God’s unrelenting goodness pulls a School of Ministry graduate through a year of challenge, obedience, ups and downs.
A Big Decision
I finished my second module of Catch The Fire’s School of Ministry (SoM) last July and came back to England, insanely blessed and utterly transformed by that year, but somewhat disappointed about the future. When I came to the school in Toronto, I already had a confirmed place to study Medicine at Cardiff University which had been deferred to begin in September 2011, allowing me to take a gap year. When I left the school I was pretty gutted – I wanted to stay on and intern, yet every door I pushed didn’t open and potential internships in various places fizzled out into nothing.
“For about two months I battled inside, not knowing what God wanted.”
I arrived home and whilst it was great to be back, I was realizing more and more that I did not want to go to university and study Medicine. God, however, was completely silent on the matter. I prayed and prayed but God didn’t say anything. I doubted whether he wanted me to go and I hated the idea. For about two months I battled inside, not knowing what God wanted but knowing that if it was my choice there was no way I would go to university! The day before I had to make a final decision I said to God, “Ok, unless you change my mind tonight, I’m not going”. That night I had a very powerful and very clear dream – it was a map of the last year of my life at SoM and then God said to me in the dream, “You need to go to university.” I woke up and knew instantly what God had said. After a day of weeping and battling, I said to him, “Alright, I will be obedient, I will go.”
“Every day I had to surrender my own desire to run away and instead choose to be obedient.”
So off I trundled to university. My degree is six years long and the career is a life-journey, not a little ambling addition to a life. I thought that making that one decision would make everything ok, that God would make me feel great once I’d chosen to be obedient after essentially laying down the direction of my life and my future. I was wrong. Settling into university was very, very difficult for the first few weeks in particular. I was crying most nights, constantly caught up in the horrors of the party culture and feeling very alone. Every day I had to surrender my own desire to run away and instead choose to be obedient – it was a great challenge and I came inches away from dropping out several times. Throughout this time, I was being tested; God remained painfully quiet, but he also knew exactly what he was doing.
Through that period of testing, which lasted until Christmas, I had to surrender constantly. I realise now that that season was vital in making me absolutely devoted to what God wanted; I had to know in my heart of hearts that he wanted me in university and I had to stay there, regardless of whether I liked my degree or the surroundings! Once I’d learnt to be obedient in difficulty, a multitude of blessings was unlocked.
Studying Medicine, I am surrounded by a bunch of insanely clever people, often who have strong atheistic or humanistic views – they’re difficult to ‘evangelise’ to! But right from day one I found opportunities falling into my lap. On the second day I met another medic whose father had just committed suicide before she came to university. Although I didn’t know her she completely opened up to me. I gave her a massive hug and began speaking life and truth over her and praying for her. God did something in her heart that day and now we are very close friends and I am praying for her salvation!
“She encountered the love of God right there and then.”
God gave me the most amazing opportunities to talk to my flatmates about him, to pray for people who were sick, to talk to people about what I did on my gap year, to prophesy over people, it was great! One girl asked me what I did on my gap year and I told her I went to a church where they pray for sick people and see them healed, and prophesy over people. She asked what prophecy was and after I explained, she asked if I could do it right then, in the middle of the library! So I prophesied over her, and as I finished, tears were rolling down her face. She was undone, “How could you know those things?” she said, “That’s all I’ve been thinking about for ages.” She encountered the love of God right there and then. Since then she’s been trying to reconcile her rational, scientific mind with the heart experience she had – almost every time I see her we talk in great depth about the Bible, Jesus, beliefs and stuff like that – God is so good! These are just a few examples of cool stuff God’s done, I have hundreds more testimonies!
I started going to a fantastic church in Cardiff which had some SoM graduates there, which made me feel so at home. The student work at this church was great and I soon settled in there. The Lord kept speaking to me throughout the first semester at university about needing to start a prayer and worship group called ‘Deeper’. One day, one of the girls at my church student group came up to me and said, “I really feel we need to start a prayer and worship group.” That was amazing confirmation, so we did!
Deeper started one night with five of us meeting to pray and worship, not really sure what was going to happen, when the Holy Spirit decided to show up. It was like he exploded! We ended up praying till the early hours of the morning, totally lost in worship and prayer, it was awesome. Since then I have watched Deeper grow in size (we have about 15 regulars now) and its members get completely transformed by the love of God! It’s crazy, every time we gather together, the prophetic bursts out in songs, acapella worship explodes as everybody sings prophetic songs or well known choruses. I taught on the prophetic and watched as 100% (!) of people heard God’s voice, some for the first time. The group have become such a beautiful, passionate bunch of people that seek God’s face and are being radically transformed by him. I call it the little revival hub.
