As I sat in the weekend service, listening to the choir singing “Just as I Am”, I felt convicted to make a choice. Though I had been a Christian for many years, there was a clear nudging from the Holy Spirit about the choice I needed to make.
A year prior, my wife and I decided to take a big risk and start our own business. We thought we had taken the right precautionary steps, but our business was doomed from the beginning. We had very little savings and quite a bit of debt; My current job covered our bills, but left very little margin left over to pay off debt or invest. Truthfully, I never intended to work in the new business full-time, but rather to grow it on the side.
Then I lost my job.
Though some may have been devastated, I took it as a sign from God that he wanted to me to pursue our business full time. Looking back, I wish I had taken Proverbs 15:22 to heart: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” I had no advisers, but my gut told me it was a good idea.
While I may have been a foolish 27-year-old, I was a hard-working fool. It was common for me to work 60+ hours each week, attend multiple networking events, and meet with anyone who I thought could help us succeed. But working on my own left me missing the luxuries of sick days and a consistent base salary. We did everything possible to make our business succeed, but after making about 1/4 of my previous year's salary, I decided to go back into sales to regain our financial footing.
Back to the service: This was week 3 in a series called Simplify, and Bill Hybels emphasized how many people feel overwhelmed in the context of money. This sermon hit me straight in the heart—it felt like it was written just for me. My year of being an entrepreneur left me feeling incredibly overwhelmed, not knowing how we would pay our monthly bills, let alone our massive debts. But as Bill closed, he challenged people to take a next step. They had mentioned earlier in the service how Dave Ramsey’s class Financial Peace University was about to start.
The idea of having peace regarding our finances sounded really good, but I was concerned.
Would my wife agree to spending what little money we had on a class? As the service concluded, I was encouraged to hear that she felt the same prompting. We registered and chose to do whatever was needed to cover the $95 cost. As we walked into the church’s gym on the first week, we were shocked to see hundreds of other people—apparently we were not alone in the hopes of finding financial peace.
Week after week, we heard testimonials of the power of this class. Dave Ramsey took a complicated subject and made it much easier to digest in a humorous way, applying biblical wisdom and references to managing money. The class was not some “guru” with a hot take on fixing your finances, but rather a biblically based course with timeless truths. It surprised me to learn that there were over 2,000 verses in Scripture talking about money & possessions.
Taking the content a step further, our table leader personalized it for us, following up each week and meeting with us before class to help us with our unique situation. We were surrounded by people on the same journey; we watched as our table-mates found ways to become debt free.
The resounding effects of FPU extended well beyond the course. We became intentional about our spending, tracking every dollar, and cutting back on unnecessary items. We started to see God truly blessing our efforts, and felt especially motivated by verses like Luke 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” We wanted to be trustworthy with whatever God put in our care.
I never imagined that this class would have had such a powerful impact on my life.
Over the next 18 months, we paid off over $55,000 of debt. A few months later, I was offered the Stewardship Pastor role at Willow, which I have had the privilege of serving in for the last 3 years. I can confidently say that today, my wife and I have tremendous peace regarding our finances. It has become a passion for me to teach these principles to others, and help Willow families see similar results.
Written by Financial Stewardship Pastor Ryan Kaczmarek.
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