It was almost twenty years and twenty chapters after David’s anointing (1 Samuel 16) before David was appointed as King of Israel. During all these years David knew he had been anointed as King, but he had not been allowed to step into that position. He was even moved into the palace, but only to serve King Saul for many years. He was a servant to King Saul, and Saul even tried to kill him on multiple occasions. If that isn’t enough to make a person question their call, I don’t know what would be?
One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn is that anointing or receiving a call to minister, does not always mean instant appointing. Usually, the moment of anointing, or the moment God calls you to do something, will result in God taking you into a place of obscurity. We are thrilled when God reveals His calling on our lives, but then we often get discouraged when we don’t see immediate results, or if everyone around us doesn’t immediately recognize our anointing.
We live in an age where everything is immediate, so we usually hate to wait for anything at all.
Many of us older and wiser individuals have experienced the joy of living in an age when 35mm film was your best option for personal pictures. That process was anything but instant.
First, you had to go to the store and buy the film. Then you had to load it into your camera. If you were successful in doing that—without breaking the film—you were ready to start snapping pictures. Forty- two pictures, at most if you splurged on the big roll.
After taking all the shots, you then had to rewind the film inside the camera. You had to be sure not to open the camera until it was completely rewound, or you would ruin all the images. Next, you had to unload the film and pop it back into its little plastic canister.
Now that you had successfully removed the film, you had to take it to a store like Wal-Mart and place it in an envelope with your information on it. At that point, they would ship it off to be developed. This could take a week or two. If your film wasn’t lost, and it actually made its way back to your drop-off location, you would pray with all your might as you held that envelope just hoping that you didn’t take 42 pictures of your thumb.
Those were the days weren’t they?
Now we just pick up our cellphones, snap a pic, post it on social media, and in less than one minute someone in another country can see the image! How crazy is that? We have become so used to getting what we want as quickly as possible, many of us have forgotten that really good things must be developed over time.
I believe our callings are very similar to the old cameras with 35mm film. Imagine for a minute that you are that 35mm roll of film. First God places you in His camera. He begins to flash the images of your calling upon the unexposed film of your heart. Inside we know what He is showing us. We know what He has called us and anointed us to do, but to everyone around us, we just look like an insignificant roll of film.
But then God takes us even deeper into obscurity because now He is taking us into the darkroom to develop us. The film cannot be exposed to any light prematurely, or the images will be lost forever. So, the film is hidden in the darkroom where it is now taken through nine different chemical processes. If the door is opened at any point during the developing process the film will be ruined. So, just like the film, in darkness and obscurity, God works patiently with us, developing us for His purposes.
Our darkroom experience could take twenty years. It could even be longer, but we must remember that God has anointed us and called us, and He is faithful. None of our pain is wasted. It’s all a part of the process. Even Jesus went through an anonymous period. He was anonymous for much longer than He was recognized on earth.
We will go through tough times, and we will be tempted to doubt. We will wonder why others can’t see what God has already shown us.
But look at David. His own Father didn’t recognize his potential. The prophet Samuel looked at Eliab and immediately assumed he was the one! But God chose David. He knew His heart, He knew David’s character, and He knew David was willing to go through the processing God needed to do in his life. He knew David had the character to not blow it during the developing phase.
You see Eliab was tall and strong and handsome, and he might have been man’s first choice as the next king. But God rejected him. There is a big difference between gifting and anointing. This is where we must understand the difference between a calling and a talent. Not everyone will choose to use their talent for God’s glory. A talent or gift that is not used for God will not have the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon it.
People can be gifted but live an impure life and have no relationship with Christ. An individual could be a gifted singer, or a witty, charismatic, and charming speaker, but without a genuine relationship with Jesus and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, they will simply have talents that are going to waste.
As children of God, we have got to be so close to Him that we are able to distinguish the difference between gifting and anointing.
There’s a huge distinction between goosebumps and anointing. If you go to a secular concert and the singer hits an amazing high note, you might get goosebumps because of their talent or gifting. That doesn’t mean they are anointed. It means they are talented.
Many people use their talents in ungodly ways, but the anointing is imparted to those who use their gifts and talents for God’s glory.
The anointing is developed in us over time, and it is usually brought about by crushing. Talent alone is powerless, but the anointing breaks the yokes of bondage! Gifting without anointing is self-seeking. Anointing points away from self, and points to Jesus. I would much rather have anointing than misused talents.
Just as people can use their gifts in ungodly ways, they can also use their gifts in ministry, but still be totally devoid of anointing especially if God hasn’t called us to that ministry, or if we try to enter into it prematurely.
Gifting without anointing will not be sustained. God doesn’t bless what He never started. We cannot rely on gifting alone, we must be willing to subject ourselves to the crushing that comes through development.
We must be willing to be crushed in obscurity before we can be used in amazing ways. God wants to do awesome things through us, but many of us want to skip the developing stage. We can’t skip God’s developing stage.
