As conveyed at a pastor’s conference in Anuru, India—June 2, 2010

Learning how to be faithful in affliction is a necessary component to a life in God’s service. In fact, the will of God for any leader has more to do with how well they adapt to his way of doing things than it does with how many people they minister to.

God is primarily concerned with saving our own soul first, and then allowing us to go in his name to call others to salvation. The ingredient God uses to purify us is affliction. It is through affliction that rebellion and carnality are purged from our lives.

Christian leaders who pave the way for themselves to endure as little suffering as possible have not yet entered into God’s plan for purifying their lives. I’m convinced that every Christian leader learns obedience by the things they suffer (Heb. 5:8). And, if this is true, then the opposite of that is also true: a leader will never learn obedience if they consistently avoid hardship.

Believe it or not, we have a choice if and when we go through affliction. It all depends on whether we are led by our own dictation or the Lord’s will in our ministries. Sometimes, we get to thinking that God will put a “hedge of protection” around us because we are being faithful to carry out his calling. But the reality is that faith doesn’t grow on trees and the only way faith increases is through affliction.

Why Does God Keep it a Secret?

There are reasons why God gives us revelation about our calling, but will rarely go into detail about it. He knows that if we had foreknowledge of what lay ahead, we probably wouldn’t go through with his will. There are times when God will warn us of danger ahead, but most of the time walking unwittingly into tribulation is a necessary component for spiritual growth.

In Genesis, Joseph caught a glimpse of his calling when, at the age of seventeen, he received two dreams from the Lord. However, do you think Joseph would have gone through with God’s call on his life had he known the thirteen years of suffering that lay ahead of him to get there?

Once the affliction began, Joseph didn’t run from God or renounce his faith, but he continued to allow God to afflict him and was rewarded with a mighty ministry that saved thousands of lives.

God purposely withholds information about certain parts of our future so that we will learn to walk blindly into hardship he has set before us. It is through the unknown that we learn to rely on God for guidance and develop obedience to his will.

God’s Idea or Yours?

Leaders who receive a call from God sometimes have a tendency to embellish their own ideas on the call God has for them. I’ve known many pastors who have formed their ministries into something that has the appearance of being blessed by God, but in the end it has made them weak in faith and strong in self-reliance.

The reason Christian leaders have a tendency to get ahead of God is because they don’t want to feel out of control. Nobody likes walking into the unknown and it’s easier for some people to just assume that they know every aspect of God’s plan for their life rather than just waiting on him for direction.

Take John the Baptist, for example. He received a revelation from the Lord that he would prepare the way for the coming Messiah. It’s obvious how he (or anyone else for that matter) could be tempted to embellish on a revelation like that, and make assumptions about what their future ministry would look like.

God specifically withheld from John that his final days on earth would consist of imprisonment and death because God wanted John to learn to walk into the unknown in order to teach him to be faithful in affliction.

Unfortunately, once John was captured and thrown into prison, he began to doubt the divinity of Jesus. John never imagined that he would be rotting in prison awaiting the call to martyrdom while the Messiah was on the outside carrying out his ministry (Mt. 11:1-11).

Like so many ministers, John premeditated what his ministry would look like and assumed that God would pave the way for that to happen. At a time when Jesus needed John to exhibit total confidence in his ministry, he became doubtful of his calling.

We must remember that God has called each of us to a special destiny that can consist of great things, but we have also to realize that with great things comes great hardship. It is important that we learn to embrace the Lord during the times of affliction and not distance ourselves from him.

Don’t ever make assumptions about your ministry lest you fall into deception and become disillusioned if and when things don’t go as planned. Trust in him always, even down the path of the unknown, and he will be your peace and your fulfillment.

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
-Ps. 119:71