Honoring Authority within God’s Big Picture (Part 3):
God Adds Texture to Our Portraits with Visions of a Masterpiece

Rocky mountainside with lots of craggy texture with a sunlight beaming around the edge

When we contemplate the canvas of life, I hope we recognize that God is the Master Painter. He determines the colors, the background, the foreground, the objects, and the goings on in His big picture. We see in limited frames, but God combines them onto a single, grand canvas, with the richness of differing perspectives, multiple art forms and mediums, and expertly woven nuances of light and dark space across and beyond varied genres and time periods.

God is the artful Master, and He profoundly captures the details of our interests, talents, and emotions within a single image. And then another that expresses a new adventure or a different struggle, and ever-maturing qualities as time elapses. All that is within our hearts, that which was before and that which is to come, are deeply impressed in our eyes as He unveils His treasure: each one of us – each individual, eternal person.

The Master Painter never overlooks the value of texture and depth. Each portrait within each frame is painted with deep love for His subject. And with each subject, His vision is grand. In each of us, He sees a masterpiece.

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on honoring our authorities within God’s big picture. In Part 1 and Part 2, we considered some very difficult aspects of honoring the authority figures God placed in our lives. As the master painter, He chose them and determined how they would shape the circumstances we may either enjoy or endure – because honoring God means honoring our superiors whether we like them or not.

But this doesn’t come naturally and we don’t always succeed. Sometimes we want to retaliate or buck the system, and we may actually miss the mark several times throughout the week. We’re human! So, as we wrap up this series, we will get even more personal. We will consider the difficult relationships we have with some of our authorities as we fit into David's shoes that were not always majestic or honorable. And we will rejoice in the fact that God wants to paint us as His masterpieces.

Paintbrush laying across an artist's paint palette

David faced choices between honor and self-gratification just like we do today. We can learn from his right decisions as well as his recovery after his wrong decisions. Here are two more lessons of honor we can learn when we admire the portrait God painted of David.

1. The more we trust in God’s brush strokes, the more we let Him direct our steps

God knows us. David wrote that He designed us before we were even born (Psalm 139:13-16). The Master Painter envisioned how He would paint us onto the canvas and He followed through with deep love for us. Read what David wrote next:

How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand

when I awake, I am still with you.

Psalm 139:17-18

Painter with easel in Yellowstone National Park painting natural beauty
If you’ve been following this series, you know that God painted a great big picture into which He painted our lives, our circumstances, and our difficult situations. He knows about our struggle to honor Him. He also painted our ever-maturing character – our hearts that continue to grow in affection toward Him and His values (Hebrews 12:1-2).

As we grow closer to Him and understand our life purpose, we want to please Him and step further along the road He paved for us. But as we journey, we must be careful to follow His lead and not trudge ahead without Him. So, when we come upon opportunities that seem to advance us along our path, we need to discern what would honor (or dishonor) God. And when we are faced with an opportunity to escape the authority of a superior, or worse, to dismantle their authority, we cannot proceed if it means we sin against God.
This gets especially hard when people around us support a decision that wouldn’t honor God. Sometimes faulty affirmation even comes from godly friends and family members. They say things like, “Don’t you think God wants something better for you?,” or, “I wouldn’t blame you if you...” Some situations are so bad that taking a step against a superior seems to be the only choice we have. In those situations, pause. Earnestly seek God’s direction. As we have seen from David’s example, most of the time, the right decision is to endure.

[See this post on the coinciding of circumstances and discerning God’s lead: https://www.stephendelavega.com/2018/07/why-i-write-part-1-or-knowing-gods.html.]

God-honoring decisions are often unpopular, but wrong decisions dishonor God. Honking in anger at a police officer for parking and exiting his vehicle in my lane of traffic, as I have done, is wrong. Rebelling against our parents is wrong, no matter how unfair our lives may be. Emailing or posting derogatory remarks on social media about our teachers or bosses or government agencies is unacceptable, even if they drew first blood. Defaming and slandering the name of our President, even if we think he’s detestable, is the wrong choice.

(By the way, respecting those who don’t seem to deserve it is not the same as defending them. We honor them for their roles in our lives and we honor God for His sovereign choice to appoint them.)

Paintbrush laying across an artist's paint palette

When King Saul tried to kill David, David slipped out then returned to do his job (1 Samuel 18:10-11, 19:9-10). When he sent David to battle and assigned details that almost certainly meant he would be killed, David went to battle (1 Samuel 18:11-30). And when David had two opportunities to kill Saul (1 Samuel 24 and 26), he did not take advantage of them. Why? Because God chose Saul to be the king. In fact, after David chose not to kill Saul while he slept, he reprimanded Saul’s own men for failing to protect their king. And after Saul died, David commanded that no one harm Saul’s family members and he honored them while he lived.

Did David consider killing Saul? Yes, he did. In 1 Samuel 24, his men nearly convinced him to do so. He could have finally stopped running, finally stopped hiding, and finally worn the crown as God previously ordained. His men reminded him of what God predicted, “I’m going to hand your enemy over to you” (1 Samuel 24:4).

