QUESTION: Several years ago, I lent a close relative money to help his family buy a house with no specific time the money had to be returned. I’m retired, have a good income and money is the least of my worries. This might sound like a ridiculous thing to be concerned about, but I am. For the last several years, the relative has done very well and came to me with a check for the total amount I lent him plus 10% interest. I told him I didn’t want the interest, and I was very happy to help him get a home. He’s insisting I take it and I’m insisting that he could use the money for other things, like his children’s education.
This family has been very good to me, especially after my wife died, and I just don’t want this to be a “business deal.” As far as I’m concerned, the time and caring they’ve given me more than pays any interest. The 10% is a large sum and I just think he could use it some other way. How can I convince him to keep it?
~ Rich Uncle
Dear Rich Uncle,
How wonderful you and your young relatives have been so successful! You are rightfully proud of your help to him and his family. I understand your impulse to not accept interest when you’ve already received the reward of being able to help. You could open college savings accounts for your relative’s children but he may already have that covered. Since it appears both you and your relatives are in a comfortable financial position perhaps “paying it forward” is called for.
Are there younger relatives who could use help with a down payment for a home, get a boost to start a business or need college money? Perhaps there’s someone who has large college loans to pay back and a modest income whom could use your help. You can give the help in your relative’s honor and suggest the recipient also pay it forward when/if their circumstances allow.
If you don’t have relatives, friends or neighbors needing help, a gift to Habitat for Humanity seems appropriate. You can help those willing to work to build their own home and be the community’s “rich uncle.” See http://www.sgvhabitat.org/ for details on how to donate. There are many other worthy causes that would appreciate a donation.
Dear Rich Uncle,
I wish you were mine!
First, I applaud you for your generosity.
Second, I applaud you for being content with what you have. Many are not. The Bible says that godliness with contentment is great gain.
Third, can I convince you of a simple principle at work here? When you lent your relative money, you were doing what you wanted with your money. Were you not? It was your choice, your money, your opportunity to help. Here’s the principle at work – givers receive. Takers just take.
Now, would you grant your relative the same freedom you enjoyed? It’s his choice, his money, his opportunity to bless you. Or would you rob him of the freedom to do what he wants with his own money, the same freedom you yourself exercised? You were gracious enough to give. Now be gracious enough to receive. He received your help with a smile and a thank you. Now it’s time for you to do the same.
If you do this and still don’t feel right about all this money coming your way, contact me and I can give you the names of some deserving charitable organizations.
Rev. Jon T. Karn
QUESTION: Every day I pray for my sister who has stage four cancer. We’ve also asked the minister and people at our church to pray, and neighbors and friends are praying as well. In the meantime, my parents and I are watching her wither away and in a great deal of pain. I believe in God and I believe Jesus healed. Yet our prayers don’t seem to be working and we began praying a year and a half ago when she was first diagnosed.
I’m not going to abandon my faith over this, but I’m confused and disappointed. Is there a reason prayers are not answered? Jesus said, “Ask and it shall be given.” I try so hard to believe this but there is no evidence that my sister is getting better and will live.
~ Sad Sister
Dear Sad Sister,
My heart grieves for you and your family. Watching a loved one suffer is devastating and seems so senseless. As believers, we stand on Scriptures like Isaiah 30:18: “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you … blessed are all those who wait for Him” or James 5:16: “…pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” and Psalms 37:7: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him…”
The real test of our faith happens when those prayers aren’t answered on our timeline. We begin to doubt His love for us and question the validity of our posture in prayer. The truth is that we don’t know what our Heavenly Father has planned. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” This is a very difficult reality to accept. The simple answer is we don’t know why our prayers aren’t answered. We do know, however, that He has us in the palm of His hand and that He has a plan.
Jeremiah 29:11 promises, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and an hope.” I can’t explain why your prayers haven’t been answered nor why your sister has to suffer. I do know that our God has plans that are beyond my understanding. In times like these, I believe we are tasked to find our peace in the knowledge that He knows what He’s doing and look to discover how we can best serve the person for whom we are praying. Maybe it’s more about how we navigate through the challenge of remaining steadfast in prayer and dedicated to providing hope to our loved ones in the most effective ways we can.
I encourage you to hold on to the promises, especially during this time of uncertainty, and continue to wait upon the Lord. “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31), (NKJV).
I will hold you and your family close in prayer.
Last response by Randy Foster
Dear Sad Sister,
Reading your story reminds me all too well of the questions that I struggled with just a few years ago as we watched my own sister battle with life-threatening disease and cancer.
First of all, I commend you for your faith and your response in asking people to pray for her healing. If we understand the nature of God in the Scriptures, we know that He is the omnipotent (all-powerful) God who heals. There are so many instances in the Scriptures of His intervening in the lives and pain of people. We also understand that He is also the omniscient (all-knowing) God who knows exactly what your sister is going through. And He is our compassionate loving Heavenly Father who “…understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same tests we do…” (Hebrews 4:14 NLT).
Jesus clearly taught His followers to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). The words used here in this passage literally mean: ask (and keep on asking) seek (and keep on seeking) and knock (and keep on knocking). So to faithfully and fervently pray for someone to be healed is encouraged by the Lord.
Another thing we understand about the nature of God is that He is sovereign. Inherent in our faith is the scriptural truth that God is in control. He has the power to exercise His right over creation according to His will. Even Jesus was subject to the sovereignty of God and when He faced his darkest hour in the garden he prayed, “…not my will but yours’ be done” (Matthew 26:39).
When Jesus received word that his good friend Lazarus was dying (John 11), the narrative explains that he didn’t immediately go at the request of his sisters, Mary and Martha. In fact, while Jesus delayed going and healing Lazarus, he passed away. When asked why he waited, Jesus replied, “It happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this” (John 11:4). The Scriptures declared that Jesus then not only healed Lazarus but brought him back to life. But we need to be reminded that we were never created to live down here forever. We were created to live in eternity with our Heavenly Father. Even Lazarus one day eventually died along with his sisters.
The Apostle Paul, who prayed for people and watched God miraculously heal them, personally struggled with not receiving his own healing. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 he talks about pleading with the Lord three times to take away the “thorn in my flesh…” without being healed. The Apostle writes: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
I’m not suggesting that you ever stop praying for healing. In fact, Hebrews 4:16 says, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
But also ask God to show you the higher plan or purpose he may be accomplishing through your sister’s pain. As our family and friends prayed for my sister’s healing we recognized that God was planning something powerful and wonderful even through her suffering. Many people saw her courage and faith in God during this trial and ultimately her passing, and their lives and faith were strengthened.
I encourage you to keep praying for your sister and, at the same time, keep an eternal focus and know that God just possibly may have an even greater plan in store for her. The ultimate healing for my sister came when she entered into the presence of the Lord where there is “…no more death or mourning or crying or pain…” (Revelation 21:4).
You, your sister and your family are in our thoughts and prayers!
Pastor Randy Foster