It is inevitable, all Christians will experience trials and sufferings because to extend God’s kingdom requires an immersion in the art of spiritual warfare. After Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey, they decided to retrace their missionary steps to visit the churches they had planted. What was their recurring message to all the churches they planted? They encouraged the young churches to remain true to the faith once delivered to them, exhorting them, “We must go through many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God.”[i] The apostle Paul, a person familiar with trials and tribulation, alludes again in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NKJV) to a litany of personal experiences:
‘We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (NKJV), continues his transparency by listing his struggles:
‘From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; [in] journeys often, [in] perils of waters, [in] perils of robbers, [in] perils of [my own] countrymen, [in] perils of the Gentiles, [in] perils in the city, [in] perils in the wilderness, [in] perils in the sea, [in] perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness – besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”
Leaders, who expect to extend their sphere of influence, should expect trials and tribulations to follow them as they pursue their God-given vision for their lives. As a matter of fact, upon Saul’s conversion, the Lord told Ananias in Acts 15:16, “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” As a leader, are you ready to make a difference for Christ? Of course you are! On the flip side, are you willing to suffer for his namesake? This question, which eludes many, can only be answered by your commitment to the one you love. It is for this reason, when people come to the altar to pray about their problems, I pray not for God to intervene and save them from their personal tribulation. I pray for a bold and steadfast spirit that by standing firm they may overcome, and in the process of overcoming, they become stronger, bigger and more daring as a person.
A metron is not only limited to geography and populations of people reached therein, it is also applicable for enlarging one’s spiritual endowments, talents, skills, anointing and character. For instance, many Christian leaders do not operate with the endowment of healing while others do, yet the bible emphatically notes you can access Kingdom endowments if you eagerly desire and pursue them. Allow me a personal testimony.
A Sphere Enlarged Through Personal Trial
On an autumn morning mid-September 1983 as I was preparing for my morning commute to Sacramento, a forty-five minute drive, to attend a full day of college classes. Then my mother called me over to her side and said, “I don’t understand what he is saying”, and handed me the phone. On the phone was one of my father’s co-workers who said, “Your father has been taken to Rideout Hospital and you need to meet me there as soon as possible.” His voice possessed a sound of urgency and severity. I did not know what to make of the call, so I left immediately.
Upon arriving I saw one of the most hideous scenes I had ever seen in my life. My father was laying on a gurney surrounded by six doctors. He had been in a serious, life threatening accident at work. That cool autumn morning my father had been teaching a new field laborer how to operate a tractor. My father had the man sit up on the seat to show him the gear system, while the tractor engine warmed itself. My father then stepped down from the tractor and stood next to the rear tire continuing the short lesson, not knowing the man had his foot on the clutch while the tractor was still in gear. All of the sudden the laborer unknowingly released the clutch. Can you guess what happened? The tractor engaged and leaped forward forcefully pinning my father upon the ground. Once on the ground, the tire spun relentlessly upon his middle torso. My father yelled and screamed but the man did not know what to do. The man finally had enough sense to turn the tractor off, which now settle on top of my father. The man ran to get help. Within a few moments help arrived, and soon after my father was rushed to the hospital in grave condition.
When I finally arrived to the hospital’s emergency area, my father lay coherently upon the gurney, and his appearance was shocking to say the least. His stomach was swollen like a woman’s stomach at her ninth month of pregnancy – the exterior of his stomach was littered with mixed colors of red, blue and purple due to his internal and external contusions. His veins visible and inflamed, vividly penetrating through his skin. The tractor had crushed his pelvis to pieces, broken both of his femurs, and many ribs. We exchanged a few intimate words. I told him how much I loved him before the six doctors rushed him into the surgery room.
I was a new Christian at the time, just a year into my walk with Christ. My new faith was tested early on, and all I could do at the time was lean upon the Lord, and call out for His mercy.
After six hours in surgery my father was immediately placed on critical life support with a slim chance of recovery. When I heard the news I was shaken but was determined to see him through this mess. At the time I felt something within me rise up, a firm belief God would heal my father and restore him fully. I confessed the little I knew of random scriptures. I cried out to God and I prayed regularly and earnestly for him, and when prompted by the Holy Spirit. Many times, during a Sunday morning altar call, I would go up sobbing, telling the lead pastor my story. Looking back I felt I had embarrassed him by my constant pleas for prayer and loud cries at the altar. I was broken for my dad. I would later come to understand my actions of “standing in the gap” for my dad were actually acts of “intercessory prayer” for someone who could not act for himself. I did not know this terminology yet. My infant faith grew during this time, as I stood on the word of God, and the limited knowledge I possessed.
In retrospect, my faith capacity was enlarged and fortified throughout this entire ordeal. After three months of being on life support, my father came out of his coma but was in traction for several more months. Several months later my father was finally released from the hospital, and was given a second chance at life. Today, my father has the full use of both legs, and most notably, he is enjoying his retirement on his ranch in Jalisco, Mexico, planting and reaping his crops. At the writing of this book my father is seventy-seven years of age.
Throughout this tormenting time I acquired the gift of healing but did not know it until I came across two random incidents. The first incident occurred when a good friend of mine and I were playing catch with a football. My friend being a good size and possessing formidable strength threw the ball so hard that I heard and felt my thumb pop on my left hand. I cringed at the sharp pain, which ran through my thumb and up my arm. Immediately, I verbalized these words, “In the name of Jesus, be healed!” Instantly, I felt something like a power surge come out from my arm, exiting outwardly through my thumb. In a “wink of an eye” I was healed. In the moment I yelled, exclaiming out loud, “I’ve been healed! I’ve been healed!” My friend, who was a Christian came over and heard my testimony. We both praised God together.
My second incident occurred as a college student, while I was working part-time as a Loss Prevention Agent for a large retail chain. It was my first day at this new location, and I was scheduled to work for an eight-hour shift. The store was large in size with three levels; a basement, the main floor and a second level. There were many stairs to climb up and down, unlike today, when cameras are used to detect and record shoplifters. As a Loss Prevention Agent, my duty was to walk around the store looking for shoplifters. At the end of an eight-hour shift I was so exhausted and my legs were extremely sore. When I got home that evening I immediately laid down on my bed. All the sudden I placed my hands below my belt line and said, “In the name of Jesus, heal my legs!” Again, a power surged through my arms and down my legs and the pain was gone. Once again, I raised my voice, “I’ve been healed!” My roommate ran into my room and said, “Is everything okay?” I said, “I’ve been healed!” My roommate was not a believer and thought my actions were a little strange but I knew something was different about me.
After seeking answers to this “new” power I possessed, I soon realized my faith was activated through my father’s trial, which imparted a greater capacity within me through my steadfast response to his accident. I was able to access a new authority and ability for healing. My spiritual sphere was enlarged within me through an unwelcomed trial. God must know something we do not see or know about ourselves. If God permits us to go through trials, He must see the seed of faith ready to root and sprout within us, and what we will become if stay strong and endure through the storms of life. The most important lesson I learned through this experience was being able to embrace my trial as learning and growing experience, which placed me at higher level of faith operation in Christ. James, in his epistle, notes:
‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:1-3 NKJV)
Another word used for “patience” in this passage is the word “endurance”. When one endures trials he or she grows in godly character and spiritual authority. A trial is simply God’s fast track process for developing leaders. If we trust and stand with Him through the trials that come our way, we become “complete, lacking nothing.” This insightful piece of wisdom from C.S. Lewis should encourage you as a leader, “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.” As painful as my trial seemed at the time, in the midst of it, I was being transformed in His image into a man of steel, which by far, attained for me a far greater glory outweighing my present struggles for my father’s healing.