The Honorable Path to Promotion
Three qualities up-and-coming leaders need to embrace
Leaders dream of where they can go, what they can do, and the opportunities ahead of them. This is not only natural, but as leaders grow, it’s often part of the process God uses to prepare them for future roles.
However, leaders must also fight a tension and temptation to jump ahead of God. It’s easy to become impatient and rationalize why we should move now. But if we aren’t careful, we’ll get ahead of God and pursue a dishonorable path to promotion while justifying our actions along the way.
It can feel slow and monotonous, but there is a path forward that not only leads to the outcome you desire, but it does so in a way that honors people and glorifies God. A perfect case study of an honorable path to promotion can be found in David.
During the years that followed David being anointed future king as a teenager, he could have easily jumped ahead of God. But Saul was still king, and David’s time had not yet come.
In fact, David’s time would not come until he was 30. And even when he did become king of Judah, it was still another seven years before David became ruler over all of Israel (2 Samuel 5:4-5).
So, what did David’s path to promotion look like, and how did he pursue that path in a way honorable to people and God? David embraced three qualities.
Even though Samuel had anointed David, he submitted himself to serving Saul. 1 Samuel 18:2,5 says, “From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. … Whatever mission Saul sent him on, David was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the troops, and Saul’s officers as well.”
This sounds like a great deal for David, but it didn’t take long for things to sour.
When David and his men returned home from battle, the women danced and sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Again, it sounds great, but “Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. … And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David” (1 Samuel 18:7-9).
The honorable path is always slower, but it’s also the one God blesses. It’s the path God uses to grow your character, expand your skills, and deepen your intimacy with Him.
Despite what happened, David’s posture remained one of submission. Whether he was playing his harp or leading Saul’s army, David understood and embraced his role. He was there to serve the king, and David was committed to doing so with honor.
Author Richard Foster defines submission as the ability to lay down the terrible burden of needing to get our own way. When we submit, we’re able to relieve our burden, provide honor to our leaders, and bring glory to God.
As Saul became increasingly jealous of David, he also became violent toward him. Throughout 1 Samuel we see 11 instances when Saul sought to capture and kill David. Each time he was unsuccessful.
David, on the other hand, had two specific moments when he could have easily killed Saul — one when the king was relieving himself and the other when he was asleep. Both times David’s men encouraged him to kill Saul, even insisting it was the Lord’s will.
But David refused to give in. He showed restraint in both instances, recognizing that Saul was still king.
On one of the occasions, David crept up and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. Saul didn’t notice, but afterward, “David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.’ With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul” (1 Samuel 24:5-7).
Not only did David show restraint, but he insisted that his men resist as well. Why? Because David respected Saul and his position as king. He could have killed Saul and immediately became king, but honor was more important to David than opportunity, and respect was more important than the role of king.
I’m not suggesting that you allow a leader or authority figure to physically hurt you. There is no justification for abusive leadership. Instead, I’m encouraging you to guard your heart when tempted to usurp the authority of a leader.
There may even be times when those around encourage you to do so, but don’t give in to the temptation. Self-control is the fruit of the Spirit, and you must manage your ambition, ensuring it doesn’t sabotage the leader you’re serving.
Through all of David’s trials and struggles, he trusted the timing of God. Years passed before Saul finally died. Only then did David assume his role as king of Judah. And even then, it was seven more years before he became king over all of Israel.
But God blessed David. Because he was willing to trust God’s timing rather than getting ahead of the Lord, David was able to enter his position of authority with honor. God honored David in part because David honored Saul.
Look ahead to your future. You may be anxious and ambitious to jump into a different role. You might even think you can do the role of your leader better than he or she can. But I implore you, take the honorable path forward. Submit. Show restraint. Trust God’s timing.
You don’t want to enter a role without the blessing of God. You don’t want to step into a new opportunity because you forced the door open as you rallied personal support for personal gain.
The honorable path is always slower, but it’s also the one God blesses. And I might add, it’s also the path God uses to prepare you for what He has next. It’s the path God uses to grow your character, expand your skills, and deepen your intimacy with Him.
If you can’t submit, show restraint, and trust God’s timing, then quietly and honorably resign. Why? Because it’s even more dishonorable to take a paycheck week after week from someone you don’t support.
Pastor Bill Johnson said, “Every person deserves honor for at least two reasons: they are made in the image of God, and God gave them gifts and abilities.”
When you discipline yourself to lean in the direction of character and honor, I believe God will honor you when the time is right. And when He does, you’ll be glad you waited. Furthermore, you will reap the harvest of seeds that were sown with integrity and humility.