How we handle financial turmoil will either build us up in Christ or demonstrate our spiritual flabbiness.
How are Christians called to live in a society characterized as hostile to our beliefs, pushing an immoral agenda, high rate of taxation, anti-Israel posture and an intrusive, unstable government that stirs tension between religious groups?
You may think I am talking about today, but what I am actually describing are the times when Jesus walked the earth. Of course, there are some obvious parallels to our day, but in Jesus’ day it was a time marked with financial instability and turmoil. Thank goodness Jesus taught us how to live by faith in the midst of economic uncertainty, because over and over throughout history the application has been needed!
I believe I have the coolest Kingdom calling in the world as a local church pastor teaching the Bible, but specializing in teaching on money. Our Sr. Pastor is Robert Morris and our community of believers is called Gateway Church. Being a local church pastor has given me a unique vantage point to disciple families of all ages and economic status. Over and over, I teach a simple Biblical mantra, “Be aware, yet do not fear. Trust God and apply His Word. The just shall live by faith.” In the good times and in challenging times, what does Scripture say for us to do?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
How we handle turmoil will either build us up in Christ, giving an increased witness to His work through our life, or demonstrate our spiritual flabbiness, making our fruit turn bitter with worry, stress, anxiety and anger. We can’t control everything. What we can control, do it really well. What we can’t control we need to release. God does guide His people!
Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual.
— Daniel 3:14–19 (NIV)
The reason these young Jewish men could defiantly oppose the strongest leader in the world was because their faith in the Lord outweighed their fear of Nebuchadnezzar and even death itself.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
We all know the outcome of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were just fine; in fact, not even a hair on their head was singed. They stood as a witness to the pagan leaders of the day having been protected. Now examine what Jesus taught right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Is your treasure a country, money, stocks, gold or precious metals? Or is your treasure people, souls in the Kingdom, built up to reflect His glory?
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
My conjecture on this passage is the eyes Jesus is referring to are spiritual eyes of faith.
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Possessing clear spiritual sight makes a believer a light in a dark world. Lose spiritual sight and lose the ability to be a light for Christ.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Notice verse 25 says not to worry because of a reason. For what reason? Because we as believers have chosen to serve God as our master, which means we lose the right to worry about all items he listed. The opposite is also true. If we choose money as our master, than we’d better be worried for our life, food, drink, body and clothing.
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
Death is like a period in the middle of a sentence. Life unfolds quickly. How much time do we waste worrying about things we have no control over?
And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
The reason fear and worry consume us is because we have lost focus on the Kingdom of God. Now is the day to advance the Kingdom of God. Where we are today as a nation is symptomatic of violating Biblical principles. Economic uncertainty is certain; however, this is great leverage for the Kingdom of God. People are living in fear, and we have the opportunity like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to demonstrate a life of faith. I love Jesus’s closing line in this chapter:
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Don’t get me wrong—I am all for preparing for dark times and being highly aware, but not out of fear. Instead, out of excitement for upcoming opportunities! Where are you in preparation to be used by God? Use this short Kingdom checklist.
The Kingdom Checklist
- Are you saved? Have you accepted Christ Jesus’ payment for your sin? Do you know without a doubt where you stand in relationship with your Heavenly Father?
- Are you healed? Life is tough; we all get wounded. Yet God is ready and willing to heal your wounds. Do you use your scars as credentials to help others?
- Are you spiritually free? Released from bondage, inner vows, and the bindings of your grave clothes?
- Are you discipled; at least enough to do something with your salvation? Join KI. Figure out your Kingdom calling and, like a soldier in boot camp, get prepared for battle.
- Are you equipped? Can you use your gifts with skill and confidence? Or are you dangerous due to lack of training? We all have unique callings and God is waiting for you to get in the game using your specific gifts.
- Do you have a local fellowship to grow in all the items I listed? In that local fellowship, synergize your gifts with other brothers and sisters to multiply your impact.
- Have you been sent? Paul, Jesus, Peter, Moses, Abraham, John, Barnabas… All called by the authority of God, but then at the right time they were sent into their ministry!
There is much to think about and even more to pray about. In the next issue of Personal Update, I will give seven guiding principles to help us financially navigate times of uncertainty in Part 2 of “Living in Financial Turmoil.”
For background on my spiritual and financial journey, see my book, Generous Life Journey, soon on the K-House store.
In it I recount how at 23 years old, even though I was a new Christian, I thought I knew everything and set out to prove the Bible wrong about tithing. “I’ll prove this tithing doesn’t work. I’ll tithe my way into bankruptcy. God does not work in our finances in this modern day and age.” Find out how my encounter with God forever changed my life course and taught me that the way one handles finances is an issue of the heart.