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(1 Sam. 26:17-21)

17Then Saul knew David’s voice, and said, “Is that your voice, my son David?” And David said, “It is my voice, my lord, O king.” 18And he said, “Why does my lord thus pursue his servant? For what have I done, or what evil is in my hand? 19“Now therefore, please, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant: If the LORD has stirred you up against me, let Him accept an offering. But if it is the children of men, may they be cursed before the LORD, for they have driven me out this day from sharing in the inheritance of the LORD, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ 20“So now, do not let my blood fall to the earth before the face of the LORD. For the king of Israel has come out to seek a flea, as when one hunts a partridge in the mountains.” 21Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Return, my son David. For I will harm you no more, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Indeed I have played the fool and erred exceedingly.”


1. To be called a “failure” is not very pleasant!

2. To be called such is the ultimate put down!

3. We want to talk about “failures” for a little while.

a. Not failing to do petty things, but important things.


c. Failure in important, basic areas of living.

d. Failure as a human being before God.

e. Failure as a father or mother, wife or husband, child or parent.

f. Failure as a preacher, elder, deacon, teacher in the church.

g. Failure in our mission upon earth….to be an unprofitable servant.

h. Matt. 25:30—“And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

i. Failure in the one, most important mission that man has… glorify God!

5. The Life of Saul, the first king of Israel, vividly illustrates this kind of failure.

6. He succeeded in many things, but failed in the most important!



A. God’s description of Saul:

1. 1 Sam. 9:2—“A choice young man, and a superior person.”

2. 1 Sam. 9:2—“Not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he.”

1. 1 Sam. 9:2—“From his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.”

2. “And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” (1 Samuel 9:2, NKJV)

3. 1 Sam. 15:17—“So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel?”

5. Wisdom was shown by him at first:

a. After deliverance from the Ammonites…..

b. The people wanted to slay those Jews that didn’t want Saul as King.

c. Saul said NO, no blood shed….we have won a great victory…..It is time to rejoice!

B. Evaluation:

1. He had a good start----great promise----good attitude---humble;

2. His potential was great as a leader for the people.

3. But, in spite of all this---he followed the route of failure, not success!

4. He wound up causing much heartache, bloodshed innocently.

5. And gave occasion to the heathen to blaspheme the name of God.


A. His basic disobedience to God’s Law!

1. The Philistines had gathered to do battle with overwhelming numbers.

2. The Israelites were very uneasy, afraid, scattering from Saul.

3. Samuel had not come at the appointed time to offer sacrifice to God.

4. Saul “forced himself” to offer the sacrifice!

5. When faced with his blatant disobedience by Samuel:

a. He blamed the circumstances;

b. He blamed Samuel’s coming late.

6. He found it hard to deal with failure correctly!

7. He was strongly rebuked by Samuel:

a. 1 Sam. 13:13-14—“And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.””

C. His open disobedience again:

1. God had decreed that the Amalekites would be destroyed.

2. Saul was to carry out this decreed!

3. However, they brought back the king alive and best of animals.

4. When faced with his disobedience:

a. He tries to justify his actions.

b. Blames the people for bringing them back as an offering to God.

c. He insisted that he had obeyed the Lord.

5. Samuel’s remarks: 1 Sam. 15:22-23 “So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.””

6. He found it hard to admit his failure….until forced to do so!

7. Under these circumstances, confession & repentance not very genuine!

F. He who began with such great promise & potential:

1. Died in battle bravely…..

2. But died a failure in the most important areas of life.

3. He died with shame and sorrow, because of the woeful miscarriage of his life’s mission.

4. He failed to a great extent as a father!

a. His children had a very hard time respecting his actions.

5. He failed as a king!

a. Even though he did some great things…..

b. He misused & misspent his energies and those of his people to pursue after David, rather than the true enemy.

c. He showed petty jealousy of a greater man than himself.

6. Most of all…..he failed as a child of God & His purpose as God’s King.

a. He was continually disobedient to the basic Laws of God.

b. He shed innocent blood.

c. In his desperation, he turned to Divination.

7. In each case, he could have overcome his failures by true repentance.


A. Realize…..we don’t have to be failures even when we fail at something.

1. We might fail, and often do, but that doesn’t make us failures.

2. What makes us failures is….giving in and giving up.

3. Saul was not a failure at first, he became a failure because he gave in.

B. It is important that we are honest with ourselves and with others.

1. To try to deceive others and ourselves only makes us more vulnerable to additional failures.

2. Saul did this…..he became more open to failure.

3. He blame others for his failures, and never seemed faced the truth.

C. Failures can be stepping stones to successful living!

1. Saul could have profited by his past failures----dealt with them properly.

2. Instead, he became a failure!

3. Instead of growing, he deteriorated to less of a man than he had been.


5. Saul would not be humbled---confess sincerely his sin---accept God’s forgiveness.

6. Paul’s attitude: (Phil. 3:13-14) “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13–14, NKJV)

1. We can either let our failures drag us down…..

2. Or, make them stepping stones to greater heights in the Lord’s service!


1. There is no reason under heaven for the Christian to fail in his life!

2. We have God’s assurance, His help, His forgiveness, His strength…..

3. And we have the highest purpose for living and succeeding of all peoples on earth.

4. Are you walking the path of failure or success?

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