The Jonathan Factor

The Jonathan Factor

The Situation:

Jonathan is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. Though, as King Saul’s son, he was the heir to his father’s throne, Jonathan valued what God was doing over his own personal success. He saw God’s hand on David, and Jonathan yielded to His will for Israel. Jonathan’s willingness to put his natural rights in subjection and obedience to God inspires us toward the same surrender. 

In my devotional book, Higher Perspectives, I speak of this in an excerpt called “Then Jonathan and David Made a Covenant”: 

“‘Now when (David) had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took (David) that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt (1 Samuel 18:1-4).’ 

Jonathan was the logical successor to his father, King Saul, but God chose David instead of him to be the next king. After Jonathan understood this, he displayed a very high perspective in his response to David and other’s expectations.

Jonathan Could Have Concluded (Lies to Laugh at):

  • He should be jealous of David and see him as his biggest life problem.
  • Being anything less than the king would be a second-class calling.
  • Deep heart connections with others are a waste of time.
  • He should dig up dirt on David’s past and release it to the media.
  • Children are a failure if they do not meet their parents’ expectations.
  • He should be more concerned about his own success than his nation’s success.

Elevating Truths: 

  1. Becoming someone great is more important than having a great position – Jonathan saw a perspective and lifestyle in David that was more important than his own worldly success. He determined to pursue personal growth more than positional promotion.
  2. Healthy relationships are the foundation of extraordinary leadership – We are not leaders because we have a good message, but because we have a life that others want to follow. When we prioritize healthy relationships above successful outcomes, we will actually hasten our progress toward becoming a true leader.
  3. The sons of Issachar represent who we are to become – “The sons of Issachar… had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). Jonathan saw that God’s hand was on David; therefore, he gave himself to something higher than his own temporal success. We too can walk in this kind of spiritual discernment.

Giving God Something to Work With Concerning This Truth

  • Generously support someone who could be considered your competition.
  • Ask God for a specific step to increase your heart connection with others and do it.
  • Do a study on covenant relationships.


  • I am successful irrespective of my title or position.
  • I have healthy long-term relationships.
  • I walk in spiritual discernment and partner with what God is doing.
  • I am more concerned about God’s kingdom than my own.

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Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.

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