Troy Stoneking helps people grow ever nearer to Jesus

For many years, the Lord had been giving a holy discontent to Troy Stoneking and his wife, Sally. So, after looking at many places and much prayer, the Lord led them to move to Clarksville, Tenn., in July 2022. Even though this took them nearly six hours from their children and grandchildren back in Illinois, they knew this move was of God.

Troy’s career centers around cybersecurity. For the past 15 years, he has been engaged in providing training in that field and assessing cybersecurity risks to corporations, non-profits and government entities.

After turning 50 in 2019, Troy started following his heart to help people strengthen their faith.

“For many years, I was just kind of going through the motions of my faith, but I desired a closer relationship with God,” he explained. “I started writing daily thoughts about scriptures I was reading and posting that to social media in order to encourage others.

“Soon, I was fully engaged in my faith,” said Troy. “To the short, daily social media posts, I added weekly longer (800-2,000 word) blog posts. I’ve been doing that daily for a little over a year at”

His goal is to answer difficult questions Christians have about their faith, as well as make what seem to be complex Bible passages easier to understand for people who are exploring Christianity.

“Some of the questions come from my friends, and others from my social media contacts. A number come from things I’m personally reading about,” he explained. “I feel the Holy Spirit leading me in each post. By answering their challenging questions, he is directing me to help people grow closer to the Lord.”

Two types of questions

Generally, there are two types of questions Troy addresses on his blog.

“The first addresses questions regarding what the Bible says about a certain topic,” he explained. “The second is focused on how people can apply that to specific areas of their lives.”

Reading the Bible is one thing, but making the ancient text relevant in 2023 is entirely different. Troy embraced a passion for writing for many years. In fact, his first blog was focused on marriage and related classes he and his wife taught together.

“The Lord was prompting me to start teaching in these areas. I have the heart of a teacher and I enjoy sharing information with others,” said Troy. “As I am growing and learning, I want to help others to grow and learn as much as possible, too.”

Some of the topics Troy has explored on his blog in recent months include:

“I just share insights I was getting from the Holy Spirit about the Bible or a book I was reading,” he explained. “Anything that sounds wise, is straight from God. Anything that’s not wise, comes from Troy.”

Getting started

The only initial investment Troy made in starting his rather simple blog was for laptop computer and a word processing program.

“Technical skills helped, and with my background in information technology, that aspect of creating a blog wasn’t too challenging,” he explained. “I don’t have a podcast, yet, so everything I do is basically text. I’m using my laptop for that, so no special equipment was needed.”

The total financial investment was probably a few thousand dollars over the course of a year to get equipment and pay for hosting the website.

“It wasn’t a gigantic financial investment, so we could factor it into our budget,” said Troy. “The main investment was time to create the daily posts.”

“Fortunately, that just flows out of me in the mornings,” he explained. “I spend an hour to 90 minutes every day in my devotional time. Out of that, maybe 10 or 15 minutes is spent in the daily writing. The weekly blogs certainly take more time.”

Going deeper

The best way to get the most out of devotionals or quiet time is to have a reading plan, or systematic way to go through the Bible. In 2023 Troy has been using a Bible in a Year plan.

“I learned it doesn’t go well to just whip open the Bible and point at a verse,” he explained.

“Whenever I start my study, I ask the Lord to reveal a message he has for me and a message he has for others. Sometimes, they are the same,” said Troy. “Later, when I am writing the blog, the message is as much for me as it is for anybody else.”

Many Christians are engaged in their faith at a surface level. Perhaps they go to church regularly and serve once in a while, usually out of obligation. They might take part in a small group meeting if it’s not too inconvenient. They might read the Bible because they feel as though they should, but they don’t really pay attention to what they’re reading or apply it to their lives.

“Then, when you’re praying, you’re basically asking God for your grocery list of needs. ‘Here’s all the stuff I’d like you to get for me, God,’” said Troy. “After that, we often don’t think about God, engage with God, or communicate with God any other time that day.

“You do things Christians are supposed to do. You don’t participate in blatant sins, you love your spouse and care for your family, and you’re nice to other people,” he added. “But you’re not engaged with God or in-tune to the Holy Spirit fully in year heart.”

