Thursday, April 29

My Testimony: Faith in God's Provision

Ever hear a testimony and conclude (falsely), "That's great! But it'll never happen to me?" I had certainly heard my quota of God-blessed testimonials. But it happened to me as well.

I'm a bit remiss that I've never shared the following provision of the Lord from our seminary days in Philadelphia. So here goes. May it encourage your faith!

In 1986, God led Phyllis and me to move to Lansdale, Pa, north of Philly in order to attend what was known as The Conservative Baptist Seminary of the East (now Bethel Seminary of the East) in Dresher, PA. He provided wonderfully through my sister, Christine and her husband, Gerry and numerous others to get us there. But, back up just a week . . .

In late summer, after everything had ended in Richmond, Virginia, that is, my job and all bills were paid off, we took a short trip to Ohio to visit my sister and brother-in-law, Kathi and Tom. Then we visited Phyllis' bridesmaid in Cincinnati. While there, we received a call from Christine in Philadelphia. Would I consider coming next week to interview with the Dean, Dr. Spruance? "Sure!" Excitement ensued (I had applied but sort of forgotten about it). Quick drive back to Richmond, then up to Philly. Same day we were scheduled to meet Dr. Spruance, we met Phil Ashley who agreed to hire me for construction, and my brother-in-law, Gerry said that we could live in a large farm house for FREE as caretakers until the property could be decided on (13 months). Yikes! God was throwing so much at us we could hardly handle it! Met the Dean and had a great chat re: my call to ministry which has always been abundantly clear. All issues discussed, everything was a go. Spruance asked, "Is there anything else you'd mention as a possible hindrance?" "Well," I said, "we don't have any money." Not that kind of money. (See, we figured if God was in it he'd work it out. Old Bob Jones senior used to say, "If God ordered it, he'll pay for it"). "Money?" Dr. Spruance didn't miss a beat, "Is that all?" he asked minimizing our obvious concern. I said, "Yes," He replied, "Well, then come on." OK. That was it. 

But school started next week! Yep. NEXT week!

Phyllis was extremely supportive, desirous and excited. She knew God's call on my life, on OUR lives. Our parents were very supportive as well, even though it meant they'd lose the close proximity of two of their young grandchildren. We called home with our decision, and immediately Phyllis' Mom and sister-in-law, Kim made tracks to our house in south Richmond to begin packing up pictures, etc. Mom "managed" to secure a moving van on (of all weekends) Labor Day! In short, within one week we were all packed up and heading out to Lansdale, north of Dresher, north of Philly. God was manifestly in all this.

Part of a ground-breaking education (one-third to be exact) was an internship/mentoring program through a local church. Normally this was done through your own church. But since we were "transplants" to the area, we were at the behest of a hitherto unknown but welcoming church. Thus, God directed us to First Baptist Church in Newtown, PA. 

The pastor then was David Ridder (now Dean of Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, MN). He recommended that I keep a financial record of all the gifts that we received in our time at seminary. I did, and am very thankful for it. While I did construction work, and Phyllis whatever jobs we could squeeze in while not neglecting our two young children, we still depended on God's gracious provision through others. The people of the church were very generous. We have precious memories of their love. After a year, they agreed to give toward our tuition with voluntary offerings through the church. We tried to earn our housing through jobs. All this was strictly on a voluntary basis, mind you. Still, from that point on, we never missed another school payment! All debts were paid by graduation!

By the end of our time in Newtown, I tallied gifts and the total came to an amazing $21, 900! So, if you're doubtful of God's ability or willingness to provide, take it from our record. God does "exceeding abundantly above all we could ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). God provided in such a way, that I could not, yes, would not ever believe but that he would do this for any child of God who exhibited the least bit of faith. Is your faith weak? The puritan, Thomas Watson helps, "Faith, though it hath sometimes a trembling hand, it must not have a withered hand, but must stretch." And stretch it did! Oh, listen, dear saint of God. You already have the greatest gift in Jesus that anyone could ever have. Will you not because of him, pursue even more? Think not of the hurdle, but of the legs of faith that will clear all hurdles. He will do exceeding abundantly above all that you could ask or think!

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