It's one of my favorite stories.
A British preacher and his wife had hit rock-bottom financially. They were serving God faithfully, they had kids, and they worked hard, but they couldn't catch a break. Bills were due. Things were looking very bad.
But they didn't stop serving the Beloved. (Note: "Beloved" is sort of a nickname the Bible gives to God's people, i.e. the Church worldwide.)
They were asked to preach somewhere in England that would require travel. They only had enough money for the petrol (i.e. gasoline) needed to get them there. It was a one-way trip, at least financially. They had no idea how they would get back home. But they went anyways.
Before I go on with this story, let me emphasize something: this is a true story. The British preacher's name is Alan Vincent. He's still alive at the time of this writing, though this took place decades ago. I heard him tell the story.
When they arrived at the church parking lot where they were preaching, someone from the church approached them and gave them money. The person said something like, "God put it on my heart to give this to you when you arrived, though I don't know why."
It was enough money to get them back home -- and then some.
Mr. Vincent was shocked and overjoyed. But then he saw a look on his wife's face. Inwardly he thought, "Uh oh." It was that look.
You see, it was Easter Sunday, and his wife had always been outrageously generous -- some might even say a little foolhardy -- with her financial gifts that she gave. She looked at Alan and said something like, "I was so brokenhearted because we didn't have an offering to give on Easter Sunday. I asked God to give me something that I could give to the Beloved. I want to give this in the offering this morning. I want to give it to God to thank Him for His provision, to thank Him for the Cross, to honor Him" -- something along those lines (not an exact quote).
Alan's reaction was along the lines of, "Uh, I think God gave that to us to buy petrol so we can get HOME!"
It wasn't just the gas money problem. They were so impoverished at the time that they were having trouble buying the basics -- even food.
Nevertheless, his wife had such an earnest, childlike spirit about wanting to give an offering on Easter Sunday. Saying no to her would have been like stealing a balloon from an overjoyed child, and then maliciously popping it. He relented and allowed the money, ever so painfully and reluctantly, to be given away that morning in the offering.
Rational thinking and basic common sense would declare that to be, well, ridiculous and unnecessary.
I think God saw it differently. It was a sweet smelling sacrifice -- an act of pure love and child-like faith. She also believed that God would take care of her family. She didn't have trust issues or a cynical reaction when she read Scriptural promises like, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and ALL these things will be added to you," (Matthew 6:6, all-caps emphasis added).
That afternoon, a family had them over for lunch before they went home. The family had no idea about the financial struggles of the Vincents. During lunch, the hostess felt a heavy burden on her heart. Privately, she felt an urging in her spirit to go to her pantry and fridge, empty all of the food out of them into boxes, and give the food to the Vincent family, along with a very generous financial gift.
Yes, the Bible promises difficulties as well as blessings (i.e. when Jesus promises, "You will have trouble in this world). But there's always a second half to that promise: "but take heart, I have overcome the world."
My prayer today (join me if you'd like): Abba, thank You for removing fear from my life and replacing it with child-like trust and a sincere love for giving. Forgive me for being selfish at times, and caring more about myself than the people around me. Your perfect love casts out all fear. Please cast it out of my heart. I'm tired of obsessing over my problems. It shouldn't be about what I have or don't have or how much I'm struggling. I want it to be about how I love You and treat others in the midst of whatever it is I happen to have, however much or little.