As I thought about this area of athletes and the Olympic atmosphere of striving for excellence, I recalled the struggles my wife and I experienced in the early years of our Christian life. We presented our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. We wanted our lives to be well pleasing in God’s sight. We didn’t have the foggiest idea of what such a commitment meant or how to go about discovering “that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” There was no well-marked highway. There was no two-way direct communication with God. We had a lot to learn.
Our faith in God and in the Bible as the Word of God was very shaky. We needed some exercise so we could improve and perfect our faith and hope in God. We decided that we needed to study the Bible first of all. Then we needed to test it against life. We also needed some teachers and coaches to help us along the way. But the desire and will to study, to improve, had to come from us.
A young pastor, Dick Wilkenson, took an interest in us. He encouraged us to get a concordance and learn to use it. It would help us get biblical answers to our many questions, he said. We took his advice, which proved to be one of the most helpful moves we made to get to know what “pleasing God” meant.
It was he who introduced us to a biblical principle that disturbed us:
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33, NKJV)
Up to this point in my life, my main preoccupation was in acquiring a home and the means to assure a comfortable, secure life. We had a new car, a new house, membership in a sailing club, a sailboat, access to a golf and tennis club. Even thinking about God was not a serious consideration. My pastor kept bringing up this verse and urging us to review our priorities.
Sunday was the best time for sailing and doing homework. (I was taking some engineering courses at night.) Golf or tennis took two or three evenings. Looking after the lawn, playing with the children, visiting our families took up time. It seemed our world consisted of pleasing ourselves.
TRAINING REQUIRES DILIGENCE
He kept asking us pesky questions in relation to that verse, such as:
What are you doing with your time? What are you doing with your money? What are you studying in the Bible? Why weren’t you in church on Sunday?
I had mixed feelings about him and his questions because I was embarrassed by the answers I had to give him.
Once, in exasperation, I told him to mind his own business. He said he was. As long as I came to his church, I was his business. He was my “coach.”
Gradually, our focus changed from things to people. People appeared from nowhere asking for help with their problems, and we would invite them to come for dinner. We discovered that these dinner invitations were very expensive.
Besides, we had very little background for helping people.
We started going to church regularly on Sundays. Our sailboat, golf clubs, and tennis racquet got less and less use.
For two years, Eva and I struggled with that verse. What should come first in the use of our time, talent, and treasure? Both of us had a growing desire to know more about the Bible and to be of service to other people. Our thoughts went so far as to consider going back to college for a few years to study the Bible.
We reasoned that if the Bible contained the most important information in the world, we should know more about it.
Finally, my wife and I decided to test that verse, I compiled a financial statement that included everything we owned in the world. Then my wife and I sat down at the kitchen table and had an imaginary meeting with God. Eva and I showed God what we were worth and told Him we were prepared to risk it all in order to test this verse. We admitted that our minds were filled with doubts, but by faith we would try to obey God as a first priority. We reminded God that we were interested in the whole verse.
We told the young pastor about the step we took and that we were considering returning to college. What did he think? He replied that this was a serious matter. I had a wife and two children, a one-year-old and a three-year-old. I was just getting a good start in the engineering field. He could not advise us one way or another. He said we would need to take a step of faith, and one test would be that we should have peace about such a move.
We had to admit that the whole idea scared us and we were very uneasy about such thoughts. Our minds were filled with doubt, but we did want to obey God as a top priority. We asked God to give us some sign that we were thinking straight. We were very young Christians and were just learning what it meant to walk by faith and faith doesn’t require signs in order to move ahead.
We shared our thoughts with our parents and some trusted friends. They were all in agreement that we would be making a serious blunder.
The desire to know more about the Bible persisted. Should we abide by the judgment of our parents and friends? We asked God that question. His answer?
Our pastor referred us to two Bible verses for our consideration as backup for his previous advice. We had to exercise our faith and yet be at ease about any move we made.
Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NKJV)
This verse in Romans is one of my favorite Bible verses and if I understand it correctly, hope is entwined with joy and peace. These are the fruit of the Spirit. So we can hope, or expect, to handle the circumstances that come our way with an inner calm, free from agitation, untroubled by conflict or commotion.
The more we thought about expanding our biblical knowledge and serving people, the better we liked the idea and we became excited about going back to college. To do this meant that we had to sell the house and the boat. We could then finance two to three years of study time.
Again we asked God for a sign. His answer?