Honoring Authority within God’s Big Picture (Part 2):
God Frames Ever-Changing Hues along the Path Toward Honoring Him


Interior of inflatable art sculpture with people walking through multi-colored tunnels



Sometimes on a hike or long drive we notice changes in the landscape. Lush. Dry. Wooded. Massive. Rocky. Beautiful. Meh. (That last one is for the younger readers. 😊) These changes typically occur gradually, but sometimes the transitions are abrupt.


We experience similar changes as we journey along the path God painted into our landscapes. From frame to frame, varied backgrounds transform the scenery and our circumstances change. Sometimes these adjustments are difficult. Sometimes they take us by surprise.




This is how it was for David as a young man, and even as a king. God painted his path with ever-changing hues. In faith, David navigated the terrain, no matter how long, no matter how difficult.


[This is post 2 of a 3-part series on honoring our authorities within God’s big picture. Read post 1 here.]


God’s big picture makes perfect sense to God, of course, but often not to us because we view it frame by frame. We don’t always get to see around the corner, but we can follow the turn and honor God in the process.



Paintbrush laying across an artist's paint palette



Large toddler-sized chess pieces on a giant chess board
In Part 1, we saw how David honored his authorities as if he was honoring God. We learned that God painted our authorities onto the canvas of life. God placed the figures where He wanted them to be. Parents, teachers, pastors, employers, government officials, and governments themselves are part of the long list of authorities God has painted into our lives.


Yes, this list includes people who aren’t looking out for us and those who may even oppose us. If you’re like me, for such people, respect is not really the verb you’d invoke.

But I did invoke the right verb some time ago. I emceed a retirement party for someone I didn’t particularly want to respect, but honor won over the disdain I bottled inside. When asked by a friend how I was able to do that, I answered, “It was about him, not me. I kept telling myself the purpose of the party was to honor him.”

I wish I could say that’s always my approach. It’s not. And when my authorities take back their promises, pull the rug out from under me, or even oppose me, honor is really hard to muster. Similar adversity visited David, too. Here are a couple of things we can learn from how he responded.



Paintbrush laying across an artist's paint palette



1. The more we admire God’s landscape, the more we adjust to changing arrangements.


David certainly had his share of unfavorable circumstances. When our situations take a turn for the worst, how do we respond? We like to walk away, don’t we?
  • When traffic backs up, some of us make our own lanes in the shoulders.
  • If our work situation degrades, we look for another job.
  • If marriage isn’t working out, we might divorce or look elsewhere to fill the voids.

But we can’t avoid the fact that sometimes, our agreements morph into something unfavorable. The paintings change and our lives are no longer picture perfect. God sometimes paints rocky landscapes.



New challenges, even very difficult ones, are a normal part of God’s big picture.

If we want to respond as David did,
we who follow and honor God
must continue to honor Him and
honor any agreements we made
until those agreements change.

The bottom line is that our agreements are not as much a contract with the other parties as they are with God Himself (who keeps His promises to us). (See Hebrews 6:13-20.)


When we truly understand that God appoints our authorities, we honor our agreements with them, even when our agreements later become unfavorable.


Paintbrush laying across an artist's paint palette


David experienced difficulties, but he didn't run from his commitments. Of course, he ran from King Saul to save his life, but he stuck around at first to see if the relationship would resolve (1 Samuel 18:10-11, 19:1-10). It’s important to understand that, when he did run, David didn’t break his agreement with Saul. Saul, himself, terminated their agreement when he purposed to kill him.

David honored his agreement because he honored God. Even when his situation became unfavorable, he continued to do what was right: to endure difficulty after difficulty without running away. David met each situation with a drive that ironically improved his circumstances – each small success after another. He acquired weapons, assembled an army, secured allies, conquered nations, and gained the loyalty of the people of Israel during his 22-year journey to royalty. (Read about it in 1 Samuel 21-31 and 2 Samuel 1:1-5:4.) David saw only frame by frame, but he knew God painted a bigger, awe-inspiring, picture.



Paintbrush laying across an artist's paint palette



Another valuable truth we can learn from David regarding unwelcome changes:


2. The more we appreciate God’s design, the more we accept personal injustice.

Empty courtroom looking toward the judge's podium

As the man who defeated the Philistine giant Goliath, David was promised riches, Saul’s daughter as his wife, and an elevated social status for his family. He was to enjoy a life of royalty (1 Samuel 17:25). But the opposite very quickly became his reality. Saul grew jealous of David’s success and popularity, and of the fact that he was anointed as the future King of Israel. His riches were replaced with a death sentence, and Saul offered his daughter in marriage only as a ploy to send David to the dangers of battle as often as possible. And the daughter Saul gave him to marry wasn’t even the daughter he’d promised.

But how did David respond?

He continued to honor and serve Saul. His respect for King Saul didn’t falter because he knew Saul’s kingship was part of God’s design.


Yellow thinking emoji
o      How do we respond when our superiors change their plans?
o      How do we respond when we realize those who hold the power made false promises just to get our approval?
o      How do we respond when an organization that is supposed to protect us doesn’t believe our story?
o      How do we respond when a parent apologizes, yet commits the same offense over and over again?


