If you’re not wrestling, you’re not doing the work of the Kingdom,” God Spoke to Stephen Wollwerth’s heart one day. Stephen had been a Christian all his life and likely heard Ephesians 6:12 (“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…”) hundreds of times before this revelation came. For decades, he kind of coasted through life, trusting God with/for the bare minimum, until one invitation to get serious in prayer changed his life and perspective forever.
Steadily working at his church one afternoon, Stephen (along with other staff) got challenged by his Pastor to pray and read the Bible for three hours a day, for thirty days straight (to just see what would happen). Oblivious to every victory he’d see by jumping into this, he grabbed the challenge wholeheartedly. He may not have been aware at that point, but God knew exactly what He was setting him up for. Day by day, he woke up much earlier than usual. He seriously began to engage with God during every morning run. He prayed, listened to and read the Bible, talked to God about everything he could think of. He did all the things he was already familiar with doing, just with more focus and intensity.
The intentionality in seeking God’s face drew Stephen much closer to God’s heart. A closeness that he would never find by simply doing a bunch of good, “Christian” things. Fiercely determined in this challenge, he started to get really comfortable with hearing God’s voice. And it wasn’t long before he began to see instantaneous answers to his prayers as he stayed consistent in pressing in. He got to a point where he says that answers to prayer became so frequent and so quick that he was surprised when he had to wait any amount of time for an answer to a problem.
From phone calls that came with the answer not long after he prayed to people across the world hearing God’s voice telling them to send help, Stephen quickly learned that it’s truly God’s heart to provide his every need, no matter what it was. He wasn’t stuck just believing for the meager things in life anymore (bills, mortgage payment, getting through the week). With fresh Kingdom thinking, he was set free to never wallow in difficulty like he’s seen so many people sucked into. He says, “I honestly felt like I finally woke up from an entire life of slumber at age thirty-five…as if God was saying, ‘YES! This is how I want you to live! In My presence constantly!’” Prayer used to seem boring to him, but after getting a real taste of what it really is supposed to be, it became all he wanted to do.
This healthy obsession to be in unity with God became the solid foundation for what they would build together. Through their intimacy, Stephen learned that not only did he need to have a strong prayer life, but that sometimes he needed to step out, too. It became evident that seeing miracles happen would require an active partnership with God, not passivity (that’s all too common in the Church today). He says, “Sometimes the answer to our overcoming and breaking through to a victory takes more than prayer.”
Continuing constant connection to God, Stephen and his family got to a point where they needed another vehicle. He had no problem giving away vehicles whenever he felt led to in the past, but this time, he was in need of the miracle. Though he could afford a car payment at the time, he was convinced God didn’t want him in debt; he used wisdom and didn’t try to make things happen on his own. One day, he just started asking for another miracle. He invited God into his situation and began to ask for provision. Since prayer is really a two-way conversation, he sensed God ask him a very direct question in response, “What kind of car do you want?” (In this case, he’d already scoped out the hottest black Honda Odyssey with leather seats, navigation and an entertainment system with a DVD player—ideal for their growing family.) He listed in detail what he wanted and then he felt the Lord say to him, “Then ask Me for it.”
Stephen felt so emboldened by the fact that God asked him what he wanted that he began to pray specifically. Not only did he pray, but he actually went to the Honda dealership after hours to circle the very van he had his eye on, declaring and claiming it was his in Jesus’ name. He continued to do this until he pulled into the parking lot one night to discover that it was no longer there. But this didn’t stop him. He waited for the next shipment and when the next one was on the lot, he got more specific with his prayers and declaration. He even brought his family out one time to do as he did and walk around and pray and claim their vehicle.
After about three weeks of fervently praying, God dropped a clear direction in Stephen’s heart one morning. He told him to go to the Honda dealer, to ask to speak to the manager and to specifically say he wanted to do their commercials in exchange for a vehicle. Following this to a tee, that very day, he drove home the exact $42,000 van he kept asking for. Delighting in the Lord with an understanding that God rewards the ones who seek Him diligently, he got the tangible desire of his heart (Psalm 37:4, Hebrews 11:6).
