I'm warning you now that today's entry is a little long... but the story is true and speaks to how AMAZING God is... especially when we walk in faith!
"LUKEWARM PEOPLE give money to charity and to the church... as long as it doesn't impinge on their standard of living. If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so. After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right?" p. 69
For me, this is a hard one to write about, not because I have a problem with this "characteristic"... It's more about the awkwardness of talking about money and how much we "should" give. So, what I've decided to do here is share with you my experiences in this realm and how INCREDIBLY good and faithful God has been to me and my husband.
When we started going to our current church, a little more than six years ago, we had a modest income. My husband was working and I was home with our oldest child... our second on the way. We were consistent in our giving... but we weren't giving a lot. In fact, we were only giving $5 a week. About six months later, the youth pastor, at the time, gave what I considered a very offensive offertory message. He specifically called me out... not by name... but by my giving. He said that if we were only giving $5-$10 a week, then we weren't giving enough and then he challenged us to give more. I was utterly offended... and a little convicted, I won't lie. But the offense outweighed the conviction at the time. The next day, I called the youth pastor and shared my thoughts on the matter. And while he readily admitted that he shouldn't have questioned our specific amounts of giving, especially given the fact the he didn't know our financial situation, he stood by his challenge and then referenced Malaci 3:10, which reads: "... Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."
So, we took up the challenge and decided to give more. First we doubled it, then tripled it. During that time, which was about six weeks, my husband got a merit increase at work and then he was offered a new job. (Of course, we KNEW this was just a coincidence.) Truth is... there have been a lot of "coincidences" when it comes to this... but then there are those times that you just can't explain, except to say that it can only be God. And we had one of those experiences a few months ago.
We have a local radio station here called Positive 89.3... it plays Christian music. Twice a year, they have a Share-a-Thon to raise money to keep the radio station on the air. My husband and I usually give money, and last year, our kids wanted to get in on the action. So, we made a deal with them: Whatever money they contributed to their "Tithe" jar over the next five months, they could give... and we would multiply that amount by 10. Now, to their credit, they raised a lot of money. So much money that as the Share-A-Thon was approaching, my husband and I were wondering how in the world we were going to multiply that amount by 10. So... this is where my shame and embarrassment kick in (and it rightfully should!). It just so happened that the Share-A-Thon began on the same day that I was leaving for Nicaragua. Since it was logistically impossible to drive the kids to the radio station (which is over an hour away) and get to the airport in time, I told the kids we would just hold the money over until the NEXT Share-A-Thon. They were utterly disappointed and I... felt... HORRIBLE. They asked if we could take the money once I got back, but I told them that the Share-A-Thon would be over by then. Well, guess what? It wasn't!
I got back late the following Tuesday. My husband picked me up in Boston and we had an hour and a half drive back to Maine. Once we crossed over into New Hampshire, we could pick up the signal to Positive 89.3... and it didn't take long to realize that they were still raising money. Panic started to weasel its way into every inch of my body. For you see, we didn't have the money to give to the radio station BEFORE I left... and while I was gone, we received an unexpected bill for over$1,000. So, we definitely didn't have it now that I was back! The next morning, as I was taking my son to preschool, I was listening to the radio station and felt convicted to call them up, pledging $1000. I just told myself that the amount was OBVIOUSLY not what God wanted... I just had that amount in my head because of the other bill (that we still didn't know how we were going to pay.) But, I couldn't shake it. After I dropped my son off, I started arguing with God in the car... I didn't do it earlier because I didn't want my son to think I was crazy... or that it was okay to argue with God.
Every rational argument came across my lip. I convinced myself that giving that kind of money was not good stewardship... it was crazy. So, I settled it. I wasn't giving the money. Then I turned on the radio and God had the last word (as He often does!) The DJ was saying that it doesn't matter what we give, whether it's $5, $50 or $500, the important thing was to honor God... and if He put an amount on our hearts to give, then we should give (even if it means stepping out in faith because we don't have the money at that precise moment.) Now, usually, I would get a little disgruntled by this, saying something like, "Yeah, they're just saying that because they want my money!" But this time, I truly felt that God was saying, "Trust Me." ... and I did!
I rushed home and called the radio station. I charged the $1000 to my credit card. Now, the deed was done... the next step was telling my husband. (Now, at this point, some of you might be saying that I should have told my husband first... but I promise, this was part of God's plan... even though I didn't see it at the time.) I called him at work and just told him. He didn't say anything except, "You did what?" Of course, he gave me every rational argument against giving the radio station money... the same arguments that I made to God. But, I pleaded with him to trust my judgment, more importantly, to trust God. He laughed... and it wasn't a very funny laugh, if you catch my drift. Then he was silent... for the rest of the day. Later that night, the two of us went over to another couple's house to share my pictures of Nicaragua. I had been looking forward to this because I knew I could count on them to have my back... instead, they STABBED ME IN THE BACK! (Traitors... I only say that because I know they're reading and they know I love them!) Even though they new my intentions were good, they also knew that I shouldn't have done this without my husband's consent. And for the first time, I left their house questioning whether or not I had done the right thing.
After we got home, I spent some time in prayer. When I went to bed, I sincerely apologized to my husband for what I did. But, I also told him that God had given me peace about this, and I that I truly trusted that this was the right thing to do. Even though, by societies standards, I shouldn't have been a joyful giver... I truly was. My husband told me that he trusted my judgment and that it was okay. Then he smirked as he rolled over in bed and said, "Let's see what God does with our thousand dollars."
Almost 48 hours later, I get a phone call from my husband, insisting that I open my email. Half asleep, I asked if it could wait and he said no. When I finally got it open, I saw that he had forwarded to me an email from his boss. You see, my husband was about to leave his job. He had a two year contract, which was quickly coming to an end... and no job lined up for after his departure (another reason why giving the $1000 was CRAZY!). In the email, his boss told him that because of his dedication and hard work, she was giving him a bonus. (He had just been given a raise, but would never really see the money because he was about to leave.) This was something that was NEVER done... especially for someone about to leave the office. Needless to say, the bonus covered my pledge, the unexpected bill for $1000 and some money to tie us over... JUST ENOUGH... until my husband found and started his current job. No more, no less... just the prefect amount. Sometimes, trusting God seems crazy, some may call you foolish. But, I have no doubt that he is faithful. You see, I honestly don't think God did this for me. I know He did it for my husband. We're at this pivotal moment in our lives, where trusting God is imperative as we seek direction. Seeing God ALL OVER a situation like this does miraculous things for one's faith!
Everyone give $1000 to charity! JUST KIDDING! First, I want to make it very clear that God is not our personal financial jackpot. Sometimes, our reward for being faithful isn't monetary. So, please remove that expectation, if it exists.
For your homework assignment the next few days, I want you to alter your standard of living for the glory of God. If you frequent the coffee shop, maybe you could get a less expensive drink and then purchase a drink for someone else. Or maybe forgo the coffee all together and use that money to buy food for a local food pantry. Instead of eating out for lunch or dinner, take the money you save and donate it to a local charity.
This is a fun one if you have kids: Take $25-30 out of your weekly food budget and use that money to purchase food for the food pantry. We've done this several times. We even make it a "friendly" competition to see who can buy the most food with the least amount of money. It might mean that you have to eat mac n' cheese or peanut butter and jelly a few nights this week, but I promise you it will be worth it...and your kids will NEVER forget it!