The testing of leaders is necessary, for only in the testing do we measure reality. We don’t test leaders to see if they are called since we’ve determined that before we recognize their calling. We test leaders to measure function and sustainability. Testing is necessary to all concerned with the leadership role they fulfill.
Leaders may talk the big talk from their own vivid imaginations of their faithfulness, but the testing reveals the reality of their intentions, strength of will, and commitment to something other than themselves. That is, when you expose leaders to training, they grasp hold of what they observe in their leaders and the theory the training presents. The measurement of their function and sustainability doesn’t come in theory but in function. Their imagination jumps to a picture of them doing what they have learned; this normal, valid, and desirable since they can’t do anything they lack faith that they can do.
Simon Peter was convinced of his courage and faithfulness, but Jesus says, “You will betray Me, Simon. Tonight, three times you will be revealed for your weakness.”
Simon’s experiences with Jesus has written a movie in his mind. In the movie of his imagination, he was doing the stuff, walking the walk, and being faithful to Jesus. However, without the test, that is just an imagination. Simon does not have an accurate understanding of his sustainability.
A test is necessary to determine the reality. Simon will face the test, and it will not be pretty. He will fail miserably, three times, in the face of servant girl’s accusations.
The Imagination of Jesus for Simon
Yet, at the same time, Jesus says, “You will restore the disciples after satan sifts them all. Everyone of them will be revealed tonight to set a base line for where we really are in this kingdom establishing.”
The language is this: satan has received permission to sift all the disciples. Judas has already failed the sifting and will not be restored. The “permission to sift you” is plural, “sift you all.”
Jesus knows what is coming and the test He will face. The enemy thinks he is going to win when Jesus dies. He thinks that each disciple will fail the test of sifting and the entire ministry of Jesus will be shown ineffective and insufficient to continue into kingdom of God establishing. Jesus knows satan is attacking His leadership because the entire life and ministry of Jesus has been devoted to producing kingdom leaders.
The enemy is out to prove that Jesus has failed in preparing leaders, that after the Cross, it will all fold like a house of cards. His attack on His leaders is an attack upon Jesus and His assignment.
Jesus has a strategy, however, that the test will trigger: “I have prayed for you” – singular – He prayed for one of them, Simon. So, Jesus knows something about Simon that Simon doesn’t know about himself. Jesus is planning for a comeback in His leaders based upon the test results, no matter what the test results may be.
God walks us through the paces of our leadership to set baselines for our preparedness and strength of will.
We are often focused upon equipping people “to do the stuff” when Jesus is focused upon equipping people to be faithful in the tests. There are no tests for doing the stuff because the power to do the stuff isn’t ours; the power to do the stuff flows easily!
Why do we continue to act like equipping the saints is about helping them do the stuff when doing the stuff is easy? Why do we fall into the trap of exaggeration that any saint at any time can do anything anywhere? Why do we continue to give testimonies with the idea that the testimony proves this point? Why do we insist that doing the stuff is the magic wand of kingdom expansion when the real key to kingdom expansion is kingdom culture?
Tests don’t come to see if we can do miracles. Testing comes to measure our character and faithfulness. We don’t develop pure gift operations in the fire of trials. We develop pure gold character!
When we are faithful in the trials, we are ready to take the next steps. The tests create a new baseline.
How often people in training settle into a baseline of immaturity because they can show off their gifting, failing test after test but coming back to do the stuff as proof of their maturity? This is a fleshly imagination, not a kingdom leadership process. Doing the stuff is easy because God is doing the stuff through us. We should continue to wonder at His wonders, but we should not assume that His wonders indicate our faithfulness.
When we are big talk but unable to sustain what our imaginations tell us about ourselves, God starts from that point to restore us through kingdom leaders. If we run from tests, we detour into dead ends. If we run from the restoration of sifting, we remain unprepared for leadership in the next season.
I watch people with gifts fail the tests. They just stop where the test occurs and do the stuff from that point without a thought for how poorly they interact with other believers, how little obedience or submission they have for the assignment, and give themselves permission to revel against the leaders leading them into the next steps of their maturity.
The sifting of Jesus’ disciples revealed the baseline of leadership for the next step, for Pentecost, for the subsequent season of expansion.
As leaders, the tests set baselines. Then, we restore them in the tests. They can only fail the tests when they refuse to submit to the restoration process that follows. Why? Because the whole purpose of the test has to do with the next steps, not the person’s ability to do the stuff.
Set baselines with leaders by giving them leadership within your assignment. Test them first on “doing what I do.” If they insist upon “doing what they do,” you know they are not ready for leadership. When any person comes into an assignment to do “what they do,” you can rest assured that you are in for a problem from that person. They are convinced by their imagination that they can do the stuff without testing.