Beyond praying for what he needed/ wanted, Stephen had to know God’s voice in order to hear His direction. (This clarity was a direct result of getting awakened in deeper prayer earlier on.) And he had to be willing to step outside the box to go after his miracle. This experience was vital in his training for the biggest battle he was yet to face. God, the planning mastermind, set him up for success by teaching him the importance of doing more than just simply praying.
The Biggest Battle
Stephen’s trust in God became more solid than it had ever been in his life. It needed to be for what was to come his way. Upon receiving deep confirmation that it was time to uproot, he relocated his family from Beaufort, South Carolina, to Folsom, California. Within the ten-day span of the road trip, he noticed a mark on his son’s body that didn’t concern him at first. He didn’t expect it to be anything crazy, so he just treated it as best as he knew how—applying over-the-counter medication and changing his son’s diet. Over time, the spot worsened and spread exponentially. So much so that he had to seek professional advice.
Doctor’s visits and blood tests suggested that Stephen’s son possibly had an incurable autoimmune disease—maybe Lupus or Sjögren’s syndrome. Though this was not an act of God, He was ready to make all things work together for good through Stephen’s deep trust in Him to do the improbable and the unexpected. Because Stephen trusted God, God could trust Stephen in this spot. It was time for him to wrestle… It was not easy to walk this out, but having heard the Word over and over and over (through the prayer challenge), he had the faith to stand on and to boldly declare Truth.
Stephen led his wife, Jenny, in properly following Scripture. He took Proverbs 18:21 to heart, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” As he researched the possible diagnosis, he told Jenny, “Honey, we have to be very careful about what we focus on and what we agree with. We cannot enter into despair and doubt.” He made sure to focus on “faith-reality” vs. “visual-reality”; they were to never speak of their son’s situation in a defeated way. As a family, they danced and sang and worshipped the Lord every night, filling their home with joy. He says, “We were going to be a family like no other, a family worshipping in the darkness, expecting the sunrise.”
It was an eight-month long fight, day and night, night and day. Had Stephen not had the intimacy with God like he did, he would’ve never been prepared to battle for his son’s miraculous healing in the way he needed to. But because it was in him to Give Up Never, he quit pulling his punches and kept persisting. There were many times where he felt down and out for the count, but the power of the living Word kept him going and He only ever spoke out life. He persisted like the persistent widow Jesus spoke of (he may have been even more persistent). He says, “With a surge of defiance and determination to believe we could win this battle, I got up and prayed like never before.”
After a few short days of praying like this, Stephen says, “I woke up in the morning and looked at my son’s face…the lesions had diminished 80% overnight.” This gave him the confidence to push through to find full victory—God miraculously healed his son like he’d fervently asked Him to. He says, “I was actually seeing the results of the battle, the final battle for my son’s healing. I had done like David had done. I had encouraged myself in the Lord and I went to the enemy’s camp and took back what he had stolen from me.” It wasn’t as easy as 1-2-3, but Stephen says, “I wouldn’t trade my pain for a minute, for there is so much joy that I have received on the other side of it.”
In life, we can’t avoid the struggles nor the pain that inevitably come our way. According to Stephen, it’s a guarantee that at some point in our lives we’re going to feel stuck in the desert. He says, “The fact is, because we are more than conquerors, we should fully expect to overcome these situations in due time.” Just as we were reminded in the beginning that we’re not really doing the work of the Kingdom if we’re not wrestling, we can’t sit on the sidelines in our own battles anymore if we want to expect miracles. We have no time to wallow or we’ll waste away the abundant life we’re not only gifted to live but are called to share with others. We have to engage and find our victories because our breakthroughs extend far beyond ourselves.
In this article, we get but a taste of how God’s radically been moving in Stephen’s life; there’s so much more to tell. As God victoriously brought him out of the biggest struggle in the darkest time of his life, he knows he can’t keep his story to himself. He felt led to write out the significant events in his life (ones we haven’t even covered). He says, “God began to show me that His purpose is to use me to change the world, not just give me what I need.” Now that he’s miraculously on the other side of his greatest battles, God told him he needed to write a book. He’s lived through so much, gaining him a wisdom and understanding that many of us are needing.
If Stephen’s stories have sparked something in you, do yourself a favor and don’t wait to get his book. Getting to see even more of his story “will leave you in awe of the very real, very present power of God in the lives of those who pray” and will undeniably teach you how, in every circumstance, to find true victory as you powerfully Give Up Never.