This is John Doe from Northwestern College, and I'm in Dr. Jason DeRouchie’s Biblical Worldview: Personal Responsibility class. Dr. DeRouchie has required us to give a presentation on various theological questions that we’ve chosen. My group's questions are "how do I balance 'faith' with 'foolishness' with regard to my future and my finances? How do I know when to take a step into the unknown and when not to do it?" The professor told the class your testimony of how you were an engineer and had a high salary, but you were then were convicted by the Holy Spirit to drop your job and sell your house to come up here in Minnesota to attend school for the ministry that God had planned for you. And so my group was wondering if you would spend some time giving us a little more detail on how you knew that the Holy Spirit was telling you to do a courageous act and come to study for His ministry. We were wondering if you could share with us how you can tell if it was God that turned your heart in the way that you have. I know you are busy with school and a full time job, so don't feel like you have to give us the whole story. I would appreciate it if you would just email me back a short testimony of how you can tell if God was leading you this way. Thank you. God Bless you and your family. And may God be with you as you pursue His will.
Thanks for writing. I am sorry that my reply is long in coming. Asking a seminary student for a short written reply is somewhat of an oxymoron. However, I will do my best to be brief. If, after reading what I have written, you still have questions, please feel free to call. It might be easier if we spoke over the phone. You have the gist of our story, so I won’t repeat that. However, where I need to start is probably a review for you, given the nature of your class. The question about what is faith and what is foolishness will be answered differently by people with different worldviews. A distinctly secular-American worldview will consider much of what I consider faith to be foolishness. In the same way, what I would call foolishness, the secular-American mindset will call the American dream, or the wise way to live (house, cars, 401(k), family, etc.). So, in order to answer your first question, “how do I balance ‘faith’ with ‘foolishness’ with regard to my future and finances,” you have to start with a biblical worldview.
God started creating a biblical worldview in us in 1997. Slowly, he taught us that life was not centered around us, but around him. He was the center of the universe and we lived in order to reflect and display his glory—he did not exist to be a cosmic bellhop who was at our beck and call. Instead, Jesus Christ died in order to free us to see God more clearly. God was sovereign over every detail in the universe including the election of those unto salvation. His promises given in the Bible are absolute and trustworthy, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Cor 1:20). Having God create this worldview in us enabled us to cut through the fog of the American dream and realize that there is more to this life than a career, a house, kids, and two cars. Instead, we are called to seek our greatest joy in God, even if that leads to death in this life. Our bottom line purpose for living (our chief end) became “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” With that being our new worldview, we saw what the world considers foolishness in an entirely new light. Selling our house, giving our money away, and moving across country to enter ministry was no longer foolishness, but obedience. In fact, we had become so convinced of the necessity to do this, that to not do it would have been sin.
So, to answer your first question, in order to balance faith and foolishness with regard to your future and finances, you have to have a radically God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated worldview, or as is often spoken of Jonathan Edwards, you must be God-besotted or God-entranced.
Your second question, “How do I know when to take a step into the unknown and when not to do it?” is much more practical in nature. Given a God-entranced vision of all things, how do you discern what God is leading you to do—especially when the air we breath is totally antithetical to what you think and feel God is asking you to do? Now, we are no more special than the thousands of people (if not millions) who have quietly gone about giving their lives for Christ all over the globe. Read Christian biography. How many of the heroes of faith made decisions that the world would call wise? Is it wise to move your family from affluent America to Africa or New Guinea or Saudi Arabia in order to learn a language and try to reach a tribe with the gospel? What do you say to the missionary dad who was burned alive in his car with his two sons in India in 1998? Was he foolish? What we did pales in comparison to the people who have given their lives for the glory of God.
Obviously, this is a huge question and a very hard one to give a step-by-step guide to determine the answer. I can’t. I can’t say that if you do 1, 2, 3, and 4, you will know when to step into the unknown and when not to. If you knew, then the outcome of your choice wouldn’t be unknown, and it wouldn’t take faith in the God who makes promises. Nevertheless, I will tell you what my wife and I did. We attempted to be consistently in the Word of God. We were on our knees, begging God to NOT let us waste our lives, but to show us how to live for him. We were active. We didn’t sit around waiting for God to send us a telegram with the next step, but we moved forward. We started by serving in our local church and seeking to determine how God had gifted us. For me, I taught an adult Sunday school class for over five years, and found great joy and frustration in it. Over time, the joy outweighed the frustration and the idea that I should seek to teach full-time entered my mind. Then through prayer and fasting (actually not eating for two or three days) in an attempt to humble ourselves before God and seek his guidance, we read his word, looking for texts that would speak to us about what we should do. And the Holy Spirit led us to texts. Matthew 19:27-30 says, “Then Peter said in reply, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’” This was a key verse for us. God promised us that if we left everything, he would provide everything. Not in a prosperity-gospel sort of way, but we did not have to worry or be anxious about what it was we left behind. Another massive text for me was Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” We were seeking our greater joy by selling everything in order to buy the field.
Outside influences convicted us. When we realized how much we had (money, house, cars) in relation to the rest of the world, we realized that we should live in such a way as to be comfortable and then give everything else away (read Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle and Google “global rich list”). What did we need stuff for? We can’t take it with us to heaven, so we might as well give it away, and by so doing, store up treasure in heaven. Paul wrote to Timothy, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Tim 6:17-19). We wanted to take hold of “that which is truly life.” Our worldview changed us so that we saw “that which is truly life” NOT to be a big house, a career, cars and an immaculate lawn, but eternal life with Jesus.
My wife and I set aside a week to fast and pray separately and then come together to see how God had spoken to us. Every time we had a major decision to make we would do this, and every time, when we came together again, we both felt led by the Holy Spirit and by Scripture in the same direction. We both agreed to give all the profit from our house sale away. We both agreed to whom to give the money. We both agreed to move to MN and attempt to enter TBI. God confirmed his direction in us, first by his Holy Spirit and the Word, and then by each other. As the early church said in Acts 15:28, “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” to leave everything and enter full-time ministry.
Now, I trust that gives you a picture of what it took for us to do something that the world considered foolish. But I want you also to realize that it wasn’t easy. Faith was essential, because it is not in our sinful nature to trust the promises of God implicitly. It is in our nature to worry, doubt, and think of all the things that might go wrong. We might end up on the street living in a box, or we might be eaten by cannibals (that is a reference to the missionary John Paton). Many a morning I was up before everyone in the house, lying on the living room floor, spread-eagled, in tears, crying out to God that I not be stupid and that what we were doing not be a mistake. And every time, after I cried out to him, he would give me some measure of peace.
Some of our family thought we were foolish. Some at my work thought we were foolish. The people who looked at our house thought we were foolish. The pressure was intense. But our worldview, and our trust in the promises of future grace given by a sovereign God outweighed the pressure of the world, so that we moved forward.
My wife camped on this verse: Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act (Psalm 37:5). We trusted in this glorious promise most specifically. We had committed. We were trusting. And we begged God to act. And he did. He proved himself faithful in every way. He blew our minds with his faithfulness. Our move was costly. It was hard, and it has entailed suffering in ways that we did not imagine. But neither my wife nor me would do it differently. We trusted and God fulfilled his promises.
And, in so doing, God got the glory. Everyone who knew what we did, realized that our God was real and powerful and glorious. This was the whole point in the first place.
May God bless you as you wrestle with these things. How blessed are you to be taking this class and wrestling with these big issues of faith at your stage in life. O how I wish I had seen what you are seeing ten years earlier. O how I wish to see God more now. I still don’t feel faithful enough. I long to pour myself out for him.
For Christ and His kingdom,