Here’s something I’ve been thinking about.
I remember a few years ago Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros announced before the season started that it would be his last season and he would retire. As he and his team played his last series in every National League baseball park each of those teams gave him a gift to remember his career in Major League Baseball.
When the Astros were going to play the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field for the last time, the Dallas Morning News did a story about it. When Biggio was playing his last series at Wrigley a couple of the Cubs players gave him a couple of stadium seats from Wrigley Field. In gratitude Biggio gave both of the players an autographed baseball bat. On one of them he wrote “To the man who pitched the most dominating game I have ever been a part of”, signed it, and gave it to Kerry Wood. About ten or eleven years prior to that Kerry Wood made his third start for the Cubs against the Astros at Wrigley. Wood’s stats from that day: he had a complete game (9 innings), one hit, zero walks, and twenty strikeouts. It was an amazing game! Unfortunately that was his lone highlight of his career as a starting pitcher. Shortly after this he had a series of elbow and/or shoulder injuries that required surgery. And those surgeries all required a year long recovery and rehab time. Not to fret though, because he still is active in MLB. He’s not a starter anymore, but he’s still a very reliable relief pitcher. He’s played for the Cubs, the New York Yankees (boo!), and now is back with the Cubs. I don’t know if he has played with any other teams other than them.
In thinking about this, i started thinking about biblical characters who were great characters, but had a falling out of sorts. Here are some of them that i could think of.
The first is King Saul. In 1st Samuel he had a humble rise to be king of Israel. In 1st Samuel chapter 9 God’s prophet Samuel found Saul. He at first appeared humble. In chapter 10 Samuel anoints Saul and he becomes king. But in chapter 13 King Saul was instructed by Samuel to wait for him to make sacrifices and a blessing before the King could go out to battle. The prophet Samuel was late for the appointment and Saul took it upon himself to do make the sacrifice. That was a big no-no because only prophets were permitted to make them. As luck would have it, as soon as Saul completed the sacrifice Samuel shows up. When Samuel sees what was done and the aftermath of it, he said “what have you done?” (v 11ff). And Saul makes excuses and said “… so i felt compelled to offer the burnt offering” (v 12).
Then in chapter 15 God instructed Saul to wipe out the Amalekites (one of the chief enemies of Israel), all everything they had. But Saul and his troops saved the Amalekite king and several of their best animals so they could sacrifice them to God. In verse ten God told Samuel that He was sad He had made Saul king. When Samuel went to Saul, the king told him that he had completed what the Lord instructed him to do. But Samuel knew what was going on. He asked him why he was hearing the animals. And Samuel would go on to tell Saul that God would take the kingdom away from him and give to someone who had a heart more like His. In the next chapter David is anointed to be the next king of Israel. When David killed Golieth in chapter 17 the King Saul didn’t know who he was, nor did he know he would be the next king. But in chapter 18 the King became jelouse of David. In chapter 19 (and in several more chapters) Saul attempted to murder David. In chapter 28 King Saul used a medium (the witch of Endor) to see what was going to happen in war. The King had lost God’s favor and he could not communicate with God anymore. But using a medium (such as a witch or sorcery of any kind) was strictly forbidden. It was punishable by death. In chapter 31 the King Saul committed suicide during the battle. He had been badly wounded, but wasn’t dead. So be begged his armor guard to kill him with sword. When the guard refused the King took it upon himself to end his suffering. The guard then did the same thing.
King David is a second example of someone who rose to greatness but didn’t fulfill his potential. In 1st Samuel 16 God’s prophet Samuel anointed David as the next king of Israel. In chapter 17 David defeated and killed the Philistian Goliath. Shortly after this Saul asked David to join his place and play the harp for him to sooth his troubled soul when God left him. When the King Saul tried numerous times to murder David, God protect him. David and Saul’s son Jonathan became fast friends and developed a kindred spirit about them. Several times Jonathan protected David from his father when he tried to kill David. When Saul killed himself in 1st Samuel 31, David found out about it in 2nd Samuel chapter 1. In chapter 2 David is again anointed king. In chapter 5 David is made Israel’s king. In chapter 7 David gains a confidant in the prophet Nathan. There God makes promises of protection for the King David. In chapter 8, David is victorious over the Philistines, the Moabites, and the Edomites. In chapter 9 David befriends Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, accepts him as his own son, and takes him into the palace. In chapter 10 David kills off the Ammonites and defeats them.
But then in chapter 11 David commits adultry with the Hittite Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. When the King David heard word from her that she was pregnant he tried numerous times to cover his tracks by getting Uriah to leave the battle field and go home to lay with his wife. When Uriah would not, the King David arranged to have him killed in the battle. When that plan worked he took the widowed Bathsheba home and her his wife.
In chapter 12 the prophet Nathan confronted King David and told him a brilliant story of a man of royalty who had all the sheep he could ever want. A friend of his came to him from a long distance. Instead of taking one of his own sheep to make a meal for his friend, he took the lone sheep of his neighbor. This neighbor loved that sheep like a child.
