By Dave Rhodes
I’m sure that you have heard it said that, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” But we don’t believe it – at least not really. We may adhere to it mathematically and recognize the truth geographically, but we don’t believe it with our hearts spiritually. No, we are all pretty sure that the best path to opportunity – and therefore to freedom – is the crooked trail of rebellion. In other words, we believe the fallacy of freedom.
To be honest, it’s not completely our fault. This is the ancient lie that has been passed down to us through the generations. It’s the lie that Adam and Eve fell into, and one that every young leader contends with. We are people who believe, deep down in the recesses of our hearts, that the pathway to freedom is rebellion and that obedience is a barrier to opportunity. And so we spend our lives moving from point A to point B on the crooked path, all the while convincing ourselves that the winding way is a shortcut.
This tendency is why I (and, let me suggest, we) need someone to remind us of a different way. In this regard, I have found it incredibly helpful that the Spirit of God continues to draw me back to the story of David. That’s because David’s story continues to demonstrate to me how my ambition and God’s best are realized together, not in opposition to each other.
I know you know the story, but if you don’t mind, humor me and let me tell it again. Maybe it will remind you too of two related truths that every young leader needs to hear over and over again:
Obedience, not rebellion, leads to opportunity.
Faithfulness paves the straightest path to freedom.
In I Samuel 16, David’s life took a radical shift. For David, it was another normal, ordinary day of tending sheep – until the prophet Samuel picked this unlikely lad to be the next leader of Israel. David was anointed as king. The vision of his destiny and future are suddenly in sight. You would think in this moment that David’s life would grow immediately and become unmistakably more interesting. Surely he would be rushed into the best schools and the best training program and become connected to all the best leaders. Surely he would sit at the best tables, taste the best food, and tour the best sights of the kingdom.
But he didn’t. Instead, David returned to the shepherd’s field and tended sheep. The future king was told he was too young to go to battle. His only brush with what felt even a tinge like leadership was an errand run his dad sent him on to take cheese and crackers to his brothers out fighting (but really watching) the war.
The narrative hinges on David’s response. This errand was a menial task. It came after a series of boring, repetitious, redundant days with dumb animals. Yet, David was obedient throughout. He was faithful, trusting that God would finish what he had started. But in this obedience, David learned in the shepherd’s field the kinds of lessons that he would need once God brought him to the battlefield.
We know the end of the story: David obeyed, and his obedience presented him the opportunity he had been waiting for his entire life. His faithfulness in the end brought him to freedom.
Along the way, David must have been to mistrust God’s heart. I’m sure he imagined that the quickest pathway to the kingdom wasn’t through the shepherd’s field. If he was like you and me, I’m sure he was tempted to take the vision God had given him into his own hands. Still, somehow, David remained true to God and trusted God’s heart.
His story reminds me of a truth that I have often told to others — only because I have needed to be reminded of it so often myself. Sometimes the road to life at first looks like death, and sometimes the road to death at first looks like life. I cannot recognize the road to life on my own. But I must embrace the road that at first looks like death because it is the shortest route to abundant life.
The road of faithfulness leads to freedom. The path of obedience leads to opportunity. So let’s stop our petty rebellions and trust God’s heart, even if obedience seems mundane or boring at times. Let’s spend our lives embracing the life that David embraced and trust God to open up opportunities as we trust his heart in obedience.
Dallas Willard said it best when he talked about how the obedient life is the abundant life in The Divine Conspiracy. He wrote, “Kingdom obedience is kingdom abundance. They are not two separate things.” (p. 312)
I hope this post has reminded and encouraged you to trust God with your obedience and to live faithfully in your pursuit of life. If we will, I’m convinced, the life we will embrace is not just faithful or obedient but it is also the pathway to freedom and opportunity. And when it does, freedom will no longer be a fallacy but a reality.