Faithful in the Unseen and {Seemingly} Insignificant Places

Millennials want their lives to matter.

We yearn for significance, so much so that we make life decisions based on this desire.

If we don’t see the significance of our work, we are quick to resign and look for another job.

If we don’t believe in the values of a company or see them leveraging their business for a good cause, we won’t purchase their products or service.

We desperately want to make a difference with the brevity of time that we have.

And while I am hopefully optimistic about all the good that will come from this generational desire, I am saddened by the depression epidemic it has unleashed within our hearts.

We must fight for joy like no generation has ever fought before.

We have constant access to the significant lives others are living.

Social media has linked us so intricately that we know every promotion, every good deed, and every good gift other people around us are experiencing.

And we look at our lives and think,

What good am I contributing to the world as a cashier?

Does this desk job I’m doing really matter?

For me, it’s, What do all these diapers and dishes amount to, anyway?

We’re dreamers at heart. Thank God this generation isn’t afraid to dream big dreams.

But we get tripped up when we find ourselves in a season of life that feels disconnected to the dream in our hearts.

And it’s what we do in these moments that matters most.

Deep down we wonder, Can God really take me from where I am to where I want to be?

Can he really raise me up to operate in the fullness of my gifts and calling?

The best news for us today: Scripture shouts a resounding yes in the story of David.

David’s story in Scripture begins when the Lord tells a prophet named Samuel to anoint a new king for Israel. The current king, Saul, is no longer pleasing to the Lord, and God says that He has chosen for Himself a king who is a son of Jesse.

Samuel goes to Jesse’s house, and David doesn’t even make the initial lineup. Samuel sees one of the strongest sons and thinks to himself, “Surely this is he.”

God corrects his way of thinking: God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, NASB).

When Samuel asks Jesse if he has any more sons, Jesse mentions David and says, Behold he is tending the sheep (1 Samuel 16:11, NIV).

David is anointed king immediately when Samuel sees him.

Psalm 78 summarizes this story so poignantly.

He chose David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel His inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them (Psalm 78:70-72, NIV).

God chose David while he was serving in the sheep pen.

It doesn’t get any more obscure than a sheep pen. Rather than despise this obscurity, David focused his efforts on serving God faithfully. As a result, God chose David and sent someone to anoint him to be king of His people. No one had to notice David for him to be anointed king; God sent Samuel at the appointed time. He appoints when He will anoint, and He doesn’t need anyone to notice us to do so.

Even though you and I are not literally shepherding sheep, we do have a sheep pen in our lives.

The sheep pen is a place that is unseen by man where we sometimes must do undesirable labor. We often find ourselves serving in an unenvied position (no one’s “dream” is to be doing what we’re doing), that is viewed unimportant by others (at another point in the story, David’s brother says, With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? 1 Samuel 17:28, NIV).

We can all identify with serving in a sheep pen. And David’s story demonstrates what we can’t afford to miss: God anoints us for His work when we are faithful in what He has already given us to steward.

The anointing comes in the sheep pen, not on the stage.

David was faithful right where he was positioned: in the sheep pen. The way we tend whatever sheep pen we have been entrusted is the apparatus God uses to measure our faithfulness to Him.

If we can be faithful in the unseen and seemingly insignificant places, then we will be faithful in more noticeable positions.

But what we must realize is that the noticeable places God raises up into are no more significant than the unseen sheep pens we find ourselves in now.

Psalm 78 says that David shepherded God’s people with integrity of heart and skillful hands.

I am convinced God developed David’s character and skills in the sheep pen.

Nothing cultivates integrity more than serving in obscurity. Privacy purifies our hearts from the need to be seen, and that is why the process of preparation most often occurs when no one is watching but God.

When David goes to fight Goliath later in his story, he references God’s faithfulness in the sheep pen as building his confidence for victory on the battlefield.

Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock,  I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God. And David said, The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (1 Samuel 17:34-37, NIV).

If David had not fought the bear and the lion in the sheep pen, he would not have been confident that he could fight Goliath on the battle field. God’s faithfulness to him in the unseen place prepared him for the battle with Goliath when all eyes were suddenly on him.

David’s willingness to shepherd the sheep with such care and bravery paved the way for him to shepherd God’s people in the same way. What God did in him in the sheep pen when no one was watching prepared him for his calling when everyone was watching.

What God is beckoning us to believe is this: The scale of our influence does not determine the significance of our labor.

We as a generation despise the sheep pen because we can’t see the significance of what God is doing there. We want to change the world, but we have lost sight of the value of God changing us.

The sheep pens are perhaps the most important places we will ever be positioned. It is in the sheep pen that God purifies our hearts and prepares our hands. It is where God will give us callings and dreams and anoint us to fulfill them.

God is looking for faithfulness. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him (1 Chronicles 16:9, NIV).

We are only fully committed to Him if we can serve as faithfully in the sheep pen as we would on a stage.

Seek to be found faithful, loyal to Him in even the smallest of details and tasks you are given to steward. He sees, He notices, and He will choose to use you, even if it is only evident to others years from now.

Our whole lives ought to be an arc aiming for one statement: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

The beauty of that assessment is that the words good and faithful can apply to any lot in life. Good and faithful can describe a servant in the sheep pen as seamlessly as it describes a servant ruling on the throne as king.

Good and faithful measures our stewardship of the tasks we’ve been given, not the scale of our influence.

If God isn’t going to judge us based on the scale of our influence in eternity, then it doesn’t matter nearly as much in our years on this earth as we think it does.

It doesn’t matter if anyone sees our faithfulness in the unseen and seemingly insignificant places we find ourselves now. What matters is that we are full of faith that God notices and will raise us up on His timing and by His power.

Perhaps the most beautiful reality of all is that as we serve faithfully in the sheep pen in our lives, being deemed a good and faithful servant of the living God becomes enough for us.

We no longer feel the need to strive for large-scale significance.

Rather, we find significance in serving God right where He has planted us in every season of our lives.

God, thank You for giving this generation big dreams and a desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Today, I ask that you would keep my desire for the dream itself small in proportion to my desire for You. Help me not to miss the anointing of Your Spirit because I despise my sheep pen. But rather, help me to embrace this season, being faithful right where you have positioned me. I know You are preparing me in the here and now for the there and then. May serving You be my greatest joy in every season of my soul. Amen.