Established

The old wooden chair creaks loudly beneath my weight as I adjust my perspective to gaze out the enormous picture window beside me. I can’t help but marvel as I look out at the mountains, crowned with the last spring remnant of snow and adorned in evergreen, surrounding our cabin. The four majestic peaks circling me are a refuge, hemming me in protectively. I feel safe in their embrace. In this moment I hear the gentle God whisper to “Be still”, and I think for the first time I understand what that means. “Be still” - and the latter half of that beloved Psalm - “…and know that I am God”. As I behold the majesty of the mountains, stately, established, and confident in their place, I get a glimpse of the steadfast nature of God. “The Mountain of the Lord”, as I read this morning in Isaiah chapter 2, where swords will become plowshares and spears will become pruning hooks. The tools of war will be abandoned in favor of emblems of harvest - of bounty - of peace. I can rest here. I can cast aside my fear here. I can lay down my burdens here. I can be still, because I know that He is God. 

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The words “steadfast” and “established” have struck a chord in my spirit of late. I love that these words are so often used to describe God in scripture. Unchanging - immovable - unshakable - resolute. So unlike my daily life. I wake up each morning unsure what the day will bring - will it be filled with stress? Will I get much accomplished? Will I have a confrontation? My life so often feels anchor-less, like I am being bounced from commitment to commitment, perennially at the mercy of everyone else’s needs, timetables, and expectations. I often feel like I could not tell you what my next week will look like - let alone my next six months, or year. I find myself envious of those families with glorious routines and set schedules - cooking meals at home four nights a week, date nights on Fridays, t-ball on Saturdays, church and rest on Sundays. Then I look at the next seven days ahead of me, and all I know that routine is so far outside of reality for my family. In some ways, I love that. In other ways, I feel a great sense of missing out. 

But that’s the life I’ve chosen. A life of being “on-call” - a life of serving and loving people. That will never get normal or simple. It will always be messy and uncertain. It also will yield a great deal of beauty and gives a front row seat to watch God move. I feel like God is showing me that, despite the wild and chaotic life I have knowingly signed up for, I can still experience the stability of establishment. The Lord, like the mountains I behold with great wonder and awe, does not move. He does not change. One of my (many) favorite verses in the Bible is Hebrews 13:8 - “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Something about those words brings peace to my soul. While my world may feel out of control, I have a constant, dependable anchor in the midst of it all.

Looking at the life of David in the Old Testament, I believe we can glean some valuable insight into this idea of being established. 

  1. Established in our Season

In 1 Samuel 16, we see a young shepherd boy named David - who by all accounts is the least likely candidate - anointed to be the next King of Israel. He is young, he is inexperienced, and he is even dismissed by his own father. But what is most interesting about this story is the fact that following his anointing, he did not immediately take the throne - many scholars believe that there was a fifteen-year waiting period between God choosing him as King, and that promise actually being fulfilled. 

I think it would have been easy for David to resent his season of waiting - his season as a shepherd. It was a thankless, exhausting, lonely, dirty, and difficult job. And if he had chosen an attitude of resentment in that season, he could have been tempted to do a half-hearted job at the task at hand. What’s remarkable about David, however, is that he chose to keep his head down, to work hard, and to remain faithful in the field while he waited for his calling to be fulfilled. I think most of us wouldn’t blame David for wanting to fast-forward into the calling of being in the palace - celebrated, recognized, and comfortable. And I think for many of us, we do fight the desire to want to fast-forward out of our own seasons of waiting, and into the dream we have for our lives. 

But, what we so often forget is to embrace and establish ourselves within our NOW. The truth is, so many fruitful “nows” are sacrificed on the altar of the future. We waste the potential of this season by channeling all of our energy into dreaming of the next. So rather than being excellent right where we are, we do a half-hearted job in our present, because we are so caught up in our dream for the future. What a waste!

David was a shepherd, and he could have wasted his days yearning for the palace and for the grand life he would live as King. But instead, he honed his skills. He defended his flock. He worked with excellence - and ultimately, he needed those skills developed in his season of obscurity and waiting for his greatest moment of glory. When we are willing to work in the shepherd’s field, we’re preparing ourselves for victory in the battle field.

