Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

True kings do donkey work

donkey3IN HER superb book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain notes how American society has gone from a culture of character to a culture of personality. In other words, we’ve swapped depth for surface.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the world of publishing, where King Content is in danger of losing his throne to the young pretender, Prince Platform. Forget whether this is a great book or not; how many do we think we can we sell to the author’s Twitter followers?

I’m not naive enough to think that financial considerations aren’t a factor. It is the book business, after all. But surely the focus should be on whether the message matters, not simply whether it may be popular. Instead of Okay, how many copies of this can we sell? being the determining factor, maybe it should be, Okay, how can we sell many copies of this?

Unfortunately, the current emphasis means that many people are spending more time on building their platform than they are developing their message. It’s like fixing the best-looking Garage Sale notices all round the neighborhood, and then just dragging the contents of your attic out onto the sidewalk without going through it.

We might do well to take a lesson from the life of King Saul: the best preparation for the crown is servanthood, quiet diligence. Tempted as we might be to dismiss Saul as an example of anything good because of the way things ended so badly for him, his start, as recorded in 1 Samuel 9, is actually quite instructional.

Do what’s right in front of you. The prophet Samuel is looking for the king God has agreed to give His people, but Saul isn’t putting himself forward. Indeed, in due course he will even try to duck out of the task. Instead of elbowing for position, he’s just out looking for his father’s missing mules (v. 3). He’s literally content with donkey work. And he is diligent, sticking to the task after he and his servant have run out of food (v. 7).

Everyone matters. Saul agrees with his servant’s suggestion that they go ask Samuel for help (v. 6), unaware that the aging prophet has just been told that Saul is his king candidate (v. 15). I wonder, if you knew that someone you were to meet today had the power to give you a check for a million dollars, would it affect the way you interacted with each person along the way? Just in case… How might we live differently if we believed that everyone we encounter had the potential to dramatically impact our lives? Which, in reality, they do.

Stay humble. We all need some encouragement along the way, but we also need to be careful not to let that become a source of dissatisfaction: “Hey, God, everyone says I’m great at this, so why haven’t you opened the doors, yet?” When Samuel tells Saul he has been singled out for something big, Saul plays it down, arguing that he is a nobody (v. 21). Admittedly, this deference is laced with some unhealthy timidity, but he doesn’t get too cocky.

It won’t be too late. Sometimes it’s tempting to want to help “God things” along when they seem to be happening too slowly. This week, I’m only too aware of this personally: Another year has passed without the fulfillment of something I still believe He promised. But God won’t let us miss what He has, if we concentrate on trying to do the right thing now, rather than worrying about what happens later. When Saul gets to join the feast Samuel has arranged, there is a special serving held back for him. “See, what was kept is set before you,” Samuel tells him (v. 26). A portion has “been kept for you until the hour appointed.”

If God has a place for you, it is secure. Just concentrate on following the donkeys, treating well all those you meet along the way, and not getting too big for your boots. In due course, you’ll find your place at the banquet table.

Photo credit: Spider.Dog via Foter.com/CC BY

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