Last August I turned 62 years old. This particular birthday came amidst the most difficult, crushing, heartbreaking time of my entire Christian life. I would have never imagined the scenario that had unfolded during the previous 8 months. Through it all, I revisited over, and over, and over again, this monumental truth that had carried me through countless hardships, trials, and difficulties during the previous 43 years:
GOD WILL NOT BETRAY MY TRUST, EVEN IF OTHERS DO. GOD WILL BE FAITHFUL TO ME, EVEN IF OTHERS ARE NOT.
Looking back on my life at 62 years old is quite a different experience than looking ahead to my life as a 19-year-old when I started my faith journey with God. At 19, all I had were ideas, hopes, a naive faith, if you will. Mine was an unseasoned, untested, unrefined faith. At 62 years old, married for almost 40 years, having raised 4 kids for Jesus, pastoring and planting churches for 32 of those years, now having 11 grandchildren….wow, do I have the war stories, the God stories, and the scars that faith brings, in the arena of life.
MEN, NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR FAITH IN GOD. GOD IS REAL AND HE RESPONDS TO OUR FAITH.
Men, our faith will be sorely tested as we strive to follow God, love our wives, and raise our children. Be assured of this: God is for you, God will help you, God will advise you, God will come through for you. God will keep His promises to you, however, you will need to trust Him more than you can see or feel.
I had been following Jesus for about 2 years. I had met the girl I was going to marry, and we were now engaged. I was having a conversation with someone I was very close to, someone much older than I was, and he said to me, “Mark, just remember money doesn’t grow on trees. You have to look out for number one, no one else will. God won’t rain manna down from heaven. Just wait till you have kids, you’ll see!”
These words from this person were difficult to hear. I was a young man, and I was banking my whole life’s future on God, and on Matt. 6:33, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” I was determined to live my life God’s way, following God’s Word, the Bible.
I was determined that I was going to trust God, and trust His Word, and follow Him in all my ways, for the rest of my life, including in my marriage and raising my kids. Little did I know the ways my faith would be tested. Yet, little did I realize, the amazing ways God would honor my humble faith, my desperate prayers, and come through for me in the most difficult of circumstances.
Here is a snapshot in time of my reality and what I was trusting God through, as a young father and husband. Here are my exact gross income numbers per year for those first 10 years:
$3745 (engaged, the bad car accident happened this year, Kathy in the hospital for a whole week. no insurance!)1978
$6377 (married this year, driving a 65 yr old’s F85 I paid $400 bucks for)
$3899 (my first child Celeste was born, a C-section birth, driving 2 doors red ford pinto)
$5756 (my son Jeromy was born, part of this year I had no car at all)
$12,895 (working 75 hours weeks, driving a ‘73 AMC Hornet that I paid $750 for)
$12,588 (working 75 hours weeks, moved into 540 sq. ft trailer house that none of the windows would open up in)
$13,207 (my 3rd child Jessica is born, working 75 hours weeks, driving ‘78 Malibu, paid $300 for)
$12,990 (working 75 hours weeks, had a bad car accident, knocked out my two front teeth, totaled the car, had to get a ‘78 2-door Malibu)
$15,319 (working 70 hour weeks)
AND THROUGH ALL THESE YEARS, I HAD NO HEALTH INSURANCE AT ALL!
The total amount for those 10 years is $91,201. I have kids that make that in one year! Literally, we lived below the poverty level all those years. I am not exaggerating when I say those early years were very, very difficult. Through it all, God was so faithful. He built my faith, He encouraged my soul, He answered my prayers, and taught me much about contentment and making do with little. But, oh was there joy in our little family, and in our home!
I will never forget in 1983 we desperately needed a place to live for my family. The house we lived in would no longer work. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed, “Oh God, give us a place to live that I can actually afford.” One weekend, the older person who had told me years ago that you have to look out for number one, that God won’t rain manna down from heaven, this man had stopped to see us. He had stayed overnight with us, and on Sunday morning, while we were at church, the phone rang. He was home resting so he took a message for me. When I got home, he said, “Mark, you are supposed to call some guy about a house.” This man was sitting on the couch when I returned the call to a man named Dale.
The conversation went like this, “Mark, this is Dale. I heard you are looking for a house?” I said, “Yes I am.” He said, “I have a trailer house for sale as my wife and I just moved into a double-wide trailer house. I am trying to find someone to take this trailer house.” I said, “How much do you want for the house?” He said, “You don’t understand, I want to give you the house for free.” I then repeated in a very loud voice, so the man on my couch could hear me, “You want to give me a house for free?” This man shot up from the couch, “Mark, are you kidding, he wants to give you a house?” I then asked what any smart husband would. “May I come and look at it first?” So I asked my house guest if he wanted to come to see this house, and he said, “H– yeah!”
God is amazing, and He gave us that little house, right while this dear man, whose faith had died years ago, got to witness what I had told him years earlier: that I believed God would take care of me as I trusted and followed Him, and I was banking my life on it.
Indeed, God gave me a house and a little raise that same day. My rent had been $190 per month, but now in this little trailer, it was $73 dollars a month lot rent and I owned it free and clear, plus an extra $117 a month!
Men, this is just one of the hundreds of very personal God stories I could tell you about. God will honor your faith in Him, God will answer your prayers! God will not betray your trust in Him!
Fathers and husbands, there is no greater ally in your life, no greater source of hope, strength, wisdom, and provision than God Himself. He is your greatest ally and friend.