All the pieces were in place. Everything was coming together, but to follow through would have been to sin against God. He would have defied God’s sovereign authority, and that was unthinkable to him (1 Samuel 24:6). Why? Because God painted Saul as king.

So, when we trust God’s brush strokes, we do what pleases God, even when everyone around us would totally understand – even when mildly dishonoring God would be perfectly acceptable by onlookers.

Paintbrush laying across an artist's paint palette

2. The more we treasure all of God’s painting, the more we want to correct ourselves

Garbage dumped across a concrete collection facility with a waste management truck in the backgroundWe probably will make wrong choices sometimes.
Then what?

David fell short...in a big way. Of course, as King, he was in charge, but he was under an even greater authority. David knew his sin was against God, and reconciliation and recovery were accomplished in one simple step of repentance. He would not walk away from his relationship with God. It meant too much.

David quickly disposed of the garbage in his life and got back on track.
Imagine the portraits God wants to paint of us. How is His grand picture affected by our clenched fists and exacting eyes? We can change the mood of the scene with just a few twitches of our muscles. Haven’t we Christians done that too much already? Does the world see our anger or our love? Are they turned off by our arrogance or attracted to our humility and mutual respect for people?

We know David was not perfect. In fact, he is known for a severely egregious compound sin (see 2 Samuel 11):

1) He watched Bathsheba as she bathed.
2) He used his position to summon her.
3) He slept with her (and she got pregnant in the process).
4) He tried to cover his sin by attempting to have her husband sleep with her ASAP.
5) Since her husband didn’t sleep with her, he sent her husband to the front battle lines to have him killed so that he could take Bathsheba as his wife and thereby not appear guilty of any sin.

That’s all pretty bad, but here’s the good part of this story. When David was confronted by God’s messenger about his sin, David confessed and repented. He said, “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Samuel 12:13). He previously concealed his sin, but that doesn’t discount his sincerity.

[For more on this, read Melinda Inman’s post: https://melindainman.com/even-in-crushing-trial/.]

David acknowledged his responsibility to God. He didn’t try to justify or diminish his actions to God’s messenger. He confirmed that a sin against man is a sin against God. Incidentally, the prodigal son also acknowledged the same truth. He said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you” (Luke 15:21).

Yellow thinking emoji Have we disparaged others for disagreeing with us?

Have we slandered those who impose rules we don’t agree with, or who simply do things that just should not be?

Does our hate lead us to act in ways that tear down fellow men, women, and children?

Do we hurt them emotionally, physically, financially?

God expects us to honor others. If we have broken down a relationship due to our lack of respect, we can’t leave it at that. Make amends, somehow.

Paintbrush laying across an artist's paint palette

Our circumstances do not give us permission to disregard God’s command and the fact that we reflect Him in all we say and do. We need to confess our sin against God. He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9).

A sin against fellow human beings is a sin against God.
Disrespect for authorities is disrespect for God.

Like Part 1 and Part 2, this post speaks just as much about our respect for our equals and our subordinates as it does about our respect for our superiors. Respect is respect, regardless of relation or interaction. Disrespect is disrespect. Either way, in the process, we reflect our attitude toward God. The way we treat others is the way we treat God.

David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:21-22). That’s why he was offended by the taunting of the Philistines and their giant Goliath, and that’s why he allowed God to correct his wrongfulness. God used David’s humility and self-sacrifice to paint a beautiful portrait at the forefront of His big picture. In David, God painted a masterpiece, and He wants to do the same in us. He cares deeply for us.

Same image of rocky mountain details, but with text reading: The Master Painter never overlooks the value of texture and depth. Each portrait within each frame is painted with deep love for His subject. With each subject, His vision is grand. In each of us, He sees a masterpiece.

Paintbrush laying across an artist's paint palette

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.

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  1. Amen. Honor Him with our words and actions.

  2. If only your post were studied in schools around the country and proclaimed in the media! What a different world we would live in! Thank you.

    1. Wouldn't that be nice if it were, but I'm sure this message is not anywhere in the world's agenda, Linda...unfortunately. But I do hope and pray that this message will reach some beyond my normal readership and that there is at least a little more respect in this world. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Another powerful post in the series, Stephen. I love both points you bring out. I pray to trust God's brushstrokes and thus His plans for me. And I really resonated with how all sin is ultimately against God...even if we wrong another person. In our culture, and in the church sometimes, people fail to own their failures...own their sin. We need to take responsibility, practice confession more, and have a clean slate with God and others.

    1. Hi Karen. Yes, some people will do anything to avoid owning their sin. But how critical that is to communing daily - all day long - with our God. If we truly want a Father-child relationship with God, we need to confess and repent. What peace we can enjoy when we do so.

  4. Stephen, what truth and wisdom you have presented here! I appreciate so much that you remained true to God's Word as you taught this series. Most people have difficulty accepting God's authority, especially when we view His authority through others who are over us in any way. We hold our autonomy as a god in itself, here in the U.S. Your examples from David's life are very powerful. Though he committed terrible sins, his heartfelt repentance is a rarity. With all the opportunities to simply "do away with" Saul, yet David respected God, by respecting his authority. This is an incredible example of honoring the authority of God. And yes, every sin is ultimately a sin against God. Though we may hurt others, the sin is also goes against God Himself. Thank you for tackling a tough issue with Biblical truth and grace!