When David heard this story he was enraged and said the one who did this should pay four times for this. But then Nathan said the one who did this was the king himself.
David was sorrowful and God did forgive him for it, but the King would indeed pay 4 times for this sin. The child Bathsheba was pregnant with from this sin died in a miscarriage, his son Amnon was killed by another of his sons Absolum for rapping Tamar (his half-sister), Absolum was also killed in battle when he lead a cue to overtake the kingship from his father David, and i can’t find the other child who was killed.
Later the King David would die as well. He was a great king for Israel, but his sin with Bathsheba greatly affected his influence and respectablity. He would never be the same again.
The third example i thought of was Simon Peter, one of the twelve disciples. He met Jesus for the first time through his junior brother Andrew. At that time he was just Simon, but Jesus gave him the name Peter (John 1:35-42). Peter came one of Jesus’ disciples in Mattew 4:18-22. Peter and his brother Andrew were fishing when Jesus saw them and called them into His service (also see Luke 5:1-11). He witnessed Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7), His Sermon On The Plain (Luke 6:17-49), etc. He witnessed all of Jesus’ teachings and miracles. Peter was very outspoken. He was the spokesman for the twelve disciples. In Luke 9 when Jesus asked the disciples who the world said He was and then asked who they thought He was. Peter spoke for the group and said, “the Christ, of God”. Peter was very outspoken about his desire to live for and die with Jesus and promised to never deny Him (Luke 22:31-34). When Jesus was arrested and taken to trial Peter was in a courtyard and was asked by several people if he knew Jesus. Peter said each time that he didn’t and the last time he brought down curses on himself as he promised he knew nothing about Jesus. When Jesus looked at him, he was broken and weeped bitterly. But in John 21 after Jesus’ resurrection and appearences with the twelve disciples, Peter decided one night to go out fishing (his occupation before Jesus called him). Several other disciples were with him, and said they wanted to go to. So off they went. They caught nothing. Jesus was on the shore and asked them if they caught anything. They said they caught nothing. Jesus then advised them to toss their nets on the other side of the boat and they could catch some. They did and they could hardly bring the nets in. One of them said the man on shore was Jesus. Peter changed clothes and jumped in the sea and swam to shore. Jesus made a fire and fixed the group breakfast.
Then Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter said yes. Jesus told him to feed His people. (Three times Peter was asked if he knew Jesus and each time he said no.) Jesus reinstated Peter back into His service with the charge to feed His sheep, His people.
And the forth and final example is Paul. After his conversion from his prior life in Judaism, he was sent from Damascus (where he had been going with the intent to persecute followers of Jesus) he met Ananias who baptized him into Jesus. After Christians had discovered several planned attempts to kill Paul the brethren shipped him to Tarsus (his hometown) (in Acts 9).
In Acts 11 several groups of Christians traveled all throughout the world preaching the word and making disciples as they went. A few groups went to Antioch. Some preached to Jews and had many converts. Others preached to Gentiles and many were won for Jesus. When the church in Jerusalem heard of this, they sent Barnabus there to check it out and bring them back a report. When he arrived and saw how the grace and love of God was growing among them. He was greatly encouraged. He wanted to stay with them to encourage them in the work and teach them, but he knew he needed help. So Barnabus went to Tarsus and look for Paul. When they found each other they went back to Antioch and worked together encouraging and strengthening their new brethren. This is the start of their ministry together, and the start of Paul’s ministry of church planting and encouraging them. Paul and Barnabus made other trips planting churches and making disciples. When they had their falling out, Paul chose Silas and later Timothy and they continued that great ministry.
Paul had a great ministry, but he had his struggles. And they were tough struggles too. He describes his hardships to some degree in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10. He also talks about his hardships to a greater degree in 2 Corinthians 11:6-33. Paul was one tough cookie. This shows ministry is not for the faint of heart. And no one should complain about hardships until you’ve experienced suffering to the extent Paul did.
But on top of all of that suffering Paul had a physical problem he discusses in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. He talks about the time frame of a spiritual victory of sorts of being caught up in the third heavens and seeing things he said where indescribable. But so he wouldn’t get over-confident he was given what he calls “a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan” to keep him dependent on God. (There is a lot of debate of how and when he got it- perhaps when he was in Tarsus after his conversion, or a sickness he got on his missionary journeys) But dispite how many times he asked God to take this silent tormentor away, God said that His grace was enough for him. Paul would declare in his letter to the brethren in Phillipi that he could do anything God called him to do. Perhaps he was thinking about his thorn in the flesh.
Who knows how great a missionary and preacher Paul could have been without his physical aliment, but he was always dependent on God. And he gave thanks for the thorn in the flesh.
Can you think of any others in the Bible who was raised up in greatness, but was brought down in some way? Please tell me about it.
I apologize for how long this post is. I didn’t mean for this to be so long.
Of course comments, questions, further thoughts are always encouraged and welcomed. I hope and pray this is easily understood and is helpful as well.
God bless you all. Grace and Peace.
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