This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications.
Dear friends –
I had been walking in relationship with Jesus for over 13 years when I met my future wife, Linda. Prior to meeting, we had walked two completely different paths in getting to the place where we recognized that giving our life over Jesus and letting him have control was a better option than to continue living for ourselves and our own happiness.
Of course, when I say I gave my life to Jesus, what I really mean is I told him he could have my life. I have spent every day since then wrestling with myself (and him), constantly taking back areas of my life only to realize (daily) that I am better off just letting him be in charge, responding to his prompts to serve the needs of others instead of just my own wants.
I still have my own selfish thoughts, ambitions, and actions that regularly interject themselves into my relationship with Jesus. It is only by his immeasurable grace, loving patience, and unending persistence that I regularly release my grip of control and give my life back to him again and again.
If I said it gets easier over time, that would be true, but even this week I had a couple of days where I just decided my way was better and I had to be reminded (somewhat painfully) that 1) there is a God, and 2) I’m not him.
I want to share a personal testimony — but only with the understanding that Linda and I are by no means shining pillars of Christian living or that we somehow have somehow worked out what it looks like to walk in perfect relationship with Jesus. We know we both have whole forests of planks in our eyes, and we would both point to anybody other than us as examples you should follow in living out your faith.
While Linda and I were dating, she asked me to help her with filing her taxes. It’s ironic, but even though she is the one who majored in mathematics, I seem to be the one who just kind of thinks the way the IRS does, and therefore have taken on the role of tax preparer in our family.
In the process of doing her taxes, way back then, I found myself being doubly convicted. Not only was she far more consistent than I was in giving her tithe to our church, but she was also incredibly financially generous to other Christian organizations. I was humbled.
Even more ironic was the reality that at that time I was planning to go serve overseas with a Christian relief organization and yet I gave next to nothing to others I knew who were serving in various parachurch ministries.
It is only by God’s grace that two things happened in my life as a result of my doing the taxes for Linda: 1) I committed right there and then to begin giving no less than 10 percent of my gross income to my local church, and 2) Linda never asked to see my taxes before we got engaged (because I would have been terribly embarrassed).
Here is what has happened since I began giving consistently: Linda and I have ALWAYS had enough to meet our financial needs. Sure, there have been times when we have had to forego something we wanted, like an extravagant vacation, new furniture, or a motorcycle for me (probably a blessing in hindsight). God, however, has been true to his promise that he will always provide what we need when we give faithfully to his church.
You have probably heard the adages shared among those walking with Jesus that FAITH is spelled R-I-S-K, and that you can’t out–give God. Over the past couple of years, Linda and I have tried to be more generous in giving to others beyond simply giving our tithe to the church or gifts to our regular group of parachurch folks.
Since then, we have continually been amazed at God’s generosity to us. Whether it was an unexpected work bonus, a large gift from out of the blue from a family member offering to help with college expenses, or a car repair bill that we thought would be huge turning out to be next to nothing, we are consistently amazed at the different ways God has been far more generous to us than we could ever be.
To be clear, I do not believe in the “Name It, Claim It” Gospel. We still have tight times financially, but we have never missed a meal (even though I could afford to skip a few). Scripture makes it clear that when we ask things of God we need to ask with the right motives (James 4:3), and that we will continue to have troubles in this life because we live in a world of trial and tribulation (John 16:33).
Now, of course, it should be no surprise that I am posting this the week before we collect pledge commitments for 2023 as part of our annual Stewardship campaign (Sunday, October 30). As a member of the staff, I am blessed to have my generous salary funded in part through the generosity of others, but I want to make it clear your giving amount won’t change what I receive. My “ask” here is not personal.
It’s important to me that this message not come across as manipulative, but I felt it might be helpful for others to have a testimony of God’s faithfulness in keeping his promise to those who give to his purposes. Know that no matter what you give (and even if you give nothing at all), God’s love and his saving grace are not tied to that. He is far more eager to have you give your heart and your plans to him than to push for any specific number on a pledge card or online form.
Whatever you decide, do it with confidence, knowing God’s love is real, eternal, and worth far more than anything we can give to him in return.
Praying to walk in unity with all God’s people,
Director of Communications
First Pres Evanston