It was the middle of September, 2000 when God moved us to Payne City. It had been six months since I had been cast out of my place of ministry at Living Faith, and although I had quit attending at that time, Tony continued to go week after week, taking our children with her. Tony had received much encouragement from the ministers and their wives in her rebellion, and she craved this support as she continued to state her opposition to the path God was leading me down.
I tried on numerous occasions to explain to Tony what God was doing in our lives, and I reminded her of Charles and Nancy Newbold’s visit to our home when I had asked them to pray that I would have a quick death. I reminded her that Charles had asked if she would walk with her husband through the things God would take him through. She had answered affirmatively, and Charles had exited our house by saying that one way God could take us through a death experience was by means of a financial death. Tony responded by saying that if she had understood what we would be walking through that she would never have agreed to it.
God gave me tremendous grace in these days, for Tony was going through emotional upheavals daily, and would rage at me at times, while falling into tears of self-pity only moments later. She said, and did, many hurtful things during this period of time, but God gave me grace to never answer her back with anger for anger, or reviling for reviling. I was able to calmly respond to her, and to keep affirming that I loved her every time she would say that I hated her.
The Holy Spirit had made known to me that this was to be the manner of my response. Some months earlier God had spoken plainly to me, affirming His words through an event He had orchestrated, letting me know that He would change the heart of my wife. I knew that changing her heart was something beyond my abilities, and I believed that God would do what He had said. I also remembered the prophetess Judith taking Tony by the hands and praying against a spirit of divorce. These things gave me comfort, and the confidence I needed, to simply leave Tony in the Father’s hands while I looked to Him to effect a heart change in her.
Responding with such patience has not always been the norm for me, but I felt so vulnerable at this time, and I daily needed God’s grace to such an extent, that I dared not act in a prideful, or unforgiving, manner toward others. I wanted God’s mercy in my life, so I was compelled to be merciful to others understanding that “by the judgment we judge others we will be judged,” and remembering our Lord’s words, “blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” A man who is hanging on a cross is very unwise to hurl insults at the person next to him who is also on a cross.
I also knew that I was partially to blame for my wife’s struggles. Because I had disobeyed in the area of covetousness, I had opened up a door in my home for my wife and children to become attached to various worldly idols. It was to be expected that they would have some difficulty giving up these idols. I was once more reminded of the story of Jacob leaving his father-in-law Laban. One of the Scriptures that had been used of God to initiate this entire journey in my life was Genesis 31:41, “I have worked for you for fourteen years.” These words were spoken by Jacob to Laban, as Jacob was fleeing from his household.
Reading further in this story we find that Jacob’s wife Rachel stole her father’s idols and hid them among her baggage when they departed. Jacob too had allowed idolatry in his home, and his wife had a difficult time giving up the family idols. I admitted my culpability in this matter, and it led me to choose to be very patient with my wife.
My wife was at her most volatile period while in Payne City, but it was merely the final death throes that preceded her deliverance. I truly considered turning back to work in secular employment, because of the difficulty of the days, but God had so disabled me that I could not even walk at this time without leaning upon a cane.
During this time of great pain, I also knew great comfort from the Father. He manifested His provision for us, while we were in Payne City, in extraordinary ways. We had been there a couple weeks, and I had no money left for gas and groceries, or to pay bills. I prayed to God on a particular day and I asked Him to provide us some money. I had a sum of several hundred dollars in mind. That night we visited with our friends the Barnes’ at their church, and before we left he placed an envelope in my wife’s hands to give to me. When I opened it I found that it contained three hundred dollars in twenty dollar bills. God provided the exact amount I had requested that morning.
A few weeks later I had to pay the water bill, and once again I had no money. Tony had some money her father had given her, but she refused to use it to take care of our family’s expenses. She said the money was hers, and she would not share it with me. This rejection from my wife cut me to the heart, and I spent time alone with the Lord weeping because of the pain I felt. I told God that I needed money to pay this bill, and I asked Him if He would send me some money since my wife would not share with me in this matter. This was on a Wednesday, and that night we visited with our friend’s at their church again. As we were leaving Randy handed me a check that was written from the church’s benevolence fund. The check was for fifty dollars, which more than covered our utility bill. Randy told me the check had actually been given to him Sunday, but he had been unable to give it to me that day. I knew God had reserved it for this day to be given in response to my passionate plea that arose to Him that morning.
I felt very comforted by these tokens of the Father’s watchfulness over me and my family. We did not know any lack while we were in Payne City, and God provided just what we needed to pay all of our bills. One remarkable provision came in on the very day that we were leaving this house. Although we were given the offer to stay six weeks at no charge, I had agreed to pay the electric bill. Before we left the bill had arrived at the owner’s house, and they called to inform me that it was fifty-four dollars.
I felt that I needed to pay this bill in a timely manner, yet on the day we were moving out I did not have the money, and I wanted to give the money to the owners when I gave them their keys back. As we were preparing to leave the house on that last day I looked in the mailbox and there was a letter from a credit card company I had once done business with. Inside was a check for eighty dollars. The company had faced some sort of class action lawsuit, and they were sending out checks to all those people who were entitled to a refund. The name of the company was Providian, and God was testifying to me that He was our faithful Provider.
God was also faithful to do what He had spoken to me when I first saw the numbers 3456 on the outside of the house. He would set our household in order while we were there. One of the great obstacles in the way of Tony having a heart change was the support she was still receiving from the ministers and their wives who had rejected me. I began to pray that God would cut off all influences in my wife’s life that were encouraging her to resist God’s working in our lives.
