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More than the sparrows

More than the sparrows

It has been an interesting week for us. On Sunday, our beloved Jeep lost compression in her 5th cylinder. She was dead, but we wouldn’t know for another day. As I sat in church, distracted and worried, God brought Matthew 6:26 to my heart: “Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” God dealt with me graciously through the morning, and by the end of the worship service I was convinced that this problem was not too big for God to handle. Feeling compelled to write, I sat down and began to share the lessons God was teaching me. As I reflected on God’s faithfulness to us, I wrote the following:

Was the car trouble an attack on our faith, or a gift from God Himself? I suppose we won’t know for a while. I do know that it’s time I started making more room for God’s providence in my plans.

When Monday rolled around, we took her to the shop and learned that we no longer had a working car. Repair cost? $4500. I will admit, I fought back tears a little when I told Jessica that the car which took us on our first date and climbed countless mountains with me was no more. But the tears flowed freely when our friends called us to offer their car as a free rental for as long as we needed. The help and support we received on Monday was extraordinary. I received so many phone calls that day that I had a plan together before I got off work with little effort on my part. Things have been looking up since then. Perhaps more importantly, the crisis has given me the chance to reflect on the way we invest our lives.

When God had my back

When I was in college, I had a few thousand dollars to my name, and no way to replenish it once I ran out. As the years passed me by, I learned to trust God with the little I had. There were of course times and ways when I trusted myself to get through, but overall the looming knowledge that one emergency could cripple me didn’t hurt day-to-day. I knew God had my back, and I knew He would provide for my needs. But when I became an engineer, the continual revenue stream began to change my way of thinking. We don’t have more in the bank than we had two years ago, but I see our income outweighing our expenses, and I know the law of averages will eventually begin to line our pockets.

And perhaps that’s the problem. Two years ago, we were hopeful, not just for our own future, but for the ministry that we were going to do. We wanted to set aside an emergency fund for ourselves and another for God’s leading. We were going to go way above and beyond a mere 10% tithe. And for a while we did. My first bonus went straight to the church. But my second didn’t. Neither did my third. I have been slowly training myself to look at the ledger more and more times per day. I have been trying to predict the irregular sources of income that once used to surprise and delight me. But I believe God heard our promises two years ago, and He will hold us accountable to our promised intentions.

Arranging for God’s blessing

Greed is the only vice that blinds before it attacks. A man in adultery is fully aware of what he is doing. A covetous man often is not. When I cling to every penny that passes through my hands, I make it much more difficult for God’s blessings to surprise and delight me. God tells me that all of these material things will be added if I only seek His Kingdom first. So I’m making a change. I am not about to be reckless on all fronts. Jesus had a lot to say about avoiding debt and living within our means. But He also had a lot to say about walking by faith and always asking for the things that we truly needed. If we need a new car, God has a means to provide it. When we are truly putting God’s kingdom first, nothing is impossible. If I refuse to be faithful until I feel safe in my own accomplishments, I will never actually step out in faith.

Living by faith is the most difficult when I feel like I can solve the problems myself. I recently realized that my consistent salary is the true problem I should be solving for. Our low budget will solve itself in due time. But if I’m not careful, I will become like every other dollar-chasing American. “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36) So I am making changes to keep us dependent on God, even during the easy times when were surrounded by consistency and stability. Here are some practical things I plan to do:

Walking by faith when the grass is still green

First, I am going to let the budget go. Mint was a great tool to get us on track, and I would recommend it to anyone who struggles to live inside of their means. But we have the opposite problem today. Every day, I shuffle and tweak our budget to enable us to splurge just one more time. There is just no room for ministry in a life like that. We are going to cash out a fixed budget week so there will be no need for micromanagement. Moreover, I am deleting my finance bookmarks and blocking those sites on my work computer. Can I still access them in a pinch? Of course. Will I be able to sit and watch the pennies add up every day? By God’s grace, no.

When I take my hands off of the wheel, I enable God to once again bless and surprise us. By simplifying our spending habits, I will avoid the temptation to spend a dollar simply because it is there. We will still have an emergency fund, but God’s demands will always come before our own. If God asks us to take a plunge into uncertainty and give every dime to a missionary or event, we will be ready to meet the call, not only without fear, but with joy in the knowledge that a great story of God’s goodness is about to be told.

God’s providence today

I don’t expect this mindset to make sense to all of our friends and family. Reducing our spending and using cash is a good idea. But refusing to watch our finances closely and preparing to give more than we can afford to the things of God? That is crazy talk by all accounts. But “God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27) I know without a shadow of a doubt that our “luck” will never run out if we trust God first, because it is not in fact luck but divine providence. We are stepping up, and we are excited to watch God work wonders as we continue to serve Him in dependent gratitude.

 

P.S.

I am fully aware that I am writing this story before I know the ending. Last night, we found a grey Mazda5 Sport and put a deposit on it, pending inspection. It fits into our budget, but just barely. We’re going to be in a dangerous position for at least a month. Any unforeseen disaster could be crippling. But I don’t mind being here. We’re in a state of full dependence. We don’t know the answers, so we’re trusting God to get us though. And I know I want to keep trusting God like this even when the answers are more clear.

 

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