Following His Lead
By Dustin Walters
Choosing what college to attend is one of the most challenging yet rewarding decisions to make. It is important that this decision is made through prayer and careful consideration of God’s will. In 2011, I realized God was calling me to attend Welch College. Sometimes His leading has been clear and other times it has been more difficult to perceive. I can say gratefully that I followed His lead when I chose to attend Welch College.
I was saved when I was 12 years old and answered the call to preach when I was about 16. I knew God was calling me to preach, but as I began to think about college I was almost certain I could never afford Welch College. During high school, I was a football manager, something I greatly enjoyed. One of my best friends received a scholarship to play football at the University of Northern Alabama (UNA), and I was offered a football management scholarship at the same school. We planned to be roommates. This was a much easier route than paying to attend Bible college.
I thought God could certainly use me as a positive influence in my friend’s life, as well as in the lives of the other football players at UNA. In fact, I had already met with the regional director of FCA (Federation of Christian Athletes) to discuss how I might become a spiritual leader in UNA athletics. He was eager to get me plugged in. Doors seemed to be opening for me at UNA, especially when I received a second scholarship. The two scholarships, combined with a Pell Grant, would have nearly paid for my college education. It appeared as though God was opening more doors at UNA than Welch College. While I made plans to chart my own course, God was busily preparing me for His.
Fast forward to the end of my senior year of high school, only weeks away from my freshman year at UNA. It suddenly occurred to me that Satan sometimes opens doors as well, with the intent of keeping us from God’s will. I will never forget the words of Lesa Parker, a graduate of Welch. She asked me if I was doing what God wanted me to do, or what I wanted to do for myself. Terry Forrest, then chairman of the pastoral program called me one afternoon, and I shared my intentions to attend UNA because “God had opened so many doors there.” He understood where I was coming from but urged me to consider that Satan also opens up doors. He continued by saying,
“Sometimes you just have to burn the plow, Dustin.” (He was referencing 1 Kings 19:19-21, which tells of Elisha burning his plow, his source of income, for the sake of following Elijah and serving with him in ministry.) Mr. Forrest reminded me that many times we must burn plows and just follow. He ended the phone conversation with these words, “Son, if God has called you to preach, then why don’t you just preach? Why don’t you study pastoral ministry since that is what God has called you to do?” God used these words to make it clear that He wanted me to attend Welch College.
I realized exactly what God’s will was after reading 2 Chronicles 25:1-9. This text recounts the story of King Amaziah hiring the mighty men of Israel to join his army and battle against Edom. A man of God came to Amaziah and instructed him not to use his newly hired help. Amaziah responded, “What shall I do with the 100,000 talents I have already given the men of Israel?” The man of God responded in a most powerful way. He reminded him that the Sovereign Lord is able to provide much more than Amaziah originally invested.
Upon reading this passage, I came under great conviction about my lack of faith. I was hesitant to choose Welch because I could not pay for it. My football management scholarship to UNA was $1,000 per semester with a promised increase each year. Tuition at Welch averaged about $10,000 per semester. It was as though God said to me, “Dustin, if I can give you $1,000 a semester, what makes you think I cannot give you $10,000 a semester?”
As I write this, I am in my senior year at Welch College, and I have been amazed how God has continued to provide. He has consistently shown me that when we trust Him we will not be abandoned.
Along this journey of trusting I have encountered both challenges and blessings. The most difficult challenge has been time management. In order for me to stay at Welch, I have to work; but to do well in my classes, I need to study. Sitting down to study is never easy for me, but I have found that it is much easier when I remember that this difficult process is molding me into Christ’s image. Another challenge I have faced is my academic ability. Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by the difficulty of college and wonder what exactly I have gotten myself into. My professors have helped me understand that being intelligent is not a matter of what I knew previously, but a matter of being diligent in my studies.
Still, the blessings of attending Welch College far outweigh the challenges. I am most thankful for the Christian community we enjoy. Welch College exemplifies community by encouraging friendship between faculty and students. The personal investment of faculty members into the lives of students greatly encourages me, because at many institutions a student is merely a number in a database. At Welch College, students like me are known by name. As students, we have the privilege of interacting in the dorms, where we laugh, cry, and study together. I truly value the community here at Welch. Not only that, but God’s Word is central to everything we do here. Students are fed on the truth of God’s Word so we might engage our culture, a culture in desperate need of God’s touch. I am thankful I followed God’s leading to attend Welch College.
I know God will continue to lead me through life. Yes, there will be more challenges and blessings along this journey. In the immediate future, I plan to graduate from Welch, attend seminary, and begin serving in a local church. One of my burdens for the Church is Christian Education. God’s truth is relevant for all of life, and my prayer is that God will use me to enable His Church to live out the Kingdom on a daily basis.
My life has been greatly impacted by Colossians 3:1-2, which encourages us to be Kingdom-minded in keeping with our new nature in Christ. I also have made it my goal to encourage Free Will Baptist churches to become more engaged in global evangelism. Jesus has mandated that we share His truth with all people, and failure to do so is disobedience.
We are called to follow Jesus in all of life. I have been amazed how God has led me thus far, and I know He will continue to lead me in the future…and it might be through the fire or the flood. He is always faithful, and He will not lead us astray. He is calling you to follow Him as well, and I encourage you to say yes to whatever He is leading you to do.
About the Writer: Dustin Walters is a senior Pastoral Education major at Welch College. Learn more about the college: www.Welch.edu.