by Dick Wamsley
I was beginning my eighth year as Dean of Students and Professor of Pastoral Care at Nebraska Christian College. The college was in the first phase of a leadership transition. The President and Academic Dean had both been there over 30 years and were scheduled to retire at the end of that academic year. Three years earlier, I was asked by the trustees to consider accepting either of those two administrative positions, so I committed to be the Academic Dean. But at their September meeting, the trustees approached me to reconsider my decision and apply for the President’s position. I did not see myself as president material, which was why I did not pursue it earlier.
At the same time, I was completing coursework toward the Doctor of Ministry degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I was enrolled in the class “The Decision Making Process, Systems and the Planning Cycle.” It required that I complete a project in my ministry that applied what I had learned in the classroom. So I decided my project would be to discern the will of God for this ministry decision.
What I experienced from that project not only changed the course of my role at the college – I accepted the presidency – it awakened me to how God was just waiting to extend His grace at a time when I was focusing more on my perceived weaknesses than His grace to enable me to lead the college as its president. If I had walked away from the trustees’ challenge because I focused only on my perceived weaknesses, I would have failed to experience the grace of God.
Like me, you may have always believed that God bestows His grace at His discretion and not at our request, and in some respects that is true. But there may also be times when He expects us – in fact waits for us – to seek from Him the grace He has already reserved for us.
The Apostle Paul talks about God’s all-sufficient grace in 2 Corinthians 12. Speaking of his “thorn in the flesh” he wrote, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” (2 Cor. 12:8-9, ESV). The writer of Hebrews goes a step further: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
One of the actions I took while seeking God’s will concerning my role with NCC was to ask three friends, who knew me well and my giftedness for ministry, to devote some quality time to pray concerning the specific guidance I was seeking from God. I provided each of them with a list of reasons I had prepared for accepting either position. After a prescribed period of time, they were to report back to me their own conclusions as God had directed in their prayers.
Those conclusions were a key to the confidence I had in approaching God’s throne of grace for help in a critical time for me, and in making the decision to accept the call by the trustees to become the college’s fourth president. Now some might consider that kind of approach to prayer too bold, maybe even a bit presumptuous. But I considered it “drawing near to the throne of grace,” taking action to seek God’s grace in a time of need.
When you or your group of elders are faced with having to make some tough decisions, instead of first seeking human resources that will help you “stand on your own two feet,” drop to your knees seeking God’s all-sufficient grace.