When All Seems Lost
(Please listen to JD’s story by clicking the white play button at the top of this post. You can read the transcript of the story below.)
So right out of school, I became a commodities trader. I worked at the Chicago Board of Options. I worked at the Chicago Board of Trade. And we traded bonds, we traded futures, we traded options, we traded everything. It was what I was cut out to do. Like, I believe, like God crafted me to go and trade these things. And it’s a pretty different environment from a church environment. If you’re thinking of environments, it’s it’s pretty much the Philistines. It is really rough. And I had had kind of a crisis in my life, Holy Spirit had showed up, things had started to shift. And I remember sitting in my trading station that morning, and I heard this voice and so when I hear the voice of Holy Spirit, it oftentimes sounds like my own head talking to me. But in almost in a dialect that’s not my own, you know. It still, it still sounds like English. I’m not trying to say it’s different. But it just has this different cadence, this different rhythm. And it was very simple. It said, “Hey, belong 150 of those by Friday at 10am.” I was thinking, wow, that’s, that’s really interesting. Like, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that before. And so I said, “Okay, yeah, I’m totally down.” I called my night trader and said, “Hey, we really gotta, like, we got to do this.” And he said, “Okay, I, this is the dumbest trade, but I’ll do it for you.” And so he, he buys a bunch of them overnight, I come in in the morning, I usually get in about 6 a.m. And I’m getting into the office. And I realized we only have 140 on. So I scrambled. I’ve just…market by 10. And we sit there and about 9:30, the entire market shifts. And the trade goes from just being a trade to being worth about $60,000 in a, in a heartbeat. And I remember Holy Spirit just kind of coming back to me saying, “Hey, this is the kind of revelation that I want to start to drop into you. This is the level that I want to take you to.” And so I am suddenly jazzed out of my mind, thinking that Holy Spirit’s going to be doing all the button pushing for me. And I tell that story to kind of preface what happened over the next three years. Well, I think the problem is with a lot of us when we get a prophetic word like that, or we hear the voice of God, or we have any encounter like that, that our expectation is this thing that we can write down. And yet, that word is given with expectancy that God will move and make it happen. There’s no, there’s no direction or timeline on how this thing happens. It’s just, it will happen. And so you know, I had this vision. Here I am, I’m sitting in my office, I’m trading, I’m getting words of knowledge that within a matter of four days, profit thousands of dollars. I’m thinking this is what God’s going to do to me for the next like three or four years before I turn 40. And what ends up happening happening is the exact opposite.
And I’d come out of a midlife-crisis-type time in my life, in our marriage, we really struggled. And my trading started to suffer and just started to collapse. And in the, in the spring of 2017, within a matter of three days, I lost nearly three quarters of a million dollars. And it just, I don’t say suicide watch lightly. I was incredibly depressed. I thought God was going to bless me. And here I am all of a sudden, like in a hole. The next year started and I started to gain some momentum back, started to claw out of my hole I’m starting to get back. I’m still waiting for God to start giving me these words about how to trade. I think I keep hearing these things and everything I put on, it’s just getting slammed in my face. At the same time, the senior leader of our church said, “Hey,” (my wife is Carrie) “I love you and Carrie, and we’re done leading this church, we’d like you to take it over.” And I knew that at forty, God had said, “Hey, at forty, you’re mine.” I knew I had this call on my life. But I don’t know, I was running from it. I really loved the comfortable lifestyle that we were living. I loved what God had done for us from a financial perspective. Carrie, and I kind of balked at it and said, “Yeah, we’ll think about it.” Six weeks later, we said yes. And so we’re transitioning into taking over this beautiful old church just outside of Chicago. It’s absolutely stunning. Built in the ’20s. Old stained glass . Needs a lot of work. Yeah, it needs to have a…it needs to be us. So I’m kind of prepping for this. And I hear God say, “Hey, it’s time to lay all of your business stuff down.” Okay, well, I’m almost, like I’m gaining momentum. I think if I do it just right, I’ll be able to get back that money, and then I’ll be able to pay off my investors and I’ll be able to walk away with no money of my own, but at least I won’t have any debt. That’s the plan—it kind of hits a snag in June and then all of a sudden, October comes. October 20. And something happens, something shifts, and I don’t even know. And I end up losing another three quarters of a million dollars. And I’m just sitting there in stunned like, I remember laying on the floor, screaming at God. And I think this is something that is true for all of us. Like you should be okay to scream at God God knows every emotion that you have. Why do we like try and give God only our good emotions or sad emotions, like, God gave you the emotions. And so I’m laying on the floor just in tears, I’m shattered. This is my life. I’m gonna have to sell my house, I’m gonna have to move. I’m gonna have to move in with my parents. I’m almost 40. What is going on with my life? I close out all the accounts. I end down a massive amount of money. And the reality is that I owe my lead investor just shy of a million dollars.
