It’s a New Year! Don’t let it be said you couldn’t find your own … donkey.

New Year DonkeyThe story of King Saul has long begged preachers to risk their jobs with some really good political humor.

For instance, when we first meet him, Saul was looking for his father’s donkeys. The translation I was using today used the antiquated term “asses.” In other words, they had lost their … donkeys. And tellingly, Saul couldn’t find them.

I’ve seen some leadership like that, and I’ll bet you have, too!

But there’s more! When Samuel the prophet announced the name of the new king, he did so by casting lots, which was usually reserved for determining guilt. Again, the translation of the day actually said he was “indicted.”

Our generation has seen a few indictments of leaders, too! More than a handful of our political, entertainment and business leaders have served time in prison. What a waste of talent!


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And when Saul’s name was announced? No one could find him for a while, for he was hiding in his family’s baggage!

Pop psychology begs for a personal application here, but if I were to share a personal story of my own weaknesses, I’ll probably need another two weeks of counseling. Call it a personality shortcoming. Call it insecurity. Call it repression. Call it what you want. Truth is, it comes from my own family baggage.

Haven’t we all hidden among the insecurities we grew up with?

Actually, there’s something incredibly important in Saul’s story that will serve as a nice thought going into a new year.

Saul was tall and handsome, according to the text – and by the way, you can make up your own humor by reading 1 Samuel 9-10 – and looked really good on TV. But he was seriously insecure.

To give him confidence, Samuel the prophet told young Saul things that were about to happen, and sure enough, every foretold event took place that day.

But the real gem is this: “The Spirit of the Lord will grip you,” Samuel said to Saul, “… you will become another man.” (1 Samuel 10:6)

As the day progressed, it happened. The text says, “God gave him another heart.”

For a while, Saul used his new heart effectively. He won some early battles. But soon after that, he reverted to his first heart. His insecure, family-baggage, can’t-find-his-own-donkey heart.

That’s why he was shaking with fear and hiding on a hill – fully armed, mind you – while Goliath ranted in the Elah Valley. That’s why he was jealous of the teenager who showed up in that same valley with courage and a slingshot. That’s why he steadily degenerated into a pitiful picture of failure, right down to the moment when he fell on his own sword to end his life.

Truth is, you can find a new heart if you want to. God offers rebirth to all of us. Why was David brave enough to fight Goliath? Because, the Bible tells us, he was a man “after God’s own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14)

David had some shortcomings, of course, but I’m only reminded today that when God gives you the opportunity to become a new person, you’ve got some responsibility in the story, too. You’ve got to leave who you were, and become the person you and God always knew you could be.

David had to learn that he couldn’t maintain both his relationship with God and his addiction to sex. Old sins can’t stay with the new heart.

Saul had to watch David become the leader God had wanted him to be. He let fear steal his opportunity, and eventually that fear cost him his throne.

A new year is upon us.

It will come with challenges. You will be confronted with choices that offer either a reward if you succeed or a cost if you fail. If you are frightened by these choices, you’re normal. If you follow what you believe to be God’s will, no matter what happens next, then you’ve got a shot to be a person like David, and not like Saul.

Want to max out in the new year?

Just search for God’s own heart. When you find His heart, you’ll also find your own.