It was Troy’s daily, systematic study of the Bible that worked to take his faith much deeper.

“A few years ago, going through the New Testament in a year meant I was on an organized path through a sweeping narrative and seeing details in different passages,” he explained.

A two-way conversation

His study time and devotional turned into a conversation with God.

“God started grabbing my heart and showing me deeper things, like what he did to demonstrate love in that passage. But, then, the Holy Spirit would ask me if I loved people the same way,” said Troy. “God was revealing something to me and then asking if it was in my heart and spirit as well.

“As I started reading things, the Holy Spirit really engaged me to show how it should apply to my life,” he added. “That’s when I developed a passion for digging deeper and learning more.”

After a while, Troy discovered the Holy Spirit taking him even deeper with his writing.

“I would write a blog post, re-read it and come to the conclusion that I should probably do that myself,” said Troy. “Or I would realize I’m not doing something to the degree I’m encouraging other people to do. That necessitated a little repentance and engagement in that area.”

Enhancing spiritual growth

“Your level of spiritual growth is restricted by how much time you spend in the Bible,” said Troy. “Your spiritual growth is completely limited, if you’re not spending time ENGAGED in the Bible and not just reading it.”

Many Christians think they don’t need the Bible because they rely upon the Holy Spirit to guide them.

“The Holy Spirit speaks into your spirit through the Bible. It is living and active,” said Troy. “But it’s not going to be living and active if you aren’t engaged with the Holy Spirit on a regular basis, or only haphazardly by reading the Bible.

“God speaks to you through the words of Jesus, words of his disciples and words of the prophets,” he explained. “But he doesn’t speak to you through that, if you aren’t regularly engaged in reading and studying the Bible.”

Engage in a process

Troy said it is relatively simple to develop a strong process for growing in spiritual maturity.

“The first step is to get a good reading plan. It doesn’t matter what the plan is, whether it is focused on the entire Bible, the New or Old Testament, or a specific book of the Bible,” he explained. “A good plan provides direction and accountability. You know what you will be reading and can check the box when you’ve completed it.”

While many people are very good at doing that, they fall short of the most important ingredient – prayer. Although Troy felt he knew all about prayer, he discovered that wasn’t the case after reading “Fear is Not the Boss of You” by Jennifer Allwood.

“In Chapter 13, she said this about prayer: ‘Prayer isn’t about just speaking to God, it is about listening to God,’” Troy explained. “When I pray, I spend time asking for things I want the Lord to do in my life and for the people I love, because Jesus told us to ask.”

“But I also spend time listening for the Holy Spirit. I stop praying out loud or in my mind and just say, ‘Holy Spirit, I am here and I’m listening. What do you have for me?,’” he added. “Then I sit quietly and wait for the answer.”             

Troy does not journal any insight he receives from that conversation. However, he does write his daily post immediately afterward.

“Listening to the Holy Spirit has made all the difference in the world. If we aren’t listening for God, then we’re not engaged in a conversation. Rather, we’re engaged in a soliloquy, and it becomes our lecture to God,” he explained.

“Getting a good reading plan, spending time in the Bible and waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak to you – those three things are essential to connecting with God,” he added.

Prioritization is important

When Troy hears people say they don’t have time to read the Bible or to pray, he knows time isn’t the problem, rather prioritization is the culprit.

“There is almost no one who can’t find some time to engage with the Bible and be in prayer,” said Troy.

“If you are in that stage of life where you have young children who wake up super early and put demands on your time all day long in feeding and caring for them, then finding time may be more difficult,” he added. “But I’ve had kids and we were busy and still managed to dedicate some time for God.”

There have been occasions where Troy can only muster five to 10 minutes a day. However, most days, he is spending between 60 and 90 minutes in study and prayer.

“Unless there is an immediate time issue that you can’t get out of, if you’re spending less than 15 to 20 minutes a day in study, then you’re not spending enough time with God,” Troy explained.

