September 25, 2016 was an average Sunday morning at Clear Creek Community Church’s West Campus. The Friendswood Jr. High auditorium filled with people who greeted one another and quickly found their seats. The message that day, “A Beautiful Life and Money,” discussed the importance of giving, and challenged the congregation to be generous with all of their resources. Among the listeners were Rick and Erin Caldwell. They were attending the service as they usually did. What they didn’t know was that this particular Sunday would be different than most others, because God would use the message as a catalyst to grow their faith in ways they could never expect.

Earlier in the year, Rick and Erin had committed to take their relationship with Jesus to a new level. Rick recalls being ready for a change: “For many years I had remained spiritually dormant; diligently going to church every week, but doing very little outside of church on my own time.”

In January 2016, he and Erin decided they would read through the Bible in a year using the online reading plan, readthroughthebible.org.

“The read through the Bible in a year challenge has been amazing. I’ve tried to read the Bible before, but I always got bogged down and quit. But this year I stuck with it,” Rick recalls. They also took the Systematic Theology class offered through the church. Rick enjoyed the class and the ways it strengthened his faith. He adds, “It has had a profound impact on my view of God, which is affecting my relationship with God—in good ways!”

Rick and Erin left church that September morning and continued through their lives as they normally would.

“It’s interesting that it didn’t really impact me during the sermon, ” Rick explains. “I definitely didn’t go home changed that day, until a day or two later, Luke 21 came up in the online reading plan.”

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her property, put in all she had to live on.” -Luke 21:1-4 (ESV)

This story penetrated Rick’s heart in a new way.

“I’ve read this story so many times that I had become numb to it…but this time, God truly spoke to me,” Rick remembers, feeling his heart challenged. “I’ve been tithing ten percent every year, just like every good Christian should do, or so I liked to believe. But in reality, I was giving out of abundance just like the rich people in this story. I was not sacrificing anything!”

Although Rick recognized that he had been abundantly blessed, he had never considered himself rich in the sense of flaunting money. He described himself as living modestly by living in a moderate home, driving inexpensive cars, and not making any extravagant purchases. However, he identified a number of investment accounts as something that was keeping him from fully trusting God and giving up control.

“My biggest idol was security, and that security was manifested in my nest egg of mutual fund investments,” Rick said. “Most of these investment securities had come from inheritance and family gifts, which I did nothing to earn. But even the money that I had earned, I am coming to understand, is not from myself, but is a gift from God.”

Feeling both challenged and convicted, Rick decided it was time to truly trust God like he never had before, “I felt that God had called me to give up my security blanket.”

The more Rick thought about giving up his savings, the more confident he felt in the decision. Passages like Matthew 6:19-20 stand out in his mind:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (ESV)

“I want my treasure to be in heaven!” Rick explains with excitement, “But the truth was that I was not laying up anything in heaven. It was all here on earth.”

Rick remembered the Proverbs message that first inspired this bold obedience.

“During the sermon on money, one point that stuck out was that we shouldn’t ask how much we should give, but rather how much we should keep.”

That is exactly what the Caldwell’s decided to do. Rick and Erin prayerfully discerned that they should give away all of their non-retirement investments, which totaled about one third of their life savings. “Truly this is very risky by the standards of this world,” Rick says. “But I want to put my trust in God, and no longer ‘lean on my own understanding.’”

After deciding how much, the Caldwell’s asked God to show them who specifically they should bless with the resources they had been given. Their decision to boldly follow God’s direction in their financial giving has led them to generously give to local organizations like Anchor Point, an establishment that provides resources for at-risk pregnant women and helps them choose life, as well as an international organization called Christ’s Hope, which cares for AIDS-affected children and their families in Africa.

Today, the Caldwell’s are listening to God as he directs them to continue to give. They’re excited to move forward in this journey to trust God fully.

“I don’t know what comes next in this crazy ride, which makes it exciting, but also scary,” Rick said. “I don’t feel like I’m there, in terms of truly trusting God rather than myself…but by finally taking some action with my security, I feel like the ball has started rolling, and I will continue relying on God to keep the momentum going.”


 

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