everal times a year, Dr. Swindoll preaches in chapel at DTS and engages in a question-and-answer time with prospective students. Here are some of the questions he answered recently.
How do you, as a growing Christian, keep from competing with other believers?
I have a few characteristics that are true of me—one of those traits is that I don’t have an ounce of envy inside me. (I have many weaknesses, but envy isn’t one of them, thankfully.) Not even when I was much younger many years ago, pastoring a small church in Waltham, Massachusetts. We didn’t experience numerical growth. One July Fourth weekend, we had about seven in our congregation, and three were Swindolls. I refused to let it bother me that another church near ours was growing steadily. They had about two hundred on that same Sunday, but I never let it trouble me. We weren’t in competition. Refuse to think competitively.
God has gifted everyone uniquely and distinctively—believe that. He has gifted many in various ways—and that includes you. Let it be. Don’t sweat it. Put competition to rest. We can choose not to compare ourselves with others and not surround ourselves with those who have a competitive spirit. We’re all in this together—so if one is in need, we all pitch in. And if one rejoices, we all rejoice. Envy is a thief; it will steal your joy.
What advice do you have for those thinking about attending DTS?
It’s common to feel like you being accepted is out of reach. You feel intimidated as you read the names of faculty members and DTS graduates who write books and other DTS alumni who teach in places around the world. It’s easy to think, “I just can’t do it.” You know what? You can do whatever God makes possible. And let me mention, you can learn the original languages. Don’t convince yourself you can’t. Hey, you learned English, didn’t you?
International students often learn English so they can study theology and learn Greek and Hebrew at DTS. Guess what? You get to rub shoulders with those men and women who model that depth of dedication. If they can do it in their second language, so can you in your first language. When I was a student, there were about twelve Korean students who came to earn their ThM degrees. They persevered all four years till they reached their goal. What a great group of disciplined students!
One Thanksgiving Cynthia and I invited all twelve of them to our little apartment. Our place was so small you had to go outside to change your mind, but we made it work. We invited them over and put all the food we could cook on a long table, and in they came. It was one of those great moments. We welcomed them and told them we were glad to have them over to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal. They stared at all the food. I asked one, “Would you pray?” And of course, he did, praying in his native language. Talk about passion! I saw that same commitment as they studied God’s Word. What remarkable examples of determination! Instead of yielding to intimidation, ask for that kind of determination.