There are times when God puts things in our hearts (dreams, aspirations, goals) and He gives them to us right away. There are other times, and this seems to be the majority, when God puts things in our hearts and then makes us wait.
Often, we can wonder what God is doing. We can begin to ask, “Did I really hear from God?” Or perhaps the biggest question we can ask is, “God, what is taking you so long?”
I have found that during those times of waiting, God prepares us for His promise. During our waiting, He teaches us things. He grows our character, our faith, and our ability to do what we feel called to do. God takes us through a process. The question is, “Will you trust the process?”
Will You Trust the Process?
In 1 Samuel 16, God came to Samuel and told him, “I’ve rejected Saul as king. Go to the tribe of Jesse where I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
Samuel was a prophet, but it didn’t take a prophet to assume that anointing another king while Saul was on the throne might not go well.
Samuel responded to God and told him that he would be killed if Saul found out. God then said, “Take a cow and put together a sacrifice to me and invite Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice.”
When Samuel arrived in Bethlehem to speak with Jesse, the elders in the town were afraid. After all, when a prophet appeared in those days, it meant there was trouble. Samuel told them, “Don’t worry. I’ve come to make a sacrifice to God, and you are invited.”
Chosen By God
Jesse, his sons, and the whole town showed up to watch the sacrifice. As Samuel watched Jesse’s sons arrive, he had a hunch about who Yahweh had in mind for the new king: Eliab, the oldest son.
1 Samuel 16:6 says, “When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
Samuel probably had his reasons for considering Eliab for the throne. He was the oldest and would have been first in line to receive his father’s inheritance. He was also probably the tallest and most physically fit out of Jesse’s sons. Perhaps he had even starred as the wide receiver for Bethlehem High School football or made the All-Judean All-Star team. With all this to frame his thinking, Samuel thought Eliab was definitely the one God had in mind.
1 Samuel 16:7 says, But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
So, one after the other, each of Jesse’s sons passed in front of Samuel.
How about this one? No.
This one? Nope.
This one? Nope.
Until all seven had passed in front of him.
Finally, Samuel asked Jesse, “Are there any more?!”
1 Samuel 16:11b-12 says, “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
So, Jesse sent for his youngest son, David, and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
The Process Brings the Promise
After reading about his anointing, I assume David takes the throne immediately. If this story was a movie, Saul would be instantly kicked off the throne, and David would be carried in on the shoulders of his people to begin ruling that day. But, that is not what happens. Samuel anoints David, and then the story stops. There’s a break in the story. You may ask, “What does that mean?”
When this part of the story ends, the Bible tells us that David went back to what he was doing before: watching the sheep.
There’s a part of us that wants to say, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense! Why would God anoint him and then send him back to where he had him before? What was the point of anointing David anyway? Why not wait until He was ready to make David king?”
God anointed David so long before he became king because God wanted to take David through a process, and the anointing was a reminder of the promise that the process would bring.
Things Have To Change
A process is a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.
God knew that some things needed to happen in David’s life before he could be king. Likewise, there are some things that need to happen in our lives before we can step into what God has for us.
When I think about processes, I’m reminded of a story I heard about the Chinese Bamboo Tree. The tree begins as a nut planted in soil and must be watered and fertilized every single day for five years before it finally breaks through the ground.
All that time, it spreads out its roots, and if at any time the watering or fertilizing process stops, the Chinese Bamboo Tree dies in the ground. But, in that fifth year, the Chinese Bamboo Tree finally breaks through the ground and grows to nearly ninety feet tall in just six weeks! The tree must take five long years of developing a strong, deep, wide root system so it doesn’t topple over when it is grown.
We tend to get frustrated when we don’t get five-year results immediately. The truth is, though, that the process is essential, and everyone must go through the process to get results.
The question is, will you allow the waiting to develop you or embitter you?
Get Better, Not Bitter
David could have quickly become bitter in his waiting. But, David doesn’t become bitter. Why? David knew that God was using the process to bring about God’s promise for him to be king.
Bitterness is unbelief in the promises of God.
So, here’s what happens: People say, “But, I had faith, and God didn’t do it.” And they’re frustrated because they thought God said it would happen and it didn’t.
I had faith. This is a past-tense statement.
This is not how faith works. If you think you can have faith in a moment, and have your faith go away when nothing happens in that moment, it’s not faith at all.
Faith is what keeps you going until you see God do what He has promised. Faith causes you to say, “I may not have seen it yet, but if God promised it, I am sure I will!”
If you settle in your mind that you will go through a process that God will use to bring about His promises, it will strengthen your faith. In result, you’ll get better instead of getting bitter.
Anointed, Not Appointed
One of the things that seems to hinder a lot of people when trying to trust the process, is that they mistake the anointing of God for the appointing of God.
