“People don’t need to make a lot of money to get out of debt; they just need to make good decisions.” –Claude Hamilton
It’s interesting that when asking big groups of people from all different backgrounds and upbringings if they would do more for other people if they had more time and money, there is always a resounding “YES” with heads nodding and positive feedback. As human beings, we are wired to take care of those around us that need help; but due to the constant strain of the Financial Matrix in our lives, it is becoming less and less of the “thing to do” in our society. Thankfully, the principles and accountability of the Financial Fitness Program are reaching more people around the world; and because of better financial fitness, more people are able to be a blessing in other people’s lives. In Charlotte, North Carolina, a young couple is leading by example in their own financial fitness; and because of the results they’ve achieved, Matthew and Keri Williams have been able to help others that need a little miracle in their lives. Take a look at their story through Matthew’s own words below…
Matthew & Keri’s Financial Fitness Testimony
In 2010, I felt a conviction from scripture that we were not honoring Christ with our finances or our lives, as we were constantly seeking what made us feel good or comfortable and were generally unconcerned for the needs of others. I mentioned this conviction to my bride, Keri, and we began to pray through what we could change that would bring us more in line with what God calls us as Christians to do with the gifts He has given us. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it went for quite some time. I remember recording in my journal that something needed to change–but did not form an action plan–so it slowly dwindled away. We changed spending habits here and sold some stuff to pay off enough of the debt to stay afloat there, and we thought it was working. Then we would jump right back in the same hole and have to dig out again. It seemed like the cycle would never end. Then one fine day in late 2013, my dear friend Denon Williams pulls me aside at Church and said, “Hey man, if I give you a CD, will you listen to it and let me know what you think of the content?” I said yes, and listened to the CD with great interest. I trusted Denon and saw a passion in his face that inspired me to seek to know more. The process that followed has changed our lives for ever. We joined a community of business owners and began to understand that it was not activity that needed to change, as much as it was the thinking behind that activity. We purchased our first Financial Fitness pack and began to walk through the material. One of the CDs in the kit mentioned tracking your expenses–something we had not done before. I assumed (smuggishly) (my word) that what I would find was a hole in Keri’s side of the ship that needed to be plugged and dealt with in a very kind but smuggish kind of way (I told you so). What I actually found was that someone (me) had punched a hole out in my side of the ship and that this hole was big enough to sink the whole works if not handled soon by someone fluent in ship repair. So, we dug in and really got serious about budgeting and tracking. The first draft of tracking our daily expenses helped me see that her $125.00 per month non-essential expense was a mere drop in a drum beside my $1,850.00 per month Monster Energy Drink and Slim Jim budget; which at this point began to include copious amounts of crow and repentance. This type of information was something we had not considered until we became a part of this group and really got serious about affecting change that lasts–and began to be the difference we wanted to see in others. God has given us such wonderful opportunities this year, that we would not have had the ability to participate in had we not made the choice to honor Him in our spending and stop living a life of self-gratification. We have been on an incredible journey over the past 3-5 years. In that time, we have been able to pay off $86,000 of consumer debt–including a credit card balance of $21,000 on one card and a cumulative balance of $18,000 on three other cards–a mortgage of $165,000, and two 401K loans totaling $32,000. We did not do things the easy way. We decided that if this was the direction that God had called us to move in, then He would provide the ability to move if we would provide the obedience. So we sold it all!…Trucks, Cars, Motorcycles, Boats, House, Furniture, Clothes, TVs, Entertainment equipment, Beds, Kids toys, and all of the other mounds of stuff that we had accumulated over the years. It was the most difficult thing we have ever had to do, but also the most peaceful decision we have made to date. It was tough. The things we had were nice, and I wanted to keep them all. My comfort idol started to buck the leadership of my King, and Keri lovingly reminded me that we are not on our clock here. We are on God’s clock and He has given us a task. Stick with it…we can do it. We never quit on the same day, and I think that was key. Our heads had to be in the same place, or this call to obedience would fail. We both chose to look to Christ and His path for our lives, and that has kept us on track through this process–and continues to keep us on track every day as we go.
We have many friends that work in foreign fields serving our God and King with the Good News of Jesus Christ, and one of those couples works in Durham, NC, with international refugees from around the world. We also have several friends in local ministry here in Denver, NC. One of these couples is attempting to adopt a child, and as some of us may know, that can be quite a lengthy and expensive process. I was speaking with my friend, and he mentioned a concern that they would not be able to make the next financial deadline–and was quite concerned about where the money would come from. Meanwhile, back at the ranch house, Keri and I were preparing to have our “In-House Yard Sale.” Everything in the house was sold, and we were standing in the garage trying to figure out what to do with the money. Then it hit me….we didn’t need it….we simply didn’t have to have it. God had given us the ability to be in a position where we could be a blessing to others, and it would be disobedience to keep the money and spend it on things we wanted. So we did what God had led us to do. We split the money between the couple in Durham to support their ministry there and the couple in Denver to support their adoption. The peace we felt was amazing. Nothing can ever compare with the peace that God brings with obedience to Him. We then heard in passing that our friends in Durham were struggling a bit to keep one of their vehicles running. The next decision was a little easier. We had been saving for a bigger vehicle for my wife and found one we could afford with the money we had saved. What happened next was nothing short of awesome. To see the look on my friend’s face when I said, “I have some cool stuff to show you on Keri’s van.” He said, “What’s that?” As we walked toward the van, opening all the doors and hatches from the remote, I said, “It’s not Keri’s van anymore; it’s yours. Here, I will come back later and we can work out the details and paper work.” What an amazing feeling to be able to help them out of a bind and obey what God had given us to do this year.
We now live in a 40-foot fifth-wheel camper in a campground in our local community, and we do ministry in our Church youth ministry and in the campground we live in on my days off. Our three children love it here, and we are excited to be on track to be completely out of debt within the next 6-12 months–maybe sooner, depending on our success in business. God is great, and He has given us the opportunity to get out of a cumulative total of around $250,000 in debt, give away a 2009 Honda Odyssey with just over 100,000 miles, help our friends to meet their next adoption goal and move into a place that desperately needs the Gospel. This all happened because we laid down our own ideas of what we need, and are willing to live with less comfort in the temporal life to help lead others to Eternal Life with Christ. Our story thus far is not one of great increase in wealth or wonderful achievements of leadership, but one of simple obedience to the call of Scripture in Romans 13:8 and others to “Owe no one anything except to love one another,” and give ourselves up for the benefit of others…To be willing to be the difference you desire to see in others, and to listen when the Living God of the Universe calls you to obedience in a difficult way. Imagine the lostness of our world, had Jesus Christ not willingly submitted himself to the Cross to pay the price of God’s wrath against Sin on our behalf. Thanks be to God for his faithfulness to and love for us, and for giving us the strength to be obedient to His call on our finances.
When one applies some simple principles and has the discipline and accountability to stay consistent, incredible things can happen. Matthew and Keri have taken what they’ve learned through the Financial Fitness Program and completely revolutionized their lifestyle. It is exciting to see them digging their way out of the Financial Matrix–and at the same time–being a huge blessing in the lives of others. The future is only getting brighter for this family of five!