Monday, July 12, 2010

Blessing Your Efforts

It was 2003. We were in more debt than we had ever been in. We had underpaid our federal taxes and were stuck with a huge tax bill, we had a car loan, we used credit cards for covering shortfalls, and we had bought a timeshare. Holy stupid! The weight of it all became heavier as time went on.

I don't recall exactly what or when it happened, but David and I finally snapped. We were SICK of debt. We decided to kill it once and for all! We added up our debt balances and came up with a plan. It looked like it would take 2-3 years to pay it off. That seemed like an eternity to us in our young marriage. We got on our knees. We needed to because we were weak. We had tried things our way and ended up in this mess. We needed the strength to stick with our plan for however many years were necessary. We needed a blessing on what we knew was a righteous endeavor.

In the Book of Mormon, the Lord asked Nephi to build a ship. You will remember that Nephi had no clue how to do that. Was the Lord not aware of this? He could have said, "Oops, that's right. Let me ask someone else." Why did he ask Nephi?

The Lord gave the young man an opportunity to prove his commitment to the Lord and to grow his faith. Nephi had a desire to obey, and he put this desire on the altar. The same scenario is presented to each of us today.

Nephi recorded:
"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." (1 Nephi 3:7)

Latter-day prophet President Gordon B. Hinckley warned families to “pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage.” With a faith like that of Nephi, David and I kneeled before the Lord to ask for a way to obey the commandment to avoid debt. We had done a terrible job of avoiding it, but we knew the Lord desired us to be free from its bondage nonetheless.

As a sacrifice, we put as much as we could on the altar. We stopped eating out. We committed to charge not one penny more to our credit cards. We cut down our expenses. We cut off high-speed internet and went back to dial-up service. We sold some belongings on eBay. We sold the timeshare for half the price we had paid for it. We canceled our cell phone. We went down to one car.

What part of that list made your throat feel tight? Did you gasp? We felt the same way, but we also wanted out of slavery and felt in our hearts that we needed to prove to God that we really meant it. We would do anything for His blessing in this desire. We worked hard and kept reminding each other that shedding debt would feel so very good! When I felt weak, David reminded me of our goal. When he felt weak, I reminded him.

And blessed we were! Our efforts were doubled, tripled, quadrupled! Unexpected money came in and we directed that toward our worthy goal. We paid off that debt, not in 2-3 years, but in 10 months! The Lord be blessed because it wasn't us.

About three years ago, the First Presidency of the Church came out with the pamphlet "Family Finances". Here is the opening message.
Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Latter-day Saints have been counseled for many years to prepare for adversity by having a little money set aside. Doing so adds immeasurably to security and well-being. Every family has a responsibility to provide for its own needs to the extent possible.

We encourage you wherever you may live in the world to prepare for adversity by looking to the condition of your finances. We urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from this bondage. Save a little money regularly to gradually build a financial reserve.

If you have paid your debts and have a financial reserve, even though it be small, you and your family will feel more secure and enjoy greater peace in your hearts.

May the Lord bless you in your family financial efforts.

The First Presidency

Note the last sentence: "May the Lord bless you in your family financial efforts."

My testimony is that the Lord will bless you in your financial journey if you will prove to him your allegiance to keeping his commandments. You surely will be blessed when you put your key of commitment and sacrifice into the lock of His promise. The windows of Heaven will be opened and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:10; 3 Nephi 24:10)

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