Peace of mind in a piggy bank

What would you do for God if money wasn’t an option? How would your life change if you lived for God’s Word instead of your paycheck?

The Bible is full of stories about people who took great risks following God. All throughout the Old Testament, men and women who trusted God did impossible things, crazy things, reckless things. If you talked to them while they were doing those impossible, crazy, reckless things, they probably would have agreed with you.

I’m sure Abraham was terrified when he packed up his wife and left everything he knew for a land he didn’t even know existed. Noah built an ark when no one had ever seen a real rainstorm, let alone a flood. Gideon in the time of the Judges had to think it was nuts to attack a massive army of professional soldiers with a measly few hundred men armed only with clay pots, torches, and trumpets.

On and on and on the stories go, building a heritage of crazy faith so it’s not exactly a surprise when 12 unlearned, ignorant men drop what they’re doing and follow after a carpenter from Nazareth. And from there? Men and women gladly gave up their lives in the name of Jesus Christ.

Which brings us to today. The same impossible, crazy, reckless things still happen in today’s world, but we don’t hear about them as much. Does that mean they aren’t happening as often? No, I don’t think that’s the case. I just don’t think they’re happening as often in the United States.

Men and women give up everything to do what God has called them to do. They leave their lives. They leave their families and their comfort zones. They risk poverty and destitution and slavery and death. And I’m willing to bet it happens much more frequently than anyone knows.

Why doesn’t it happen as often in America? I have a theory.

Piggy-BankToday’s verse is Matthew 6:24.

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

This is a touchy subject. Money always is. People get defensive about it. And no one ever seems to be able to get it right. Either people talk about it too much or they don’t talk about it enough, but generally speaking whenever money is the topic of conversation, you’re going to have a fight break out.

But the inescapable truth about money is that America has a lot of it. Is it a coincidence that as an overall culture we struggle with doing what God has called us to do?

See, money is deceptive. And it doesn’t have to just be money. It can be possessions. It can be stuff. Whatever you live for that isn’t God. When you have those things, you can get into the habit of thinking you’ll always have them. You can calm your anxieties by reminding yourself you have money in the bank. It’s what you can use to control your life, your problems, etc.

And don’t misunderstand. Having money is wonderful. It’s a blessing. It’s such a gift. If God has given you financial stability and wealth, you have been given a tremendous responsibility to use that gift in a way that honors God.

But if you’re like the rest of lower middle class America, you make it from paycheck to paycheck. You have just enough to be comfortable but not enough to buy whatever you want whenever you want it. And there are days when you can’t help but think, “If I just made a little more money, I wouldn’t have to worry.”

I’ve been to poor countries. And I mean poor. The poorest person in America is still wealthy in comparison. But the poor people I met in the interior of Mexico or the untraveled jungles of Guatemala weren’t consumed with anxiety over what they had or didn’t have. Their lives are simple. Their needs are simple.

American culture serves the dollar. That’s just a fact. Watch television for a few minutes, and you’ll see the truth of it. Money and sex. That’s what we’re about. Our culture is all about creating discontentment, convincing yourself that you need money and stuff to be happy.

That’s what it means to serve money instead of God. Serving money is finding your contentment and your security and your happiness in what you own or how much you have. It’s trying to find peace of mind in a piggy bank when peace of mind only comes from a right relationship with God.

What would you do for God if money wasn’t an option?

It’s a lesson I’m trying to learn, but if you’re a Christ-follower, money should never be an option. Yes, you should be a good steward of what God has given you, but if God has directly indicated that you should do something, you should do it. Money has no say.

Want to do great things for God? Want to be a part of that impossible, crazy, reckless for Jesus club? Throw away your piggy bank. Sure, it has its uses, but it isn’t money that will help you achieve the impossible. That’s God’s job. And you can’t hold on to Him when you’re clutching pennies in your hands.

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The danger in failing to prepare for success

Put yourself in this situation: You’re doing your best to follow God, but you just don’t have the finances or the time to be able to do what He’s asking. So you take a chance. You do it anyway, and you ask God for help.

Then, out of the blue, when you’re least expecting it, God shows up and helps you. Maybe it’s through a friend. Maybe it’s through an organization. However it happens, you get the help you need exactly when you need it.

It’s great right? Right. But what do you do next?

Maybe I’m the only one who struggles with this, but I convince myself that God isn’t actually going to help me. Sure, He’ll help me in small ways that I’ll be able to understand later down the road, but I don’t want to get my hopes up so high that I’ll be disappointed. So what happens when God shows up in my life in a big way?

Yeah, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do.

So many times, I think we prepare ourselves for failure, but we never take the time to prepare ourselves for success. In the same way, I think we prepare ourselves for God to not show up. So when He does, we stumble and struggle and trip all over ourselves.

1254934_54597353Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

God has promised to provide for us. Period. He never leaves us. He never abandons us. That’s His promise. Now, that doesn’t mean His children won’t have to face the consequences of their choices. And it doesn’t mean that you’ll always get your way. But it does mean that no matter what happens in your life, God can turn it into something beautiful. And He will. If you let Him.