“I don’t want anyone to think I’m taking a holier-than-thou position, because I’m not trying to convey that at all,” he added. “Time with God is something I’ve built up over the years. It’s ridiculous compared to the way I used to be.”

When Troy started, his goal was simply to follow the reading plan and to pray. He soon discovered some days took more time to complete the reading. His desire to spend time with God also increased considerably.

“When I’m taking time to listen for the Holy Spirit, it completely changes my attitude for the day, and my perspective on what’s happening around me,” said Troy. “It also completely changes my relationships.

“That listening time might be 10 to 15 minutes on its own, although it is usually five to seven minutes,” he added. “But I cannot cheat that time and expect to be fully engaged with the Holy Spirit.”

Discerning God’s voice

Many people wonder how to discern God’s voice among all the competing noise and, especially, the accusatory voice coming from their enemy, Satan.

“How do you learn to recognize the voice of any friend? By spending time with him,” said Troy. “When I am reading the Bible, I know I am hearing the word of God.

“The enemy will try to throw some stuff in my mind, but he doesn’t have as good a shot at having any influence,” he added. “When I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to me, I can be pretty sure that I’m hearing directly from God.”

The biggest reason some Christians are weak in their faith is because they don’t dedicate the time necessary to read and understand the word of God or listen to the Holy Spirit, Troy explained.

“God gave us his written word so we can better understand, learn about, and grow in Him,” said Troy. “Christians fail in strong faith because they don’t take time to engage with who should be their best friend, the Lord himself.”

Troy likes to do his Bible study early in the morning, when he is fresh physically and mentally.

“Doing quiet time in the morning sets the tone for the whole day,” he explained. “If your life stage prevents you from engaging in early morning, then do it later in the day. But don’t miss a day of spending time in the word.”

“It’s like tithing your time. If God gets the first 10% of your income, and time is your most valuable commodity, then God should get the first part of your day,” he added.

Becoming a Jesus follower

There is a big difference between being a Christian and becoming a Jesus follower, Troy explained.

“Being a Christian has become a kind of social identifier, just like you belong to a political party or are a member of a club,” he added. “Jesus did not tell us to become a Christian. He said, ‘Follow me.’”

Before becoming a Jesus follower, Troy said he was involved in doing godly, Christian-type things. But it wasn’t enough for him to truly know who Jesus is.

“I was going to church, was a member of a small group and was being nice to people,” he explained. “But I really didn’t know the Lord. From that perspective, I guess he didn’t really know me in the way he wanted to know me.”

Salvation is tremendously simple and doesn’t have a lot of requirements. Troy cited the thief on the cross as an example of a basic believer. All he said to Jesus was, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

“The thief wasn’t baptized. He didn’t recite a sinner’s prayer. We don’t know if he even went to the Jewish synagogue.” said Troy. “All we know is the guy was on the cross next to Jesus. But, because he recognized Jesus for who he was, the thief was saved.”

For anyone, salvation is as simple as asking Jesus to forgive their sins, inviting Jesus to come into their heart and committing to follow Him.

“That’s all salvation is. You can be saved from that perspective, but still not be fully engaged,” Troy explained.

“The difference is that believers receive different rewards based on their level of engagement. Some people become fully engaged and very fruitful, and they will receive greater rewards,” he added. “Other folks are just going to be glad to be in heaven.

“Salvation is free. We aren’t saved based on our works on earth,” said Troy. “But we are rewarded based on our works.”

Receiving rewards in heaven is often the goal of most Christians. Yet, there is a much greater reward on earth.

“When you are fully engaged in your heart, you will have greater passion. Frankly, you’ll be doing more good for other people when you’re fully engaged,” said Troy.

“By loving God and loving others better, you start building up treasures in heaven to receive a greater reward,” he added. “The reward of eternal life starts the minute you get saved, but the rewards from God also start from that point, too.”

No formal training

Troy took a few religion classes when he was in college majoring in religion. But, after Troy felt he was becoming super legalistic, the Holy Spirit made it very clear that was not the right path for him at that time.

“I’m not a trained pastor, and I don’t lead a church or a huge ministry,” he explained. “Everything I do has come from what the Holy Spirit provided to me. Today, I am a product of what God is doing through me.

