Financial Survival For Christians, Part 1

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 1

Text: Philippians 4:19

Time: July 7th, 2010

We are still in the midst of one of the most severe recessions most of us have ever experienced. Many people who have lost their jobs in the past two years are still unemployed, while still more are working but underemployed. If enough homes haven’t been lost in the past few years, the foreclosures still continue – more people than ever are losing their homes. Credit is still hard to get, despite what the banks claim and the government reports. With the economy still down many Christians are asking, “How am I going to make ends meet? How am I going to get through this financial crisis?” Is there any unique Christian response to the economic troubles our nation is going through? Can Christians turn to God for help – and get help? Now these are not abstract or theoretical questions I’m asking myself simply in preparation for this message. No. I’m going through a financial challenge myself at the present time – these are questions I’m asking now, today! And my first response is to turn to God, and specifically God’s Word, as I’ve been taught to do is such situations. What does God say to our present financial struggles? The most important verse in all of the Bible that comes to mind in reacting to a financial crisis is Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” I love this verse because it covers everything – not just money situations, but all kinds of challenges in life. But the key to trusting in God during financial difficulties, the key to standing on God’s promises found in the Bible, the key to everything in the life of faith is application. How do we apply this verse to our specific situation every time? For example, if I’ve got bills to pay but not enough money to pay them, what good is this promise from God? If I’ve got a house payment coming due but not enough money to pay it, how is this verse going to help me? If I need money for food in order to eat, in order to feed myself and my family, how is this promise going to meet my need? The promise of God in this passage tells me that God will meet my needs, but it doesn’t say exactly how he’s going to do it. That’s where my faith and action come into the equation. If I know that someway, somehow God is going to meet all my needs, but I don’t know exactly how he’s going to do it, that’s motivation for me to discover the way or ways God is going to meet the need. That starts me on a search for the specific way God is going to use to get the needed resources to me. Now there are thousands of ways God can get resources to us in time of need. But let me list a few ways he’s used in meeting my financial needs, and maybe these ways will be helpful to you as well.

First, make sure you know about all the financial resources you already have. Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” The promise of God in this verse says that God will meet all of our needs, including financial needs, but it doesn’t say how he’ll do it. One of the ways God meets our financial needs is to help show us that we already have what we need. Now this may sound strange. This may sound cold and cruel to tell someone who is in financial need that they already have what they seek, but believe it or not – and I’ve made this mistake time and time again, most people have more than they think they have; not everyone, but most people. The simple fact is, most people have more financial and material resources than they think. When someone says they are broke, they usually aren’t totally broke. Again, some people are totally broke. Some people don’t have a penny to their name. Some people are really broke when they say they are broke, but not most people. If you are like most people, when you say you don’t have any money to pay your bills, what you are saying is you don’t have enough money to pay your bills. You really probably do have some money, just not enough. Ok. One of the blessings of God is to show us what we really do have when we don’t think we have anything. So take stock. Get an accurate count of exactly what you do and don’t have as far as cash, credit, resources, and other material things. It’s easy for us to exaggerate when we are going through financial crises and say things like, “I’m broke. I don’t have any money to pay my bills. I’m bankrupt. Bills are due and I don’t have anything to pay.” Like I said before, we usually do have some money, it’s just we don’t have enough to cover all the bills due or coming due. But we need to take stock and really find out what we have. Let’s say your utilities bill is coming due – electricity or water or gas, for example. What amount is exactly due? When is it due? Is it all due or can you partially pay by the due date? In other words, how much money are we talking about and when is this money due? Remember, we are talking about financial survival, not thriving financially. There’s a difference between setting up your finances in an ideal situation versus surviving financially for a while until things turn around. I’m not talking about thriving financially; I’m talking about surviving. In other words, how to get by in a financial crisis because of unemployment or because of the economy or some other emergency, not normal situation. God may have given you enough resources to get you by the financial crisis this time, but he may have to show you how to do it. So don’t guess, don’t suppose – do a complete search and come up with a figure of how much money you have right now, including cash and lines of credit. When you do this, at least now you know what you’ve got and how much further you need to go in order to pay your bills.

