“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Do you remember that line in the old hymn by John H. Sammis? It’s true, relevant, and proven. All believers in Jesus Christ go through times of testing so that they may learn this important lesson in walking with Jesus. Alma and I have had our share of opportunities to prove that God is faithful when we obey Him. I recall a time during our seminary experience when we had under $20 to our name and half of a tank of gas in the car that I drove to New Orleans Theological Seminary from Denham Springs, LA. My first semester, I worked an overnight shift at a trucking company on Sunday evenings, slept some on Monday, and then stayed on the campus from Tuesday through Friday to attend a very full schedule of classes. That Monday as I looked at our resources for the week with Alma, we were facing one of those faith-building tests.
As best we knew, we were trusting and obeying. When God called us to go to seminary, I believed He wanted me to do the three-year program as fast as I could, work the one day of the week that no classes were held (Mondays), and contribute to the ministry of the church we were in on the weekend as He provided opportunities. With that understanding also came faith that God would provide our needs during that season, as long as I was faithful to do those things. When I first prayed about our going to seminary with four children, the question I pondered with Him was how we could afford to do it. I distinctly remember thinking that I should ask God for a specific amount of money per month for three years. Faith rose in my heart to ask Him. When I told Alma about it, the Lord also gave her faith to believe God both could and would supply our needs if we would trust Him and obey. So we did, and He did, but that didn’t mean our faith would not be tested.
This was one of those times. As we considered the situation we were facing that day, we decided the cash on hand was for Alma and the kids to live on until God provided more. I would go to New Orleans trusting God to provide for my financial needs, which included money for food and for more gas to get back home on Friday. As I left that Tuesday morning, all we could do was pray and trust God to be faithful. We were obeying Him as best we knew how.
For Alma and the children, it was slim pickin’s for a couple of days. I’m sure they ate leftovers, and if they did the usual, they ate a lot of oatmeal. We both were praying for God to be faithful as we worshiped Him as our provider. Perhaps you have been tested in this way, so you can imagine the excitement when a check for several hundred dollars came in the mail on Thursday from a dear friend from whom we had not heard from in over two years. The week before, God had put us on his heart during his prayer time and prompted him to give to the Lord by giving to us. What amazes me is that if God could prompt him when He did, He was also in control of the timing. He could have moved him to send the check the week before, and we wouldn’t have had the test of our faith. The lesson learned: timing and circumstances are administrated by our Father to accomplish His will in our lives.
I arrived at seminary on Tuesday morning with no money, excited to see how God was going to provide for me. On Tuesday evenings, I spent time discipling Gene. I met Gene while going door to door to share the gospel in fulfillment of an evangelism course. He was deep into metaphysics at the time and had no faith in a historical Jesus. However, he was open to discussion. So every Tuesday evening we met together at his house. After six weeks, Jesus revealed Himself to Gene, and faith was born in his heart. Immediately, an appetite for God’s Word appeared. He couldn’t wait to tell me what he had read in the Bible, and he was filled with good questions.
That Tuesday, Gene began our conversation with great excitement. He told me he had read some Scriptures in the Old Testament about tithing. He didn’t know any better than to simply ask God what He was supposed to do with what he read. We discussed the purpose of the tithe in the OT and the NT admonition to give joyfully as led by the Holy Spirit. I did not encourage Gene to immediately attend a church upon his conversion. I felt he needed to get grounded in God’s Word and rooted in the love of Christ before he chose a church home. My goal in meeting with Gene was to disciple him in his relationship with Jesus and prepare him to move into a community of believers. I didn’t want him to be ensnared in the traps of man-made religion or led off track by man-centered teaching. That evening, Gene said, “Norm, as I asked God what to do with my giving to Him, the thought came to me that you are the one God is using to minister to me. I want to give to Him by giving to you. So here.” Then he handed me a generous gift in cash.
This was totally unexpected! I wasn’t meeting with him expecting financial blessing. My giving to him was an investment in a greater and more eternal kingdom. What an encouragement to our faith to see God move in his heart this way. He had no idea that there was a financial need. The gift covered my food for the week as well as gas to get home on Friday. Additionally, as a giver, Gene’s faith was built when I shared about our situation and the testing of our faith. Gene continued to give as he felt led by God from that time on until he became a member in a local church. He would often tell me, “I’m benefiting from what God gives to me through you, and I want to give back in return.”
God tested our faith so we could learn that the only way to be happy in Jesus is to trust and obey. Do you believe this? I hope you do. The purpose of my articles this year is to share Alma’s and my testimonies of God’s faithfulness to remind you and your children of His faithfulness in your lives. Do your children believe that trusting and obeying are keys to happiness in this life? Your teaching them in word and through your experiences is important. Surely you have your own Jesus stories to share with them that testify to this wonderful truth that the only way to be happy in Jesus is to trust Him and obey. I hope you’ll share some of my stories as well as your own with your children, maybe in morning devotions or as bedtime stories.