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Why Pain Comes before Promotion

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In my 33+ years as a Christian leader, I noticed most of my emotional and spiritual growth have come during times of intense pain and challenges to my leadership. While most of us would love to grow merely from the accumulation of information, the truth is that we need to experience revelation in order for the knowledge to transform our inner being. That is why I often tell people: We cannot grow from only attending Bible studies and saying prayers; we must live these studies and prayers out in our lives so we can realize the growth!

There is even a growing trend in academia to combine practice with knowledge since practitioners have more knowledge of their subjects than folks who only view data all day on computers. “Practitioner research” produces the only kind of data we can trust. This is similar to how generals and armies can only become adroit and gain true battle skill by being engaged in actual combat, and how medical doctors will never learn only by taking classes but must practice on real people in order to be proficient. I would never want to be the first patient a medical doctor ever operates upon to gain their skill. This is why doctors will never tell their patients what kind of real experience they have until they have a good track record of actual patient practice.

In regards to pain, there is something about the human brain, specifically the feeling of pain and pleasure that connects these experiences to cause us to choose certain behavior patterns. When I was a child and touched a burning stove I learned from that painful experience never to do that again! No matter how many times my parents told me not to do that I had to learn the hard way.

As a Christ-follower, I have learned when I put first the Kingdom of God, all the things I need are supernaturally given to me. But when I put my fleshly desires first all hell breaks loose and I pay the consequences. These negative experiences are for the purpose of aiding me in my spiritual growth. Sometimes, God allows painful experiences to take place in our lives even if we did not do anything wrong since He knows it is part of the preparation to get us to the next level. The reason for this is because the human heart is deceitfully wicked and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9) because of our sinful nature. Unfortunately, the only way we sinful humans will walk in brokenness and humility is through learning by suffering in our flesh (read Daniel 11:35).

I have rarely met a young minister who didn’t think he was ready to be a great leader with a great title. But I have met quite a few older, wiser ministers who have learned to die to the goal of achieving great ministry celebrity status because they have learned through pain how truly fleeting are all those things the world regards as successful.

A biblical case in point: David was anointed King of Israel in 1 Samuel 16, but he wasn’t actually given the title and function for more than a decade later, after King Saul died. (In 2 Samuel 2 David was anointed King of Judah, and in chapter 5 he was anointed King over all Israel.) David had the gifts, abilities, and anointing to be king when he was 17 years old, but it wasn’t until he suffered pain for 13 years due to the persecution of a flesh-driven, egocentric king that he was emotionally ready to ascend the throne.

Oftentimes young people are frustrated in life because they think they have the ability to stand in a certain position that someone else has above them. But these young people do not understand that, because of our sinful nature, God has to use the school of pain to prepare us for promotion.

I don’t believe God has ever promoted me when I thought I was ready. Thank God He has waited until He knew I was ready for more responsibility. God loved David so much that He didn’t want him to be a king until he had every semblance of fleshly control processed out of him. It has been my experience that, before God promotes me to the next level that I am already walking in that higher level anointing and authority, but without the position and the title. I may have the anointing first, but then come a series of challenging tests meant to compel me to beat the flesh into subjection so I don’t explode with pride when I get to the next level. The transition has to take place internally before it ever manifests externally.

Before a woman gives birth, she has a beautiful baby living inside of her for nine months before the baby ever appears on the public scene! Not only that, but right before the baby is born the greatest trauma to the mother takes place while she is pushing that baby out! Many a minister has quit while on the delivery table, giving up because of the pain before the baby has a chance to be fully formed and pushed through.

May God help us to fully push through the pain until His promotion comes!

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