Gift of Teaching

Note: The first two paragraphs of this content is from the Impossible Love series, but was not in the book due to spacing.

I had felt God wanted me to attend Bible college for two years, but I planned after that to just go out and begin preaching. I’d heard that one professor, Ben Aker, was too intellectual, which I assumed meant that he was not very spiritual. I started praying for him to become more spiritual but felt the Lord challenge my heart. “I gave him the gift of teaching,” I felt God saying, “and you should learn from him.” The next semester, I signed up for three classes with him. To my astonishment, I often felt the Spirit strongly in his classes, even in Greek! 

Meanwhile, I increasingly recognized from my Bible reading that biblical authors often took for granted their readers’ understanding of the background situation, just as they took for granted their knowledge of Greek or Hebrew. I eventually discovered that, providentially, some of the very sources I had read before my conversion exposed me to some background! Still, I needed much more, most importantly ancient Jewish sources. Although I had hoped to stop after two years, I quickly developed an insatiable appetite for background, and Ben became a model and mentor for me. The eventual end-product, after my PhD, would be my third book, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament.

I had easily invested more than ten thousand hours in research on Bible background, always intending to make the information available to the Church if no one else did that first. It seemed unreasonable to expect ordinary pastors of students to research for ten thousand hours before beginning to preach! I kept my research on some hundred thousand index cards, hoping to put the background for each passage at readers’ fingertips.

Because I was involved with InterVarsity at Duke, I considered proposing my idea to InterVarsity Press. I had not yet done so when an editor from that publisher read one of my articles and called me, asking if I would be interested in submitting something for publication.

I proposed the background commentary, but life quickly distracted me: I could not find a teaching position. Surely God would not provide twelve years of college study for me and then leave me unable to find a position. Time was rapidly running out. I tried to have faith, but by July it was obvious that I would not have a teaching position for the fall.

One Sunday evening I figured out how much I would need to live on that year, to keep both my research files and myself from becoming homeless. I despaired at the figure.

The next day the editor called. “We want you to write the background commentary.”

“Thanks, Rodney,” I acknowledged, trying to muster enthusiasm.

Meanwhile I was thinking, How am I going to write this book while living on the street?

“And,” he added, “we want to offer you and advance.”

The figure he mentioned matched to the dollar the amount that I had computed the night before.

Toward the end of my time at Duke, a Latina sister named Neyda gave me a prophecy. “God earlier promised to exalt you. The exaltation is now about to begin.”

“I’m afraid,” I protested. “I might become proud and then God will have to bring me down again.”

Need smiled. “That won’t be necessary,” she explained. “You know enough to stay down this time.”

This content is by Craig Keener, but is edited and posted by Defenders Media.

For more, please check out Dr. Keener’s Impossible Love.

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