Back out to Pasture?
“Things are really going to be different this year! I’m feeling such a rush of activation. I have so many new goals and resolutions, and they line up perfectly with the promises God has spoken over my life! I just know that something big is around the corner! I’ve been working so hard, and it has to be time for a breakthrough!”
Especially around January 1st, we start hearing and making these kinds of pronouncements…and fully believing them!
Then, New Year’s Day comes and goes. Another day. Another week. And…nothing?
Sometimes it doesn’t even take a full month for our inner narratives to change.
We start thinking, “Is anything happening? Why are all God’s promises pointing to something that isn’t coming to fruition? How much more effort do I need to shell out? Am I in the wrong place? Should God be giving me more help? Why am I continually held back?”
I’ve been there many times and back again. And I know many of you have as well. Maybe you’re there right now.
But we’re in good company. There’s actually a point in King David’s life where he probably felt like this, but we don’t often notice it, because guess what? It isn’t actually outlined in Scripture!
1 Samuel 16 tells us that David was anointed king by the prophet when he was still a young man, and the Spirit of God rushed in on him! How exciting would that have been? What were those first days like, recognizing the presence of God?! Then, out of nowhere, he was invited to play the harp for King Saul. In a fairly short time, he went from being an unknown shepherd to playing music in the court of the king and serving as one of his armorbearers (21)! This had to be exciting for David who, according to his friends, was “a man of valor, a man of war” (1 Samuel 16:18).
He probably thought, “This is where I’m going to learn how to become king! It’s all falling into place!”
But then…1 Samuel continues, “David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem,” (17:15).
This is where we have to exercise empathy and imagination a little bit. Even though Scripture doesn’t say how David felt about this, we can surmise it was a little frustrating being tossed back and forth, made to take long journeys by donkey or on foot whenever the king felt like calling for him and then going straight back to tend his father’s sheep! His brothers got to follow Saul into battle, while David remained an errand boy. He'd been anointed king, and yet he wasn't getting to do anything that pointed in that direction.
Do you recognize that position? Have you been there? Feeling like God has spoken clearly over you and made so many promises, and yet you’re still in some kind of holding pattern?
The good news is that we don’t have to worry or be agitated in this place. According to Psalm 23, the holding pattern can actually be filled with green pastures and still waters that restore our souls…if we dwell there with God.
2 Corinthians 8 talks about a group of people who were so earnest in the work of God that they begged the Apostle Paul for opportunities to give and share what they had. They were bursting at the seams with eagerness to be useful for the Kingdom, even though they were in a place of poverty and difficulty themselves (2)! In verse 5, Paul tells us where this attitude came from “…they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.”
The grace of Jesus made all the difference for them, activating them in the work of God and enabling them to stay the course until the end while maintaining the same zeal and passion!
And the same grace is offered to us, but we have to walk in it. So, our first step is to give ourselves afresh to God and His purposes, in spite of what we see or don’t see around us. Don’t just give yourself to whatever opportunity comes along. Don’t weary yourself rushing around trying to figure out if you should be in a different place.
Give yourself to the will of God first, and He will direct your involvement! What a relief to know that we can excel at whatever our hands find to do because of Christ’s strength within us! There’s no pressure, no earthly timetable we need to chain ourselves to. Christ and His gracious will enables us to start and finish with equal amounts of earnestness!
I truly believe that’s why David was ready to face Goliath when he showed up. It’s also why King Saul's son Jonathan was able to reach out to David as a friend instead of viewing him as a threat. These men had given themselves to the will of God first and foremost, and when it showed up in unexpected places, they were able to recognize it and seize the opportunity to get involved! But this attitude was cultivated in the everyday back and forth grind of real life. And just think…we have more at our disposal than they did, because Christ lives within us!
If you’re doing time in mundane tasks, back and forth between the pastures and the palace, serving in a place you were meant to rule in, you can rest in the knowledge that God hasn’t forgotten you, and His grace and strength will help you excel right where you are. Even if you don’t feel like you’re excelling right now.
This is where Philippians 4:13 comes into play. When we give ourselves to the will of God first and live in His grace daily, we’re able to face both the pastures and the palace with passion and joy.
Here’s a few things we can do when we’re stuck between breakthroughs.
(I’ve stolen a few of these tips from one of my novels. See if you can find them in Book 1, Chapter Eight!)
Be patient. The more precious the fruit, the more the process matters. (James 5:7)
Trust the Lord’s timing. His plans are deliberate, not haphazard. (Psalm 16, Psalm 31:15)
Keep your eyes open and your mind on task. (Proverbs 4:27)
Be diligent and faithful with each task. It’s all worship. (Colossians 3:24)
Cultivate an obedient heart. It’s the most pleasing sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22)
Build your strength. Daily life with God renews your being. (Isaiah 40:31)
Take your rest. Reject striving. (Psalm 23)
Enjoy the opportunity to prepare for the future. Utilize all the time you have because you won’t get it back! (Luke 14:28; Proverbs 16:3)
Don’t jump into battle unless God is calling you! (1 Samuel 17:47).