A maxim from my military leadership training is this, “Never ask your people to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.” It was a principle I held close when I was a young officer in the US Air Force. Nowadays, if I am in a leadership position, I still follow it. Basically, there is no job too dirty, too low, or too unimportant for me to do. If I think there is, I better not give it to a person for whom I am responsible. If no one else should be ordered to do it, that just leaves me to get the job done. Therefore, no job is beneath me. When I first learned this maxim, I didn’t realize it was Biblical. However, let me give you an example where it is:
But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of its mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. – 1 Samuel 17:34-35, ESV
Being a shepherd was a terrible job. You had to sleep out in the elements. You had to constantly be on your guard. Before you knew it, you could be in a life or death situation. Why? Because you had to protect an animal that doesn’t have a lot of intelligence, can’t defend itself, and is tasty to bigger predators. That’s what David did. When Samuel went to anoit the next king of Israel, that’s what David was doing: being a shepherd. As the youngest brother, old enough to handle the duties, he was the one stuck with the job. Who would think that the next king of Israel was a young shepherd boy?
Amazingly, those skills would come in handy. His ability to stand up to big predators meant he was prepared to stand up to Goliath. His shepherding skills came in handy when he became a leader in Israel’s army and again later as he stayed one step ahead of Saul. They came in handy yet again when he became king.
I’m sure David asked himself many a time why he was stuck in the rain or the cold why he was there. I’m sure David lamented his situation when he did a count and realized one of his flock was missing. I’m sure David felt fear when he realized he would have to tangle with a bear. And David had no inkling that the skills he was developing through those experiences would come in valuable later.
Why are you where you are doing what you’re doing? Why, when you know you’re capable of so much more, are you in the position you are in? Perhaps it’s because God knows you’ll need the skills you’re developing where you are now. Perhaps you will be like David or like Joseph or like Paul. You’re being prepared for the future.
Too often we try to figure out things with our own understanding based on our limited vision. We don’t see things like God does. We don’t know what He has planned in His will. We don’t know how He is preparing us. And so we gripe and we complain. We think that we should be doing something else when God has us right where we need to be.
If you find yourself in a position you don’t want to be in, try to see why you are there. What are you learning? What are you experiencing? How are you growing? Are you there because of your own sin or because of God’s providence? Maybe it’s a bit of both. Whatever insight you gain, take it back to God in prayer. Thank Him for the situation. Thank Him for the opportunity. Thank Him for the growth and learning. There’s something to be gained exactly where you are. It might not be the way you’d like it, but you can count on the fact that God can teach you something through it. Whatever your situation today, just simply give thanks.