Common Cents Part Four: Giving It All To God
Larry and Linda: Owners of a successful private dental practice turned career missionaries in West Africa and then Papua New Guinea. Currently reside in Owings Mills nearby to their grandchildren and daughter Kristen, who is the Nursery Coordinator here at LifePoint
Tre and Carita: Hardworking parents of two who have found peace in their financial journey, despite unforeseen challenges. They demonstrate that by putting faith in the Lord is an act that reaps huge returns on investment.
Mike and Andrea: Currently parents to three young children, the path to building their family wasn’t without its own expensive obstacles and reliance on God.
Welcome to Common Cents: Money Questions & Answers! These articles are companion pieces to our sermon series, Financial Peace, and will offer a unique, practical perspective on the spiritual truths unpacked by our teaching team.
This is Part Four of the series, comprised of personal testimonies from people who gave their total financial faith to God.
Part Four: Giving It All To God
We can give generously to God when we share our financial resources for ministry, but we can also give to God when we trust Him in all areas of our lives. Giving our financial trust to Christ can be challenging, as well as fill our minds with what-if scenarios and doubts. But the return is always worth the investment.
Here are three couples who achieved financial peace by giving it all to God.
When the American Dream Isn’t What It Seems : Larry and Linda
My wife and I were married in 1968 during college, and, after graduating, moved to Sioux City, Iowa, to begin a private dental practice. Because we’d both grown up in poor and dysfunctional families, we felt the key to being happy and fulfilled must be financial prosperity. At the start of my dental practice, I set financial targets for our income: one year, five year, and ten-year goals. In our first year of practice, we hit our ten-year goal and our practice was in the top 5% nationally for income in my category.
At first, we were exhilarated with our financial success. By 1977, just a couple years into practice, I drove a Mercedes, we had our dream home, and two beautiful daughters. Yet I felt empty and unfulfilled. The excitement of every new acquisition wore off quickly and the only thing to live for was the pursuit of more money. We had achieved the American Dream and found it to be an empty promise.
At this time of deep despair, the Lord sent a friend, another young dentist, to share with me the great joy he and his wife had experienced since giving their lives to Jesus Christ. My first reaction was that he must have been lured into some kind of cult, but I saw that his joy was coming from an intimate personal relationship with Jesus; really knowing Him and not just knowing about Him. I agreed to attend a Bible study my friend was starting. In that study, for the first time in my life, I understood the gospel message.
Even with this newfound understanding, I was still hesitant to accept the offer of salvation. I remember thinking: “What will happen to my big income and all my possessions if I give my life to Christ?” I kept attending the bible study, until one day the verse for discussion was Luke 9:25: “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his life?” Shortly after, I asked Christ to forgive my sin and take over as the Lord of my life. Linda followed suit not long after. I told Christ that from that moment on I wanted to live my life for things of eternal value.
God seemed to work at warp speed after that prayer. In Mark 10:21, Jesus is speaking to a rich young man and says to him: “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” I knew this command was not literal for everyone, but God’s spirit pressed this verse heavily on my heart. Since the pursuit of money had been such a spiritual stumbling block in my life, I strongly felt the Lord was asking Linda and I to obey this command as it was presented.
In a matter of a few months, we had given away most of our possessions and money, given my dental practice to the dentist who first shared Christ with me, and applied to become full-time career missionaries in Africa.
We completed our candidate orientation with our mission agency in October of 1978. Our organization was a “faith mission” agency, meaning the funding for our ministry would come from the contributions of individuals and churches. They told us to expect around two years to raise travel, insurance, housing, and living costs, which had to be pledged by our supporters before we could head overseas.
Linda and I sent our first missionary prayer letter around the first of November 1978 inviting friends and churches to join our ministry team by praying and/or giving. We were overwhelmed at what the Lord did next: 100% of our support was pledged in four weeks. We arrived in Kano, Nigeria, in January 1979, exactly 18 months after giving our lives to Christ.
In all of the years we served as career missionaries, our financial support was never below 100%. Eventually our family moved on from Nigeria to set up a mission dental clinic in Monrovia, Liberia. When the Liberian Civil War erupted, we spent a couple years in Ivory Coast ministering to Liberian refugees. After that ministry ended, our eldest daughter, Kristen, was ready to start college and ministry options in West Africa were growing increasingly limited. It became clear that this was the time to change course.
