“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
The new decade has begun, and the atmosphere is alive with fresh hope and expectation. As many of us have taken inventory of not only the last year but the last decade, highlighting patterns in ourselves and others that we long for more (or less) of in the years to come, we’ve begun to note the areas in which we wish to invest more of ourselves. To do so requires a keen awareness of the responsibilities we currently have and the ones we would love to see released into our hands. We start to make space, carefully laying aside the influences in our lives which drain and hinder our growth in order to create margin for our fresh vision.
However, in the midst of our longing for new, it can be easy to lay aside that which is currently in our hands. Often, this looks like a desire to put down that which is this most taxing. We can look with rose-colored glasses at the things on the horizons of our daydreams, believing that achieving new dreams will somehow lighten the load that we have been carrying.
While Scripture speaks frequently about being wise in what we take on in pursuit of the purpose that He has called us, there is another principle at work. In a society that longs for the immediate, we lose sight of the immense value of cultivation. The longing for the new can provide a foothold for the enemy to plant seeds of discontentment, leading to weeds of bitterness and selfishness. Rooted in pride, this mentality crushes the efforts we’ve invested before they can reach full bloom.
The story of David speaks directly to this effect. 1 Samuel 16 speaks of the incredible anointing of David by Samuel the prophet. The young man was commissioned to be king – and yet returned to the pastures. Rather than abandoning his current responsibilities in light of the new word given by the Lord, he went back to steward what was already in his hands. As we learn later on, David would be called to serve as a musician in King Saul’s courts while still working as shepherd, before finally being called full-time into King Saul’s armies because he served faithfully right where he was planted, allowing God to bring about the change of seasons.
It is an art and discipline, staying faithful in the present and trusting God to bring about the appointment. Art and discipline both require cultivation (the process by which new skills are mastered), and God works in this process to prepare us for the moment He changes our scenery and responsibility. As I have prayed for this new decade for myself, my loved ones, and my church, I have been brought back to 1 Samuel 17. This familiar story of David and Goliath displays the moment that God changed David’s season and began the process of elevating him to his eventual role as king. Yet there is one verse that stands out to me for this season:
“The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle…but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep.” (1 Samuel 17:13a, 15)
Many of us are in this time of transition, in this tension of being caught in the middle of what we must do and the promise to which we are called. In this in-between, how tempting it is to abandon the sheep and run head first into the dream! However, in this back and forth, there are skills to be learned from the pasture that we need for the battlefield. David speaks to this principle to King Saul when he sensed God’s ordained change of seasons:
“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth… Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like on of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:34-35a, 36)
In the pasture, David learned to fight, provide, care, and lead. When the time was right – according to God’s timing, not David’s – God elevated him into that which he had been called. Just because your current responsibilities and positions do not directly appear to align with the word spoken to you by the Lord does not mean that you are in a wasted season.
Here in the pasture, you’re preparing for the palace to which you are destined. Be encouraged in this waiting that you are not stuck or being overlooked. Quite the opposite: the eye of the Lord is fixed on you to ensure that you are being well-equipped for the moment that He changes your scenery.
So, don’t abandon your sheep, for there are still bears and lions to be conquered before you and I take the battlefield.