A.W. Tozer once wrote, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

It seems to me, and apparently to Tozer, that God has a habit of using people to do great things to advance His kingdom only after they have been humiliated in some way. Moses led the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry land as God parted the waters, but that was after he ran from Egypt as a fugitive for murdering a man over a labor dispute. Yes, David was indeed declared a man after God’s own heart, but this was long after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan concerning his sexual immorality with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah the Hittite. Peter preached at Pentecost where five thousand people were saved, but this was following his profane denial of any relationship to Christ in the interest of personal protection. The Apostle Paul was the most prolific missionary and church planter in Christian history, but his kingdom impact wasn’t until after he had humbly repented of his violence against the church as Saul of Tarsus. Similar humiliation prior to ministry journeys can be said about Rahab, Solomon, Mary Magdalene, and many more.

It is more than a coincidence; it’s a trend. God humbles people deeply before he uses them mightily.

The point is that ministry leadership is not some mystical sphere of influence where perfect people are the only ones qualified to hear from God and guide others accordingly. Instead, the ministry is full of people who have been broken, humbled, and ashamed, but have found God to be more than faithful to forgive, restore, and use them greatly as they place their trust in him. It really does seem that humiliation is a prerequisite for ministry based on the Biblical narrative.

The Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, had a similar perspective when he wrote, “Such mature men as some elderly preachers are, could scarcely have been produced if they had not been emptied from vessel to vessel, and made to see their own emptiness and the vanity of all things round about them.”

Peter called his readers to keep this idea in mind as they were going through difficult times themselves. He writes, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)

The Apostle Paul begged God to remove his thorn in the flesh and got a different response instead. It seems like God was more interested in humbling Paul than healing him. Notice, “So to keep me from becoming conceited…to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

If you have been humiliated or are currently undergoing a humbling season in your life, take courage. Seasons like these are not necessarily disqualifiers for ministry leadership but are oftentimes the very thing God will use to prepare you for what’s next! In every season, let us embrace the promise of James, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.” (James 4:10)

Yes indeed, humiliation is often a prerequisite for ministry!

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John Welborn and his wife of 20 years, Ashley, have 3 children, Gracie (16), Eli (13), and Charlie (9). John holds degrees from Liberty University (B.S. in Biblical Studies and DMin in Evangelism and Church Planting) as well as Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.A. in Ministry Leadership). He was an itinerant evangelist before becoming Lead Pastor of Crosslink Community Church in Harrisonburg, VA where he served for 7 years. In January of 2016, he became the Senior Pastor of Salem Church in Staten Island, New York and he is currently the Director of SEND Network in New York, the church planting arm of the North American Mission Board. His life’s passion is making disciples and multiplying churches. Pastor John’s hobbies include playing golf, riding motorcycles, traveling, and watching his favorite sports teams: the Georgia Bulldogs football team and the Atlanta Braves.

3 Comments

  1. Paulo Freire on February 16, 2023 at 8:59 am

    Wonderful words, John. Thank you very much. Your examples are very telling. I can’t think of any one humbling episode that was comfortable, enjoyable or appreciated at the time. However, I can look back and thank the Lord for every one of them. I am reminded of 1 Cor. 1:26-29.

  2. David Walton on January 25, 2023 at 2:31 pm

    Great article. God can shape us through many things, if we allow him including all circumstances and experiences even when they are painful.

    • John Welborn on January 26, 2023 at 9:57 am

      Thank you, David. Blessings to you!

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