Ashley Wooldridge will tell you that at least one of the stories you might hear about his college days is highly exaggerated — at least if you hear those stories from his wife and daughters.
They might tell you that Wooldridge, senior pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley and a returning speaker at Grand Canyon University Chapel on Monday, was a bit of a player in college.
He doesn’t think so … but there was that one time when he was a sophomore and tried to date two women at the same time — one a brunette and another a blonde with “these brown eyes that kind of captivated you,” he said.
“I couldn’t make up my mind. I was wavering, right? I was wavering between these two things,” and when his roommates picked up on the dating-of-the-two-girls scenario, they were shocked: “What are you doing?” they said. “You’re going to mess it all up.”
When one of the girls he was dating also realized what was going on, she confronted him.
“You’re either all in with me or you’re all out, buddy,” she told him.
And Wooldridge knew it was time. He was at a crossroads.
“I have to stop wavering, and I had to make a decision,” he said.
When he did, his life fell into place. He married that girl, Jaime, they have three beautiful daughters, and he leads a successful church, which will open a new west Phoenix campus Feb. 26 at the corner of 35th Avenue and Montebello, right next to GCU.
It wasn’t lost on him that, “I almost ruined it because I was wavering,” Wooldridge said.
That same kind of indecision is at the root of so many of the struggles in our lives, he shared.
“What many of you are wavering with today is you are wavering in your relationship with God. What has happened is that God is way down here, and you have a bunch of things that are way up here. … Did you know God demands first place in your life? God HAS to be No. 1,” he said, then shared the story of the prophet Elijah from 1 Kings 18.
The Israelites had started looking to false gods, to idols such as Asherah, goddess of fertility, and Baal, the god of sky and rain, who the people believed made the earth bear crops and women bear children.
It’s not that people stopped believing in God, Wooldridge said, but they placed idols such as Asherah and Baal above Him.
“People were turning to Baal for their economic prosperity. … How primitive and stupid do you have to be to worship an idol like that?”
Elijah approached King Ahab, one of the followers of Baal, and in one of the most famous showdowns in the Bible, challenged the 450 prophets of Baal that had assembled at Mount Caramel. It was one man against 450.
He tells them that they will sacrifice two bulls and will lay them on wood with no fire underneath them. They will call to their false idol, Baal, and he will call to the Lord, and “the god that answereth by fire, let him be god.”
The prophets of Baal pray from morning until noon, so much so that Elijah starts “smack-talking them,” said Wooldridge, telling them that maybe Baal is too deep in thought to answer them, or maybe he’s traveling, or maybe he’s just sleeping.
By the time night falls, with no response still, they begin to slash themselves.
“Anytime anyone turns to something else to fill them besides God, they begin hurting themselves,” Wooldridge said.
When it’s Elijah’s turn to call on God, Wooldridge said he does it without the theatrics, without the dancing, without all the show. He keeps it simple. He comes to the Lord as God’s servant, and he prays.
That’s when God rains down fire on the evening offering, and when the people saw it, they knew that the Lord is God.
Elijah in 1 Kings 18-21, asks, “How long will you waver?” Wooldridge said. “… How long are you going to waver between God and something else?”
“Waver” in the Hebrew language means to “limp along,” and Wooldridge shared a modern term for it: “Riding the fences.” If you’re riding the fences, “all you end up with is a splintered life.”
Although worshipping a god such as Baal seems primitive, Wooldridge asked of us in the modern world, “Aren’t we doing the same thing today?”
We are still worshipping false idols and putting God second or third or fourth in our lives, Wooldridge included. People are not always looking to God to fill them, but are depending on money, fame, sports or a career to do that for them.
“My heart is an idol factory,” Wooldridge said. “There’s so many times I know I’ve put something above God,” including his role as a pastor.
Wooldridge said that Elijah would tell us, whatever idols we’re placing above God, we have to go all in, just as his wife Jaime told him back in college.
If your God today is money, go into debt; if it’s fame on social media, get as many likes as you can and just sell out.
But it’s likely that going all in with all those false idols will not fulfill you or make you happy. It’s likely those things will not bring balance to your life and that you may even start to hurt yourself, as so many do with eating disorders or bad relationships, drugs or alcohol.
College is a time when students, for the first time, have a little bit of freedom and start turning away from God. It’s when they may start putting Him lower on their list of priorities in life. “You start wondering, why is my life getting out of balance?”
|Next week's Chapel (11 a.m. Feb. 13, GCU Arena):|
|Marcus Doe of Redemption Tucson|
“The reason you feel unstable is because you’re wavering,” he said, and you’re not all in with God.
When he reads the story of Elijah and how God brought fire down from heaven, Wooldridge said he wonders why God doesn’t do that today to prove himself. But he knows that God sent something better than fire. He sent Jesus, the ultimate proof of who He is.
“God wants to light up your life, but it takes you making a decision, no more wavering,” Wooldridge said.
It’s time to make that choice.
Manager of Internal Communications Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.