Not all news in a struggling economy is bad news. There’s good news too. One piece of good news is that those who are under financial stress can be more inclined to recognize their need for God.
When the economy is strong and incomes are high, forgetfulness of God becomes common. But when paying the bills keeps getting harder and harder, people become more receptive to the idea that they need divine help.
The Bible reveals quite a bit of help when it comes to personal finances. And what it has to say to us appears all the more relevant when we are experiencing tough financial times.
Here’s some of the Bible’s most straightforward teaching on the subject.
Be faithful. Always do what you know is right. Keep a good conscience. He who is righteous is not forsaken, and his offspring do not end up begging bread (Ps.37:25). Rather, he’s like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season, and in whatever he does, he prospers (Ps.1:3).
Distinguish between wants a needs. Our hearts are naturally covetous, making us think that we need more than we do (Ex.20:17). For this reason, the Lord may prune you for a season to show you what is really needful, and draw you closer to Him.
Get out of debt. Debt leads to grief. Many have financed their lifestyles through debt only to find themselves in bondage to it (Pr.22:7). This is true of individuals, families, and nations. Take steps to “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another (Ro.13:8).
Work hard. Every good thing comes from above. But God has ordained that we receive of His provision by means of hard work. “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Pr.14:23). “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Pr.10:4).
Take one day at a time. Fears about your financial future can easily distract you and paralyze your efforts toward the work of today. Do not be anxious for tomorrow. Tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Mt.6:34). Get in the habit of praying for your daily bread, because it is each and every day that God wants you to live in dependence on Him (Mt.6:11).
Seek God’s kingdom above all else. God is more concerned about building His kingdom than your own. Because of this, He will sometimes send lean times so that we would have our priorities in order. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all that you are tempted to worry about will be provided for you (Mt.6:33).
When financial hardship comes upon us, it is not a time to worry. It’s a time to seek the One who provides for all of our needs.
O.K., you want to trust God more with your life, and you want to give a greater priority to your spiritual development. But you are frustrated. You’ve been trying to do better with certain areas of your life, but nothing seems to change. At least not for very long.
If this describes you, you are not alone. There are countless others who sincerely want to see their lives brought in line with God’s ways, but no matter what they do, there doesn’t seem to be any real transformation of their character, and before long they have slipped back into their old negative behavior patterns once again.
Is there any hope for those who seem caught in this situation? Is there any possibility of a transformed life that endures?
Indeed, there is. The promise of the gospel is that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor.5:17).
But, dear reader, there is something you must understand – and never forget. Real spiritual transformation is a process. And it’s a process that involves your participation.
There is no way to be instantaneously zapped into spiritual maturity. And you cannot just passively hope and wait for your character to change all by itself. You must actively be involved.
And the place to start is with your thoughts. Real, lasting change starts here.
Though we live in a generation that is led by desires, feelings and passions, you must pay attention to your thought life if you are going to change for the better. Because what you think about eventually works itself out in your actions.
This is critically important to realize when you are seeking to counter the powerful ideas and images that are so prevalent in our culture.
In our present scenario, we are bombarded with ideas and images – especially having to do with sex and violence – and if we continually expose ourselves to these, strongholds develop that make change impossible.
Strongholds of bitterness and lust, for example, cannot be broken if you continually feed your mind with a steady stream of vengeful or impure thoughts and images.
Change, however, really is possible. And it begins with seeking to retain thoughts of God and His ways in your mind.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom.12:2)
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your minds dwell on these things” (Phil.4:8).
So, you really want to change? You are tired of being held back by the destructive patterns that you know are ruining your life? Then, begin by watching over your thought life, replacing all that is untrue and unclean with what is right and good.
God’s Word is powerful for the destruction of fortresses. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor.10:4,5).
The great English preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “How foolish we are! We repeat the folly of our first parents every day when we seek to hide sin from conscience, and then think it is hidden from God.”
People have been trying to hide themselves from God since the beginning of time.
When Adam sinned, he tried to take cover among the trees. This was the first instance of trying to get lost in the crowd. Of course, there was no crowd for Adam to get lost in, so the trees had to do.
Today, there are plenty of people around, and a common tactic to try and hide from God is to point to the crowd and say, “everybody’s doing it.”
Such tactics are to no avail. There is no hiding from an all-seeing, omni-present God. And to try is to be like the little child who thinks that no one can see him when he covers his own eyes.
C.S. Lewis aptly called God the “Hound of Heaven” because of His powers of pursuit.
The Bible confirms this aspect of God’s character when it reports that He chases those who seek to evade Him like a hornet (Dt.7:20).
“For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness or deep shadow where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves” (Job 43:21,22).
