“The worst thing that can happen to a man is for him to succeed before he is ready.” – Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones
“Give us a king!” demanded Israel. Saul was not what God wanted for Israel, but He gave them their king anyway.
It begs the question: Does God place people in leadership before it is His perfect timing to do so? Will God anoint someone even though their character has not been prepared to support that anointing? Unfortunately, it happens all the time. Both history and scripture are filled with examples of those who, despite lack of preparation or maturity, were elevated prematurely and, consequently, were ruined by that promotion.
THE ENAMOR OF ANOINTING
The people made an assumption about Saul. Undoubtedly they supposed that because he was anointed by God, he must be credible. They supposed, “If he wasn’t good, God wouldn’t anoint him. So let’s give him a crown, sit him on a throne and bow to his authority.” Big mistake.
Simply stated, the “anointing” is nothing more than God putting His hand upon someone or something and using them to fulfill His purpose at a given time. It implies no validation of character or proof of credibility except that God willed to use it to serve His purpose for that moment. In fact, God has been known to anoint some rather dubious things despite their questionable character. He anointed a donkey and made it preach. Balaam was anointed and he had Moab in his heart. Samson was anointed and fornicated with Philistines. Judas was anointed while he was stealing money from Jesus’ purse. Caiaphas was anointed to prophesy while plotting the crucifixion. Even the rocks can be anointed to cry out if God so desires.
The longer I live, the less impressed I am with the anointing. What I’m more impressed with is character. Why? Because more and more, we are seeing gifted, talented, anointed leaders who, because of their “anointing,” are promoted beyond what their character can sustain.
THE LURE OF CHARISMA
Saul was promoted for one reason: he looked good. Scripture describes him as being “choice and handsome” and “there was not a more handsome person among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” Israel wanted a king who had strong outward appeal who could legitimize them before other nations. Sadly, God gave them what they wanted: a king whose only good quality was how he looked on the outside.
Israel’s infatuation with Saul betrays a disturbing truth of what humanity often values in leadership. More often, we admire leaders for their charisma and style rather than their character and substance.
Character? Integrity? Ethics? These don’t really matter. All that matters is “Can you make me feel good? Can you affirm me, meet my need, tell me happy stories and make me laugh? If you have that kind of charisma, you’ll go right to the top!”
What we need is revival. Not a revival of healing or prophesy or supernatural signs. Nor do we need a televised pseudo-revival that fosters hyped-up spiritualism driven by celebrities and techno worship. What we need is a revival of character—a genuine move of God that returns the church to simple values like integrity, humility, and holiness—especially in leaders.
THE CRY OF THE CROWD
Like Saul, good leaders will have many good opportunities to be promoted. There will always be a group of people in search of a new leader who offers them the hope of a better future. The challenge for the leader is to distinguish a “good” opportunity from the “right” opportunity. Just because the crowd is cheering and an offer is appealing, does not mean it is right. In fact, these offers can often be ploys of the devil to move one out of God’s will.
Good opportunities are not always right opportunities. Each person must be able to look past the cry of the crowd and hear the leading of God. Missing this can be devastating. For if it is true that the will of God never leads you where the grace of God cannot keep you, then it is also true that moving out of God’s will also moves you away from that grace that sustains you. There will be conflicts God never intended you to confront, temptations for which God never planned a way of escape, threats, attacks, and dangers for which you have never been prepared to encounter.
DOES THE DEVIL HAVE AN INTEREST IN YOUR PROMOTION?
If you are eager to be promoted, if you feel that your gifting or ability entitles you to a higher office, I offer this word of caution: The devil may have in interest in your promotion. The enemy may have a foothold on something in your life and he knows that as you are enlarged, his foothold will become a stronghold that he can exploit to ruin the work of God.
Knowing this, the devil may be manipulating circumstances and urging you to canvass for promotion. But don’t outrun the perfect timing of God! While it is true that you have great abilities, there may be things in your heart that God is trying to purge. He may be holding you down in humility to cleanse your heart of pride, or exposing areas of impurity to rid your mind of lust. He may be keeping you in want to drive away covetousness. Remember, whatever greatness you are destined for, God must first enlarge your character to support that greatness. Too many, having been promoted prematurely, have been top heavy in their success only to fall and bring destruction on themselves, their families, and the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, I hope you will have the courage to pray the prayer of the humble. Rather than pleading for promotion, our prayer should be: “Lord do not allow me to be promoted beyond what my character will be able to support. Lord, prevent my advancement, shut the door on my ambitions until my heart has been prepared to withstand the temptations, struggles, and pressures that such advancement will certainly bring. Amen.”