Monday, August 10, 2009

Surety for Trying Times

A “Go With God” moment:

I am stating the obvious with these words: This is a time of financial uncertainty. It’s spreading and affecting our towns and families with reckless abandon. Stress rules the day and our futures appear unpredictable. I know that is true with many IWU students, for I have had multiple inquiries for financial assistance; far above the usual for late summer. 


While in the “crisis”, would you allow me to make a few observations relating to our understanding of God and how His will often reveals itself?


First, God is in control. Please do not take this lightly. From the moment He spoke creation into existence He has held all things in order (Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:3). Do you believe this? Did the fall in the garden disturb His control? NO. Did the faithless-ness of Israel in the desert create a dilemma beyond God’s reach? No Way! Or how about the rejection of God’s Son by all of mankind (John 1:11; Mark 14:50)? Was this too much for God to handle? Of course not!  If that is true, the financial meltdown of our modern economic system is not a tragedy beyond His scope. He is in perfect control. Therefore, I urge you not to equate your lack of financial resources as the sole directional marker for the Lord's will in your life. He is so much bigger than that. Moreover, when one door closes, God ALWAYS stands next to many other ones which He will open at your request. Again, I say trust me when I tell you that your prayers for financial needs are heard in heaven. But what would you do if God was refashioning your request and answering it in a new and divinely inspired way? Prayer is not our command to God but it takes the form of a conversation which puts you in direct touch with the Creator and sustainer Himself. So, in these unsettling days, are you interested in His take on how the two of you can partner together during these difficult days?


Second, God primary goal is to shape our spiritual lives and our character to reflect the image of His Son. Thus, the education of your mind may not be the best avenue to do this shaping at this precise moment.  Rather, Scripture tells us again and again that trials and suffering are a keen developer of a life of faith. Don’t believe me…well listen to James 1.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.


Third, God’s concept of education is a holistic approach; the life of the mind coupled with a vibrant heart of faith. Maybe, just maybe, there are some things the Lord can teach you in a financially unstable time that Drury, Bounds, Lennox, or Bence cannot teach you.  So ponder with me for just a moment, “What might God have in mind this very day?” or Ask the question this way, “What type of faith is He trying to create deep within your soul right now that He has never had the opportunity to develop?”


Let me try to suggest a few practical thoughts of “understanding the times” which might give you a new and fresh confidence that God is at work in your life. This part is principally for those of you who cannot return to IWU this semester because the funds have simply dried up for various reasons.

1.           Taking a semester off to get back on your financial feet seems to be a non-starter these days. In past generations students (read that as “your parents”) worked their way thru college so that when they graduated, they did so with little or no debt. With the huge increase of tuition over the last 20 years, it is almost impossible to work enough hours & go to school, paying as you go. Moreover, in my 10 years at IWU, I have seen students take loans out for every semester, and when they graduate, they do so resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Maybe, just maybe, the Lord is guiding you in a path of un-debtedness rather than in-debtedness. What if He would like to lead you down a road-less-traveled these days? It may take you longer to graduate, but you will not be burdened with such a huge student loan…especially if you intend in going into a career of Christian Ministry. So one perfect option will be to spend as much time working as you can to pay down old debt or to save for the future. Maybe the Lord is teaching you a new lesson in stewardship. His will may end up being an educational both/and (an affordable education) not either/or (pay me now or pay me later).

2.           Taking time to do ministry (especially volunteering) is a perfect way to “test the Spirit” regarding your call. Many of you have worked in a local church…but why not do this with new eyes. During this time, watch the Lord at work in your life and heart. No one ever has “enough” ministry experience. Try to work alongside a pastor or mentor who will help your hear the voice of God with clarity. Spend this time IN ADVANCE of graduation...trying on the career you are pursuing. Wouldn't it be nice to know with certainty that you are called to this career before you spend 10's of thousands of dollars and 4 years studying? So this semester off may not be off at all. It will be investigating with the Lord your call.


Finally, I do not see this situation as a bad thing at all. It may be an incredible gift the Lord has placed before you. God is neither rejecting you nor closing your educational door. Maybe, just maybe; He is directing you on a holistic path which will make you deeper and more faithful than you even thought possible.


Now; Go With God

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