This post serves as a word of encouragement to every zealous Christian who languishes in Church limbo. Compared to many others, you may feel a stronger sense of your calling and responsibility. The Holy Spirit will empower willing hearts and won’t wait for church elders to finally recognise commitment. This is, especially, if the pulpit privilege only peddled out for prestige. It is unfortunate that many people still use it to win their ‘pillar of the community’ endorsement.
You may even work within the church in a limited way, but as you consider the greatness of God and His mission in Christ, you want to do more in his service. The only problem is that, in spite of your commitment and gifts, you may still find yourself sidestepped by church leadership.
I would like you to consider two Old Testament characters, Joseph and David. There are many more such examples, but I believe that these are the most appropriate to the subject.
1. Don’t be sidetracked by self pity
Joseph was a long way from home, sold into slavery by jealous brothers. He could have lapsed into self-pity, abdicating every responsibility that came his way. He didn’t forget his hopes, but he turned tough circumstances into opportunities.
Equally, David became a target of Saul’s jealousy. Yet there were still many unorthodox opportunities for courageous endeavour, even if the King could only view them with jealous disdain.
2. Hone your talents wherever you are
Joseph found himself in Egypt surrounded by heathens. It might have been easy for him to lapse into idolatry, to abandon his dreams as empty musings and to neglect his talent for leadership. First as a slave and then in prison, on a downward career spiral, he developed his leadership on a smaller scale, shared his prophetic gift and demonstrated to those in charge that he was reliable.
David honed his slingshot precision as a young shepherd guarding his father’s sheep. It was said that the best Israelite slingshot warriors could hit a small target at great distances. He learned, as we should, to stay calm, fearless and accurate when the wolves attack.
3. Apply your talents to unorthodox small scale endeavours and strategise laterally
David’s unorthodox combat experience with the sling meant he was fully prepared to deploy an unexpected asymmetrical assault against Goliath’s chief vulnerability: his size. He used lateral thinking to opt for manoeuvrability and lethal long-distance precision over close-quarters combat and won.
Instead of striving for pulpit visibility, think laterally. Work with individuals and organise small groups, encourage critical thinking and articulate your religious views in on-line discussion forums. Develop unorthodox methods to deliver calm, respectful, deliberate and rigorous reasoning. These are the qualities that characterise the best preachers and teachers. Work with non-religious organisations, e.g. hospitals, schools and prisons, where the staff and residents may only pay lip service to institutional religion any way. They will respect you more. Remember that David fought with the Philistines in exile for several years before returning to Israel.
4. Satan will use familial contempt and unintended offence against established authority to thwart your progress
David didn’t mean for his victory to arouse jealousy. His brothers had accused him of the worst motives for visiting the Philistine battlefront. The Israelite war chant, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands’ (1 Sam 18:7) also placed him on a collision course with the King’s ego.
Joseph was similarly mistreated by his siblings. Potiphar’s wife expected sexual privileges and when none were forthcoming, she made an indecency allegation against him.
5. Take on unorthodox challenges that the orthodox churches balk at and use fearlessness and faith to seize the moment
While the rest of Israel reeled at the Philistine taunts, David seized the opportunity for God. David bypassed the normal, plodding military combat methods. His courage fast-tracked him into ‘special forces’ leaving his career soldier brothers behind. God is looking for dedicated, courageous spirituality to challenge the materialism, immorality and intellectual contempt of today’s society.
Joseph’s gift of prophecy was lost on his brothers. The dreams spoke to them more about a complete undermining of the elder status that they abused, rather than his role as an instrument of their eventual deliverance. Eventually, through a career of insight and leadership, many heathens found him to be a trusted source of inspiration. He continued to excel in exile as a leader and when the opportunity finally came, he seized it to influence Pharoah for the good of others. It must have taken faith to build and fill grain silos for seven years, rather than trade it for gold. Of course, gold is not much use in famine.
6. You will be vindicated, but not before you are humbled enough to embrace the forbearance that comes with maturity
David was eventually crowned King long after his anointing by the prophet Samuel. He was now mature enough in forbearance to be truly saddened by Saul’s demise.
Joseph’s dream also came true, but by that time, he was disguised by age and the robes of Egyptian high office. He was completely unrecognisable to his humbled brothers. By then he had grown enough to say to them ‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.’ (Gen. 50:20)
Importantly, both Joseph and David eventually learned to see the reflection of their own failures in the prideful mistakes of others. It made them the compassionate leaders that God wanted.