I am a proponent of independence. I like being independent. I like being self-reliant. Having to depend on someone else makes me nervous. So I’m all for forging your own path. I hate asking for help or support. I hate admitting weakness. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But there’s a big problem you run into when you live life convinced that God won’t show up to help. When God does show up, you ignore Him.

When God prompts someone to do something for you, you write it off as them being generous. When you narrowly miss getting into a horrible car wreck, you chalk it up to the luck of the draw. When all the pieces of your life and your career fall into place just right so you can advance, you just think it’s because you were prepared.

When God shows up in your life, don’t just brush Him off. Don’t just assume it’s fate or luck or that you’ve just been a good enough person to deserve it. Nobody’s that good.

It’s difficult to hope sometimes because God doesn’t always do what we expect Him to do. We expect that He’ll solve problem A with solution B, but instead He solves problem X with solution Y, and problem A hangs around for a little while longer. And it’s only years later that you realize problem A wasn’t really a problem at all–it was just the way you were looking at it.

See that’s how God works normally in my life. He helps me when I need Him, but He keeps me uncomfortable because that’s the only way I grow. And He’s got big plans for me, so I’ve got a lot of growing left to do.

The point is learning how to focus on what God is doing instead of focusing on what we want Him to do. And that’s hard. But the more we keep staring at what we want, the more blind we’ll become to what He’s actually doing around us. And soon the day will come when we won’t be able to see His work at all.

So when God shows up in your life–in a big way or a little way–stop and thank Him. Recognize that it is HIs doing, and ask Him for wisdom to know what you’re supposed to do next.

If you fail to prepare for success, you’ll crash and burn. You won’t know what to do with all the good stuff that’s happening, and eventually you’ll start to see the good stuff as bad stuff. Following God is similar. The more you expect Him not to show up, the less you’ll be able to see Him when He actually does.

Wheat and blue sky at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Investing

Why does the Church always talk about giving? Have you ever wondered about that? Granted, some churches talk about it more than others. My church doesn’t talk about it very often, but my pastor doesn’t hesitate to stand in front of the congregation and ask, especially if there’s a need. But I know of a church in Wichita that absolutely refuses to talk about money. Ever. So which approach is right? Is it right to talk about money in church?

Well, what did Jesus do? Jesus talked about money frequently, whether it was paying taxes or giving to the poor. Money and finances have always been a point of contention with people, and I don’t think it’s necessarily because people are selfish when it comes to giving. More likely, it’s that people aren’t sure that their money is going to be used well. Or that they just feel like they don’t have it to give. After all, in this current economic climate, who has spare change to give the church?

Wheat and blue sky at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat and blue sky at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Luke 6:38.

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.

Money isn’t the root of all evil. Money itself is just a tool that we can use to help bring people to Christ. That’s how we should look at our finances. And some people have more of it than others, but just because you have a lot of money (or just because you don’t have much money) doesn’t determine your effectiveness for God.

Actually, many times, the less you have the more effective you can be because you aren’t trusting your money to help you through. You have no other choice but to trust God to help you.

But I’m not going to focus on whether or not you should give. If you are a believer, it’s your responsibility to give, whether it’s to an established church where you attend or if it’s to a personal fund you use to bless others with when God tells you to. Ten percent of your total income belongs to God. That’s a principle that Abraham started, I believe (I need to check for sure, though, but I’m pretty positive).

What people don’t really think about is that the entire concept of giving stems from trust.

Can you trust God with your finances? Think about it. Do you trust Him enough to give Him ten percent of what you earn?

When I was just starting out working, this was a difficult question. When I made minimum wage (back when it was $5.15 an hour) and worked part time, it was difficult to agree to giving ten percent of my hard-earned money to God (through the church that I trusted to use it wisely). And even as a college student, when I had gotten a marvelous $.25 raise, it was still difficult. Ten percent doesn’t sound like a lot until you don’t have money to buy groceries.

But I made a decision back then to give God what He asked for. He’s given me so much, how can I back up and tell Him no with this? And if He really is who He says He is, He can afford me. If I give Him what I’ve earned (that He gave me the strength and opportunity to earn in the first place), that just means that I have to trust Him to take care of me if I don’t have enough to take care of myself. And He’d never let me down in any other situation. Why would He start now?

I can tell you that this isn’t a difficult question anymore. I have always given to God, and He has always given back — more than I bargained for actually and not just in money. In friends. In family. In time. In the intangible blessings that are too priceless to put a monetary value on.

If you don’t think you can do ten percent, do what you can. Just do something. Just trust Him a little and let Him prove to you that it’s not about money. Giving isn’t about money at all; it’s about trusting Him with your resources. And if you want to give but don’t think you can, ask Him. Ask Him to give you something extra so you can.

God’s a better bet than the stock market. If you’re going to invest in something, put your money behind God’s initiatives because they have eternal payoffs. What’s better? Using your money to stockpile possessions down here that you’ll eventually have to leave behind? Or investing in a church that will help people come to Christ, who you will get to spend eternity with together?

Think about it.