How an Unbeliever's Words Grew My Faith

“I’m so worried,” I said to my classmates. “I don’t know how I’m going to pay for school next year. My scholarship has run out. I don’t have money for tuition, let alone uniforms and instruments.” 

Spring semester was coming to a close in my first year of dental hygiene school. It had been a good year. I had done well in class, despite having to study harder than I’d ever studied in my life. I’d passed the dreaded Head and Neck Anatomy class, the “weeder” course deemed most likely to eliminate marginal students. With the most difficult courses behind me, I was poised to enter the clinical part of my training in the fall. 

Except, with no second-year scholarship and no way to pay my tuition, I wondered aloud if I was going to have to drop out. Then one of my classmates spoke from the back of the lunch room where we had gathered. 

“You say you believe God provided for you to be here. Don’t you think he can provide what you need to finish?” 

Her words hung there for a moment in the now-silent lunch room. Like mechanical dolls, every head turned in my direction, waiting for my response. Shame coursed through my body, and a red flush crept up my neck. This non-Christian had demonstrated more faith in God than I had. 

My Christian classmates smiled gently. My non-Christian classmates, the ones with whom I’d eagerly shared stories of how God was working in my life, waited for my response. 

“You’re absolutely right,” I said. "He can."

The conversation turned to other matters, and as quickly as I could, I left the room. Standing alone in the bathroom, tears pricked my eyes and conviction pierced my heart. 

“I’m sorry, Lord,” I whispered. “I didn’t trust you. You had to use an unbeliever to remind me of what I should have known.” 

I remembered that shameful day recently when I read the account of the Gibeonites in Joshua 9. The Israelites had conquered kingdom after kingdom as they made their way into the Promised Land. Pagan nations who had rejected God and chose instead to worship false idols and defile the land with their depravity fell, one by one. 

As six nations banded together in a feeble attempt to defend themselves, the citizens of Gibeon took a different approach. “If what we’ve heard about the God of the Israelites is true,” they said, “we have no hope of defending ourselves.” 

Instead of allying themselves with the other nations, they cooked up a sneaky plot. They disguised themselves as travelers from a faraway nation. Arriving in the Israelites camp wearing worn clothes and shoes and carrying moldy bread and old wine skins, they convinced them that they were distant neighbors. The Israelites agreed to a truce, promising that no harm would come to them. This verse from Joshua 9:14 explains why the Gibeonites were able to deceive them: 

“. . . but they did not ask counsel of the Lord.” 

Like my college classmate, the Gibeonites showed more faith in God and his plans and purposes than the Israelites did. And I, like the Israelites, had evaluated my present situation and come to a conclusion without talking to God about it. 

Thankfully, unlike the situation with the Gibeonites, I hadn’t gone so far in my independent thinking that there was no way back. 

“Lord,” I prayed, “please forgive me for my lack of faith. You’ve been faithful to provide for me so far, and I trust you to provide for me in the future. If you want me to continue my studies, please provide the money I need.” 

Later that week I met with my academic adviser. When I explained the situation, she helped me fill out an application for financial aid. Because I had lost my scholarship, I now qualified for additional assistance. 

When the award check arrived, I had enough money to pay tuition, books, uniforms, and instruments. 

Guess who was the first person I shared the good news with? Yup, my thought-provoking, faith-inspiring non-Christian classmate. 

“Thank you for reminding me of what I already knew,” I said with a hug, “that where God guides, he always provides.” 

Now it’s your turn. Has God ever used a non-believer to grow your faith? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment in the box below. If you’re reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment.

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