Recently I have heard a lot of young adults saying things like: “I just don’t know where God is calling me”, “I don’t know if I am where God wants me to be now” and “can I be called to be where I am now and still have something God is calling me to later in life?” I have also heard people questioning: is this job right? Is this relationship right? And is this uni degree going to get me where God wants me? The whole topic of calling, direction and the right path to take is a tricky one and every Christian seems to have a different opinion on the topic. Some say you are called wherever you are now. Others say your calling is that “one thing” that God is preparing for you to do. And others fall somewhere in between.
I have found it useful to explore this topic through the life of David. His story presents some interesting ideas about calling.
David’s story begins when God sent a prophet named Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel. Israel’s current king Saul had initially ruled well but eventually he disobeyed God and God rejected him as King (1 Samuel 15). Although an unlikely candidate, David was anointed king by Samuel. 1 Samuel 16: 13 tells us that: “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.”
So David was anointed king over Israel. There was only one problem: Saul was still king. In the very next chapter, 1 Samuel 17, we find David, after he was anointed, back out in the fields tending sheep. Not work usually performed by a king. Scholars believe it was at least 20 years between the time David was anointed and the time he was actually appointed as king.
God used this time to develop David into a man who would have the character and integrity to be king over Israel. There were things that David had to learn in that time, that he could not have learnt if he had have demanded the crown from Saul the minute he was anointed.
Here are a few things David needed to learn in the time between his anointing and his appointing. As you are reading them, consider if God could be teaching you something similar.
- Trust in God’s timing and dependence on God’s provision
David’s time as a shepherd fighting bears and lions prepared him to face Goliath and the many enemies that faced him once he became king. After David was anointed he went back in the field which meant he had to trust that even though he had a new call on his life, God was doing something in him in the same occupation he had held previously. In this time, David learnt to trust in God’s timing. Imagine the amount of trust it would take to be anointed as king but not to know when you would actually be king. I bet David had days where he doubted God’s calling. And David also learnt to trust that God would provide what he needed when he needed it.
- Developing skills and a heart for worship
While David was waiting to step into his calling as a king he was obviously developing his talent on the harp because sometime after David was anointed he became the harp player to Saul. Only the best in the land would be asked to play in the courts of the king. David used the time between his anointing and appointing to develop his skills. Through the Psalms we can also see the passion for worship that David discovered in this time. Some of the most real, heart-felt cries in the Psalms were written in the hard times David faced between his anointing and appointing.
- Submission to authority and integrity.
After receiving his call, David had to live under Saul’s authority for quite a while. This time was not easy for David. Saul became very jealous of David’s military conquests and this jealousy caused Saul to attempt to take David’s life multiple times. While on the run from Saul, David had a number of opportunities to take Saul’s life and step into his kingship. But he didn’t. He chose to honour the authority of Saul and develop his integrity.
You could look at those 20 years between his anointing and appointing and see them as wasted time that David could have been reigning over Israel. Or you could look at it from a different perspective and see that God doesn’t waste a single experience. David would have been lacking all these things had he stepped into kingship before God’s appointed time. This was a time of training and development for David, preparing him for the greater calling that God had placed on his life.
It is easy to look at our lives and think this job, this degree or this situation is not perfectly tailored to my skills, gifts and dreams. Yet do you ever stop and ask: “God what are you trying to teach me in this season? What do I need to learn now to prepare me for what have called me to do later?”
I believe that everything I have experienced, both the good and the bad, has been preparing me for what God has planned for me.
You may be feeling a little directionless or unsure if you are where God wants you to be. But I encourage you to remain faithful where you are and in what you are currently doing. Until God shows you the next step, be faithful where you are. Then when he shows you the next step, which may not be “it” either, be faithful there too.
Don’t assume that just because you are anointed you are ready to be appointed. When David finally became king, he still messed up, but he was more ready than he would have been when he was first anointed. Be patient and allow God to develop you for your appointment.
One of my favourite communicators, Christine Caine, says it like this “Don’t confuse your due date with God’s appointed timing”. Don’t confuse the date you expect God to fulfil your calling with the timing he has planned.
The time between your anointing and appointing can be a time of real growth and preparation if you allow it to be. In the waiting remember, God’s timing is perfect and he works all things together for his purpose.