The Lord led us back to Sioux City, Iowa, to open a private dental practice once again, this time with an entirely different character and purpose than when we first began. Our goal was to be a witness for Christ by caring for the poor, refugees, ethnic minorities, and people living on the edges of society. Our focus was entirely on using our financial successes as Lord directed, instead of striving to accumulate wealth.
When it was time to retire from dental practice because of a required hand surgery in 2012, Linda and I consolidated our various accounts and found to our amazement the Lord had provided well into a seven-figure amount. We continue to put our trust fully in Christ through every step of our journey in every season of life.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 4:20).
Walking Without a Net: Tre and Carita
Early 2019 found us living an outwardly financially successful life. We had a nice home, two children who wanted for nothing, and were thriving in our careers as a nurse practitioner (Carita) and an IT business analyst/project manager (Tre). We were proponents of a “work hard and enjoy the results” mentality and while our hard work meant professional success and a steadily increasing income, the money was going out as quickly as it came in. We had debts including student loans and credit card debt, owed to the IRS, and more alarmingly, we weren’t saving anything month to month. We lived paycheck to paycheck. We knew we needed to address this at some point, (Carita in particular had major concerns about living this way), but it was easy to push off when the checks kept coming at regular intervals.
I (Tre) had done FPU back in 2008, and Carita and I had even practiced Financial Peace together as a couple, albeit before we had the maturity to really stick to it. We allowed things like our parents’ expectations for our wedding push us off of the debt-free wagon and fell further from it as the years went on.
Back in 2008, Dave Ramsey’s empire was limited to books and videos, but I discovered in 2019 that he now had a podcast on Spotify. I recall thinking “My boy Ramsey is all grown up!” and I started tuning in during my morning commute to see what my old friend was up to.
One morning, I listened to a couple on his podcast detail their “a-ha” moment with finances. They said that they looked at their salary and figured out how much money they could save in ten years if they were living debt-free. The amount was sobering. Here was proof what an income could become when used wisely. Here was the eventual long-term reward for a temporary sacrifice. It changed my perspective completely and I came home that day excited to tell Carita that I was fully on board.
Carita, on the other hand, was less than enthusiastic that Dave Ramsey’s podcast had convinced her husband to do something she’d had no success with. She was hesitant to my newfound all-in approach, and God delivered the first of many gifts to us in the form of a road trip to New York shortly after. The trip gave Carita and I time to listen to the podcast together. Returning home, we found we had arrived on the same page with getting out of debt.
The first of Ramsey’s baby steps is getting together a baby emergency fund of $1000. We had that, in fact, we had more than that. We may not have been adding to our savings in recent years, but we did have a $10,000 savings account, our “just-in-case net” to catch us.
Ramsey urges that excess savings of that $1000 emergency fund go towards debts. For us, that alone meant paying off ten of our smallest debts immediately. However, the journey without our net was a scary concept.
After praying about it, we realized we’d never be as committed to walking purposefully than without a net below us. In June of 2019, we withdrew $9000 from our savings account to put towards our existing debts.
We understood that having faith in God’s provision wasn’t the same as God promising that nothing bad would happen. His promises are for a safe landing, not a smooth passage. Before withdrawing our savings, we did our due diligence by having our vehicles and major house systems inspected to help forgo unexpected large expenses. We did our best to manage the risk before ultimately putting the rest in God’s hands. Our faith was rewarded. By the end of 2019, in just six short months, we had managed to pay down $30,000 of our overall debt.
In October of 2020, Tre was let go from his job due to COVID-related shutdowns. This is what we had feared, slipping without a net to catch us. Instead of bracing for the fall, we quickly realized (due in part to the large amount we’d initially used to pay towards debts and a lifestyle change keeping us committed to a budget) that we’d reached a point of living expenses being covered by one salary anyway – any additional income was going directly to our debts. By getting rid of our net, God had provided a situation where we no longer needed it.
Since we could live off of one salary, Tre wasn’t left scrambling to find another job. Instead of a time of stress and demoralization during his unemployment, God delivered a time to reset and refresh during an unprecedented year. Rita was able to support Tre during the transition instead of carrying resentments or the burden of making ends meet on a single salary.
We haven’t been derailed from our goals. We’re still regularly paying on what we owe and still tithing. By the end of 2021, we plan to achieve Ramsey’s second baby step – debt-free with the exception of our mortgage.