    1. Hi Melissa. Respect for authority is one of David's stand-out character qualities. We might have to read his story start to finish, and multiple times, to see it, but it is definitely there. It is very clear from the honor he gave to Saul as long as Saul lived (and not killing him), and the honor he gave to Saul's family even after Saul's death. And when we see how much he honored God, and that he was a man after God's own heart, we know we need to model his same respect for authority. To deny this truth is to suppress the Holy Spirit. Thank you for following along in this entire series and for your encouraging and thoughtful comment.

  5. I love the point that the more we appreciate and love God's entire painting, the more we'll want to strive after Him and look more like Him. It certainly is tempting to go after what we want without regard for God's purpose, but I've been learning to pray that my heart will mimic God's desires so when choices come to me, my first response will be to seek His direction.

    1. I know from your writing that you have a heart that seeks God's direction, wishes, and truth, Emily. You brighten God's big picture as do many others who let the Holy Spirit do His work in them. Yes, it's tempting to just do our own thing - throw in the towel and enjoy what we can, but how beautiful our portrait can be when we continue on in the journey God wishes us to navigate and to make corrections when we veer off course.

  6. Great post Stephen. God is such an incredible master in the way He paints the picture of our lives. The more we step back and allow His will to direct us, the more magnificent the painting will become. I pray for a heart that will always trust His brushstrokes.

    1. Yes, Yvonne. God's big picture is filled with the beautiful lives of those who let Him lead. I'm praying for this kind of heart, too, that trusts His brushstrokes, and that it will have a positive affect on those around me.

  7. Stephen, what a powerful post. I love your description of God as the artful Master. He knows the picture He wants to create in/through us. When we trust Him, He can paint that picture more accurately. When we walk in His truth in our words, decisions, and actions, even when that's hard, we honor Him.

    1. Thank you, Jeanne. The more we see things as designed by God, the more we learn to fit into His design. After traveling to many National Parks, I see Him more and more as the artist/designer of this world and of our lives. And you are right. When we trust Him, we allow Him to paint what He wishes, and we honor Him.

  8. It's hard for us to see God's protection in the provision of our authorities. David's protection of Saul was David's acknowledgement that God's timing must prevail.

    And this statement gives me pause: "Respect is respect, regardless of relation or interaction. Disrespect is disrespect. Either way, in the process, we reflect our attitude toward God. The way we treat others is the way we treat God."

    Thanks for the encouragement to follow God more closely, Stephen. God bless!

    1. Respect is a tough beast to wrap our arms around, Nancy. I appreciate how you declare and stand for God's clear truth in very controversial issues without slandering or defaming those who support and perpetrate the evil. You pray for them and rejoice when they recognize the truth. Thank you for being such a faithful witness and servant for Christ.

  9. There is a lot to chew on here, Stephen, I, too, appreciate David's respect for authority but am also impressed by your picture of God painting a picture with our lives as He did with David's - ours just aren't in scripture! If God has placed something in the picture He is painting of my life - then I need to embrace the idea of accepting it and even being content. Thanks for provoking some thought that should lead to a greater peace.

    1. I hope the concept of God's painting helps put things in perspective, Beth. God definitely has a masterpiece in mind with each portrait He paints. There will be some portraits like David's - beauty with imperfections - spiritual growth amidst changing circumstances and authorities. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  10. What an incredible post, Stephen! David is an example of humility we should all follow. The reality is, we are all the same, we are tempted, we get angry, we sin, we get frustrated with our superiors (whether they are good or bad), but the difference lies in whether we will follow God or ourselves. More people of today follow themselves. It takes a great deal of strength and courage to live the way David did. Loved, loved, loved this!

    1. Yes, Marcie. Will we follow God or follow ourselves? Ourselves will take us many places we should not go and will not have a positive impression in God's grand picture. Oh, to model a life like David's! God said David was a man after His own heart who would do everything He wanted.

  11. Stephen, wonderful post! I love looking at David's life. He made so many mistakes (we all do!) but he was close with God because he and God had an authentic relationship. David respected God's authority and wanted to do right by him when it came to Saul. It's a good lesson for us today!

    1. Hi Jessica. Thank you for pointing out that David had an authentic relationship with God. I don't think I mentioned that in this series. And he still has an authentic relationship with Him because it's a forever relationship. How wonderful that we have the same opportunity for an authentic, forever relationship.

  12. This is a beautiful and balanced piece on trusting God enough to honor the authorities he has placed over us. I like how you cautioned that honoring them doesn't always mean agreeing with them. He has called me to honor my parents, though neither are believers and have treated me badly.

    1. Hi Candice. I'm sorry about your parents, but glad that you can be a picture of Jesus to them with your honor, as challenging as that may be. God is good and trustworthy and He understands the situation. God bless you with confidence and peace.

  13. Love this analogy...and the way you biblically and respectfully handled a delicate subject.

    1. Thank you, Ava. How we respond to our authorities matters in the big picture. We're in positions to either contribute to God's painting or to undermine it. I pray it will be the former.


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