The thought of a holy God pursuing us wherever we go is a foreboding one. So foreboding that men would just as soon have mountains and rocks fall upon them rather than be caught up in the presence of God (Rev.6:15,16).
But we must remember, though God pursues us in order to evaluate us, He brings with Him an abundance of grace.
When God approached Adam after he sinned, He asked him questions like, “Where are you?” God asked these questions not because He needed the information – He surely knew where Adam was. He asked Adam the questions in order to stop him short and get him thinking about the course he was on.
God probes us in a similar way whenever His Spirit applies His Word to our hearts. And this is grace.
God seeks us out in our hiding, and probes us to make us wise unto salvation. And when we turn to Him we find Him to be the only legitimate hiding place.
God is not against hiding places. He refers to His people as His “hidden ones” (Ps.83:3) who dwell in His “secret place” (Ps.91:1) and are hidden with His hand (Is.49:2). What God is against is fleeing Him and creating our own hiding places.
Are you hiding from God? Don’t. Instead of hiding from Him, hide in Him. By faith be among those who are hidden with Christ in God (Col.3:3).
Align yourself with those who say, “Thou art my hiding place; Thou dost preserve me from trouble; Thou dost surround me with songs of deliverence” (Ps.32:7).
I should have mentioned in the previous post that another excellent source of theological training material is Covenant Media Foundation.
With expanding digital and internet technologies, there is a growing number of resources for learning the Bible and theology.
Here are a couple that I am acquainted with.
I encourage you to check these out. I am fairly new to the Biblical Training material, but have been benefiting from the WordMp3 library for a couple of years.
There’s an event in the Bible that is often overlooked but is critical for understanding human nature and the condition of our world. That event is humanity’s fall into sin (Gen. 3).
In the very beginning God commanded the first man and woman to be fruitful and multiply, to rule over the earth and subdue it. With that mandate, God also gave one prohibition. The man and woman could eat from any tree of the garden but one (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).
Knowing full well what God’s plan was, the serpent set out to destroy it by leading first the woman and then the man astray. He began by challenging what God said, suggesting that He really didn’t mean that there would be a penalty for disobeying Him. Then he implied that God was not good, and that He was withholding something that the man and woman needed.
Satan uses the same strategy today. He wants us to believe that following God’s Word is unnecessary, and that doing so keeps us from experiencing a full life. But this is a trap that when entered into actually sets us back in our lives – and left unaddressed it leads to ruin.
As the encounter between the serpent and the woman unfolds, it is apparent that the man fails in his duty to guard the garden and protect his wife. And here we are reminded that husbands and fathers have a duty to keep abreast of what is going on in their household so they can best protect it.
The Bible also tells us that the woman was led astray through her eyes, and this too gives us an important lesson. Though we may be accustomed to giving priority to what we see (hence the phrase “seeing is believing”), we need to give a greater priority to what we hear, as we listen to the still small voice of God to guide us.
We also need patience. The woman knew that God said “no,” but her impatience and unwillingness to wait on God led her to forsake what He told her. Do we not find it hard to wait on God ourselves?
When the woman and man disobeyed God, they immediately died spiritually (physical death came later). Suddenly, they were separated from God and one another, and were at odds with the world.
With this came great shame. Their lives had been whole and complete, but in an instant their integrity was shattered. They tried to cover themselves and hide, but this proved ineffective. Not because the fig leaves were too small, but because they tried to relieve their shame without dealing with their guilt.
Multitudes still follow this same approach. When they know they’ve done wrong and feel shame, they seek to recover their own integrity in their own way. But what’s needed is to draw near to God, and let Him clothe us, and restore us and our confidence.
We are all born into this world bearing the nature of Adam, and it shows itself by our desire to follow our own feelings and reasoning, even though it leads to pain and shame. But by submitting ourselves in faith we are restored, and through Christ we become alive to God.
And herein lies our hope. Not just for ourselves, but for the entire fallen world.
As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, here are a couple of quotes worth considering. Their author is unknown, but whoever wrote them had a lot of insight.
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”
“Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”
To these couple of quotes I would like to add a third. It’s from the Bible, and I present it because it is so consistent with the previous two.
“Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God. . . Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. It shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the LORD your God” (Deut.8:11-20).
From these quotes there are a pair of lessons that stand out.
The first lesson is that the hour is late when it comes to the life-span of our nation. We have moved from truth, courage, liberty, and abundance, to selfishness, complacency, apathy, and dependence.
The second lesson is that there are no secular solutions that will deliver this nation. We must return to the Lord who has blessed us so abundantly in the past.
As we commemorate our nation’s independence, we still have a lot for which to be thankful. But we have a lot to contemplate too if we are to escape further dependence and bondage.
We may reflect upon this in hope if we are willing to humble ourselves before God and acknowledge Him as Lord.