We had been in Payne City several weeks, and Tony had arranged to go to a meeting with a number of the women from Living Faith. She called one of them to ask if she could ride with these women, who were all close friends at the time, and she was informed that Richard’s wife had told the other women that they were not to pick Tony up. Tony could not understand why she was being shunned in this way, for she had done everything the ministers and their wives told her, and had chosen to align with them in all the matters we were dealing with. Tony was devastated at this rejection, and she went into her room to cry.
I felt great sorrow for my wife, for I understood the pain of being rejected by friends, and I wept for her and asked God to comfort her heart. No explanation was ever given as to why the women had chosen to avoid Tony, but I knew God had answered my prayer to cut off from Tony all the unrighteous influences in her life. Tony quit attending church at Living Faith, and there was an immediate softening in her attitude.
God had to do one more work in my wife’s life, for she had been entertaining the thought that if things got bad enough she could divorce me and return home to her parents and live with them, taking our children with her. God had to show her that this was not the panacea that she considered it to be.
The neighborhood in Payne City was ruled by gangs, and there was much crime present. God watched over us, however, and we knew His faithful hand of protection as we had known everywhere else. One day I was hanging a banner on the front of the house. The banner had the word “Faith” on it, with images of a cross and an anchor. Faith in God was my anchor in that hour, and I wanted to display this banner as a testimony of the One in whom we were trusting.
As I was hanging the banner, an elderly woman drove up, and she got out of her car and approached me. She asked if I was a minister, and I told her I was. She began sharing with me about how she had been terrorized by the gangs living in the neighborhood. She lived one block behind us and on more than one occasion young men had cut her phone line and power line at night with the intent of breaking in and robbing her, and possibly harming her. She said that gang members lived on either side of her house, and they wanted to run her off so they could have her house.
I inquired as to whether she had family, and she told me she had family in Florida, but did not want to move there. I asked her if she was a part of a church, and she said she attended a large church in Macon, but she did not feel that she could ask them for help. I held her hands and prayed for her, and she left thanking me profusely.
About a week later I was sleeping in a recliner in the living room due to my sciatica, and about 4:30 AM I heard two gunshots. They were very loud, and very close by. My wife and kids did not hear them, but continued sleeping. A few minutes later there was a banging at the front door, and I heard the voice of this elderly woman asking me to hurry and open the door. I threw on some clothes, and unlocked the door and she came in. By this time my wife and kids were awake, and they listened as this woman said that someone had cut her phone line and power again, and they had then broken a window to come in her house. She kept a gun under her pillow and had fired two shots into the ceiling, scaring off the intruders. She brought this gun with her when she came to our house, and she laid it on our kitchen table. She asked if she could use our telephone to call the police. When the police arrived she returned to her house.
My wife had been very frightened by the neighborhood already, and she told me daily of her fears. Just the day before, I had heard God tell me to let my wife go stay with her parents if she was afraid to stay with me in Payne City. After hearing the report of this woman, I knew Tony would want to leave, so I told her that if she wanted to go to her parents’ house that she had my permission, but I would remain in Payne City. Tony was greatly relieved to hear me tell her this, and she told me that, as soon as the sun was up good, she would call her parents and ask them if she and the kids could stay with them.
Tony’s heart was considerably softened toward me by this time, and she had quit speaking of divorce when she shared her fears with me. God was ordering everything in our lives according to His wisdom, and His timing was impeccable. Tony’s parents said she could come stay with them, so she and the kids packed up some belongings and left in the car. Later that evening Tony called me from her parents’ house and told me that she really didn’t want to be there, wanting instead to be with her husband. This was a major breakthrough, but more was to come.
Tony called me every evening so I could speak to her and the children, and each evening I could sense in her words that she found the idea of leaving her husband to return to her parents’ household less attractive. Her mother told Tony that she could move in permanently, suggesting that she should divorce me, but she told Tony she would have to do as they instructed her to do. Tony would have to get a job and place our children in public school, which were two things she was greatly resistant to. Our children had been home schooled from the beginning of their education, and Tony felt it was her place to be at home with them. Tony repeatedly told her mother that she had no intention of divorcing me, and that she had only come to stay because she was frightened of the neighborhood.
By the end of the week Tony felt she could stay no longer, and called to tell me that she and the kids were going to rejoin me at the house in Payne City. I must add here that our children were never frightened of the neighborhood, and they had made friends immediately with some of the neighbor children. They were excited to hear that they were moving back. I too was excited about their return, and I could see that the hand of God had orchestrated all that had transpired to reveal to my wife that her place was with her husband. Like Moses, she had come to choose “rather to suffer affliction with the children of God… esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Hebrews 11:25-26).
The atmosphere of our household was vastly changed when my wife and children returned, and the threats and outbursts of emotion were replaced with a great measure of peace and contentment with the will of God. I am really proud of my wife, for although she struggled greatly, she overcame in the end. I do not know too many women who would be willing to endure the chastening hand of God that we experienced. Most prefer the “pleasures of sin” and would trade away a future hope in Christ for a season of personal ease and self-gratification.
My wife was to go from “glory to glory” from this time forward, as the Spirit led her into ever increasing reflections of a woman of godliness. Tony would begin practicing those things written by the apostle Peter:
I Peter 3:3-6
Your adornment must not be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
We had our date in bankruptcy court, and God set us free from all of our financial bondage. Yet many more things were buried while we lived at this home on Kingsbury Drive. Our King cut-off and buried my covetousness, as well as Tony’s rebellion. Our household was set in order, and it has been a much different experience since.
To those who care to ponder this, it reveals a great mystery. Only through suffering do we learn obedience, and only in pain are we set free from that which binds us and holds us back.
This is an excerpt from the book Evidence of Things Unseen.
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