When I first came to Wheatland the Faith Promise initiative was new to me. The whole idea that God would plan to bless me financially so that I would bless the mission of our church was foreign to me. I didn’t really understand what that meant initially. I heard phrases like “God will bless you unexpectedly” or “God will bless you with an unexpected windfall” in order to give it to the Faith Promise initiatives but I truly didn’t believe it. I have received unexpected financial blessings in my life but always used them for things I wanted. I had not thought of giving it away. I had always considered a surprise like that as a reward.
Bill and I prayed the first year. We agreed on a number. We put that number on a Faith Promise card and turned it in on Faith Promise Sunday like everyone else. The next week we received a check in the mail from our mortgage holder for the exact amount we put on the card. We had overpaid something when we purchased our home. It was a refund—an unexpected blessing. Some might call it a windfall.
At first we were stunned. We were alarmed that we overpaid that much. Then, we felt alarmed that God would be meddling so intimately in our lives. I mean we love to pray for personal healing, relationship issues and stuff that needs prayer. But, when it comes to money, Bill and I usually keep that separate. Like we allow God plenty of room to lead, guide and direct us with our personal lives but not with our money.
God challenged me and inspired me all at one time. He does that a lot. Why would God care deeply about all areas of my life and not care about our finances? We had been so careful about paying bills on time, saving for emergencies and living within our means we’d become legalistic with our money. I think we gave money the power by thinking too much about it. Moving. Purchasing a home. Selling all we had to move to Oswego. Getting a great mortgage interest. It all worked well for us. But, I think back now, we were trapped by the Money Monster. I remember thinking pretty highly of ourselves that we had done so well. We had lived frugally for so long we learned how to beat the Money Monster all by ourselves. We even compared ourselves to others by comparing interest rates. I usually felt smug as I knew we had the lowest interest rate. We had excellent credit. We were ‘golden’ our agent reminded us.
Friends, generosity is the furthest thing from our hearts when we live like this. Our God is a generous God. He created everything. It’s all his. He ‘owns the cattle on a thousand hills.’ (Psalm 50:10) God created and then he gave it away. Nothing to hold on to. God is generous to a fault some might say. Jesus in his final actions and words expressed God’s truest nature as he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30) Giving is what God does best. We, who are made in his image, become more like him by being instruments of his gifts, grace and generosity.
So, I have a challenge for you as we prepare for our Faith Promise weekend this year. Maybe you’re like me when it comes to praying about personal things and not about your money. Maybe you’ve worked really hard at saving, preparing and caring for your financial needs. Have you become legalistic about your income? Do you account for every penny? Do you say ‘no’ more than ‘yes’ and limit God in how your needs are met? Then, here is the challenge: pray. Sincerely seek God’s direction and voice. Listen: write down the number on your Faith Promise card. Act: turn it in. Then be faithful when you receive. Let this Faith Promise season clear out the frugal clog that’s damaging the system. We must act first. This is faith. This is how we grow. This is how we mature. This is how we do greater things than we would ever have imagined.
So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it! Hebrews 6:1-3 The Message
See you Sunday,