It was 13 weeks after Kathy and I got married when we found out the wonderful news that we were expecting our first child. I was thrilled, elated, and so excited to become a father. However, this news brought with it another stark reality. “Lord, I need a better job and fast!” But get this, in 1979, both the inflation rate and short term interest rates were 18 percent the month my first child was born (according to Wikipedia)! I lived through those horrible years, during the late 70s and early 80s, and it was quite difficult.
In early August of 1979, a good friend of ours told us that the sorority where she was the cook was looking for a new cook as she was going back to school. They provided a small apartment, your food was free, and you received approx. $550 per month in pay. She thought Kathy and I should apply for this. I remember thinking to myself, “Are you kidding? All I have done is to cook breakfast food at the Ramada Inn! I can make toast, scrambled eggs, put bacon on the grill, and broil a breakfast steak. OH, and make a few pancakes!!”
I was 23 years old and eager to grow in my faith in God and provide for my family. After much prayer, reading my bible, and the encouragement of my wife, I found this verse: ” I can do all things thru Christ who gives me the strength” This verse greatly inspired me. I became more aware than ever before that God lived in me, that God would help me in all situations of my life, and that a can-do attitude was essential if I was going to be effective and useful to God and survive what life threw at me.
I went and applied. I had to meet with the house mother who was about 60 at the time. We also met with the sorority president. They told me what the job entailed: cooking for 50 people every day, ordering all the food from the vendors, planning the menus, and absolutely keeping to the budget for the entire year which was no more than $30,000. The last cook had spent $50,000 and all the sorority had to give up their summer and work to pay off the extra $20k that the cook had spent over budget!! They were not happy about that at all, and let me know it!
Then they showed me the small, cinder block, 2 room apartment below the kitchen where Kathy and I would live in the basement with our soon arriving new baby. There “apartment” was a bedroom, approx. 12 x 12, a living room, approx. 12 x 12, and a tiny bathroom wedged in between. I went home and relayed all of this to Kathy. She is a very brave and courageous woman. She came with me to see it all for herself and they offered us the job.
So, with no real experience, ( I had told them exactly what I knew and didn’t know in the interview) my pregnant wife and I moved into that teeny tiny apartment and trusted God that we could indeed do all things through Christ who strengthened us. And we went to work. We soon got a mini-fridge to put by our bed and put a small pad, taped on top of it, to make a changing table for our baby, who would soon arrive and sleep with us in the same small room.
Kathy figured out a way to make a rotating menu plan so that we served the same meal 3 times during that 9 month school year. God used that year to show us, in a very real way, that with the right attitude, and Christ living in us, that Kathy and I could make any situation work. We could find contentment in it and thrive. I mean really thrive. We could even be happy in lowly circumstances. Our daughter spent 4 months with us in that sorority and she was loved by all. We ended the year right on the budget they wanted and they begged us to come back. We decided after much prayer that we needed to do something different. But the lessons learned there have been vital to our lives for the last 40 years. As far as we knew then, we were the only couple with a child living on site to have ever cooked for the fraternity or sorority system on that campus in its history.
Several years later, we found ourselves in another very difficult, difficult situation. After several months of being without a job, and after much prayer, God provided me a job selling auto parts at this rundown little auto parts company in our town. I had never sold things like this before. I knew what an oil filter was, a battery, a muffler, spark plugs, etc., but I was not a mechanic. I was not thoroughly acclimated to all things related to engines, to transmissions, etc. I was to drive to the surrounding towns and call on repair shops and sell stuff to them. Again, I had no experience. However, I had faith in God and burning desire to provide for my family and I had an ” I can do all things through Christ” attitude! I knew God could help me. I got the job and eagerly went to it. On my second sales call, when I told the owner the company I was with, he pointed to the door, swore at me, and told me in very colorful language to get out of his shop and never come back. I was stunned at what had just happened to me! I went to my car, gathered myself, and went to the next shop, and the same thing happened to me, again!
“Oh my gosh, what I have gotten into?” I thought! Turns out, my current boss used to be the salesmen in my territory and he was hated by a number of people I was now calling on. I was extremely deflated and quite dejected. I went back to the old broken down building that was our company’s store. I sat in the back corner at my old dusty oak desk. I opened the bottom drawer and found, underneath some old catalogs, the actual ledgers that showed what this store had been doing in business per month.
I was shocked, and dismayed! The guy who hired me a month earlier told me the store was doing $20,000 per month and I would get paid 6 percent of that. He lied!!! The store was doing an avg. of $8000 per month and I would get paid $480 a month gross!!! I almost threw up! “God, what have you done to me!?!?! I prayed, and prayed, and had looked for a job for 3 months. You finally gave me one, and it is a cosmic joke!”
I went home that night deflated, and very discouraged. I told Kathy that not only could I not afford to actually quit, though I wanted so badly to because this guy lied to me, but I was also now going to need to look for a second job. Kathy was steadfast in her belief that “Mark, God will come through for us, and He will give us both the strength to do what we have to do, and endure what we have to endure”. What. A. Woman!!
I began to go to a park each afternoon, starting the following day, and pray for an hour. I cried out to God! I prayed for increased sales and I prayed for a second job that would not tax me physically and grind me into the dust. Within one week God gave me a night job at Zap video arcade. I worked there for 25 hours a week, and I worked at my other sales job 45 hours a week. My wife was home at this time with two small children.