If you’re like me, we often lash back because we don’t think it's right.

Sometime after David’s story, Rehoboam, King of Judah, was ready to retaliate against Jeroboam, King of the remainder of Israel (1 Kings 12). Jeroboam was a harsh and unfair king who succeeded David’s son, Solomon. He killed one of Rehoboam’s leaders, so Rehoboam readied 180,000 soldiers to go to war against him. But God sent Shemaiah with a message to stop him. He told Rehoboam that He, God, was responsible for Israel’s division – for dividing His favored family and for the unfair situation under King Jeroboam. Allow me to say it differently:

God chose to have Israel endure unjust circumstances.


Does it seem right when God puts us in unjust situations? Well, it certainly doesn’t feel right. But God has a bigger plan and it doesn’t always match our preferences. Whichever direction our next steps take us, God wants us to maintain respect for our authorities and for Him, just as David did. (For a glimpse into the unrest between Judah and the rest of Israel, read 1 Kings 11.)



Paintbrush laying across an artist's paint palette



So, when our superiors, or even our equals, disrupt our lives, maybe running away can be a last resort. Maybe it’s better, and more God-honoring, to remain committed to those who depend on us, no matter how hard it gets, even when they are the antagonists.

We must stand fast to honor God, and when
we accept unfavorable situations as a part of His bigger picture,
God might soon consider us to be people after His own heart.


After removing Saul, he made David their king.
God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse,
a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Acts 13:22
  



---------- (additional reading) ----------


A word about getting out of a bad situation…


It’s okay to get out of a bad situation, we just need to retreat in a God-honoring way.


Friends, we face real issues and I know sometimes we find ourselves so steeped in problems, that escape seems to be our only option. As much as I stress sticking it through, we don’t always need to remain in a bad situation. Sometimes our circumstances are detrimental and counter God’s plan for us. Sometimes they are even life-threatening.

As I write, I am praying for those of you in situations like that. God is faithful and sees your suffering and tears. He has reasons for this phase in your life, and as you rely on Him in faith, He promises relief. He will renew you and lead you along safe and God-honoring paths. There will be greener grass when you follow Him through dark times (Psalm 23). This is the God we love and serve.

David escaped. He didn’t stand still to receive Saul’s deadly blows. He dodged, he battled, and he fled. But he didn’t retaliate. He honored King Saul and remained in his subordinate position until he, with the help of his dear friend Jonathan, was certain that Saul changed his mind about him. He didn’t flee until he was sure Saul considered him his enemy instead of his favored musician. David stayed in and around Saul’s palace in the hopes that things would work out, but eventually he realized that, to honor God and His plan, he needed to flee. (See 1 Samuel 20.)

Every situation has its nuances, so I can’t offer a checklist that indicates if and when to escape. But I do know that every step includes choices – choices to honor God and the relationships He’s ordained for us, or to ignore Him and His big picture. So, if we get out, we need to honor God in the process. Our relationship with Him matters.

---------- (end additional reading) ---------- 




If you have questions about honor and our authorities, or if you want to know more about living for Jesus and what it means to be a child of God, please email me at authordlv@att.net.


Read more blog posts here.







Comments

  1. Watching the ocean waves reminds me how life can change from moment to moment. I am thankful He is with us during all changes.

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    1. I can see that, Melissa. And depending on where you are in relation to the ocean, the changes can be dramatic. Sometimes we may be tossed about at sea, but God knows and we can honor Him in our responses and decisions. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. I definitely struggle when unjust decisions are made all around me or against me. But I love how you've pointed us back to God's purpose and picture here. We won't always see God's plans, but we can rest assured that no matter how bad life seems, God is still on His throne. So we don't need to run. God didn't promise an easy life, but He promised us peace if we trust in Him!

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    1. Hi Emily. Injustice is hard and even harder for Christians to deal with sometimes because it often goes against biblical principles. I hope that when we witness or experience injustice, we can grieve and pour out our hearts to God, and then seek His wisdom to navigate His sovereign path in faith. We certainly can have His peace that passes understanding. Thanks for reading.

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  3. Powerful truth here, Stephen! We all want justice, most of all, for ourselves. But sometimes God is allowing us to be put in unjust situations to learn something deeper about ourselves, maybe the need for humility or the need to surrender to God Himself. We prefer to keep ourselves as "god". When we cannot control the difficulties that befall us, we remember that we are not God. I agree, there are times when God is truly calling us to leave difficult situations, however, many times we have more to learn from the hard times and will be grateful when we have withstood them while clinging to the One who provides ultimate justice.

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    1. I like what you added to this discussion, that there is something to learn or grow from as we endure injustice instead of walking away from it. We do like to play God's role instead of yielding to Him and His master plan (which doesn't always fit our agenda).
      Romans 5:3-4: "...we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

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  4. Amen, amen, Stephen! This line hit hard: "God has a bigger plan and it doesn’t always match our preferences." I agree wholeheartedly.