“I don’t have a Bible degree and I have never been to a seminary,” he admitted. “Anywhere I have weaknesses or failures, that’s me. But anywhere I’m helping other people, that’s God.”

When Troy was first saved, he was extremely passionate about his faith, but that passion took him down the road of legalism. He became very passionate about following rules that didn’t actually exist in the Bible but were created by man.

“I encourage new Christians to just relax a little, get a reading plan, spend time reading the Bible, get in prayer, listen to the Holy Spirit and, most importantly, do what he says,” said Troy.

“For decades, I lived as a ‘Christian,’ but I was not engaged in my faith,” he explained. “The difficulty is that people may say they have been a Christian for 25 years, but they don’t have 25 years of experience as a Christian. Rather, they have one year, repeated 25 times.”

Advice for people over 50

Troy encourages people over 50 to look back at things they were passionate about when younger and consider doing them again.

“Most of us over 50 have a bit more time today than we had in our 30s and 40s, and are no longer raising small children,” he explained. “We are further along in our careers or may have already retired. Either way, we have some more freedom to explore things that we were once passionate about.”

“If you can’t identify something from your past that you’d like to do again, then start trying different things,” he added. “You may discover something you’ve never done before that is awesome.”

When Troy and his wife moved to their new home in Clarksville, Tenn., they started going to a large church, but also immersed themselves into small groups and opportunities to serve.

“The point is to try something. If you like it, you might do it for a long time, or determine it wasn’t your thing,” he explained.

“It’s important to realize passion isn’t something people just discover; passion is developed,” he noted. “You find something of interest, explore it out of curiosity and, over time, it becomes a passion.

“If in doubt, just volunteer. You are trying something new, making connections and helping others,” said Troy. “Don’t look for the end-all passion for your life because you’ll be frustrated.”

For Jesus followers, the process is a bit different. Everything is based off what a person is reading in the Bible and hearing from the Holy Spirit.

“God will build a passion in you, if you let Him, love Him and love others in ways that are unique to the way God designed you,” said Troy. “But you won’t find those things unless you are engaged in following what Jesus told you to do.

“If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself, then God will show you specific areas you can passionately carry out those plans,” he added.

You are a masterpiece

It’s important for people to remember they are God’s masterpiece, created to do good works, Troy said.

“There are specific works God designed for us to do ahead of time. It may not be the same good works your entire life,” he explained. “You might do something for a period of time and then the Lord will tell you that season of life is over.”

“You might grieve a little bit because you liked what you were doing and accomplished a lot,” he added. “But part of spiritual growth and development may require you to move into a new area.”

Growing spiritually requires people to be involved in their local church where they can connect with other Christians. The problem is that some people don’t feel fulfilled at their church and want to find a new one. Troy has written several blog posts about that.

“If you are trying to find the right church for you, then you need to start with basic tenants of the Bible and ask if the church is teaching those tenants,” he explained. “There are a lot of churches offering strong Biblical teaching, but there are many churches that aren’t.

“Once you determine the church is teaching Biblical tenants, then the next question is to ask whether there is a way for you to get plugged in so you’re fully engaged,” said Troy. “You want to find a church where you can plug in and love God with all year heart, soul, mind, and strength, as well as love your neighbor as yourself.

“You want to find a church that allows you to take the gifts, talents and passions God put on your heart and use them to serve the body of Christ in and outside the church,” he added.

Ever Nearer platform

Troy envisions Ever Nearer becoming a platform to help draw people closer to Jesus. There has already been some organic growth on social media, especially LinkedIn.

“I put my daily post on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. My engagement on Instagram is very, very low. I have a few people who like and comment on my stuff on Facebook,” he explained. “But, on LinkedIn, I am closing in on 4,000 connections. A year ago, when I started posting, I had just under 900.”

To help grow his following, Troy makes an effort to extend a connection request to anyone reacting to, commenting on or sharing his posts. He often adds between three and 10 people a day to his network.

To connect with Troy, visit or follow him on LinkedIn at

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