The WEST Institute Blog
Understanding God's Word and God's Character
By: Chris Starks
This past year at The West Institute has truly been an amazing experience and I have learned so much from the Professors at Shepherds as well as the amazing staff Clayton, Jimmy, and Jeremy at The West Institute. One thing that Clayton and Jimmy had told me at the beginning of the year, and I think most of us at The West, was that this would likely be one of the hardest and best years of our lives, and boy were they right! While I have learned so much studying everything from the Old and New Testament, to church history and expository preaching, and pretty much everything in between, the biggest blessing has been the growth in my personal relationship with the Lord and getting to see God work in our lives.
This past year my family and I have experienced plenty of trials and struggles but we gotten to experience God's provision and goodness through those.If you had tried to tell me some of the things we would experience at the beginning of the year, I would probably have had a hard time believing it. Like most college students we were living on a limited budget and when you add in a couple kids it can get just a little bit tighter. But God is so good. Like when one day you get an unexpected check in the mail for $1500 and we were praying about the best way to use the money. Then the next day we got an unexpected bill in the mail that just happens to be $1500. Like when we had an unexpected change in our income and now had no money left in our checking account half way through the month but, and probably because of pride, we were trying to figure out what we were going to do and had not told anyone about it yet and then our friends payed my wife $200 for just a couple hours of babysitting, just because they want to bless us! I still don't know that they really understand how big of a blessing that really was!
My family and I have consistently seen God's provision and goodness throughout this year. Everything from even getting accepted into the degree program, to financial provision, to personal family hardships, and even just the amazing people that God has put in our lives and the friendships we have made during this year.
The Heart Study Discipleship program was also one of the highlights of the year. Clayton, Jimmy, and Jeremy, along with their wives led the students and spouses through the weekly devotions that helped us to not JUST KNOW scripture but to better understand how to apply it to every area of our lives and to also help in identifying struggles and sin in our lives that I think most of us didn't even recognize or at least didn't recognize the extent of it and how far reaching it really was. My wife and I were blessed to be able to walk through that not only with the amazing staff, but with the other West Institute students and spouses that we now consider friends.
Through everything from the classroom lectures, to group discussions, to the discipleship sessions, and life lessons, I have gained such a greater understanding for the love and sovereignty of God. My family and I have been truly blessed and are thankful not just for the opportunity but also for all the time and hard work put in by the Professors and staff at Shepherds and The West Institute! Taking this year of our lives and devoting it to better understanding the Word of God and His character has been the best decision of our lives.