By Suzan Braun
In the tradition of Joshua, Nancy Grisham is taking possession of the land. In addition to being a gifted teacher, she is also a compassionate woman of faith who lives her life out loud for Jesus and helps others do the same.
Leaving it all behind
After 14 years in corporate management, Nancy longed to give the best part of each work day to ministry. “At that point in my career, I’d been single again for two years,” says Nancy. “One Sunday afternoon I was on my knees crying out to God, desperately wanting to quit my job and go into ministry. I prayed, ‘God if this desire isn’t from you, then change my attitude because it’s a lot easier to change an attitude than a career.’ I got up with no release to quit.”
Yet, within two weeks of pleading with God, Nancy’s job was reorganized and she was to be reassigned to a staff position. “It was a huge blow to my ego and would become a huge help to my future! I prayed, fasted, got into the Bible and sought godly counsel. God made the answer so clear that I knew I would be disobedient if I didn’t resign.”
Pursuing God’s Call
In pursuing God’s call into full-time ministry, Nancy relocated and returned to school receiving a Masters degree in Evangelism from Wheaton Graduate School and later a Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Today, Nancy’s ministry experience continues to be far-reaching as she speaks, teaches the Bible, trains church leaders, develops outreach programs, and teaches as an adjunct professor at Wheaton College. Nancy founded her current teaching ministry, Livin’ Ignited in 2004.
Livin’ for Him
The biggest surprise Nancy has experienced in ministry is that, “It’s a lot harder than I ever imagined. On those days when it seems especially challenging, I’ll think about Paul or those folks in Hebrews who got sawed in half – then I realize my day is going very well! Keeping perspective helps me keep faith.”
Just Between Us caught up with Nancy at a conference to find out how God is continuing to work in her life and ministry.
JBU: Tell us about following God’s call to begin your ministry, Livin’ Ignited.
Nancy: As I was completing my Ph.D. in 2004, I assumed I would simply get another job in ministry. However, I sensed God calling me to start a new ministry that would be at the core of my call and gifting to reach people for Christ. I also wanted to equip believers in the full life He offers.
JBU: What did God do after your step of obedience?
Nancy: Amazingly, He started bringing connections, people, and finances together! Friends stepped in to help me with wise counsel, encouragement, and financial support. Through a divine connection there were two businessmen who heard about what I was doing and offered their support. Then a foundation gave the ministry a grant.
JBU: What was your first year in this new ministry like?
Nancy: It was amazing; I didn’t have to borrow money from my home equity to pay for my living expenses! I saw God provide for me in very surprising ways.
The second year was agonizing! The first six months were bleak. I stared at an almost blank calendar. I studied, prayed, questioned my gifting, and wondered if I had missed God. Finances were so tight. I remember buying a hamburger, coke, and fries one day for lunch and then realizing I didn’t have an extra $3.89 to blow. I cried. It was a dark night of the soul day.
JBU: What did you do in the midst of such discouragement?
Nancy: I called a friend in Texas, who has a faith ministry—meaning she trusted God to open ministry doors and to provide financially. She was one of the few people I personally knew who had walked through something similar. I poured out my heart to her and told her my doubts, fears, insecurities, and questioning. In her whimsical way she said, “Oh, Nancy. Don’t you know? Just like Joshua, you will have to take the Promised Land. You have got to be strong and courageous and possess what God has promised. Now is not the time to quit.”
That conversation turned my heart and my head from the difficulty of the circumstances, and put my focus back on God. What would make me think I could just waltz in here and not have some major faith challenges along the way? That I would not have some big opposition from the enemy? I got it settled: “God, if you want the ministry to go forward, great; if not, great. I’ll do whatever You want; just give me the grace to do what you want and help me know what that would be!” God clearly called me to just stay the course, to continue on; now was the time to fight the fight of faith.
JBU: How did you take “possession of the land”?
Nancy: I got into the story of Joshua thinking, “I had better read up on this.” The account is of God telling Moses to send out twelve spies to explore the land, one man from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. It was a good land flowing with milk and honey. However, when Joshua and Caleb wanted to take possession of the land, the other ten explorers balked. Ten were full of fear and talked about the giants and the devouring land. “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Num. 13:33b). Through this passage, God started teaching me that we are going to look at life through one of three grids: the giant grid where we focus on the problems, the grasshopper grid where we get our eyes set on ourselves and only see our own inadequacies and inabilities, or we are going to look at all of life through a God grid. That is where we see God, take Him at His Word, and do what He says. We set our face like a flint on Jesus and we are unwavering.
