“Preparation always precedes authority—if you want to defeat the enemy.”

There are no shortcuts for being ready. Jesus spent 30 years of private preparation before his three years of public ministry. It was nearly 14 years between the dream of his brothers bowing down to him and when Joseph left prison and became second in command over all of Egypt.

David was anointed as a teenager to be king. It was then he faced and killed Goliath but was banished by King Saul, hid in the desert, lived on the run, forced out of the nation, and fought many battles. It was almost 15 years between the time of Samuel’s anointing and he actually became king. This pattern of testing and preparation is found all throughout the Bible.

Every great Christian leader knows to be successful in your assigned mission, you must study to show yourself approved to do battle and win. “So that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his devices” 2 Corinthians 2:11. Great leaders further know you must study your enemy to know his plans to defeat you. “Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” 1 Peter 5:8.

The credibility of John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. The good reputation of trusted friends and mentors is invaluable in the preparation process. It’s always wise to wait for their endorsement. Nothing valuable in life is free. You will pay a price before or after you assume a place of authority. The damage if you wait until after is far greater. It always costs more in resources, wounded people, reputation, and in every other way.

God doesn’t waste pain. Pain develops character, repentance, and patience. Until your worldview has been seasoned by life’s realities, your confidence has been steered away from self-reliance at best, or worse, arrogance—you are not adequately prepared. Until you are a proven warrior in battle, you are not ready to lead the troops to war. Absolutely nothing replaces front-line experience under qualified leaders before assuming front-line leadership responsibility.

Never underestimate the fruit of preparation. I have watched for decades the devastation of unprepared leaders who somehow got in a place of positional authority. Power and authority without adequate preparation is dangerous, especially with emotionally immature leaders.

Until you prepare your heart and mind with humility and wisdom, your position is meaningless. Get all the education that is available. Serve under the finest leaders and mentors. But most of all, finish the course in Christ’s school of learning how to submit daily to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. God’s power and continued anointing rests only on the prepared vessel.

Great leaders prepare every day by asking questions. Is my heart ready? Am I ready for today’s spiritual warfare? Do I have the acquired knowledge, wisdom and experience to deal with what the enemy is going to throw at me today? The devil is a master at shame and guilt so be prepared, or go home defeated.

When I served in the Air Force the drill instructor would ask, “When does an Airman need a haircut?” You better answer, “Never sir, he keeps one.” Any other answer would be painful. When does a good leader need to prepare—never, he stays prepared. When you are in the heat of the battle, rarely do you have the opportunity to return to basic training. Too many are leading when they have not successfully graduated from basic training.

All leaders need to be refreshed and constantly improve, but never go to war as the leader until you have mastered the fundamentals. If you do, not only will you lose, you will lead many others to their defeat you created because you were not prepared.