At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

"We’re Not on a Sinking Ship": An Interview with Isaac Cheatham

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Isaac Cheatham has always had a strong passion for teaching and sharing the gospel. During college, he wanted to pursue ministry work.

Those closest to him expected him to become a preacher, but today he is a broker at TD Ameritrade.

God Had a Different Plan

At Stephen F. Austin State University, Cheatham served with Campus Crusade as a small group leader and eventually became president of CRU. He was very involved with his church in Austin, Grace Bible Church, and loved nothing more than seeing people come to know and love Jesus.

Though he wanted to go into ministry, Cheatham also always felt a tug to pursue business. He just didn’t know what to do with it. He says,

I felt like being in the business world would pull me away from the intimacy I had with Jesus, so I sort of avoided what was in my heart because I didn’t want to sacrifice any part of my relationship with Jesus for a job.

In May 2012, Cheatham graduated and began pursuing a career in ministry, taking an internship at Grace Bible Church. Since the internship didn’t pay much, he picked up two part-time jobs on the side to help pay the bills. He also enrolled in classes at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Between graduate school, three jobs, and incredible financial stress, Cheatham realized he had spread himself too thin. He says,

In December of 2012, I was completely exhausted and burnt out. Behind on every bill, discouraged, and broken down. I came back to Dallas [and] met with one of my best friends and talked to him about everything that was going on. He pointed out what I already knew: this wasn’t working.

Even though he assumed he’d always be a preacher, he knew something had to change. So he applied for a job in Dallas, his hometown:

I decided that I would apply to a job that was way out of my league in terms of experience and education it required and if The Lord opened a door, I would follow it. Within 48 hours of applying for that job, they had already interviewed me and offered me a job in medical sales. That’s when I knew it was time for me to leave for the next phase of life the Lord had for me.

Cheatham packed his bags in Austin and returned home to Dallas. It was during this time he experienced a theological paradigm shift that changed the way he thought about his work.

God had a different plan for him, and it wasn’t full-time preaching.

“We’re Not on a Sinking Ship”

Though Cheatham was confident God was calling him home, the transition wasn’t easy. Everything he knew was taken from him – his Christian community, his role as a teacher and a leader at his church, and his dreams of pursing ministry work. “It felt like leaving the greenhouse and going to the desert,” Cheatham explains.

God used this time to mold and shape Cheatham’s character, and he came to realize working in business didn’t mean he had to sacrifice intimacy with Christ. This all became clear when he learned he believed in a very narrow version of the gospel:

I had no idea what a narrow version of the gospel I had learned…. [M]y operational theology of the gospel was “this ship is going down, lets rescue as many people as we can while we can.” Such. Bad. Theology.

Cheatham realized his view of the gospel was small because it only considered the reconciliation of humans. So he began to study Colossians 1:15-20:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Through studying this passage, the meaning of the full gospel became clear to Cheatham:

As I was studying this passage in Colossians it all came together for me all at once: We are not on a sinking ship – the ship already sank – we’re partnering with God to bring the ship back to life through the gospel of Jesus. All parts of the ship, not just the people.

Cheatham continues:

As believers, we are mini viceroys, reconciling all aspects of life back under the kingship of Jesus. Finances, relationships, technology, medicine, politics, and the apex: people. Very quickly the Lord started to open my eyes to passages I knew by heart but had missed God’s hope and plan for reconciling the actual physical creation to what it was intended to be, a garden for his children to reflect his creative capacity and passion for cultivation.

He also spoke about the dangers of narrowing the gospel:

If we narrow the gospel for it to mean, “God is only reconciling people,” we reduce the value of the cross and limit our ability to reflect and be in relationship with a God who is creative, who works, who feels, who loves the arts, who has plans, who manages the earth, economies, governments, finances, who holds the keys to the next great technological advance, and we limit our ability to worship him in all of who he is. Yes, pastoring and teaching and evangelism is important, but no more or less important than God working with us to reconcile back to himself and make beautiful all other things which he created.

Today, Cheatham is a broker at TD Ameritrade and eventually plans to start his own investment analyst firm.

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