And I am, I’m terrified. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have a million dollars. My family doesn’t have a million dollars. I don’t–I come from a pastoral family. I clearly don’t have money. It’s so bad. The stress causes me to get what I called leg sensitivity, thigh sensitivity. I couldn’t figure it out. Come to find out I had shingles. The stress had produced shingles on my left leg and I was in intense pain. Like I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t working out. I–it was horrible.
Leading up to Christmas… And on Christmas morning. I’m lying in bed. And I wake up suddenly, like one of those like, you got to get up right now. I got something for you. And I hear God’s say, “Hey, you know what would be a really good idea? Why don’t you take a picture of your clock right now.” And so I’m like, “For real?” I grabbed my phone and I turn I take this fuzzy photo of my my clock. And it’s 3:33. He says, “Put it on Instagram.” I’m like, Oh my gosh, what in the world? I’m hearing the weirdest things this morning. So I take my phone, I put it into Instagram. And he’s like, “Okay, go ahead and put the time filter on it.” I put the time filter on it and put the time filter on and it’s 3:33 am. And like my clocks right. He’s like, “Hey, why don’t you put the temperature filter on? I put the temperature filter on. It’s 33 degrees.”
And I hear this: “I have some things to tell you. Jeremiah 33:3.” I’m like, Oh, well, that makes sense. There’s lots of threes here.
“Call to me, and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know.” I’m like, oh, okay, because I have three things for you. First thing he says is I’m going to forgive all of your debt, like all of your debt will be forgiven. He says that a coffee with a good friend of yours will lead to an encounter with me. And then I will, you will see radical growth in your church. I clicked my phone, went back to bed, woke up the next morning and kind of started to process it. Started to go through it. During Christmas, we moved these … our furniture just so we can set up our Christmas tree. I’m sitting in my favorite chair in my favorite location that’s only there for two weeks of the year because it’s not supposed to be there. But this is the best spot for this chair. I’m drinking a coffee and I get a six minute WhatsApp voice memo from a prophetic friend of mine. They just had an encounter while I’m sitting there drinking my coffee, they had the encounter and passed me the WhatsApp of the encounter. And the word that he delivered was a word basically that says, “What you heard as a child, what you hear now, what you will hear in the future. That’s me. I’m not done talking. I will continue talking. I will continue leading. I will continue.” Like it’s this like consistent, like the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow like, but in this very unique like, I am here to tell you this, and this and this. They’re all me.
A week later I had to drive down and talk to my investor. I walked in fully anticipating I needed to sell my house, go into debt. My investor turned to me and says, “Hey, I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. I can’t explain to you why I’m sick and should be healthy. I don’t get it. But I know you owe a million, about a million dollars. You’re free to go. I hold nothing against you.”
The safest place is in His will for you. And, the revealed will of God is being thankful and praying always, but He has a specific will for everyone and it comes out of intimacy.
I’m in tears. And I’m like, Okay. Thank you God. There’s a million dollars of debt wiped off my my slate.
I have about $50,000 in personal loans and credit card debt that I’d used to finance my life. We didn’t take a salary. We just gotten on church salary. We had financed everything, we’d sold every life insurance policy, we refinanced our home. We we did it all, like, we maxed everything. like okay, I can build a budget, I can take this off, I keep hearing this thing like, Did you hear what I said? I said, all three of these things would come to pass, all of your debt. I’ve found that I have a lot more faith for other people’s breakthrough than I have for my own. But two weeks later, I’m sitting in my house still kind of sitting in this like weird glory cloud, I don’t even know how to describe it. I get an email from a guy that was last date to 2014, on the thread from 2014. And I had a bad investment back in 2006 into a property in Mexico. And the last time we checked that property’s value it was worth $40,000–40% of what I’d paid for it. And it was going nowhere, it was probably we had no idea. I wrote it off as a bad investment. I hadn’t thought about it since, and the email said “Hey, JD, just let you know, I just sold our property for $102,000. I need a place to wire you 100 gran.” And my jaw just hit the floor. I’m like, Oh my goodness, all my debt. And so here I am, I’m sitting here, I’m, this is fresh, I’m still in the middle of this, like, this money still coming in. And it’s like, like, what do you do? Like, how do you? How do you live in that in that place where God is willing to speak to you, but it’s going to cost you something and it’s going to scare the pants off you in the process. I was so stressed I developed shingles like I was scared, and still be tender enough to hear what God is doing. Because my expectancy is that he’ll continue to move in my life. My expectations don’t matter. Like I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but the expectancy of my life, and you have to be willing to take a chance. And I am sitting in a coffee shop with a very good friend of mine. We’re talking about tattoos and I don’t have a tattoo. And I say I need a tattoo to kind of mark this stage of my life. I want to get a big seven on my arm. But I don’t have any money. I need like 200 bucks. Later that night, I pull a white elephant gift for a $200 gift card to go get a tattoo. So we fly to LA to go get this tattoo because that’s where the tattoo parlor is. And I have this, I have this big seven on my arm now. And we’re flying back. It’s me and the guy who is my number two at my church. And we’re sitting in the bulkhead of a Southwest plane. And two men come up to us who are working for Southwest and they they offer us drinks and then they start to make casual conversation with us and say, “Hey, are you guys together? ” And we’re like no, we both have kids, we’re married. We’re buddies,, we’re like, “We’re best friends.” And they’re like, “Oh, are you sure?” Like it was it was it was a pass. They passed on us. They made a small hit on us. And I was like, trust me. And as he’s walking back, I hear the guy in the front say, “Hey, AJ, make sure … and he gave him some command. And it’s that still small voice I hear Holy Spirit pop up. Says :AJ AJ, that’s the name of your brother.” Yeah, yeah, that is. And God immediately is like. “Hey, you need to ask AJ if his name is Andrew James.”
