By Dr. Nancy Shields
“He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” I Thess 5:24
When I was 33 years old the Lord used faithful Christian witnesses and the scriptures to change my sick, depraved heart from a broken down alcoholic sinner and single mom into a new person when I accepted Christ’s payment for my sinful life. The change was so dramatic that an old friend ran from me thinking I was possessed by aliens!! But I found freedom, forgiveness and the peace of God that passes all understanding. Quickly growing in the family of God at Harvester Baptist Church and the biblical instruction of Pastor Simpson and staff I grew in Christ, usually because of my failings and Christ’s faithfulness. Looking back over 37 years, I can see that the Lord takes areas of weakness and through testing and trials we can grow stronger in that area as we learn to let go and trust God. My biggest area of weakness starting out (as I have many still being worked on) was my fear of financial instability. I worried about providing for myself and my 2 children in the present and in the future – I was about to learn what the scripture meant when He promised: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19
The first test of faith was learning that “stewardship” meant taking care of all that God has provided. I was learning to show my trust in Him by tithing not only my wages but my time as well. I couldn’t see how I could give 10% with my budget, but as I stepped out and trusted God, He managed my finances so we improved our living status. We actually moved from subsidized housing to owning our own home over a 20 year period. I still can’t explain how I was moved from one job to another with large bonuses and increases all in different types of work. However, there were times of unemployment and testing: Do I tithe on my unemployment check? During a long period of unemployment, this challenge came up. The check came in on Friday and the rent was due on Wednesday. Sunday I choose to give my 10% and didn’t have any money left for rent once groceries were purchased. We prayed as a family and as a church Sunday night. Tuesday a check arrived in the mail. A relative I didn’t even know had died and left me some money. Guess how much? The exact amount of the rent!! God was faithful again.
As a young believer, one of the things I found hard was when I desperately wanted to give to missions and building funds. We were meeting in rented space as a church and the first call to give above and beyond to the building fund was given. I could have cried. I was working 2 jobs, no child support, God was taking care of the needs as I tithed but I wanted to give something special. The Lord laid on my heart to sell my diamond ring. I was so excited to be able to donate something. As I drove back from jewelers with the cash, I was hit with thoughts that frightened me telling me to keep the money and spend it on the kids. But I had promised to give it to the Lord’s work. I drove straight to Pastor’s home and handed all the money to him. God greatly blessed this effort and I learned that mental attacks are real tests of Christian faith too. Stewardship now meant spending time in prayer and in His Word to ward off these very real attacks.
One day we were told we had 2 weeks to move. We were in a rented duplex that had just been sold. Debby and Billy were all excited. They saw God working and said now we can get a single family house. They picked out the room colors they wanted, a fenced in back yard for the dog, a fire place…. I thought they were nuts. I shared the need to move at the prayer meeting Wednesday night and started looking. Within 2 weeks a private owner accepted us as renter. Would you believe all the criteria the kids asked for including, newly painted rooms in their colors, were covered and the rent amount was the same as I was paying. (There were 2 other times where the Lord provided purchased homes through prayer).
In that same year of the “move” test came another financial crisis. I was gravely ill and had emergency surgery with complications. When I came home to recover my employer decided because I was not coming back as quickly as she wanted she would stop my paycheck. I was shook up but the previous year I had started a tax service after receiving training so I had some extra income if needed. I had given cards out in neighborhood about doing taxes but had no responses. A year later, without any advertisements and the week my paycheck stopped, people began to call & showed up at my door for help. The 6 week recovery period without pay resulted in more income by staying home and doing tax returns than if I had collected 6 weeks of paychecks! Plus all the clients got to hear the Gospel:) Once again God was faithful. He takes care of His own.
As this area of trusting God for my livelihood was yielded, I knew eventually God would ask more and He did. Now was the step for me to go from a corporate secure job to trusting Him week by week to provide. This became a big step about 20 years ago when I became “self-employed” doing whatever. Once again I learned how to live on less and still increase my offerings especially to missions which is my passion. God provided opportunities through referrals in areas of accounting to provide the finances and 15 years ago He opened door to start Toolkit Ministries to increase my investment in His work in time while decreasing my working hours. (This is another story of God’s Faithfulness).
I share this in retrospect to encourage believers to put your faith in God to work. Spend your time in His Word and prayer and serving His people to be His faithful stewards. Allow God to test your faith and see it as a learning experience. Our heart is usually where we spend our money and our time. Choose to put God first to be found a “faithful steward” when we face Christ in eternity – that’s my goal.