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When you tell God that you want to give him everything you’ve got, watch out! He’ll test you to see if you actually mean what you say, and if he finds that you do – watch out even more! Jesus, at the start of his ministry, was driven into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, and not in a chauffeured limousine. No, he arrived on foot, tired and hungry and dirty, but he would have to suffer 40 more days and nights of that. There was no 5-star hotel waiting for him. (There wasn’t even a Motel 6!) And just when he thought he couldn’t take any more – when he was at his absolute physical weakest and likely feeling as if he was nearing the point of death – the devil himself would pay him a visit.
When you tell God you want to give him everything – watch out!
In scripture, we see the same thing happening to others. David fled for his life and lived on the run with a death warrant on his head until Saul died. Moses lived in exile for 40 years. One prophet after the other was imprisoned and tortured and slaughtered. The same happened to many of Jesus’ disciples and early followers, especially Paul.
It continues to this day.
When you tell God that you want to give him everything you’ve got, you enter into a form of spiritual boot camp where your mettle is tested to find the weaknesses and to purge what doesn’t belong. You’re essentially being made fit for ministry leadership. This process can go on for a long time and is rarely physically enjoyable. Jesus wasn’t partying out in the desert; David was partying when he was on the run. And you won’t be partying, either, in your spiritual boot camp. In fact, you might at first be wondering what you did wrong to bring so much hardship on yourself.
The good news in all this is that God has a tight hold on you while you’re going through the boot camp process. His Spirit is with you every step of the way, guiding and comforting you. David wrote some of his best psalms while he was on the run, and none of them were about despair. On the contrary, David wrote about his love for God and of his certain knowledge of God’s protection. Rather than grow weaker under suffering, David’s faith in God only grew stronger and stronger and stronger.
And this, I believe, is the main reason for the suffering. Ministry leadership requires unshakeable faith, and the best way to build your faith is by getting into a position where you have to rely on God for all your needs. If you rely on yourself or others, there’s no faith-building process involved. In fact, relying on yourself and others weakens your faith in God. In the desert with no food, water or shelter, Jesus had to trust God implicitly that he wasn’t going to die under those circumstances. Likewise David, while living on the run and constantly under threat of death, had to rely on God to guide his steps and keep him from being caught by his enemies. Sometimes this even required him to pretend he was insane or to make allegiances with enemies other than Saul’s people. These were things that David would never have done on his devices or when he was still in Saul’s good graces.
The suffering brought on by spiritual boot camp is not an end in itself. It does, however, serve to purge from you whatever doesn’t belong in a ministry leadership role, and it forces you to rely 100% on God for all your needs, which builds your faith exponentially. At the same time, in your straitened circumstances, you’ll see clearer. This clarity of vision is a great gift. And if you endure to the end of the process, you’ll be rewarded a thousand-fold for whatever it is you suffered or gave up.
How do I know this? Because scripture tells us. When they emerged victorious from their respective spiritual boot camps, prophets became great prophets, David became king, and Jesus became the Messiah.
What will you become?