I’ve had the privilege over the years of working with many young men and women aspiring to enter full-time vocational ministry. I’ve always believed ministry to be a noble calling and you’ve gotta be crazy to do it if you’re not really called. It’s not worth it. This is not to say that we’re any better than ministers in the marketplace, just different roles.
A frustrating and common occurrence is when the young padawans aim straight for the pulpit, forgetting everything in between. I always tell our guys, “Don’t fixate on that sacred hour of the week. Concentrate on the other 167.” Others focus on getting a paycheck, keeping up with the electronics revolution, titles, and success. Some things we can learn from the life of David who went from shepherd boy to king are vital to true spiritual leadership.
Before we go up we must grow up
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). There is a very natural process that needs to take place as we develop not just physically and spiritually but emotionally as well. It’s speculated that David was only 16 years old when anointed by the prophet Samuel. This was a sacred moment as he was exalted above all of his brothers and father. But he wasn’t ready to start his own family much less lead Israel. There were still many things he needed to learn before his moment. Don’t jump the gun and pursue the mantle of leadership prematurely. Our time will come, and until then, we must keep our hearts teachable and learn all we can from the older generations. Die to the “I know” and “I’m ready now” attitudes. There will be a witness of peace in us and our overseers.
Before we can lead we must learn to follow
“Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the LORD’s anointed one?” (1 Samuel 26:9). David usurped nothing. In fact he still honored King Saul, his father Jesse, and his brothers. Years later when Saul was trying to kill him, David still honored the God-given authority of the king. We get in such a hurry to be in charge, to call the shots, and to be in control. It’s imperative that we die to ourselves, be willing to submit, and lay down our agendas for personal greatness. This temptation is very subtle as we try to cover up our pride with false humility.
Before we rule we must learn to serve
There would be a day when all would bow before him, serve his every need, wait on him, protect him, be willing to die for him. But, David first had to learn the posture of humility. When his brothers went off to war, he got to be a delivery boy. When Saul was plagued by spirits, David became a minstrel. Our model for this is Christ who “came here not to be served but to serve others” (Matthew 20:28). Stacking chairs, running errands, shoveling snow, mowing lawns, painting, etc. Not the most glamorous of tasks, but it reminds us that as ministers, it’s not about preaching, it’s about serving.
Before we can win the battles we must settle out inner wars
“I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart” (Psalm 38:8). David was quite a military tactician. He fought off the Philistines, went to battle against the House of Saul, and even had tussles with his own kids. But David had other internal issues he needed to face. Was he a neglected child? Not even recognized to come to Samuel’s prayer meeting. Did he have an inferiority complex? A martyr’s complex? He also had his issues with lust, pride, lying, discouragement, fear, child-rearing, etc. Even through his emotional rants, he learned how to channel his meltdowns and call upon God. The mantle of leadership is tough. We will go up against the opposition of people’s opinions, attacks from the enemy, common life problems and circumstances, and our own insecurities. We all have our issues we need to face and deal with. If we don’t learn them the first opportunity we have…they will come back to haunt us again! They will follow us until we get it right.
Before we wield armor we must learn to bear another’s armor
“So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer” (1 Samuel 16:21). David assisted the king with his armor and in personal times of struggle. This happened despite the fact that he already had a calling on his life. Again, people are in such a hurry to be the set person. I believe that this comes first through investing in, being faithful to, and protecting the man of God in our lives. I also believe in sowing and reaping. The way we serve our leaders and their vision will come back on us. It’s best to do all we can for our mentors and God will bless us in our ministries. As we help carry their burdens, we learn valuable lessons for our own ministries.
Before we finish learning we must realize we’re always learning
“Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long” (Psalm 119:97). David loved God’s Word. It was his guide throughout his entire life. He longed for instruction and wisdom. But he never stopped. It was an ongoing process. We do not shut our brains off the moment we cross a stage or get some type of credentials. We will never know everything in our lifetime, but while here, let’s set our hearts and minds to learn valuable lessons.
Before we sit on the throne we must bow before Gods throne
“I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22). First and foremost above military skill and musical abilities, David was a pursuer of God. We hear him pour out his heart in the Psalms, declaring praises and adoration to God. He acknowledged God’s supremacy and might, never taking the credit for his accomplishments. May we never be typical American minister who let their devotional lives slide. With great passion, desire, and desperation, let us go after God!