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Self-Awareness and Mentoring: The Case of Samuel and Eli

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Self-awareness is fundamental to greatness. It helps individuals to know why they were born and what contribution God wants them to make in life. It is the force that keeps the wheel of life turning and heading towards the right direction. McNeal (2006) states, “Self-awareness touches all other disciplines . . . it is also the capstone of the leader’s journey” (p.11). After Samuel discovered himself he chose the behaviors and values that led him to his intended destination. Under the mentorship of Eli he learned various disciplines:

The Discipline of Making Right Choices

The Bible is quick to mention the wicked environment under which Samuel grew in Eli’s home, “Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord . . . they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting” (1 Sam 2:1, 22). Their father “failed to restrain them” (1 Sam 3:13). Right from their childhood days Eli failed to give them proper guidance.

This wicked environment did not change Samuel’s focus. Because he knew where he was going he refused to succumb to peer pressure. What is said about Samuel, “And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men,” (1 Sam 2:26) is said about Jesus in (Luke 2:52). Self-awareness demands that right choices be made.

The Discipline of Delegating Important Tasks

            Eli trusted Samuel enough to assign him important responsibilities, “But Samuel was ministering before the Lord – a boy wearing a linen ephod” (1 Sam 2:18). This is the first recorded account in the Bible of a boy wearing an ephod and serving before the Lord at such an age. White (1958) points out, “God is pleased when even little children give themselves to His service” (p.573). She goes on to clarify, “It was not customary for the Levites to enter upon their peculiar services until they were twenty-five years of age, but Samuel had been an exception to this rule” (p.573). This suggests that young people will own the church if they are entrusted with important tasks.

The Discipline of Building Relationships

Although Eli’s children were wayward he loved Samuel as his own son. White (1958) commends, “Samuel was helpful and affectionate, and no father ever loved his child more tenderly than did Eli this youth” (p.573). A similar love relationship existed between Jesus and His disciples, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

            Eli continued to love Samuel even after learning that his two sons were going to die for their wickedness and that God was going to raise up another priest. His response to this was, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes” (1 Sam 3:18). He was different from Saul who out of jealousy hated David as soon as he realized that God was preparing him for the throne. Eli was happy to train his own successor an example that ought to be embraced by today’s leaders.

The Discipline of Listening

When the Lord called Samuel it was Eli who taught him how to respond, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Sam 3:9). Listening is an important function of leadership. McNeal (2006) rightly points out, “Leaders are used to being heard. Great leaders know how to listen . . . It is the single most important activity that promotes growth in the relationship” (p. 131). This suggests that leaders need to take time to learn the science of listening in order to strengthen relationships. James 1:19 says that, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” From the experience of Job we learn that his friends comforted him better during the first seven days when they were silent (Job 1:13) than when they started to reason with him.

The Discipline of Waiting

Like David and like Joshua, Samuel waited for the divine timetable before he assumed responsibility. As a result God rewarded his ministry, “Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines” (1 Sam 7:13). When God’s time had fully come, Samuel took over as judge and prophet. One important contribution by Samuel was the founding of the schools of the prophets where pupils were taught the law of God and manual labor (White, 1958).

Paminus Machamire is a Seventh-day Adventist Pastor who currently serves as a Vice President of the Southern Africa -Indian Ocean Division

This article is excerpted from A Project Proposal Presented in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirement for the Degree Doctor of Ministry by Paminus Machamire June, 2010

McNeal, R. Practicing greatness: 7 disciplines of extraordinary spiritual leaders. San Francisco CA: Jossey Bass, 2006.

White, E. G. Patriarchs and prophets. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1958.

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