Monday, June 18, 2018

Rewards - First and Best 6

Honor the LORD with your wealth, 
With the firstfruits of all your crops; 
Then your barns will be filled to overflowing, 
And your vats will brim over with new wine. 

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing thoughts on what it means to honor God with our wealth. But there’s a part of this passage I haven’t talk about yet – the reward in verse 10. It’s a proverb of being filled and even overflowing tomorrow, if we commit to honoring God with the wealth we have today.

I cannot count how many times this has worked for my wife and me. The best test case I can present is the year we moved to Dallas. We had been married for a little less than three years, working steady jobs in Indiana, and every single month had the opportunity to put several hundred dollars away into savings. At the same time, we had been giving more money to our church than ever before. It was a prosperous time for us.

And then Dallas happened.

Excited about seminary, entering a new phase in life, and moving to a big city, we unloaded our U-Haul in the big D with all smiles. Anna got a new job the first week were there, and I found work before my first semester began. We had enough in savings from before the move to pay for the first semester and cover expenses for a few months, so things were looking good financially. For now.

The first thing to hit the fan was our vehicles. Indiana had no state inspection, so we were surprised to hear our mechanic in Texas tell us our vehicles needed 6-8K to get up to code. That sleazy used cars salesman unplugged the ‘check engine’ light…

Then Anna became pregnant with our firstborn. That was exciting… and petrifying. We called every doctor and insurance company we could Google, but nobody wanted to insure a pre-pregnant lady and no docs wanted to take on an uninsured patient. (Not cool.) We did end up finding a doc, whose stipulation was for us to pay for most of the pregnancy costs upfront. That just about wiped out our savings.

And then something unthinkable happened. My perfectly healthy, 24-year-old lung collapsed. Spontaneously. Yep. For absolutely no reason, an air pocket popped in my left lung, the lung collapsed, and I had to rush to the ER for a pneumothorax. My insurance was pretty pathetic – who needs insurance when you’re young and healthy? – so we racked up quite a bill. I won’t even go in to how this injury affected my manual labor job.

By the time my first semester of seminary ended, we were thousands in debt. Not because of poor choices or poor planning – not a penny of that debt was from student loans, or credit cards, or car purchases – but because of spiritual warfare. I honestly believe that Satan wanted me out of seminary, and God wanted to stretch my faith like a rubber band.

That was a low-budget Christmas. And the start of a low-budget life. We couldn’t buy a cup of coffee without breaking out spreadsheets and reworking the monthly budget. But we never stopped giving to God. I wrote earlier that Christians are not under obligations to give a certain percentage of income to their church, but we felt that for us 10% was the minimum. And we could only give the minimum!

And I have no idea how we did that. We were broke, and we kept giving. I’ve heard of people who get random checks in the mail as an answer to prayer. That never happened to us… But we honestly cannot explain how things worked out every single month. For five years, God provided us with everything we needed, plus so much more.

Fast forward to the day I graduated Dallas Theological Seminary. Anna was looking at our budget and she said, “Nik, come over here. You’ve got to see this!” She showed me how much money we had in the bank, and it was shockingly close to the amount we started with when we moved to Dallas. We came as two adult; God added two beautiful, healthy kids. We started with two clunky vehicles; God left us with two much better vehicles. It was like a country song; we lost everything in the chorus, but by the end of the song we got our truck back, our dog back...

I’ve shared this story with hundreds of people. And every time I do, they have their own stories, too. Stories of financial hardship, stories of giving to their church even when it didn’t make sense on paper, and stories of seeing God blow their minds.

Honor the LORD with your wealth, 
With the firstfruits of all your crops; 

I believe in Proverbs 3:9, that we are called to honor God with our wealth. But I also believe in verse 10:

Then your barns will be filled to overflowing, 
And your vats will brim over with new wine. 

Even in the hard times, give what you believe God wants you to give. Serve where He wants you to serve. Use your possession for His glory. Honor him with your wealth, obey verse 9, and he can take care of verse 10.

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