).
And yet, just a few short chapters later (1 Samuel 19), we find Saul seeking to kill David, the young man who is known as a man after God’s own heart.
Saul took his eyes off God. He allowed this world to cloud his vision, to cause him to look at others and circumstances rather than keep His focus where it belonged.
A few things I see as I walk through the story of Saul’s life…
Disobedience. In 1 Samuel 15, Samuel the priest reminds Saul of his calling to serve God. He makes God’s command clear: go and destroy the Amalekites. Saul, however, allowed his pride to be stronger than God’s commands and chose to do things his way.
But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves[b] and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. (1 Samuel 15:9)
In choosing disobedience, Saul’s heart became hardened. He quenched God’s spirit at work in his life.
People pleasing. What was Saul’s excuse for his disobedience?
Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. (1 Samuel 15:24)
Saul became a people pleaser, more concerned with what people thought about him than what God thought about him. He allowed what others thought of him to color his reality. He developed a mentality that is lethal, especially if it is taken to extremes.
Choosing the opinions of man over the truths of God’s Word destroys our faith, our lives, our present and our future. Peter might have learned this lesson the hard way, but he learned it when he exclaimed to the high priest,
We must obey God rather than human beings! Acts 5:29
Saul’s heart was hardened by the sin of people pleasing.
Jealousy After David courageously stood up to and killed Goliath, the people praised him!
As they danced, they sang:
“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” 1 Samuel 18:7
Amongst the army of Israel, not one single man had the courage to take on Goliath. It was only when young David came to bring food to his brothers on the battlefield that anyone had the faith to believe God was big enough.
And that was great with Saul…until the people expressed their gratitude for David’s victory.
Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” 1 Samuel 18:8
Saul began to be eaten up with jealousy, fearful for his legacy. He became focused on the temporal things of this earth rather than the Kingdom of God to which he was called. He allowed his heart to become hardened by jealousy toward David.
Do you see how one sin led to another which led to another until Saul was in a tail spin? Do you see how his life began to unravel as he allowed his heart to be hardened one small sin at a time? And do you see the result?
Saul had the blessing of God stripped from his life and he lost the kingdom to which God had called him. He lost the beautiful future God had planned for him.
Maybe it sounds like a familiar tale to you. One small sin leads to another and another. There’s a lack of true repentance, of devastation over who we are without the grace of our Father. Maybe you’ve seen it up close and personal.
But here’s my question: Are you guilty? Have you allowed one small sin to sneak in, to gain a foothold on your life? Have you allowed your vision to become clouded by and area of disobedience? Have you allowed your heart to begin to be hardened in any way whatsoever?
If so, I call on you today to repent. Read Psalm 51. Read the words of David as he anguishes over the man he has become. Remember the tale of Saul, the man who was once anointed to lead the people of Israel but who became a madman.
All because he allowed one sin to lead to another to lead to another.
I don’t know about you, but I want to walk in a long obedience with my Father. I never want my heart to become so hardened that I become a shell of the person He created me to be. Instead, I want my life to be an example of one changed by the love and grace of God, each and every day as I allow Him to guide my steps.
I want to be like David, a [wo]man after God’s own heart.
Lord Jesus, it’s gut-wrenching to watch someone we know, someone we love, dissipate into a shell of the man or woman you created him/her to be. It’s so painful to watch as sin takes hold and leads someone we love to a place we can’t reach. I know we often wonder how it happened. I pray that as we study the life of King Saul, we see how it all starts with one small sin, one small act, one small attitude. May we never allow sin to take hold in our hearts. Instead, help us to always allow your Holy Spirit the room to convict us, to bring us to true repentance. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.