Blessed by Discipline
College is expensive. When the Lord called me into the ministry, I chose to go to Southwest Baptist University by faith, believing God for the finances. The first two years I accumulated some debt, but then the Lord spoke to me, “I don’t want you to take on any more debt. If I want you to go to college, I will pay for it.”
This word sounded ok until a few months later I received another word from the Lord, “This summer I want you to stay in Springfield and serve in (Abundant Life) church.” As I acted in obedience, I knew my costs had just gone up. My family was still in Washington state, and as long as I returned there for the summer, I had free room and board. Now I would be paying for room, board, and more!
I obeyed the Lord’s voice, got a summer job in Springfield, and moved in with some friends. Then I told my pastor, “I am here this summer to serve in the church. Whatever you need, just tell me, and I will do it.”
All of the words I mentioned above would be what Bible scholars call “rhema” words. These are words that an individual hears from the Lord for their personal life. In our walk with the Lord, it’s usually good to test a “rhema” word with what scholars call “logos” words. “Logos” words are the written Scriptures.
Here is a “logos” (Scripture) word that complimented my “rhema” (personal) words from the Lord:
“Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna.... He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.” Deuteronomy 8:3-5 NLT
As I obeyed the Lord, He took me on a journey that would bring new discipline into my life.
For starters, the house I lived in had 3 young adult men, but only 2 beds. That meant I was sleeping on the floor for much of the summer. I remember waking up one night with a roach crawling across my face. It felt like a nightmare, but I survived and learned to thrive in serving the Lord.
I didn’t have much money for food, so I lived for weeks on a friend’s leftover donuts. After that, I was able to buy “Always Save” rice and beans. It felt like I didn’t have enough money to eat well, but I survived and learned to thrive in serving the Lord.
That summer I worked nights at the post office, then tried to sleep in the day. The only problem was that year was the hottest summer on record in Springfield, and we didn’t have proper air-conditioning in the house. Therefore, I would usually wake up after about 4 hours of sleep in a pool of sweat, then have to go to work again that night. It felt like I was sleep deprived, but I survived and learned to thrive in serving the Lord.
Most of my friends were in a better place financially than I was. That meant they could order pizza! In order to save money, I actually had to spend my next college spring break eating just one meal per day, which usually consisted of peanut butter and bread. It felt like I was hungry all the time, but I survived and learned to thrive in serving the Lord.
Because I told my pastor I was available, he asked me to do things like watch the church office, do chores in the church, and lead an evangelism team. I did everything he asked me, often without sleep and on an empty stomach. It felt like I was deprived of some of my basic needs, but I learned to thrive in serving the Lord.
By now, you might be thinking, “If that’s what obeying the Lord looks like, I’m not interested.” I understand, so it might help to share a few of the rewards I received from obeying the Lord that year.
Firstly, I met my godly, beautiful wife during this time. We courted, and God put us together in marriage just 1 year later. Also, I found my local home church, where I would serve for the rest of my life in the college ministry, youth ministry, worship, as an associate pastor, and now as the lead pastor. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I was able to go on several short-term mission trips, develop some high quality life-long relationships, and graduate from college with no additional debt! I learned how to do without, while living in the abundance the Lord provided.
In my time of testing it felt like there was never quite enough, but I survived and learned to thrive in this “logos” word from the Lord:
“Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna.... He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 8:3 NLT
You can learn to thrive in this word as well.