“I was so worried that there wouldn’t be people who I could press deeper into God with.”
Deeper has been a major life source for both me and others. We’ve seen a few salvations but it’s the personal growth and transformation in people that the Holy Spirit’s doing which is most incredible. When I chose to come to Cardiff to study Medicine, I was so worried that there wouldn’t be people who I could press deeper into God with. I was worried my faith might stagnate, or that there wouldn’t be anybody on the ‘same page’ as in Toronto. Of course, I didn’t need to worry about that, God had it all planned. He has released a fresh wave and outpouring of anointing onto us.
Papa has also blessed me greatly financially. I had several fantastic financial testimonies across my year at the School of Ministry and that blessing has really continued. Praise the Lord, I’ve had no financial issues this year, whilst many of my peers are really struggling with overdrafts and other problems. The best testimony was a huge surprise God had waiting for me. One day my parents came to me and said, “Isaac, we’re going to buy you a house.” I had to ask again because I thought I’d misheard. I hadn’t. My parents had decided to buy a house in Cardiff, which would be my home for the next five years throughout my studies. I cried and cried and cried. My family is not wealthy; my parents run their own business and do not have that much money to spare. I know that this decision was a great sacrifice to them but they wanted to honor me with it.
“God has worked everything together for good, right down to the little details.”
The house is incredible! My parents are architects and interior designers so they bought a house in the centre of Cardiff that was almost falling apart, then fully refurbished the entire thing, including fitting it with a kitchen by one of the world’s best kitchen companies! I have been ridiculously blessed. The house is insanely good, it’s the kind of place I’d want to live in as a family. I am living with some other people from Deeper and that in itself is a testimony, it seems clear that Deeper is going to grow a lot and we now have a house in which we can host meetings and events. God has worked everything together for good, right down to the little details.
My course is intellectually very challenging; everyone’s very clever and there is a ridiculous amount to learn. This year has been up and down. Whilst a lot of the content I don’t enjoy, some of it has been amazing. This year has been tough for me in terms of time management too. I faced the constant battle of whether to study or do other things, particularly in terms of church and Deeper. I did well throughout the year, managing to maintain a good work-life (well, medicine-spiritual) balance until the final exams. The two months before final exams, I just dropped. My relationship with God started falling away and I had a period of depression and apathy. I would sit in my bed all day and do nothing, when I was meant to be studying. It was a horrible time and it very much jeopardized my progression to the next year.
Five days before I had to take my final exams, I had a panic attack (my first and I pray my last!). I realised that I had to learn a year’s worth of complex science in five days. I couldn’t do that, so I would fail the year. I felt dreadful and just wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Then God spoke to me very gently and said, “Do you think I can teach you everything you need to know in five days?” Of course he could, I knew that. Then he said, “Do you think I want to do that?” That broke me – I had failed God so badly; weeks worth of opportunities to study and revise I’d neglected for no reason – I had been so unfaithful. But he said, “Let’s do this then!” He instantly downloaded a strategy for working and that day I worked for 12 hours solid, which is masses more than I was usually able to! Praise God, he did allow me to learn a lot in those five days, not everything, but a lot more than I did before I started that period. The exams, however, were very hard and I was convinced I’d failed them. I had myself completely ready to have to retake them in the summer or drop out of the year. I was ready to leave and honestly thought I had failed my degree and failed God.
In July I got my results back: I passed. I didn’t just pass, but I passed with a first and came in the highest cohort of the year, giving me potential access to a prestigious prize called the ‘Dean’s List’. I was in shock when I found out because I know this wasn’t me. This was amazing grace and God’s mighty power at work.
“We all have a choice to be obedient, both in the ‘then’ of when God asks us, and in the ‘now’ of living it out.”
God calls us and equips us, he prepares us and helps us, but in the end it’s all down to him. I utterly failed him with studying, yet he decided to bless me anyway. That’s the story of my life really: God is so good. Yes, I had to make a big sacrifice – I chose to sign my life away to Medicine – but God knew what he was asking and he could see the good in store for me, even when I couldn’t.
I look back on this year with an ache in my heart for more of God and a desire to know his faithfulness even more. Every last detail he had planned and decided, and I have been blessed beyond measure over and over and over. I’m realizing that real life is about living with the Holy Spirit. This year, Medicine has not been my main focus, Deeper has. But despite my much divided attentions, God has allowed every area of my life to produce incredible fruit and has supported me beyond my own weaknesses and failings. We all have a choice to be obedient, both in the ‘then’ of when God asks us, and in the ‘now’ of living it out. But when we say ‘yes’ to him, we open the floodgates to his blessing and he will ensure that all things work together for our good.