Over the years, I’ve observed those who God has used in wonderful ways. And I’ve realised more and more that the folk God uses are often not the most gifted or the most able, they’re simply those who are most prepared.
So often, preparation is an ingredient that, in our instant society, we don’t pay enough attention to. But the story of the call of David was all about preparation, reminding us how important it is that we are prepared by God to witness to Him.
So often, preparation is an ingredient that, in our instant society, we don’t pay enough attention to.
In 1 Samuel, the Lord said to the prophet Samuel, “go to a little town called Bethlehem, go to a man called Jesse, and I’m going to show you one of his sons to anoint, to be king of Israel.” So Jesse gathers the boys together, and puts forward the oldest son, Eliab, who they all assumed it would be. But the Lord said, “no, it’s not him.”
Eventually, all seven of Jesse’s sons come through and the Lord says, “not this one, not this one, not this one…” and Samuel is puzzled! He doesn’t understand it, and asks Jesse, “are these all the sons you have?” I love Jesse’s response – he says, “there is still the youngest, out in the fields looking after the sheep.” The implication is that he can’t quite even remember his name – he wasn’t even invited to the party!
It was in the boring, the lonely and the hidden place that God slowly prepared David to be Israel’s great king.
How many times does God, in His infinite wisdom, use those that we wouldn’t even invite to the party?!
And so Jesse invited David in from the fields, and when he arrives, God says to Samuel, “that’s the one, anoint him.” Can you imagine – the youngest, the little boy who’s left in the fields, forgotten at the party, gets a last-minute invite and, in front of his older brothers, he’s anointed to be king. How delicious is that?
But do you know what David did, straight after he was anointed to be king of Israel? He went back to the fields, and carried on looking after the sheep.
I want to suggest that it was in that place that God taught him everything he needed to know, preparing him for what God had in store.
There are three things about looking after sheep:
- It was boring: There are only so many conversations you can have with sheep.
- It was lonely: He only had a few sheep and he’d have been there on his own.
- It was hidden: Whether he did a good job or a bad job, no-one knew except the sheep – there was no shepherd of the year award!
It was in the boring, the lonely and the hidden place that God slowly prepared David to be Israel’s great king. And God also prepares us in the boring, lonely, hidden places.
This is hard for us to hear, as we’ve been raised in the instant generation. You order a Big Mac and if it doesn’t arrive within a few minutes, you get agitated!
I’m not an expert in everything. But there is one thing that I know better than you: food.
Now, I’m not an expert in everything. But there is one thing – and I say this in genuine humility – that I know better than you: food.
You get your Big Mac, and yes, it’s cheap, but afterwards you’re still hungry. It’s instant, but it’s almost like plastic. However, there’s a restaurant, half an hour from my home, called The Sahara Lounge. They say there are ‘thin places’ where Heaven is close – The Sahara Lounge is one.
All the food is wonderful, but there is one item on the menu that Shakespeare wouldn’t even have words to describe. It’s the ‘Sahara Lounge Chicken Dish’. You’re already thinking, “it’s chicken, for goodness sake! It can’t be that good!” But you don’t understand! This chicken melts in the mouth, it is utterly unbelievable – you never want the experience to end.
George, the owner, and I have become good friends over many years, and I once asked him what the chef does to cook that chicken. He said that if he told me the recipe, he’d have to kill me, but he did tell me this – there is a secret marinade that the chef makes with its own blend of herbs, spices and oils. They marinade it for two days and two nights, and then cook it very slowly – and that is how it becomes so delicious.
Let Him marinade you and cook you slowly. So that you taste good to a world that needs to see the real thing.
God is not looking for instant, plastic, McDonalds Christians. No, He wants to marinade you over a period of time and cook you slowly, so that you taste delicious to those outside of the Church. So that you are nutritious to those who don’t yet know Jesus. So that when people come into contact with you, they can’t help but want to find out the recipe for how you are the way you are – giving you those golden opportunities to share Jesus with them.
Where did David learn to be king? He learnt the secrets of being a gentle shepherd to Israel while he was looking after a bunch of disorganised sheep that wouldn’t do what they were told… It came in the boring, lonely and hidden times.
If you’re in the boring, lonely, hidden place, then do not despise it. God is forming you there. Let Him marinade you and cook you slowly. So that you taste good to a world that needs to see the real thing. Not plastic-coated Christianity, but the real Sahara Lounge Chicken Dish.