Whenever and whatever you question – What day is it? Do we have enough toilet paper? Food? What about our jobs? Will we survive? – people of genuine faith should evidence tranquility. After all, part of the grand adventure is not knowing or being able to control what happens anytime anywhere but trusting God in all things every time everywhere.
I give all my money away. Twice. In one day. Willingly.
Back when large groups gathered for public events, I attended church one Sunday with several college friends. We sat side-by-side without masks, handled bulletins and public use hymnals without gloves, shook hands and hugged people, and passed offering plates from person to person row by row throughout the whole congregation.
As ushers guiding offering plates neared our pew, I checked my wallet. Years ago, mobile currency included paper bills which, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve, exchanged hands an average of 100 times per year and remained in circulation for 5-8 years. I only had one bill left. Should I put this back into circulation? If I give this away, I won’t have any more money. Most of my summer income paid for my annual college tuition, housing, and dining hall fees. My only intermittent spending cash came from occasional odd jobs and my upcoming Christmas job.
Unwilling to let the plate pass without putting anything in and unwilling to rummage anything out in change, I dropped my last $5 in and thanked God for His blessings.
Less than an hour later, as my college friends and I stood in line to order food at McDonald’s, I held back since I didn’t have any money and didn’t want to mention my plight. Suddenly, one of my friends turned, handed me money and said, “Here’s the $5 I borrowed from you a few months ago. I just remembered I needed to pay you back.”
I had forgotten about the micro loan. Even as I initially responded, “What $5?” I perceived the beauty of God’s providence at work in the precise amount I gave away and then my friend gave me. The timing, the Lord’s silent prompting, and my friend’s openness to hearing and acting on the reminder were all evidence. God knew my needs and strategically orchestrated providing them.
But, God was not finished. I joyfully bought a hamburger, fries, and drink for a little over $4, leaving me with nearly $1 in change. As we exited the restaurant, a Salvation Army bell ringer asked for a donation to help the poor and needy. I chuckled at the irony and dropped all my change in her red kettle, the second time that day giving away all my money.
As a group of us traveled a couple of hours away that afternoon to lead a church worship service, I pulled our 15-passenger Wesley Foundation van into the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. While everyone else piled out and ran inside, I remained in the driver’s seat, considering I had no money to purchase food and no desire to borrow any. Suddenly, one of my friends stepped outside and beckoned to me.
“Hey, Lynn! Bus and van drivers get to eat for free. Hurry up and get inside because they want to serve you first.”
As I crossed the parking lot into the restaurant for a free meal and special treatment, I fully rejoiced in my growing trust that God actively loved me and seemed to be utilizing those events to teach me to trust in Him for all things.
I believed Jesus’ encouragement not to worry about what to eat or drink or wear summarized in Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.” But, living it out helped my young faith – in a challenging time – grow immensely.
I empty my wallet to plant 21 seeds of faith in prayer
TBS operates primarily on donor income (about 85%). Our monthly budget in 2016 averaged about $50,000 per month and total charitable income between June and September totaled less than $30,000, meaning we were 1/3 through our fiscal year and already $170,000 in the hole.
When a Board member visited me in late September, I shared about giving away all my money twice in one day. After he left, the Lord prompted me in my spirit, “Do you want to do it again?”
What? I answered.
“How much money do you have in your wallet?”
I looked. $21.
“Do you trust Me?”
I answered by putting the $21 in an envelope, sealing and dating it, and writing on the outside, “Trusting God for a percentage increase totaling between $210,000 and $2.1 million by Dec. 31, 2016.” Although December loomed perilously close and my hopeful numbers were a long way from the$30,000 we had on hand, I prayed over the envelope, stuck it in my desk drawer, told no one, and forgot about it.
For some months, I had also been praying about hiring Dr. Scott Stripling. At the Lord’s prompting, he had resigned from his previous job to explore new opportunities. Although TBS had no open positions and no money to hire anyone new, at my insistence he accepted a position adjunct teaching at another school while we waited in faith for clarity.
Clarity came about six weeks later when our Provost abruptly resigned to take a position at another school. His resignation opened the key position for which Dr. Stripling was most qualified.
However, TBS was fast approaching a crisis threshold that would require suspending all operations and furloughing all employees.
I remember fully embracing Thanksgiving. Although everything seemed in question, we still praised the Lord for His abundant blessings and the people, programs, and kingdom impact of TBS. Then, suddenly, the Monday after Thanksgiving, TBS received an unexpected donation of $250,000! This great gift brought new life, helped us remain operational, and enabled us to hire Dr. Stripling.
But, God was not finished. On Monday, December 19, as our family headed east for Christmas, the left rear tire on my Honda Odyssey van blew out while driving 70 mph in the fast lane on I-10 near the Texas/Louisiana state line. Although we safely made it to the emergency lane, I discovered my spare tire did not fit, and no tow trucks were available in time to get us to the closest available automotive shop before they closed for the night. By the time we crept our way several miles to Sulphur, Louisiana, closing time loomed and BOTH back tires were flat. Thankfully, the owner agreed to stay open, and he just so happened to have two – and only two – of the exact tires we needed. As we settled in the waiting room grateful to be alive, in good care, and only 3 hours behind schedule, I received an email with the subject line, “Praise God!” A new donor had agreed to match the recent $250,000 donation. By December 31, 2016, TBS had received $388,000 in donations plus the $250,000 pledge, meaning the 21 seeds of faith planted in private prayer yielded a return of over $600,000, TWENTY times $30,000 TBS had on hand when planted just 12 or so weeks earlier.
I trust Jesus’ teaching recorded in Matthew 21:22, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” But, living it out helps my ever-maturing faith – especially in challenging times – continue to grow.
More seeds, continued blessings and evolving challenges
After a wonderful outpouring of support last fiscal year, TBS experienced a long dry spell in giving last summer and fall. With a current budget approximating $80,000 per month, the $79,000 received in total between June and October meant we were four months behind and $320,000 in the hole by the end of October.
In November 2019, I decided to empty my wallet again and prayerfully plant new seeds of faith. Although I carry little cash, I surprisingly had $192 in my wallet. So, I put it in an envelope, dated it, wrote “Trusting God for $192,000 up to $1.92 million for TBS by 12/31/19,” prayed over it, and hid it away.
When I found my November envelope and looked back, we had received $237,000 as of Dec. 31, 2019, an answer to prayer that tripled our charitable income in seven short weeks (see "Monthly Donations" below). January continued even stronger.
Currently, TBS June 2019 through March 2020* donations equal about $400,000, as shown in the "TBS Total Donations" chart above depicting total donations each fiscal year.
With less than seven weeks remaining until the end of our fiscal year on May 31, communities across the country are sheltering in place to help thwart a plague, the economy is a yo-yo, and many questions and challenges continue to evolve. In the midst of this, TBS faces a challenging need to double donations by the end of May to be fully, fiscally sound. A minimum of $200,000 will help us survive, $300,000 will fund our primary obligations, and $400,000 will fully fund our budget and assure TBS meets compliance requirements for achieving accreditation in October.
We believe God is not finished with us and still has great plans for TBS! We have trusted Him in the past and will continue to do so. He has shown Himself faithful many times, including through the nearly 500 donors who acted in faith to support TBS at least once since 2011. Furthermore, our academics, facilities, people, and associated ministries all testify to the Lord’s bountiful blessings and work through His faithful servants.
No matter what, we rest in tranquility in these challenging times without dread, fear, or waver, and pray the Lord’s peace for all our TBS families and friends.
Dr. K. Lynn Lewis serves as President of The Bible Seminary.