Measure how they sustain the assignment or find justifications for quitting, changing the assignments, or simply sit on their hands and pout when they fail to measure up, short circuiting the restoration. When leaders blame others for failure, the attack to diminish others reveals a baseline. When leaders blame circumstances or you as a leader, the test measures the baseline of their leadership. They are convinced they do the stuff and tests are unnecessary or meaningless; yet, tests are part of God’s kingdom basics.
Then, you restore them from that baseline, from the point of reality the test reveals. You can operate from no other place with leaders than the baselines revealed by sifting.
Revival experiences always lead to sifting experiences. Revivals live or die based upon the baselines set by the sifting measures.
When people are into revival for what they get out of it, the sifting soon separates the heart motives for God from the vaulted imaginations of grandeur and fame. The “I sit on the right hand and you on the left” sons or daughters of thunder folks will scatter, blown out by the heated winds of testing. They are interested in the experiences and doing the stuff, and the imagination that being part of revival will cause them to become show-stopping amazing. Anointing comes but they avoid the tests.
Revival without sifting becomes a hyped show.
God will plant royal revival seed in the next season through leaders who can sustain the purpose of revival. Without the sifting, the good and bad experiences of the previous season lack the added-value of providing for greater momentum, and sow the same tares into the next season that were sown in the previous one.
The Fire That Never Goes Out
In case we fail to recognize this in the ministry of Jesus, we can reread the instances in which tests separated those interested in cashing in on Messiah from those interested in establishing His kingdom. Being enamored by the miracles, those interested in what they could get out of it quickly walked away disappointed when Jesus says, “I will not be making fish sandwiches every day for you like Moses manna.”
We read, “Baptize you with Holy Spirit and fire” without reading “He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing floor and blow the chaff into the fire.” That is, we consider and value the spiritual power without embracing and submitting to the spiritual cleansing.
Every harvest will experience “added-value sifting” to separate out what will hinder the next season. Added-value sifting is a post-harvest process that purifies the experiences that culminated in season ending harvest, good and bad, to lay foundation for a restoration of purpose that profits from the good and purifies from the bad.
The added-value process is restorative. The added-value process turns harvest into provision and separates royal seed for planting in the next season. In this way, the full benefits of a person’s experiences in the previous season become available while the work of hell to limit these benefits is removed.
If you cannot stand the sifting, you short-circuit the restoration process that prepares you to lead in the next season. You may even waste the best of the harvest because it cannot serve as spiritual provision to feed momentum while allowing the same problems that limited that momentum a place in the root system of the move of God.
Hundreds of beginnings that were not sustainable as moves of God have been marked by this testing and the failures of the added-value process. They simply did not stand the test of sifting or lacked leaders prepared to bring restoration when the sifting was over. The few – very few – that could stand the sifting sustained something that reset the kingdom!
When satan requests permission to sift kingdom leaders, Jesus selects a restorational leader. Where a restorational leader functioned in restoration, strengthening those tested by sifting, the move of God gained momentum through those leaders. Where the leader failed to restore and allowed for division, or the leader failed to restore by ignoring the purpose of sifting, the move of God suffered. The momentum gained include the momentum of the tares; the problems gained as much or more momentum than the royal seed and harvest God first planted.
Resisting the Sifting
Recently, I assisted in a process of restoration that came from sifting in a kingdom leader’s life. The leader ran from the restoration, so whatever was to be sifted from this leader remains firmly in place and gained momentum by planting that installed the same problems in the root system more completely.
Pride always resists the sifting, limits grace, and invites the resistance of God. Delusion and deception, denial and delight in evil becomes the new norm. The problems planted in the previous season that pride protects during the sifting, believing them to be vital components of a leader’s life and identity, not only survive but embellish themselves in the field.
As a fathering leader, I am used to observing the sifting and the base line of preparedness sifting reveals. I am also engaged in the restoration process. I can be successful with every humbled person. However, when the sifted leader’s pride says, “I have no need for restoration or sifting,” I know that leader is stuck and will carry their weaknesses into the next season as norms, even celebrating them at the expense of destiny, that destiny will be defined in delusion, and the tares will become entrenched in identity.
Leaders who demand to go from one level to the next without the sifting just end up in dead end detours.
Leaders are sifted as the move of God matures, and the leaders who are restored remain in place. If the move of God continues to mature, and the leaders resist the restorations, the move of God begins to turn into something else.
Season Ending Harvests
Siftings come as we move into new seasons; when previous seasons end with harvest, the sifting of that harvest brings added-value and purity of royal seed for the next season. A successful sifting will help produce a greater harvest, but a short-circuit in the process will cause the problems of the previous season to gain momentum over the royal seed.
