By: Dr. Stan Norman, President, Williams Baptist University
A third trait of the Williams Way is what I call “courageous faith.” Courageous faith refers to a deep, strong trust in Christ that moves us to bold action. One example from the WBU story certainly could be that of our founder, Dr. H. E. Williams, starting a college during two of the most monumental challenges in world history – the greatest economic depression in modern history coupled with the greatest military conflict in world history.
Another vivid example, however, can be gleaned from the Williams story. Dr. Kenneth Startup, former Interim President and Vice President for Academic Affairs, in his exceptional history of WBU (The Splendid Work: The Origins and Development of Williams Baptist College) recounts a significant event that has shaped my understanding of courageous faith:
On December 26, 1946, Dr. Williams’ attempt to acquire the [air] base took on a new, desperate urgency. Around midnight the main college building in Pocahontas began to burn, and within hours the stone structure was a blackened shell. The Jonesboro Sun carried the story under the grim headline, “Fire Razes College Building in Pocahontas.” According to the newspaper, there was evidence of arson. Although the students were away for the Christmas holidays, the building had not been completely unoccupied. A custodian and two other workers were in the building at the time of the fire. . . The custodian reported hearing suspicious noises in the library at eleven o’clock. Opening the door of the room, he found burning oil flowing across the floor. Moments later the room exploded into flames.
As community members watched the building burn, one of those in the crowd took drastic action – an act of courageous faith. Floyd North served as a teacher and academic dean from 1941-1947. On that night, as school employees helplessly watched the fire ravage the building housing the college, North rushed into the blazing building, emerging from the flames a few moments later carrying a file cabinet containing crucial student records and financial documents. North’s act of courageous faith assured that the school would rapidly and successfully reopen in a few short weeks.
The Williams Way is a way of courageous faith. The Williams Way requires we train and equip our students to be men and women who exhibit this kind of faith – this kind of trust in Christ. I am not suggesting we be reckless, careless, thoughtless, or rash. In fact, much of what we strive to instill in our students is the exact opposite – to think critically and carefully – to act with reason and discernment. What I am suggesting, however, is that sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances confronted by challenges that require bold action driven by a faith in Christ to do what no one else is willing to do.
As we know from the teachings of the Bible, faith in Christ sometimes requires His followers to take courageous action or take a bold stand when no one else will. Sometimes, the trials and challenges confronting us require that someone does something, that someone takes heroic action. We desire to equip our students to be Williams Way leaders – the kind of leaders who will step up when no one else will.
The Williams Way is our way of saying:
- we will be faithful leaders who will do something when no one else will;
- we will be faithful leaders who attempt to find a way through the trial when no one else will;
- we will be faithful leaders who try to solve a problem or confront an evil;
- we will be faithful leaders who take a bold stand for righteousness and justice;
- we will be faithful leaders who do something about a situation for the glory of God and the spread of the Gospel.
Because of our faith in Christ, we may be the only one who does something when no one else will. We thus take our stand, grounded upon our faith in Christ. We are to be leaders who stand for what is right and, if necessary, stand alone. Bold actions driven by a biblically-grounded faith – that is the Williams Way. The Bible gives us assurance and encouragement to have this kind of faith:
Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For the Lord your God is the one who will go with you; he will not leave you or abandon you.”
Joshua 1:9: “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Psalms 56:3-4: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you, In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.”
Our calling is to be a campus of Christian purpose. I believe God created WBU to be a distinctively Christian university with a Christ-centered worldview – faithfully grounded on the Bible and unashamedly focused upon the Gospel. The mission of Williams Baptist University is to impact the world with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping, educating, and training Gospel-minded leaders for service in all facets of human existence. Raising up the next generation of transformational leaders requires we train each student to be a man or woman of courageous faith. This is our history. This is our future. This is the Williams Way.