In January of 2000, Karen, my wife, and I found ourselves $120,000 in debt. We had never been extravagant, but with five children, several times of unemployment, and some bad business decisions, we found ourselves with a mountain of debt. Everyone around us (even other Christians) said we should declare bankruptcy and start over, but we knew that the Bible says that we should pay back what we borrow (Psalm 37:21), so we inquired of the Lord through a time of prayer and fasting. In that time the Lord gave us the first step - sell our family home.
This was our first faith test, as we had been living in that large five-bedroom home for ten years and still had three of our five children living with us. We questioned to make sure that this was a word from the Lord and when we were convinced, put the house on the market.
One major problem with the house was that it had a large, rotted deck that we had not used in a number of years, but couldn’t afford to have repaired. We were praying about what to do with the deck and shared our prayers with a friend who had recently transitioned from ownership of a construction company into full-time ministry. A few days later, he told us that the Lord had instructed him to rebuild the deck for us. We mustered together a group of workers and within three days the old deck was replaced by a brand new deck, all at no cost to us.
A second concern was the condition of the stucco finish on one side of the house. It had deteriorated badly and was in need of repair. Now if we were living in Arizona or New Mexico or California, this would not have been a problem, but when you live in Washington State, there are few who are proficient with stucco. We could not find anyone who would do the repairs, so again we took it to prayer. A few days later our son-in-law was at the house and our stucco problem came up in conversation. He said that a friend of his, who had recently moved from California, was a stucco expert and could probably help. Within a week the stucco was repaired and he only charged us for his cost plus a small hourly wage and agreed to take his fee out of the profits we would reap upon selling the house. This was clearly the work of the Lord and bolstered our faith in the process.
The house sold and we made about $20,000. We immediately tithed $2,000, gave some on top of the tithe, paid the stucco guy, and paid deposits to rent a house. $12,000 went toward the debt mountain. The Lord led us to a new rental house that had plenty of room and reduced our monthly costs. Once settled into our new home, we inquired of the Lord for the next step. I remember thinking that it sure would be nice if God would just give us the whole plan at once, but supposed that if He did, we’d just mess it up.
During that prayer time, the Lord gave me a vision of working at the church that we had co-founded with some other couples. I had been in lay ministry for many years, but had never considered myself a Pastor. After sharing the dream with our Senior Pastor, he revealed that it was an answer to prayer and within the week I was doing the work of an Associate Pastor. (Later I was licensed and ordained). It didn’t appear that the church had enough money to pay me, but as time went on, God blessed the church abundantly and I was able to receive a very nice weekly salary.
The Lord also blessed us with a part-time, internet-based business that had grown steadily for a number of years. As we embarked on this debt elimination journey, God began to really bless this business and it grew supernaturally. I had also published a book, which brought in additional income and the Lord opened up a number of opportunities for paid speaking engagements where we could sell books.
Although we still had a mountain of debt, we were chinking away at it quickly. It was at that time that I realized how God had used both our faith and talent to begin moving the mountain. James said that “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20) We continued to stay very lean in our spending and funneled all extra income toward the debt. God gave Karen the supernatural ability to manage the funds.
In the middle of our success came our second major faith test. We were making substantial sum of money every week and had been tithing consistently. However, we received some counsel that God would rather have us put the tithe amount toward the debt and get it paid off. This advice came from a godly person and made sense, but before deciding, we decided to ask God. He led me to a study of tithing and giving, which took me to a number of scriptures, including Malachi 3:8-11. Through the process I learned that the tithe (first 10%) actually belongs to God and is holy. According to Malachi 3:8, if we stopped tithing, we would be robbing God and would be cursed. However, 3:10 told me that if we tithed, God would open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that we wouldn’t have room enough and that he would keep the devourer (Satan) from eating away at the other 90%. Needless to say, it was an easy decision and we continued to tithe. We trusted that the Lord would bless our obedience and would pour in more financial blessings. He did.
In November of 2001 the last of our children left home and so we inquired of the Lord as to the next step. During a time of prayer and fasting, He led us to downsize from the 1900 square foot rental home to a 900 square foot apartment, which would cut our monthly costs in half. He also led Karen to go back to work and quickly provided her with an excellent job at a custom framing shop. Despite any experience in either retail or custom framing, God promoted her to store manager just four months after starting. As before, we kept our expenses low, continued tithing and giving above the tithe, and put all extra money toward the debt. At this point we were taking big chunks out of the mountain.
The final test of faith came in January of 2003 when the Lord told me to step down from my Associate Pastor position, retire from our internet business, and write full-time. This was going to reduce our income dramatically, which didn’t seem to make sense in the natural, but I had learned to trust the Lord and was obedient. The test continued, as I didn’t really know how to make money writing. He led me to some great resources and after four months of full-time writing, I landed my first magazine article, which netted a whopping $75. After six months of writing, I joked that I had made more money in my bowling league than I did writing. However, I still believed that God was going to do something big.
We had part ownership in a house that Karen’s family had built. We had prayed that the family would put the house on the market and finally in 2003 it happened. If the house sold for anywhere close to its appraised value, we would be able to pay off all or most of the debt. But, by January 2004 the house had been on the market for nearly a year without a single offer. Without the Pastoral income and with our business income dwindling, we were not able to pay off the big chunks as we had previously. Our faith was wearing thin, so on March first, we joined our church body in a corporate forty day fast for breakthrough.
In my prayer time prior to the fast, the Lord told me that He was going to do some huge things both in the church, as well as in individual lives. I sensed that something big was going to happen with the debt, but did not get a clear answer as to whether the house would sell. During that time of fasting and prayer, God brought our church an amazing new building for a fraction of its value and created the opportunity for me to publish my second book, God’s Prosperity Plan. The book was based on a course I had been co-teaching with our Senior Pastor for several years. It contained all of what we had used to get our financial life back on track. The book was released in late July, 2004 and God's favor was immediately on the book, as sales took off. It's out of print now, but I'm in the process of updating the book and will release it as God's Financial Plan in the near future. Join our email list to receive advanced notification.
The fast ended on April 9th (Good Friday) and although there had been many great breakthroughs, the house had not sold and our income had not increased. We were thankful that God was continuing to take care of all our needs and so we lacked nothing, but the debt was still well over $70,000. However, a couple weeks after the fast ended, we discovered that there had actually been an e-mail offer on the house that was sent to Karen’s oldest brother, but because he was out of town, the message was not received until April. After some negotiations, the house was sold. We received $78,000, which enabled us to tithe, pay off all the debt, with some left over. God is a God of more than enough!
Jesus said “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) Although I had read that scripture many times, it never made as much sense as it does today. Our faith was small and even wavered at times, but it was that little bit of faith, combined with God’s power that removed our mountain of debt.
Mountain Moving Faith
Jesus said you could have mountain moving faith!