When leaders experience any measure of success, they are tempted to assume that this success will continue eternally. They assume that the field has no tares, or tares are not that big a problem. They shrug off the sifting process and plant the same seed they harvested without added-value sifting.
Ministries that offer added-value gain greater profit.
Consider how struggling economies suffer from producing harvest but having no capacity or capability for added-value. They sell the product at a very low price to someone with added-value capacity and capability and start the process of producing another harvest that will barely pay the bills. The product gains through added-value processing, and the one who purchased the harvest from them makes a much bigger profit from someone else’s harvest!
Poor farmers grow coffee in the special climates and soils that make it flavorful but sell the raw beans because they have no capability or capacity to roast it, grind it, and sell a cup of coffee. Someone else profits in a much greater way from the added-value processing, selling a cup of coffee for four bucks while the farmer remains poor, waiting for the cycle to repeat itself.
When a ministry is moving forward into a new season, the new baselines of leadership must be set by measuring leaders with tests. The sifting is celebrated. The restorational process is valued as well as the leader who provides it. Ministries that add value to harvests receive exponentially greater profit from the previous season and gain momentum.
Jesus says, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have all of you, that he might sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you (singular, only Simon) that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Simon is unaware of his tares. Jesus is praying the sifting will free him of tares and Simon will become a restorational leader to the remaining disciples.
I wonder why leaders resist restoration. I know it is pride. Only the sifting reveals the tares. Only the fire that never goes out destroys the chaff. Only the restoration plants pure, royal seed in the next season. Pride imagines that the field is free of tares because they are so difficult to discern. Many leader learn to live with things God immediately rejects in satan’s sifting.
The presence of tares gives satan unfounded confidence of success: he assumes that revealing his successful seeding of tares will cause prideful leaders to accept them as norm or simply give up because things are not perfect. He hopes to undermine their faith in the field and their ministry by revealing tares they did not realize were sown.
That is why all leaders need restorational leaders in their lives. When a time of harvest comes, and leader anticipate the next season, the sifting reveals the tares and tests faith. When leaders run from the sifting process, horrified or in denial of what the sifting reveals, seeking a new place where they can start without history, or simply giving up on calling because pride cannot bear imperfection, only a restorational leader can bring them back into place.
When the sifting comes, the reason for resisting surfaces. Oddly enough, leaders pridefully include their tares in the harvest with equal value or with a shrug off “that’s what you get with me” instead of a humbled submission to added-value processing and restoration that will purify the seed for the next season and provide fuel for momentum of the ministry in the next season.
Some leaders have harvest but have the same level of spiritual momentum, season to season, because they resist the sifting and restoration process that would move the field they work into greater productivity.
Added Value Leadership
The kingdom needs leaders who can successfully restore. They will not be successful with leaders who run from or resist the restoration. That is not a fault of the restorational leader. Just as Judas resisted restoration and ended his life in dishonor, even Jesus couldn’t save someone who rejects His strategy.
However, restorational leaders bring added value to the kingdom harvests in ways that produce sustainable spiritual momentum.
I was directly engaged with the restoration of a young man with entrenched delusional pride. The sifting came because of a small but viable harvest, A season change was upon him, and he realized it, but his pride was Mount Everest tall and Dead Sea deep. He was convinced the tares were golden ears of heavenly corn.
I immediately recognized that he had surrounded himself with leaders willing to celebrate the harvest of tares and excuse the resistance to restoration. The sifting revealed deep inclusions of sin, fraud, misrepresentation, and finally open rebellion. Sadly, he turned to leaders with no capacity or capability of added-value who sent celebrated his tares with him and sent him back to plant in a new field, hoping to show everyone that his harvest needed no sifting.
Sadly, he was helped along by wolves and false prophets, teachers, and apostles, who all possessed no restorational leadership. They were not interested in restoration but in normalizing a new hybrid seed and harvest, the new “wheat and tares” product that requires less work and no confrontation. (A hybrid now celebrated in many harvest fields.)
End product? A young man growing older but less mature, celebrated for and celebrating with a hybrid seed, sowing it into other fields with the promise of beauty and plenty. A seed that requires no added-value processing that can be bought and sold at a cheap price because it is so common.
Ministries that restore do not include tares in the next planting. They recognize from the test that the harvest needs processing, the sifting satan brings with hopes of destroying faith reveals what the adversary has planted to corrupt the harvest.
In this young man, tares became his harvest, a hybrid with much more tare than wheat that appeals to the entire construct of many shallow and rebellious believers because it produces the same harvest they celebrate.
If you process the sifted harvest and plant pure royal seed, you will experience an attack of friendly fire that will shock you to your toes! But, you will also gain spiritual momentum from season to season that gives the kingdom its greatest and highest opportunity for success!