Within that first year, God doubled the sales at my auto parts job. The man who threw me out the first time became one of my best customers. Though the hours at both were long, God used that time there to build my faith, to help me grow as I listened to messages while I drove my route, and sat at the video arcade at night giving tokens to college students and making sure machines kept working. In fact, God brought a young man up to Zap, named Bill Young, who I had the chance to share with the truths I was learning about the awesome love of God and how God was changing my life! Years later Bill eventually moved to Utah where he founded and started The Rock Church in Salt Lake City! Hundreds have found Christ through that church and through that man’s life and preaching!
Once again, Kathy and I discovered, “We can do, and get through, all things through Christ who gives us the strength!” I will never forget the good friend who told me, “Mark, you can’t do this, that is a way too many hours to work, it will kill you and hurt your marriage.” My friend did not understand the concept of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”!
Several months after starting this second job, we could no longer afford the wonderful house we were renting. We had been sharing a large house with a couple of people who needed to move on and we just could not stay there. I loved that house. Kathy and the kids loved that house. It began to dawn on me that because of our difficult circumstances we needed to look at trailers!!! Cheap, low cost, rundown, trailers!! I had been looking and thought I had one we could afford. I was going to buy it on contract for deed.
One Sunday morning a man called my home. He asked if I was still looking for a trailer. I said I was. He wondered if I might want his. I asked, “How much do you want for it?” He said, “Oh, I don’t want to sell it to you, I want to give it to you!” I said, “What? Do you want to give it to me for free? Is there something wrong with it?” He said, “No. My wife and I bought a double-wide trailer and we’ve moved and this one has not been selling, so we wanted to give it to someone.” I asked if I could go see it. Understand that this concept of living in a trailer was not easy for Kathy to embrace as she would be there all day and night with the kids. We only had one car which I drove to work! She is a courageous lady, she has endured much in her life, but this was going to be a real change from the house we lived in. I went to see it. It was 56 feet by 10 feet or 560 square feet for 5 people. The trailer was built in 1963. They had done their best to care for it. However, none of the windows would open, the wood paneling was peeling in some places and was very dark in color. The hallway could only handle one person at a time walking down it. But the great news was, it was only $73 a month in lot rent!!! We were paying $190 a month in rent. So God gave us a little metal box to live in, and an extra $120 a month.
My wife, bless her precious heart, made the very most of it. We moved in and soon our 3rd child was born. I was still working those 70 hour weeks. The landlord of the whole trailer park never mowed the large field space which was the only place kids could play. I bought a $25 lawn mower, and in the little free time I had, I mowed it myself.
Kathy and I and the kids stood out in that rundown trailer court. My wife’s attitude was golden and we lit that place up! I planted about 50 flowers in front of our trailer. The only flowers in the whole court! We learned some of the most vital lessons of our lives there. We saw once again, that with the right attitude, and steadfast faith, that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, that we could make it through any situation, any circumstance, and that God would be absolutely faithful to us. We lived there for almost 4 years.
When I moved to Minnesota at the end of 1986 to plant churches with no experience and planned to use only rented facilities and save millions of kingdom dollars otherwise spent on buildings, some told me “You can’t do this!” When we used that rented facility for the next 20 years and saw hundreds come to Christ, and 4 more churches started in rental facilities, I was told: “You can’t keep doing this.” Even when after 20 years, and thousands coming to our churches, and hundreds who had accepted Christ, I was told you can’t keep doing this in rental facilities, well, what could I say??? I can indeed do all things through Christ who strengthens and empowers me!
When I was invited to Honduras to speak to thousands of people at 39 years of age, a dear friend who was from Honduras came up to me after our church service and said, “Mark, I heard you were invited to speak at the Easter conference in Honduras. The interpreter will never be able to keep up with you, you speak to fast.” My friend did not understand, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” I went to Honduras, my first time ever out of the country, my first time speaking to people who speak another language, and I spoke there multiple times through an interpreter. When the conference ended, the wife of the Honduran pastor who had interpreted for me, came up to me and said, “Mark, I have never seen or heard anyone work so well with an interpreter before, it was like you were made to do this!” My eyes filled with tears, and I witnessed once again that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens and enables me.
Dear friends, let me tell you this: I know many of you men, you couples, you may be struggling financially, or dealing with tremendous hardships. Your circumstances may be very, very, very difficult and trying. You may have certain expectations of what your life should be like here in America. If you are willing to do what others won’t, to endure what others refuse to, if you are willing to see how blessed we are even to just live in a metal box, if you will embrace the attitude “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” YOU CAN HANDLE ANYTHING. YOU CAN MAKE IT! You can live in the smallest of quarters and make the most of it. You can get through things you never dreamed. You can endure what you never imagined. You can do things you never thought you could. You can build a life perspective that understands that attitude, Christ power in you and faith in God are everything!
Several months ago I watched a Netflix documentary called “Mumbai Railway and India’s Frontier Railway”. Please, please watch these. I saw first hand, in the present day, what hundreds of millions of people are living like and enduring right now, in 2019 as I write this. Families, little kids, husbands, and wives, just like you and me. Men, please watch this with your wife and kids. If you want to grasp how blessed, how good we actually have it. If you want to see what is really possible to survive, and how simply one can really live. It will blow your mind and expand your perspective. It will enrich you to watch it. Remember this, India has 1 billion people! 3 times larger than the U.S. population.
WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE, YOU CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS YOU, YOU CAN GET THROUGH ANY CIRCUMSTANCE THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS YOU.
GOD IS REAL!! HE LIVES IN YOU! DO YOU BELIEVE THAT? THAT WAS THE APOSTLE PAUL’S GREAT SECRET!!!
Please hear these messages as they will strengthen you in this vital truth!