Lessons in Leadership – Part II: Being Underestimated

The first leadership lesson that David needed to learn was this:

Sometimes, you will be underestimated in your leadership potential and consequently, you will be overlooked even though you are chosen by God.

Scriptural Text

16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”

Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

Story Chronology and Comments

This story is filled with nuances that could take several posts to exegete. So to summarize, Samuel is directed by God to anoint David King of Israel. It is a private anointing like Saul’s. David’s seven brothers are presented, but were not chosen by God. Samuel is instructed to not consider his appearance, because God accepts or rejects based on what is in the heart, (Luke 6.45, 1 Peter 3.3-4), not based on how a person looks. Remember, Saul was outwardly impressive too (1 Samuel 10.23).

Note: This type of instruction is sorely needed today. Character development is minimized and under-emphasized. In our culture (I’m guilty of this as much as anyone, so I’m preaching to myself first before anyone else…), we judge on first-impressions – how a person looks to us and how they initially behave. As Christian business owners, let’s rise above this superficial, looks-oriented approach to others and look at their heart. You can always consider another person’s heart by what they say (Luke 6.44).

What is sad is that David’s family didn’t even consider the possibility that David could be anointed. It just didn’t hit their radar screen. Perhaps this was due to familial customs, perhaps it was due to their own assessments of him within the family. I wonder, if after the anointing, if David’s father was proud or not. The Scriptures don’t tell us. Perhaps you had your family leave you out. Perhaps you have been overlooked by your own family even when you were being chosen for significant ministry. As much as this will hurt, remember that your family’s view of you doesn’t matter to God. When God’s purposes for you are revealed, there will *always* be people who have a rather ho-hum reaction to your call and to that which excites you. Some will be less than enthusiastic about your approach or your idea, your model, you <whatever>. Don’t worry about it. Press on toward to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you!

What was David doing? He was tending sheep. He was working in the family business. As we’ll later learn, he took seriously the guarding of his sheep. While it might have seemed like an insignificant job to some, David understood that no job is an insignificant job to perform. He applied himself and found that his experiences of killing a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17.34) were valuable lessons that prepared him for the future. Think about it: what did David learn while doing his (seemingly) insignificant job?

  • How to play the harp – was his “entrance” into the King’s court – 16.18 (it’s tough to play music well without “feeling” the music)
  • How to kill a lion and bear 17.34-36 (courage)
  • Gave him confidence in God for future battles
  • Gave him a Godly perspective for future battles (Cf 1. Samueal 17.34…”The Lord who delivered me….”
  • Gave him a faith and maturity that surpassed his leaders

The lesson to be learned here is that God develops talent, faithfulness and skill that are useful in the present situation and even more important in future venues of service. Look at the overall flow of David’s life before he becomes king:

  • Tends sheep
    • Defeats a lion
    • Defeats a bear
    • Defeats a man (Goliath)
    • Defeats groups of men (Philistines)
  • Leads sheep
    • Leads by example (Goliath)
    • Leads small band of soldiers
    • Leads larger bands of soldiers
    • Leads band of outcasts
    • Leads a nation

We read in 1 Samuel 16.13 that “the Spirit came on David in power”. There is no specific description of what this means, but we do know that the same Holy Spirit who arrived at Pentecost and regenerates us today is the same Spirit who rested on David. As we move through these lessons, we’ll see more and more the role of the Holy Spirit and we’ll have to discuss some serious theological issues that will help you run your business God’s way.

Being underestimated means infusing the present with as much learning and development as possible. It means learning to live by the Spirit since you are already in the Spirit. The temptation, when you’re underestimated, is the one Paul speaks against in Philippians 1: the temptation to “pack it in” and stop growing. Atrophy is foundational to hindering the work of God. Stop praying. Stop working. Stop growing. Stop caring. You may not ever overtly sin, but if you simply stop growing, you’ll atrophy and that’s as good as a “win” in Satan’s book. The temptations to atrophy are many:

  • Giving up – Jas 1.3-5: note that David’s difficulties increased after the Spirit’s arrival and his anointing for service
  • Thinking that God has nothing special for you beyond today or is done with you
  • Getting mired in the peripheral
  • Thinking the present is unimportant
  • Opting for comfort over the difficulties
  • Dismissing the possibility that God wants to use you in visible, significant ways


When you are called to ministry – and running a business is a valid call to ministry. Difficulties may increase when God calls you to ministry – just plan on it and if they don’t, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised. But to get started, God may place you in a (seemingly) insignificant job to prepare for the future. Invest all you have into that insignificant job and learn all you can. Grow as much as you can. Literally, be all that you can be. Plan on this: God will likely take you out of your comfort zone. Just remember that today’s stretch zones are tomorrow’s comfort zones. And do not stop growing. Do all you can to develop your leadership skills. Invest in understanding and accepting yourself. Above it all, if you plan to run a business God’s way, then you should plan to invest yourself in regular times with the Lord, confessing your sin, turning from your wicked ways and learning to hear the voice of God.

Bill English, CEO


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