We don’t know how many couples can describe a time of unemployment as peaceful time instead of panicked, but by putting our trust in God, that is exactly what He has given us. The journey without a net may not be for everyone, but so far, it’s delivered us safely
Faith Funded Fertility: Mike and Andrea
The doctor turned his computer screen to face my husband and I where we sat across his desk.
“These numbers are reflective of the fact that due to your particular male-factor infertility issue, you have less than a 2% chance of ever conceiving naturally. That is the bad news. The good news is that you are great candidates for a successful invitro fertilization (IVF) procedure. We can get you started on that path today.”
Needing help in getting pregnant wasn’t a surprise. That is, after all, why we found ourselves at a fertility clinic in late April of 2011 after a year of trying to get pregnant naturally. But coming into our appointment, we assumed that we would have less invasive and less expensive options before resorting to IVF with its $20,000 price tag. However, the doctor explained that in our circumstances, IVF was the only option that made sense.
“Can we have a moment to discuss this in private?” Mike asked.
Once the doctor excused himself, my husband turned to me and I saw the same despair I felt reflected on his face.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I hate that I am the reason you can’t have this thing you want so badly.”
He wasn’t wrong. In my entire life, the only certainty I had ever known was that I wanted to be a mother. That is, until I met him. I took his hand.
“I believe more than anything I was meant to be your wife. God brought us together knowing that we would face this. This is His plan. Biological baby or not, we’ll be parents. One way or another.”
We left the doctor’s office that day and headed to a cabin outside of town we had booked when we made the appointment, figuring we would be celebrating our plan to parenthood. Instead, we found ourselves so unsure of what to do next.
“I know how badly you want this, but I don’t want to go into debt just as we’re starting our family-” Mike began gingerly, as we sat around the fire that night.
“I agree,” I said, surprising him by agreeing so readily. “And I don’t want to make a decision that isn’t part of God’s plan. He brought us to this. I believe He’ll see us through this.”
Mike’s phone pinged at that moment, his alert that his daily devotional verse had been delivered. He lifted his phone and his eyes welled up as he read it:
“Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you in one year’s time and Sarah will have a son” (Genesis 18:14).
If Abraham and Sarah could trust, we decided that we could too. Our plan became to take the next year and save for the IVF procedure. In that time, God could choose to deliver us a child in any other way He saw fit – by me miraculously falling pregnant despite the odds or God giving us an opportunity to adopt. We were open to whatever path He led us down.
The next day, I emailed the clinic to let them know that we would be in touch when we were ready to proceed. Mike and I went over our budget, trimming wherever we could to add to the IVF fund. I called the restaurant where I had waited tables during college and asked if I could begin picking up shifts in the evenings after my full-time job. We were motivated and ready to see what God had planned as the days shifted into May 2011.
In mid-May, Mike came home from his job as a government sales manager for Verizon Wireless and informed me that his boss had asked if he would be willing to take over a co-worker’s territory for the next 12 weeks, assuming responsibility for her accounts as well as commissions earned in that timeframe. It shouldn’t be much extra work, his boss assured him. Her territory was known to be relatively slow.
Some days later, his coworker gave birth to a little boy she named Christian.
“Great!” I groaned when I heard the news. “You didn’t tell me she was going on maternity leave. Another reminder that everyone is getting their happy ending except us!”
Days later, the schools in his co-worker’s district began using government allotted funds before they expired at the start of the next school year. Her territory sales numbers went through the roof.
In the meantime, the local police department in Mike’s own territory had decided to switch wireless carriers to Verizon, some 7000 lines of service. For reference, Mike’s typical monthly quota was 500 lines of service. His commission check the month of that deal was a career high for him.
In early August 2011, less than four months from our original appointment, we had achieved our goal of saving up for the IVF procedure eight months ahead of schedule. We were able to give the fertility clinic a check for the full amount of IVF due on our first day of treatment, which we completed in September.
The date of my baby shower in April 2012 was exactly one year to the day after God had told us that in one year’s time, there would be a son.
We considered the name Isaac for our son, the name that Sarah and Abraham chose, but ultimately decided on Elias, meaning “my Lord is God.” Indeed, He was and is.
And his middle name? Christian. Because everyone did get their happy ending. Including us.
We hope you enjoyed our Common Cents series! Please take advantage of the free resources below to help you on your own financial journey.
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