Faith and Providence :: By Paul J. Scharf

Faith and Providence :: By Paul J. Scharf

This week, I made my annual journey back to Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Ankeny, Iowa, for the Refresh Conference.

It was my fourth Refresh, so I realized that, in essence, I have witnessed another class of college students pass through Faith’s doors during these days. To me that time seems like it has just whisked by—as does the entire interval since I was a seminary student at Faith.

I knew that this would be a somewhat sentimental trip for me this week since this summer will mark 30 years since my wife and I first stepped onto Faith’s campus to look things over. I remember so much about that first visit—just like that also was yesterday.

We had several meetings with professors and others from the school. One that stood out was our talk with Dr. John Hartog II. He was called out of one of his many projects around his home and yard, and put on a shirt and tie just to see us. He regaled us with stories from his years of training at Dallas Theological Seminary, as well as his doctoral studies at Grace Theological Seminary (where he could have died after passing out in the library—and nearly killed himself working on his dissertation). It may have been right then that I knew there was no going back—I was getting a taste of something incredible, and I knew it was also creating an appetite for much more.

So much about Faith, externally, has changed since my time in seminary. Almost all of my professors are gone—graduated on to glory. What I wouldn’t give for a conversation with each one of them now!

And, in a way, we still have those dialogues—every time I pick up one of my three-ring binders to chase down a note from one of my classes. Those pages are invaluable to me! I am not saying that I received an incomparable seminary education or that nothing else could ever surpass it. I do believe I received a very top-notch education—and in a small, intimate environment that was perfect for me. But my notes are truly irreplaceable. They could never be compiled again at any cost. The men who delivered them cannot convene, this side of heaven, to recreate them. But when I open those notebooks … there they are, ready to comfort, guide and instruct me. Each one of my missing professors “being dead still speaks” (Heb. 11:4).

So, this week I walked into the small classroom where I learned theology from Dr. Myron Houghton, and, in my mind’s eye, he’s still sitting there with his Bible, his Greek New Testament, and his stack of notes. I looked at the old seminary pulpit and can still see Dr. Turk peering over the top, preaching with confidence or teaching about the practical side of church ministry. I visited the classrooms where I sat in modules with Dr. John Whitcomb, as well as other great visiting lecturers, and I could hear their voices and see their faces. I just wish I could shake their hands and offer them my gratitude.

One man I did get to thank was Dr. Jeff Newman, who was there to help and guide us way back in 1994. I’ve never forgotten his kind and professional concern.

Looking back now upon my path, I realize that I had to come to seminary here. I cannot fathom my life unfolding any other way! It was the right place for me to be at the right time, and it largely made me who I am today.

God has truly blessed me. He has opened so many doors and given me so many opportunities that it staggers my imagination. And coming back here now as a representative of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry—it’s almost surreal … the icing on the cake. Certainly, all of these blessings are undeserved.

There’s an old church word that we don’t use enough anymore, and it covers everything I am describing here. It is the word providence. God is our provider. The Lord has not done any supernatural sign miracles in my life, nor have I ever heard an audible voice from heaven. Yet, I know with complete certainty that he guided and provided for me to be at seminary at Faith, and now to serve with The Friends of Israel. And I received tangible reminders of all of that this week.

We need to get back to using that old word, providence, much more often. Even more importantly, we need to become much better at discerning the evidence of it in our lives, down here where “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

How has the Lord displayed His providence in your life? I’m sure you will find indications of it if you take the time and effort to look. And I’d love to hear your story.

Paul J. Scharf (M.A., M.Div., Faith Baptist Theological Seminary) is a church ministries representative for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, based in Columbus, WI, and serving in the Midwest. For more information on his ministry, visit or, or email

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.

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