FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern seminary students sing “Trust and Obey” during chapel, but they must also live out this faith and obedience as they follow God’s call on their lives.
Chris Williams, Master of Divinity student and father of three, left a lucrative position in the secular workforce in order to obey God’s call and come to Southwestern Seminary. As he stepped out in faith, he experienced the Lord’s blessing and provision in significant ways.
Prior to moving to Fort Worth, Williams worked as a commercial banker, providing very well for his wife, Amanda, and their family. He graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in finance and worked with builders, contractors and developers for 15 years. As part of Williams’ job, he officiated loans, making decisions on loan candidates.
“I had to see things on paper,” Williams recalls. “I had to see your ‘ins’ exceeded your ‘outs,’ or I was not loaning you any money.”
Williams’ perspective changed when God called him to ministry and showed him he could not rely on the numbers anymore. He must rely on God instead.
“I will tell you today, my ‘ins’ and my ‘outs’ do not match,” Williams says. “It’s not even close. Yet here I am, haven’t missed a payment, haven’t missed a meal, haven’t missed anything.”
Williams actively served his local church in Oxford, Miss., by organizing the church’s small group ministry and chairing committees even before he felt called to vocational ministry.
Chris and Amanda knew there was something else for them other than banking. Amanda believed God was calling her husband to the ministry, but she knew Chris must come to that conclusion himself. She faithfully and secretly prayed for him for six months.
In 2009, when Williams confided in his wife about his desire to serve the Lord full time, “Immediately she began to show me in her prayer journal, praying that this would happen,” he says. “And I tear up just thinking about it because it really was an awesome series of events.’”
The couple went forward at the invitation on Sunday and told their pastor about their call to ministry, so the pastor called their Sunday school class to surround them and pray for them. Chris and Amanda shared their desire to go to a Southern Baptist seminary and for Chris to attend as a full-time student. Knowing this, they prepared to sacrifice Chris’ retirement money.
However, Williams was unprepared when the church secretary, a member of their Sunday school class, told him to set up an appointment with her about “the fund.” What fund? he thought.
During the meeting, the secretary explained their church had a fund just for members like him who felt called to the ministry and who needed help going to seminary.
“Once that happened, I felt like God was saying this, and so did my wife: ‘I appreciate your willingness to use your retirement, but I’ve already taken care of this,’” Williams says.
God kept using members of their local church to help support the family. First, an elderly couple in another Sunday school class, whom Williams never met before, took up an offering for them, which the Williams used to help pay for gas and food for a trip to Fort Worth.
Then, when they moved a couple months later, he and Amanda experienced the first of many hardships: one of their children contracted swine flu, and the entire family required vaccinations. The price totaled about $500.
“And I thought, ‘I don’t have this, I don’t have $500,’ ” Williams recalls. “The truth is, I did have it, but I knew that meant I might not eat next month; it may mean that nobody eats next month. So we go, we have to have it, and we pay for it. That was on a Saturday night.
“Wednesday, I go up to my mailbox, and there’s a check. Actually, there’s a couple checks from these two Sunday school classes, for about $500.”
Williams’ local Baptist association, the fund, his Sunday school classes, and the Cooperative Program continue to support his family and the price of his schoolwork, with his wife working as a schoolteacher to help round out the family budget.
Williams stays in touch with his sending congregation on a weekly basis, updating them on praises and prayer requests. Recently, he joined the staff of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, part time as a ministry associate, managing volunteers and the church’s campus security—just another way God blessed him since he stepped out in faith and obedience.
“God is incredibly faithful when my desires please Him, when my desire is to do what He wants to do, whether it’s for me or for my family,” Williams says.
“That obedience to what He wants for me—my desire to line up my life, and that of my wife and my family, with what He wants for us—results in me being taken care of in ways that I could have never envisioned.”