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    1. Yes, Jessica, and I recall you had quite a path to get to where you are today, not necessarily with adverse supervisory experiences, but with things not going the way it seemed like they should. God's bigger plan is worth the difficulties along the way. It is for Him we strive each day.

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  5. Oh, this is a hard truth! I have had to stay in jobs I hated and was treated terribly. I have always loved the picture of David cutting the hem of Saul's garment rather than harming him. As you said, "We don’t always get to see around the corner, but we can follow the turn and honor God in the process." It's often more about trusting God than the situation we see. Many Thanks 8)

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    1. Having jobs we hate can be bearable with the right people around us, but when the people add to the trouble, that's just too much. I hope things are better now. I love the story about David cutting the hem. He had a few opportunities to kill Saul, but he understood that God appointed him and he didn't want to dishonor God and His sovereign choices. Thank you for sharing this. And I never knew I could make a smiley face with an 8 and a ). Cool.

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  6. Stephen, such an interesting post and so much insight I never attributed to David before. It is hard to stick with our commitments in the face of injustice. The fact that he continued to honor and serve Saul is amazing and it models true respect for the authorities God has placed in our lives. It reminded me of our last ladies Bible study at church on 1 Peter. Peter's theme discusses hardships and even being treated unfairly, but still respecting those God's place over us because it models Christ himself. Jesus suffered injustice "but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:23b)

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    1. What a great reference, 1 Peter 2:23b, and challenge to trust the justice of God over the injustice of people. Jesus showed us how as he allowed personal injustice all the way to the cross. And, while our situations are often out of our control, Jesus was in full control and could've improved His circumstances at any time. This is a perfect example for this topic. Thank you for adding it.

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    2. Wise reminder, Stephen, that our view of life is "frame by frame," whereas God sees the "big picture." I've just finished reading about Joseph again. I imagine it was challenging not to despair while in prison. But the masterpiece God painted out of his life was magnificent.
      Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

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    3. Thank you, Wendy. Joseph's journey was similar to David's in many ways. Both heard from God that they will be in positions of honor and both had to endure long, difficult roads to those places of honor. And both navigated every turn with great faith, knowing that God is sovereign and His timing is perfect. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. I finally walked away from a marriage of fifteen years after it became apparent he wouldn't stay faithful. God loves me and blessed that decision, even though he hates divorce. He also blessed and sustained me during the years I tried to make it work after the first affair.

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    1. It must have been one of the hardest things for you to do, Candice. I can't imagine all that you endured throughout that extended time. And finally stepping away. I'm sure freedom was not the only expression of your heart. God's big picture is hard to decipher and navigate sometimes, but He remains in control and ever faithful.

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  8. I appreciate the attention you give to honoring our authorities, those God has placed over us. This concept is rarely understood in America today, unfortunately. The one being honored isn't perfect. That's not why we honor them. Rather, it's the position they old. Our bosses and government officials are to be respected for the position God has given. You did a great job honoring your boss by keeping your mind off your own feelings over mistakes that boss had made. Instead, you focused on the fact that his position meant he should be honored. You focused on him. More of this needs to be applied to how we relate to our parents also, no matter their failings. Great post, Stephen!

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    1. I'm afraid honor and respect are a lost virtue, at least in American culture. We place too much stock on individualism, which really feeds our natural inclination to serve self. I very much agree with you that children (I include myself) can and should have more respect for their parents. I've never really understood the phrase "give them their due respect." Respect should come automatically, not as an outcome to one's character or conduct.

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  9. And . . . Google did it again. My comment got erased, or disseminated in the ether somewhere. Anyway, Stephen, this was such a great post, Stephen. You're right. Sometimes it is hard to honor those God has placed in authority over us. Your example of David is spot on. He faced so much hardship, particularly with Saul. I always admire how he honored Saul, and set that example for his men. God does allow us to be in difficult human relationships, and sometimes He has us there for reasons we don't understand. We shouldn't seek our own way out. Rather, we should trust God and stay yielded to Him, even when He keeps us on the harder path. Great post!

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    1. I'm disappointed in Google's commenting system. I think I lose about 15% of the comments to 'the ether.' And I feel bad for those who have had their comments disappear. So sorry about that. I like what you said, that David set an example for his men. I hadn't thought about that. I know his men respected him so much that they never seemed to counter him, even when they were nomads, so to speak. People are watching - often those close to us. May we be examples of how to respect our authorities and ultimately God.

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  10. I have experienced working for someone unjust, hateful, and mean. I endured for three years. I Asked God to give me the grace that he had for this person. Then finally, I felt God release me.

    The interesting thing is that through that whole experience God refined me, challenged and equipped me in my faith, the process of forgiveness, and now I can help others who are going through the same.

    Great post. I love how you walked through David’s life explaining the principle of honor.

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    1. We may not like our situations, but endurance surely is productive. You did well for sticking it through for 3 years. David stuck it through and he assembled an army, collected resources, and gained allies. He also wrote lots of God-honoring Psalms. I'm glad you can help others after having been refined, challenged, and equipped with the insights you received from your experiences.

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