Second, make sure you’ve figured out the minimum amount you need to pay for the month. Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” God’s promise says he’ll provide all your needs, so let’s figure out exactly how much you really need this month to get you by. Remember, we’re talking about financial survival. The name of the game during a financial crisis is survival. You need to survive today financially so that you can live again and thrive later hopefully. But if you collapse financially, if you fall behind on all your bills, if you are late on credit card payments or loan payments – in other words, if things all fall apart, that makes life a whole lot harder, not impossible, but harder. So let’s do all we can to survive during a financial crisis. Like I said before, the first step is finding out all the financial resources you presently have; so you take stock and figure out how much money you have. Next, you figure out what is the absolute minimum you owe this month in order to get you through to the next month. Let’s say you owe a total of $1000 when you add up all your bills for the month. Let’s say you’ve done a search and you’ve come up with around $100 that you own. Now my question is, how much of that $1000 do you absolutely have to pay for the month? If you could come up with $500 for the month, would that get you by until some other resources come in? In other words, you next need to do a thorough inventory of the kinds of bills you owe. You probably owe utilities, you probably owe insurance of some kind, you probably owe maybe a credit card or two, you probably owe a mortgage or rent payment, you probably owe on a telephone bill, for example. In order to survive a financial crisis, you need to figure out what bills are most important and which ones least important, which ones must be paid in full and which ones can be paid partially without big penalties. For example, I remember having a big property tax bill due in January one year; I think the total was around $600. Due to some circumstances I couldn’t pay that bill and also my usual monthly bills – I just didn’t have the money enough to do it. So I did some investigating and found that the property tax bill didn’t actually have to be paid in January. Oh, it said on the bill that it was due in January, but it also said that if it was late there was a $5 penalty each month it was late. It also said that the penalty extended out five months, $5 per month until June 1st, at which time the bill would be sent to the county for collection with big fines and penalties. So according to the tax bill, I could delay paying it for four or five months, but no longer. So that’s what I did. I just didn’t pay the tax in January, I gladly paid the $5 interest fee each month, and eventually, I was able to come up with the $600 by June 1st to avoid any real trouble. My point is, it’s important to know exactly what financial resources you really have and then it’s also important to know what the absolute minimum you need to pay in order to make it through the monthly billing cycle.

Third, make sure you pray about the amount you need to come up with between what you already have and the minimum you need for the month. Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” The truth is, not every bill needs to be paid, and not only that, of the bills that need to be paid, not all need to be totally paid. Now I’m not in any way counseling people to not pay your bills, I’m just saying not all bills need to be paid on time – like I showed with my property tax example. The county gladly charged me interest on my unpaid tax bill and made a little extra money in the process. Now under ideal situations we should be paying all of our bills on time, no question. But, when you are facing a financial crisis, when you are trying to survive financially, when you are doing everything to avoid a total financial collapse – you need to switch into survival mode and learn to get by “on a wing and a prayer,” as they say. So let’s say you’ve searched high and low, you looked everywhere, emptied out all your pockets, looked in and under the sofa, shaken down everything in the house and you’ve scratched together $100. And let’s say, also, that you’ve gone over every single bill that is due for the month and the total comes out to $1000. That’s a $900 difference. That’s too much of a difference. That $900 needs to come down to closer to $500 in order for you to survive the month financially, because you’ve got enough faith to believe that God will help you to raise $400, but any more is pushing it. Let’s say you go over the bills for the month again and you’ve figured out a way – by the grace of God – to pay a minimum of $500 on all you bills and it won’t create any bigger crisis but only a few minor penalties or small fees. That’s fine. Now, we need to trust God for the difference. If you are employed full-time, you should be able to come up with the difference, with God’s help, to make it through the month. If you are working part-time, it might be tough, but by God’s grace maybe you can come up with the $400 you need to add to the $100 you already have to make it through the month. If you are totally unemployed it may be a challenge, but with God it’s possible. If there are more or less four weeks in a month, then you need to come up with about $100 every week to pay the minimal amount on your bills for the month in order to survive financially. How will you get $100 per week or $400 for the month? Through prayer – and standing on God’s promises. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Somehow, some way by the end of the month you’ll get enough financial resources to make ends meet, to pay the absolute minimum you owe for the month. This is surviving financially.

The goal in surviving financially is to avoid a total or complete collapse of your finances. In other words, if you were to stop paying all your bills for a month you’d begin to generate a lot of pressures and headaches and heartaches in your life. Not only would you start receiving a lot of angry letters, you’d start getting angry phone call from companies wanting their money. Not only that, they’d start putting on huge fees and penalties and threatening you with lawsuits and legal actions. You want to avoid that. You can avoid that by surviving during a financially challenging time. You can keep current on your bills, more or less, by knowing which bills are flexible and which bills are not. Not all bills are alike. Some companies will work with you and try hard to help you pay your bills each month, while other companies and banks actually act like they want you to fail! But you need to determine what kind of bills you owe and how much you actually owe and how much time you have to pay. Then, you need to trust God to show you how to come up with the difference between the minimum you owe for the month and the amount money you have now. I don’t have time to talk about all the many ways that God provides for our financial needs when we pray and ask his assistance, but the foundation for hope is the promise of God that he will provide all of our needs. I know it’s easy to get discouraged; it’s easy to get depressed because we naturally think the worse and most negative things. We may be tempted to panic, to worry 24/7, to obsess over all our financial problems. The best cure for anxiety over money problems is prayer. We must not be afraid to prayer over each bill we owe for the month, or pray over the difference between what we have and what we need to make it through the month. “God, I know that you will provide all my needs according to your resources, because you say so in your Word. I trust that you will show me how to obtain the money I need to get these bills paid. Give me wisdom to know how to do it. Help me find work, or find more work, or find the resources some other way, but please do help me make it financially this month.” Through a combination of standing on God’s promises and prayer we can get through any financial crisis. It can actually be a time of renewed faith as we see how God slowly but surely helps us solve our problems. And when God provides the resources in answer to prayer it’s inspiring to see God’s financial miracles happen in our life. We can survive any financial crisis if we would only turn to God to see us through.

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