Debt Was Shipwrecking My Marriage and Ministry (Jul-Aug 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

by Bruce Ammons
July – August, 2002

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Several years ago, my wife, Ruthie, my daughter Carlee, and I went on a vacation to Six Flags over Texas. Carlee had a wonderful time.

I remember sitting beside her on the parachute ride and noticing her big eyes and huge happy grin as we sailed through the air! I, on the other hand, was miserable. I did not know how I was going to pay for this trip. I had charged the gasoline, the food, the motel, and the amusement park tickets on a credit card. And we were already in financial trouble before we left home. My financial debt had literally stolen the enjoyment out of this vacation for me.

Due to living under such pressure for twelve consecutive years, my emotional rubber band broke. As a result, Ruthie and I did something that forever changed our lives. We made a commitment to get out of debt and God showed us how to do it His way.

God has called me into the gospel ministry, and while studying the Bible in preparation for a sermon, God led me to the story of Joshua. He showed me that the story of Joshua?s battles for the Promised Land contained principles applicable to our financial battles. God used Joshua to deliver Israel from the land of bondage (Egypt) to a land of blessing (Promised Land). God promised me that He could deliver my family from the land of financial bondage into a land of financial blessing. As I read the biblical account in Joshua 10 and 11, I began searching for the universal principles that God used for deliverance. Five principles came to the surface. Ruthie and I determined to apply these same principles to our finances and, to our amazement, we saw our financial debt defeated right before our eyes.

Five principles for battle

1. Joshua defined his enemy. Joshua clearly defined his enemy in verse 5: the Amorites.

2. Joshua declared war against his enemy. Joshua declared war against the Amorites in verse 9: “Joshua came upon them suddenly by marching all night from Gilgal.”

3. Joshua demonstrated fearless faith. Joshua’s demonstration of fearless faith is remarkable. Fearless faith is when God speaks, I obey, whether or not what God says makes sense to me. In fact, God had in mind one of the most unusual battle strategies of all times: “Drop your weapons. Instead of weapons, pick up trumpets, and march around those walls while playing some pretty music.” Did this make sense to Joshua? Of course not! From Joshua’s perspective, what they really needed were weapons, machine guns or Apache helicopters maybe. But because of Joshua’s obedience, God knocked down the walls of Jericho and led Joshua to a swift and mighty victory.

4. Joshua was disciplined in his efforts. This march to battle was twenty-six miles all uphill. That’s commitment to the cause!

5. Joshua sought divine intervention. Joshua sought divine intervention by exercising a dependent heart focused upon the Lord. Joshua 10:11 states: “the LORD threw large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the sons of Israel killed with the sword.” God supernaturally helped them win the war.

By using these same steps, my wife and I were rapidly delivered from the land of financial bondage. Let me illustrate.

Step 1: I defined our enemy in the area of finances. For years I thought my wife was my financial enemy, but God showed me otherwise. In fact, it was debt that was my enemy. While the Bible doesn’t prohibit debt, it would certainly prohibit the vast majority of the ways we were using debt. It was causing financial tension, marriage conflict, and consistent anxiety. It was robbing us of the “peace that surpasses understanding.”

Step 2: We declared war against our enemy. I drew up a vow to God stating my commitment to the cause of debt elimination. It basically said that we would minimize the general expenses of life while maximizing the money we would designate toward debt. My wife and I signed the vow and made two copies. We placed one on our bathroom mirror as a daily reminder of our commitment to God. We gave the other to our pastor as a public expression of our commitment to God (in some traditions, it makes more sense to give a copy of the vow to an elder in the church).

Step 3: We demonstrated fearless faith with money. At the beginning of the process, our total income was $200 a month short of meeting monthly financial obligations. We did not see any way to give away money to the Lord. So I thought that I would make a deal with God: “God, if you will help me out of debt, I will give you ten percent of my income.” God’s reply was clear: “If you will give me ten percent of your income, I will help you out of debt.” We responded with the following commitment: if anybody gets paid, God gets paid, regardless of the consequences.

From that day on, we have given ten percent of our gross income to God through our local church. Guess what? Ninety percent of one’s income, with the blessing of God attached, goes further than one hundred percent of one’s income, without the blessing of God attached. Because we obeyed, as Joshua did, God knocked down the walls of our debt and granted a swift victory.

Step 4: We became disciplined in our efforts. We minimized expenses (such as cutting cable television, minimized grocery, clothes, utilities, entertainment, and phone expenses, sold many items, and took a few part-time jobs. I also developed the Snowball Payoff Priority Plan. This plan enabled us to create positive cash flow rapidly by paying off our debts in a certain order. Because our financial predicament was so dire, we didn?t have the luxury of paying off the highest interest debts first. Instead, we paid off the fewest months left debt first, the next fewest months left debt second, and so on, enabling us to free up positive cash flow much faster than traditional debt-elimination strategies.

Step 5: We sought God for divine intervention. This is as simple as ABC! A stands for Ask. Ask God for help. B stands for Believe. Believe that God will indeed help you. C stands for Continue. Continue paying off debt with a passion.

I’ve taught this strategy in more detail in churches across America. The results are startling. One family paid off every debt, including their house and cars, in only eight months. Another did so in eleven months. Another in fourteen months.

Yesterday a telephone repairman came to my office to work on my phone line. He said, “I know you. You taught the debt-elimination seminar at my church three months ago. Since then, I’ve paid off $30,000 in credit card debt. I have paid off my car. I have paid off my second mortgage on my house. All I have left is my mortgage. And thanks to your teaching, I’m able to put $2,200 per month on my $700 per month house payment. I am on track to have it paid off in approximately three years. Thanks for showing me how to conquer debt God’s way!?New Wineskins

Bruce and Ruthie Ammons reside in Lubbock, Texas, with their daughters Carlee, Shaylee, and Allee. From the forthcoming book, Conquering Debt God’s Way by Bruce & Ruthie Ammons Available from HillCrest Publishing, Fall 2002. For more information on this book or for seminar information, visit our website www.hillcrestpublishing.com or www.bamonline.org or call 1-877-816-HILL.

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This author published 1598 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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