So work hard where you are. Bloom where you are planted. Be established enough in your faith to trust that God will take you to the dream - in his perfect timing. And for now, be confident in your season. You may not love this season - but you’re in it. Which means God wants you there. You may see yourself doing “bigger and better” things one day - but for now, be faithful in the field. An established heart is able to say “it is well”, no matter the season or circumstance. And as you take advantage of where you are, God will advance you to where you want to go. 

Images by Kathleen Motoa

2. Established in our Identity

In 1 Samuel 17we see the fabled battle between the giant Goliath and the young David about to unfold. The armies of Israel are terrified of Goliath and his threats, and out of fear are unwilling to do anything to stop him. But there is one who is willing to go toe-to-toe with this great enemy who is striking fear into the hearts of Israel. 

In verse 32, David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

I think it is important that we note how David called himself Saul’s servant. David, the anointed King of Israel could have said to Saul, "Step aside, I will handle this. Don't you know I'm God's chosen, now?" Yet, he chose to humble himself and honor his King. Are you in a season of life where you know you have been anointed, but are not yet appointed? Perhaps, like David, you find yourself in a “season of servanthood”? 

Do you have the humility to humble yourself and be a servant until God chooses to elevate you? Having this level of humility requires established confidence in exactly who you are, and where you are. 

In verse 33, Saul responded to David by saying, 

“You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

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Here we see that Saul essentially told David that there was no way he was capable of slaying the giant. Maybe you’re reading this and you’ve been told something similar. 

“You’ll never be able to write that book…”

“You’ll never be able to get that business off the ground…”

“You’ll never be able to make a living in that field…” 

But what I love about David’s response is that he chose to have an established heart of confidence in who he was. He didn’t allow Saul to diminish or intimidate him. He simply responded with the truth about who he was - and the confidence that with God, he was more than able. You see, established confidence is not naive confidence - it’s the peace-filled confidence that comes from knowing exactly who you are in Christ.

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

And not only was David established in his understanding of who he was, he was also established in his understanding of who he wasn't. Continuing on in verses 38-39,  

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.

It would have been easy for David to look at Saul - the current King, an accomplished warrior, respected by the people - and want to put on his armor. To believe that somehow wearing the King's armor would better equip him to succeed in battle. Certainly, King Saul would have had the best armor available. And I think so many of us do the same thing in our lives. In this social media era we live in, the tendency to compare our lives with that of others is magnified and amplified more than ever before. We waste so much precious time looking at the lives and examples of others, and trying to manufacture a similar product in our own spirit, personality, and life.

Certainly learning from the example of others is a worthwhile practice, but all too often it devolves into either painful comparison, a sense of inadequacy, or trying to replicate the life of someone you were never created to be.

Here's the truth - we have to be ok with who God made us to be.
But we also have to be ok with who God didn’t make us to be.

 

David would not have been successful in Saul’s armor - because it was a bad fit, and it weighed him down. The same is true for you. It’s important that we spend far less energy in trying to figure out who you want to be LIKE, and far more energy trying to figure out who you want to BE. 

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3. Established in our Victory

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone…

I love that before David even approached the battle line, and before he even put the stone in the sling, he declared his victory in the name of the Lord. While not a single other soldier in Israel’s camp had the confidence in God to approach the battle, David was so thoroughly convinced of his victory, that he claimed it before he even took the first step

I think in the face of our own personal giants, our response tends to be fear. We shrink back and cower in the face of whatever it is that is taunting us. But we need to learn to respond from the place of an established heart. If we can do this, then nothing will scare us. Nothing will send us over the edge. Because we know that we’ve already won. So often, we forget that we already have the victory in Christ. 

So how do we do that, practically speaking? We follow the example of David - who magnified the name of the Lord in the presence of his Giant. 

In other words - we worship. There is POWER in our worship.

When we magnify the greatness of God - when we sing of his power, his grace, his love, his sovereignty - we are declaring VICTORY over our giants!