Authored by Elsa Sichrovsky (a guest contribution)
Patience is not the first trait that comes to mind when I think of King David. Zeal, eloquence, charisma, and leadership skills are some of the qualities that I associate with Israel’s greatest king—but patience? My impression has always been that David was primarily a man of passion and action. But when I recently read through the Psalms, I came to the realization that David certainly mastered patience during his long and eventful life. Here are some examples:
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…”1
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.”2
“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.”3
Intrigued at the thought, I flipped to 1 Samuel, which narrates David’s journey from shepherd boy to king of Israel. God was fed up with King Saul’s rebelliousness and commissioned the prophet Samuel to secretly choose a new king. God led him to Jesse’s house, where he anointed David, who was the youngest child in his family, to be the next king.
I imagine how excited I would feel if a prophet of God dropped by my house and chose me from among all my siblings to become the next president of my country! I’d probably start by ruling my family so that I could be well versed when the time came for the real thing. But not David. Being the youngest, his father’s flocks of sheep were the only subjects he had under his charge for years to come, and he filled his role diligently and patiently.
Sometime later, he was given a new role—playing his harp to soothe the emotionally, spiritually, and mentally troubled King Saul. He may have felt that the whole “king business” was a big letdown. Playing music for a violent and potentially murderous king was worse than servitude and nothing near kingship! If I were David, I would have writhed with impatience for the old guy’s death or tried a bit of ruling and dictating while waiting for my turn of fortune. Luckily, David did not share my inclinations. He faithfully and patiently served King Saul as both musician and armor-bearer until Saul started hurling javelins at him, and David decided he had better beat it.
When David did his famous Goliath-slaying stunt, it probably seemed like his long-awaited fortune was on the way. He became a local hero and a high commander in King Saul’s army. But just when things started looking up, King Saul became insanely jealous of David and began trying to kill him. David went from military commander to roving vagabond. That certainly doesn’t seem very kingly and must have tested David’s faith to the limit.
Yet what amazes me is that every time David had a chance to begin his kingship early by getting rid of Saul, he chose to let the opportunity pass him by. An outstanding example of this is recorded in 1 Samuel 26, when David and his men were informed that Saul and his soldiers were sleeping nearby. They crept into the camp, and sure enough, there lay Saul in defenseless slumber. One of David’s men excitedly asked for permission to kill Saul. But David refused. “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives … the Lord himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.”4
To me, this is a powerful statement of patient, enduring faith. David was not fretting that God had forgotten His promise to him. He was not frustrated by how many years had passed since he had been anointed king. He did not doubt the faithfulness of God. For David, it was unquestionable that God would fulfill His word, but how and when it happened was God’s business, not his. He believed that his part was to simply wait on God and to follow wherever God led him.
Even after Saul committed suicide on the battlefield, David still had to wait until the bitter civil war between David’s supporters and Saul’s supporters came to an end, before he could at last sit on the promised throne and establish his rule. He was already thirty years old by that time. Good things certainly come to those who wait, but I think David would also add that some good things—such as priceless life lessons and character strengths—come from the waiting period itself. God knew that David wouldn’t have been a very wise or understanding leader if he had been able to take the throne as soon as he had been anointed; the wait was an essential part of his preparation to be king.
David’s story of patience was repeated in the life of one of his descendants who was also destined to rule over a kingdom, although not exactly the kind of kingdom that David ruled. Prophets had been foretelling His kingdom hundreds of years in advance. Like David, He did not begin His life’s work until He was thirty.
All we know about His silent years in the workshop is what one of His biographers wrote years later: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”5 Hebrews 5:8 says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” He also learned to yield to His parents when they asked Him to return home with them from Jerusalem, even though I imagine He would have loved to remain in a place that He called “my Father’s house.”6 I believe that God used those seemingly fruitless years to prepare Jesus’ heart and spirit for the rigors of His public ministry.
The examples of patient David and patient Jesus are great inspirations to me. I’m a pretty impatient person. To put it figuratively, I don’t mind the exertion of a sprint, but I can’t stand the tediousness of a marathon! I want to get where I’m going as quickly as possible. But as the saying goes, “Life is not a sprint but a marathon.” The long, hot, tedious stretches of the race are what will build my muscles of patience. Those well-toned muscles will then enable me to withstand the difficult stretches to come. And when I finally cross the finish line and receive my medal, it’s going to mean that much more to me because of all the tough waiting and persevering.
If you asked any athlete why his medal is so valuable to him, I don’t think he’d say, “Because it’s made from top-grade material,” or, “Because I love how it’s so artistically inscribed.” I think he would probably say something like, “My medal is invaluable to me because I shed blood, sweat, and tears for it. I fought for it. I waited for it. I suffered for it.” When I feel like life’s circumstances are forcing me to move at a snail’s pace, I try to remember that the best thing I can do is to be patient, do my part, and keep my eyes on the medal that God’s promised me.
The Bible promises that those who persevere to the end will receive a crown of life.7 That’s certainly a medal worth persevering for! But besides the crown that God will give us at the end of our lives, we can expect to receive medals for patience throughout our time on earth as well. David’s earthly medal was the throne of Israel. I know that I won’t get that kind of medal, nor would I want to, but I believe that my medals will be equally rewarding. For example, I might receive the answer to a longtime prayer request, the breakthrough in an important project, or the fulfillment of a secret dream.
A verse that has always encouraged me to be patient and persevere is found in the first chapter of James. It says, “The testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”8
“Mature and complete, not lacking anything”—that’s definitely something worth waiting for!
(All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.)
1 Psalm 37:7
2 Psalm 130:5–6
3 Psalm 40:1
4 1 Samuel 26:8–11
5 Luke 2:52
6 Luke 2:41–52
7 James 1:12
8 James 1:3–4
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International