This was the last book Amanda was reading when she went to be with Jesus. It was more than just a book. It was the way she lived her life.
Last Sunday I preached on living open-handedly with our money and possessions. I taught that everything we have in our hands was provided to us by the hand of God, and, that if we want to experience God’s blessing in our lives, our fists can’t be closed tightly around the things God has given us. You can watch that message here.
In the message I took some extra time at the end to talk about a situation of extreme financial provision Amanda and I experienced. I didn’t quite explain the entire story, so here it is:
It was Christmas of 2014, our church was looking into re-launching to a larger auditorium in February and I challenged everyone to give above and beyond their normal giving as a Christmas offering. We needed to raise nearly $150,000 to make the big move.
Amanda and I knew God had called us as the leaders of the church to lead the way. I knew that every great leader never asks his people to go somewhere he’s not willing to go himself. In fact, I knew great leaders go first. They set the tone. They set the temperature. They set the standard. I had no idea God would call us to give the amount we gave.
We had been saving for a newer car for the past several months. I drove a 1999 Mercury Mountaineer and Amanda drove a 1997 Honda Civic. She had driven that car since high school. Neither of us had ever driven newer cars, and it was exciting to see our savings accumulate and to think we could be finally purchasing one soon.
One morning in my quiet time, I read the story of Hannah and Elkanah at the beginning of the book of 1 Samuel. Hannah and Elkanah were barren, meaning they couldn’t have children. Hannah would go to to the temple and plead with God to give her a child. In this time period children were considered symbols of God’s blessing and favor on your life. So if you couldn’t have children, many people assumed it was God’s punishment for some unconfessed and unrepentant sin in your life.
Hannah begged and pleaded the Lord to give her a son. One day she changed her prayer. She said, “Lord, if you will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” This is the verse that had inspired Amanda to create a sign to hang in Weston’s nursery that read, “For the rest of his days he will be given over to the Lord.” This verse helped Amanda deal with the same worries and anxieties many mothers have - will my kid be healthy, will he grow up to be a leader, will she make wise choices, will he get teased in school, will she follow Jesus?
She had no idea she would literally give Weston over to Jesus when he was 15 months old. She had no idea she would not be the one who would raise him through boyhood into manhood. She had no idea when she made that sign, she would soon relinquish that role to Jesus.
At the moment I read this, the verse did something completely different for me. It made me ask, am I willing to give it all to Jesus?
You see, God blessed Hannah with a little boy and she named him Samuel. After weening him she took him up to the temple and gave him over to the work of the Lord under the supervision of Eli, the priest. Miraculously, the Lord blessed Hannah for her willingness to give up Samuel and He blessed her with three more sons and two daughters! This woman who was barren, and gave the one son she had to the Lord, was blessed with five more! When God put it on my heart to empty our car savings to give to the Christmas account the significance of this passage wasn’t lost on me. You see the amount we had in our car savings was exactly fifth of our goal for a new car. I knew when I read this, the Lord was telling me he could multiply what I had in my hands, if I turned it over to Him.
That morning, as soon as I finished reading, I went to Amanda, explained to her what I had read, and told her I thought Jesus was leading us to give all of our car savings to the Christmas offering. I braced myself for her push-back. To my surprise, she agreed - without hesitation. She responded promptly with, “Yep, let’s do it.”
That’s one thing I always loved about Amanda. She was so ready and willing to let go of what God had placed in her hands. She followed every Spirit prompting even if it seemed ridiculous. She had an extreme gift of faith and believed that God could do more with what He had given us if we put it in His hands, than we could do if it remained in ours.
So we gave it. All of it.
Only a couple weeks later, we felt The Lord leading us to take another step and go “all in" again. This time we were supposed to empty our retirement accounts - all of them - and give the money to the church.
Now I know this seems ridiculous and impractical. And I’m certainly not telling you, you should do this. We just knew God was calling us to and we had to be obedient. So we did.
Seven months later, we still had not seen anything come of our sacrifice. You see, when you give God what’s in your hands, it doesn’t guarantee He’s going to do something for you materially. God certainly isn’t a vending machine. You can’t give to get. God doesn’t work that way. He can’t be manipulated. But often, what you want to get the most, you first have to give in order for your heart to be in a posture where it can properly receive.
Now, the church met it’s goal of $150,000. And sure, we were seeing people come to Jesus and get connected to the church. And sure, we were experiencing life-change. But nothing had materially changed about our financial situation as a result of giving all that away. In fact, our situation seemed to deteriorate even more. We were paying medical bills from Weston’s hospital stay after his birth and our emergency fund was quickly dwindling. In one week, both of the radiators in our cars blew and had to be replaced. A friend of mine and I looked up the repair tutorials on YouTube and followed them, trying to salvage any funds I could. Things looked grim. During that time we weren’t sure why God had called us to give everything away. We thought for sure He would have miraculously provided by now.
Even though God wasn’t providing materially for us, He was providing something far better - peace. For the first time in our lives we had financial peace. We knew God had called us to give and we gave. You see obedience opens your heart up to receive peace more than anything else can.
One August Friday afternoon in 2015, Amanda and I were hanging out around the house. We heard a knock at our door, and I jumped off the couch to answer it. There standing in our doorway was a friend of ours with her arm outstretched toward me. A set of keys were dangling from her hand. Behind her was a brand new white Chevy Cruze with a huge red bow on the roof. “God told me to give you guys a car. I know it seems crazy - believe me I thought He was crazy too - but I know I’m supposed to do this.”
Amanda and I were dumbfounded! I don’t think we said anything for a solid three minutes. We just stared at our friend, at the car, back at our friend, and back at the car, with our hands clasped over our mouths. After a couple minutes, Amanda just started crying.
“You can’t be serious!” She finally said.
“I am! It’s yours!” Our friend responded.
I fought back tears as I watched Amanda climb into the driver's seat and put her hands on the steering wheel. God had come through - and in just the knick of time, when we needed it the most. He provided a new car - one we could have never afforded.
I think this story still sits cherished on the shelf of my memory as one of my favorites stories of God’s faithfulness in our lives. But I think what makes this story stand out in my mind more than any other is this little detail:
Amanda and I went on a date that night in our shiny new white Chevy Cruze. On the way to the restaurant I looked over at my beautiful wife and couldn't help but notice how stunning she looked driving this new car. I also couldn't help but notice the pensive look on her face as she stared through the windshield.
"What's the matter, babe." I asked her.
She glanced over at me and hesitated before she started, "Davey, I think we should pray about whether or not we should give this car away to someone who needs it more than us."
I was dumbfounded! Who needed this car more than us? It was clearly a Godsend in our greatest time of need! I was ready to rebuke her in the name of Jesus!
Shocked I put my head against the headrest of my seat with my mouth open and stared at the brake lights in the line of traffic in front of us. My wife was willing to give away what she wanted - and perhaps needed - most at that time.
That was Amanda. Always living openhanded and always willing to give away what she wanted most. And I loved her all the more for it.