As I was studying, I found this interesting. We use olive oil to anoint people. Olives must be crushed into a paste, and then pressed to release their oil. I have found this to be an easy reminder that crushing releases anointing.
Our hearts are developed in anonymity and obscurity—or in the darkroom. If you ever wonder why you have been unnoticed, uninvited, unapplauded, unrecognized, overlooked, or ignored, just remember— God doesn’t look at what man looks at. God looks upon the heart. He is developing your heart to be able to carry the great anointing and favor that He has prepared for you.
Remember this, the light that is within you must be greater than the light that is on you, or the light that is on you will destroy you.
We also must submit to authority. I’m sure David was unhappy about submitting to Saul, but he did it anyway. Sometimes we are in situations like David. His own Father didn’t recognize his potential. We may be in churches where our own Spiritual Fathers or leaders don’t notice or comprehend the anointing on us, but we can’t just leave the church.
We have to remember that when we are hidden, we are still developing. God wants to see if you have what it takes to carry the gifting and anointing He has chosen for you. If we leave, we are saying we are not willing to humble ourselves and go through the crushing process. God has a reason for everything He does. Your Spiritual leaders may even get it wrong from time to time, they may prophesy over someone else and say God has called them to a powerful ministry. And you might be absolutely certain that person is living a sinful lifestyle, and doesn’t even have a relationship with God.
Pastors and prophets can miss the mark sometimes. But God looks at you to see how you will react to being overlooked. We have to be so careful in these types of situations. If we are not recognizing it as part of our development, we can easily let bitterness and jealousy creep in.
Jealousy is so destructive. It will destroy a calling faster than anything, and if it’s not brought into control it can even keep us from Heaven. Now that’s scary!
One thing I’ve found about jealousy is that usually the people who are doing nothing for God, are the ones who want to complain about those who are doing something!
A man on Facebook told me I couldn’t be a pastor because I was female. When I asked him how many people he had led to Christ in the last month, he couldn’t account for anyone. Yet he was happy to judge and criticize me all day long! I found it interesting that he had so many hateful and negative things to say about me being a female preacher, yet he wasn’t willing to even try to lead anyone to Christ himself. I couldn’t help but think, “It’s a good thing God isn’t depending solely on you!”
People who are doing what God has called them to don’t have time to criticize others, or be jealous of what others are doing for God. The reason they don’t have time to be jealous of others is because the things God is doing in their lives and ministries are keeping them too thrilled, and excited to watch and criticize others.
The enemy uses social media and so many other things to trap us with jealousy. Be wise. Perhaps you were not invited to an event, and if you were not invited, you can be certain that the enemy will make sure you see it on social media. I have caught myself scrolling through and see a women’s conference where some of my friends were speaking. I had to check myself because I was tempted to wonder, “Well why wasn’t I invited to speak?” Don’t go there. It’s not about you.
At other times you might see someone celebrating something awesome God has done in their life when your own prayers have gone unanswered, and you start to feel a little tinge of jealousy. You know what? It’s not wrong to unfollow someone? If you are being tempted by the enemy to be jealous or covetous, unfollow them so you’re not seeing it all the time. But, don’t forget that God’s timing is perfect. It’s better to celebrate what God is doing in other’s lives, and rejoice with them when you can!
Do whatever it takes to nip that bitter weed in the bud! Let God develop you in obscurity. Don’t worry that God will forget you. He’s never going to forget what He has called and anointed you to do for Him.
Remember this, if God has assigned you, He will find you! God had no trouble finding David when He was ready to appoint him as King. I’m sure many times David wondered where God was, but God always knew where David was. You will face a lot of unfair, and even unrighteous situations during your obscurity. But remember God is watching to see how you react.
Do you love Him and serve Him just as eagerly on the back pew, as you do on the platform? What you do in your obscurity will hold far greater eternal reward than what you do publicly.
You may stand on a platform and be applauded by thousands. Enjoy it. You have received your reward! But think about those who serve God in obscurity.
I had a very humbling experience a couple of years ago where I ministered to a group of pastors in Pakistan. I was excited about it, but when I actually saw those men and realized they were in hiding because studying and sharing the Word of God could cost them their very lives, and they would be leaving to go into areas where they could be killed at a moments notice just for speaking the name of Jesus; I thought, what on earth could I possibly say to these men?
I felt very unworthy at that moment.
Their names may never appear in a news article or a magazine. I’m sure you will probably never read about their accomplishments in a popular book. And they may never receive an ounce of praise from man. But, can you imagine their Heavenly reward? Jesus is priceless to them, even in obscurity.
Always keep that in mind. Even if God chooses to use you in a very public ministry. Always seek to do things for Him in obscurity. Your earthly reward is only temporary, but your Heavenly reward is eternal.
Embrace the developing process. God loves you so much that He wants to spend time with you intimately, preparing you, teaching you, and molding you into His image, so you will be the vessel of honor He has chosen you to be for His glory. Trust me when I say His timing is absolutely perfect!
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Donna Sparks