An hour passes. We’re somewhere over Colorado by this point, right? And AJ comes from the back complaining about how much he was really, really upset with how many drinks everybody was ordering in the back. It was a hilarious conversation. And he turned to the ass. My buddy and I these like, Hey, are you guys together? Like, dude, we already talked about this. We’re not together. And I go, by the way, I heard him say your name was AJ is AJ Stanford, for Andrew James. He gets this like, weird look on his face. And he’s like, No, I’m a junior. I’m like, oh, oh, because why are you asking? I’m like, I’m trying not to use God language. But I’m trying to impact this individual’s life. I feel like God has said that he’s highlighted this this guy to me like you got to do something. And God says, Ask him about September 18. I said, All right. You know what? Maybe I’m just off to September 18. Is that is that the date that that rings a bell to you? And he’s like, has nothing to do with me. I’m like, oh, like, what are you doing? He was but September 18, the day of my dad’s birth. So it is my dad’s birthday. I’m like, Oh, I hear this voice say, All right. Ask him who Maria is. And then ask him who Mary is, and then start to prophesied over him. Like, okay, well, I’m one out of two might as well ask. I said, Hey, who’s Maria? in your life. And at this point, you could see like, the, the anxiety of like being annoyed that I asked his name wrong, suddenly turns to like fear. And he’s poking his head around the bulkhead being like, Who are you? And what are you talking about? Are you stalking me? Maria is my mom. I’m like, Oh, okay. And you go, and Mary is my best friend in Houston. Who are you? Are you on? What did you find me on Facebook? I’m like, dude, I’m poor. I can’t afford Wi Fi on a plane. Like, I’m just sitting, I’m listening to Holy Spirit. It’s like, What do you mean, I get a chance. Here I am. I’m on this plane. I’m prophesying to this man. And I just start to call out his identity. I start to prophesy over him, find out he’s based in Chicago, find out that his relationship with his dad was the thing that left the biggest scar on his life, that his father passed away 10 years prior. And in his phone, he has a photo of his father’s Tombstone, which he pulls up and shows me and there’s the date September 18, as his birth date. And it’s a dual stone, because it’s crafted in waiting for his mother. And right there on the top of the stone is Maria. And I’m like, oh, my goodness, like God, what are you doing? And so I’m visibly shaken, he shaken we were like, make a cursory prayer, like, I like I just like a little like, Jesus, bless them. And he goes, give me give me your phone, he puts in his phone number, and he goes, text me some time. And so later that night, I texted him, and I just said, “Hey, like, it was a privilege to pray for you is a privilege of speaking to your identity as a privilege to to see who God says you are.”
And I go to bed, I got home at like, 1:30 in the morning.
A couple days later, I get a five page text from him just telling me like, I can’t believe I don’t know how you did that. I don’t understand the magic was his word. I don’t understand the magic that you’re operating in. But if you are building a community, if you’re building a church, if you’re building a a group of people, that goes after the kingdom, and and whatever else, you call those things, that’s something I want to be a part of. And so they’re all of a sudden, like this, this beautiful tapestry of me trusting words that happened in the middle of the night, that give me direction, have grown into this idea that we’re going to be building a church based on the power of the supernatural and, and great theology is beautiful. I love building theology. I love questions. I love exploring what God has said in Scripture. But if it comes to void of the supernatural, it becomes devoid of like the miraculous what God is doing in our life, becomes devoid of healing becomes devoid of prophecy. Man, I don’t really have time for it.
I’d rather write a book or make a podcast, I’d rather read a book, I’d rather listen to a podcast To be quite honest. I’d rather go to a soccer game with my kids. Because the God that I serve is all about this idea of consistently giving us clues and insights into how to love his children better. And we oftentimes run right through the stop signs.