JBU: How did you see God’s hand in this challenging place?
Nancy: As I was starting this study, a friend called. We were talking about it and she asked, “Would you teach us that this summer?” I said, “Yes.” Later, I received another call from a church who wanted me to teach a six-week series. So, I taught and lived in the story of Joshua. It became a wonderful season of ministry. People came to faith in Christ and were renewed and strengthened in the Word. So, I saw God’s hand yet again.
JBU: Since God reaffirmed your calling has it been smooth sailing?
Nancy: There still are struggles, and there still will be struggles! Every once in a while, I want to bolt and consider doing something else, something that seems more secure. Then I think, “God, if You want me to take a different direction, I would welcome that.” But each time I start to take another turn, God brings me back to doing this.
JBU: As you’ve stepped out in faith, how has God opened doors for you?
Nancy: Mine has been a very step-by-step process, often encountering “suddenly” opportunities. One day I got a call before a large outreach event, “Our keynote speaker can’t come tonight. Are you available?” I said, “Yes, I can come. Thank you for calling me!” Another time I was at a New Year’s Eve party seated next to a woman who was traveling to South Africa to participate in an AIDS prevention meeting with local churches. As she was talking, I was considering if there was any way that I could contribute. Should I write a check? I finally said, “That is so exciting. I would love to do something like that.” She looked at me and said, “Why don’t you come with me?” I heard myself ask, “What does it cost?” Now that was really spiritual! Recovering, I said, “Let me pray about it.” She smiled and said, “Pray real fast because I leave two weeks from tomorrow!” I prayed and sensed God saying, “Nancy come over here, come here, we’re going to go to Africa.”
Walking through “suddenly doors” always raises challenging questions. Obviously, I never know the answers, but step-by-step, I literally walk by faith trusting God, seeing what He is up to, and trying to follow Him closely.
JBU: If someone called you because they were at the end of their rope, what would you say?
Nancy: One thing God keeps reminding me of is that we live by faith, not by sight. We say it’s all about Him, but too often we focus on us. We can get so caught up into thinking, “God, what do You want me to do and where do you want me to go?” It’s about knowing God, and in knowing Him we will hear Him. John 10:4 says, “He goes before his sheep and He calls us out and we know his voice.” Sometimes, we don’t feel faith; we feel scared. That is why courage is such an important point with Joshua. He is a warrior, a guy who has trudged through the desert with Moses. When God gave Joshua the charge, He repeatedly said, “Do not fear, be strong and courageous. Do not fear, be very courageous.” Nestled there in verse 5 of Joshua 1, He says, “I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you.” God is faithful.
I trust He is going to be there and give me all the strength that I need. He is going to minister to me and then through me to other people. Nothing’s wasted.
JBU: Statistically, we know that there are a lot of people who wait to reach out until it’s too late. You reached out to a friend and said, “I need to talk.” How do we determine when to do it and when not to do it?
Nancy: When coming to those hard places in life, our first response needs to be to go to God, His Word, and prayer. We sit with Him. However, when we’re stuck, it’s probably time to go to someone who is godly, wise, and spiritually mature. There is success with many counselors (Prov. 15:22), so on major issues it’s usually good to hear from at least a couple of godly people—preferably someone who knows you , loves you, and who will speak truth in love to you.
At those tender moments I need someone who will speak truth in love, words of life—encouragement, challenge, rebuke, healing, wisdom, whatever is necessary. A good way to begin is to ask, “God, with whom should I talk to about this?”
JBU: How can we share our faith more on a day-to-day basis?
Nancy: Being sensitive to the Spirit is the most practical help we can have in reaching out. We never meet someone who doesn’t need to be loved. We want people to experience His love through our love for them. He will lead us. A simple smile or an act of service can touch a heart. It may even turn into a conversation. God can take that conversation places we never planned to go! Being available, willing, and prepared to reach out to people as God leads us is a freeing way to point people to Jesus. When the time is right then we can share the message of Love Himself.
Livin' for Him
Dr. Nancy Grisham founded Livin' Ignited in 2004 and is available to help your church or ministry in making Christ known and enjoying the full life that He offers.
Teaching Ministry Includes:
- Knowing and Enjoying God
- Joshua—Life to the Fullest
- Outreach Messages
- Outreach Equipping
Whether you invite Nancy to speak at a conference, retreat, church-wide service, leadership team, or an outreach event, the principles from God's Word that she shares can change lives.