David had the anointing to be king, but he didn’t yet have the appointment to be king. Sometimes, you can have an anointing on your life to do something, but not the appointing.
Think about this: David could see the anointing. Other people could see the anointing. When Samuel poured the oil over his head and anointed him as king, everyone was watching.
The anointing moment is where it can get tricky. You can see your anointing; you’re a better salesperson than anyone else, you’re a great singer, you have influence, you can counsel, you can lead! And other people can see it, too. They tell you how talented you are, how great you are, and how far you will go!
This can then cause you to think, “Well, I can see it, and others can see it, why can’t God see it? What is God waiting for?”
And through all of this, we get tunnel vision.
What’s tunnel vision? Tunnel vision happens when you are so focused on the light at the end of the tunnel that you can’t see what’s happening around you. Your eyes can’t adjust to your surroundings because all you can see is the light up ahead and so you miss things, or you find yourself tripping over things because you can’t see!
If you can’t see what God is doing in and around you because you are focused on a future dream, you can miss out on a lot of learning experiences and opportunities along the way.
Preparation is Key
After his anointing, David’s appointment was to watch the sheep. Sometimes, we think that watching is just something we do to pass the time until we can do what we’re supposed to do, but that’s not the case. If you’re watching the sheep right now, you’re supposed to watch the sheep. That’s your appointment.
Here’s a third lesson: Preparation must come before the opportunity.
I went into the car business when I was 18 years old and had some success in it. I was the youngest manager on staff, and I was making more money than most of my friends’ parents. Then I got saved, and God radically changed my life.
I felt called into ministry, and after talking with Pastor David, he told me I had to go to school if I wanted to be a pastor. When I decided to go to school, I lost my job in the process.
I knew God had called me to be at James River Church. I wanted to work at the church, regardless of the position, so I showed up and applied for a job as a janitor, so I could work and go to school.
After a time, it took its toll. I had left a lucrative job to take a janitor position that did not pay anywhere close to what I was making before. I had a wife and two kids, and I began to question if I was really doing what God had called me to do. Should I leave and go somewhere else? Why am I not getting the opportunity I feel I deserve? I feel like I can do more. I feel. I feel.
A Reminder From God
It was 5:30 in the morning and I was at the James River Church South Campus unlocking the building as a part of my job duties. I was walking down the hallway that led to our Lead Pastor John Lindell’s office, and I was praying, “God I’m frustrated because I don’t understand why nothing seems to be happening. God, I don’t know what I should do…”
Suddenly, Pastor John’s office door swung open while I was standing right next to it. It was dark. I looked up and then Pastor John said my name. It scared the living daylights out of me. I mean, I was just complaining to God in my head, and then Pastor John suddenly appeared!
He looked at me and said, “I don’t do this very often, but I have a word of the Lord for you.” My heart stopped. My mouth went dry. And it seemed like time stood still. I finally croaked out, “What is it?”
“Where you are at right now is not where you will always be,” he said.
Essentially, he said, ”BE PATIENT.”
The next day, I woke up, went to work, and cleaned toilets. The day after that, I cleaned toilets. And the day after that. I did that job for another year and a half.
And although it looked as if nothing had changed on the outside, something had changed on the inside. God was building my trust in Him, my character, my willingness to serve, and He was growing my giftings.
You Can Trust the Process
God was preparing me for the opportunity that would come.
And this is what we see in David’s life. David goes back to tend the sheep, and what happens?
David Plays the Lyre
1 Samuel 16:14-19 says, Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.” So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.” One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.” Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.”
It was while David was tending the sheep that he developed his ability to play the lyre and write music. In fact, it was while David was tending the sheep that he wrote Psalm 19:1,
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
The preparation had to come before the opportunity.
Then, fast forward to the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.
David Kills Goliath
1 Samuel 17:32-36 says, And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “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. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them.”
Again, the preparation had to come before the opportunity.
If You Shortcut the Process, You Short-Circuit the Product!
David had to prepare. If he had never mastered the lyre, he never would have been chosen to play for Saul, and Saul wouldn’t have been familiar with him. If he had never killed the lion and the bear, Saul would not have let him face Goliath, and the Israelites wouldn’t have accepted David as king.
If David didn’t prepare, he would have squandered the opportunity. But he did, and it led to him becoming king!
You may be in a season of waiting. Maybe you have been waiting for a long time, and you are starting to wonder if God will ever bring about His promise. The fact is: You can trust the process.
Let your faith be strengthened. Know that God is preparing you today for what He wants to do through you in the future. He’s teaching you to trust him, to be bold in your faith, He’s growing your character, and He’s fine-tuning your gifts! Trust Him – the process is bringing about the promise!