Cal Rychener, the pastor of Northwoods Community Church in Peoria, Illinois, shared this poignant memory with me.
“I remember a situation from 1979. I was home for Christmas from college and one afternoon when just my mom, dad, and I were home for lunch, I saw my dad at the table with his head down in his arms. That was very unlike him and I said, ‘Dad, what’s the matter?’ He said, ‘I’ve got a $300 fuel bill that I don’t know how I’m going to pay.’
“Everything in me wanted to say, ‘Dad, let’s pray about it, turn it over to God and see what he does about it.’ But I didn’t say that. I didn’t want to sound super-spiritual. I didn’t want to get my hopes up that God might do something and then nothing happen. That’s the real tension in faith. If you truly believe God for anything, there are going to be times that you’ll feel like an idiot for trusting him. Because until he comes through you don’t know if he’s going to, and if he doesn’t, you feel like maybe you weren’t supposed to trust his promise like that. So we play it safe, and worry and fret instead of trust!
“I went up to my bedroom after lunch because I was feeling badly for my dad and I got down on my knees and prayed for him. ‘Lord, Dad never has had anything to spare with all of us kids. It’s always been so hard for him. Please bless him and provide for this fuel bill somehow.’
“I will never forget him coming up the walk that day at 5:00 pm with a surprise Christmas bonus that the boss had given to all the employees that day. Care to guess the amount of the bonus? $300! What a great answer to prayer!
“But I remember thinking, ‘Lord, I want to learn how to cultivate a heart of faith and joy at noon before I actually see you solve the problem at 5:00.’ The circumstances said at noon, ‘You’re in a heap of trouble. You’re not going to be able to pay your bills. You’ve got a reason to feel hopeless and dejected,’ and from our natural surroundings, we did! But, those were the lies that were designed to take my eyes off my Source! I was not any less secure at noon than at 5:00 p.m. Because of this, I want to trust God and give thanks to God ahead of time. I want to learn to pray, ‘Thank you Lord. Though this fuel bill is due and I don’t know how I’m going to pay it, you are the Source.’”
Cal then shared that he is learning to activate his faith through thanksgiving. “For me the secret to operating in faith is found in this little word - thanksgiving.”
Years later, as the senior pastor of Northwoods Community Church, Cal and his church board had the opportunity to purchase extra land for their exploding church. The price? $300,000. They didn’t have $300,000 so discussed borrowing and other options. Deciding to pray, Cal thanked God for this situation. He offered to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, having learned over the years that thanksgiving releases his faith. Cal only desired what God desired for the church, and did not want to worry and fret. Thanksgiving lifts the burdens and anxieties. Thanksgiving brings peace and confidence.
The next day in the mail a businessman in the church sent Cal a check for $300,000. This man had no idea about the need or the board discussions. He knew nothing. This man simply felt led by God to give the church a check for $300,000.
Look, Cal doesn’t receive miraculous interventions like this every time he prays! But because he has encountered God several miraculous times over the years, thanksgiving puts him in a posture to exercise faith and remain calm of heart regardless of the outcome.
Sadly, some never learn this. When the $300 bill comes, they pound the kitchen table in anger, go up to their bedroom and kick the wall, and later cope with the frustration by indulging in some carnal activity. The miracle at 5 pm never comes, and they blame God! The Bible says, “The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord” (Proverbs 19:3).
Friend, what is your need? Are you thanking God ahead of time? Assuming you are acting as responsible as you know how, are you learning to relax and release your faith through the giving of thanks?
In your marriage, if you are experiencing an increase in financial pressures, is our Loving Lord inviting you to look to Him during these tough financial times? Don’t let your frustrations get the better of you. Keep praying. Keep thanking. .