A Leap of Extraordinary FaithBy Rob Loeber Tidings December 2019
Sheryl Martin approached the decision the same way she had faced every major decision in her life.
As soon as Sheryl learned about the "Better Together" campaign, she knew she was going to participate. The only question was, how much to pledge?
"I asked God to give me the number, because under my own power, I knew I would come up with something logical and practical for my budget," Sheryl recalled.
For Sheryl, who is on staff at Asbury as the traditional worship administrative assistant, the budget concerns were real. Sheryl's husband Kori passed away in August 2019 and his life insurance money was her safety net. Not only was she keeping track of her current expenses, she was also attempting to plan her financial future. The money was intended to last for many years.
As Sheryl continued to pray, she was stunned by the response. God had a different plan for those dollars.
"This number kept popping into my head, and at first, I just dismissed it completely," Sheryl explained. "God wanted the whole thing. As in, the entire amount remaining in my account."
Sheryl laughed at the ridiculous notion. Surely, this number wasn't actually from God. Maybe she simply invented the number in her own mind. God wouldn't really ask for that much, would He? After a few weeks of seeing the same number repeatedly roll across her brain. Sheryl started pushing back. She tried to reason with God.
"It was a horrendously scary number," admitted Sheryl. "It was terrifying to think about giving up everything. I offered God a portion of the number, and He kept telling me He wanted the whole thing."
While she wrestled with God's monumental request, Sheryl reflected on the way Kori lived his life. As a handyman, Kori never knew where his next job or his next paycheck was going to come from. He had no savings account, no plan for retirement. He may have been missing a 401k, but he possessed an unwavering faith in the provision and providence of his Heavenly Father.
"No matter what, Kori tithed off the top of every single job," Sheryl said. "He had amazing faith, and God always took care of him. I realized God was calling me to step out in faith and to trust Him completely. He was telling me to be more like Kori."
Sheryl stopped fighting. She quit trying to rationalize a smaller dollar amount. She ended the negotiation and surrendered to what God wanted.
"In the year since Kori died, I have been fearful about money and it has kind of overshadowed my whole life," said Sheryl. "I felt like I had been holding my breath for an entire year, and the moment I said, 'Ok God, I'm in,' this rush of peace came over me and I felt like I could finally breathe again. The feeling of relief was the confirmation that this is truly what God wanted from me."
With her fears dissolved, Sheryl started to become excited for what God will do with her gift and the pledge of so many other faithful people. She knows God will take care of her in the years ahead, and she has good reason to walk so confidently. She has already seen how God is going to provide.
"I was thinking to myself; God is either insane or hilarious," chuckled Sheryl. "The other day I went out to the mailbox and there was a tax refund check that had been delayed and I had totally forgotten about it. I laughed out loud and I decided God is definitely hilarious."
Sheryl is parting with a significant sum of money. For many, it is a decision full of second guessing, doubts and insecurity. Sheryl has not experienced any of those feelings. Instead, she feels closer to God and connected to Kori in a completely new way. Where there was once fear, there is now joy.
"I don't know that it's my act of giving or my act of letting go, but both scenarios involve me opening my hand and my heart and emptying something out of my hand," realized Sheryl. "That's the only way you can give and it's the only way you can receive something. You can't grab on to anything with a closed fist."
The money donated in the Better Together campaign will fund outreach and missions, as well as expansion projects and many other Asbury programs and initiatives. It will help reach the lost and bring new members into the family of God. It will also leave a legacy of a church and its people – like Sheryl Martin – living life out on a limb and trading fear for faith.