Financial Survival for Christians, Part 8 (DIY)

Title: Financial Survival for Christians, Part 8 (DIY)

Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Time: December 5th, 2012

 

A few years ago I started a message series call, “Financial Survival for Christians,” which grew into eight separate messages, and which has proven very popular on the Internet. Every time I visit my sermon series web site I see that more and more people have read and commented on this series, more than on any other messages I’ve given. So the Lord is using “Financial Survival for Christians” as a tool for helping people get through the economic recession that started here in the United States a few years ago. The series doesn’t attempt to explain how to ideally organize one’s finances, but instead focuses on surviving financial crises or setbacks in life. That’s why a lot of the material in my messages isn’t found in conventional Christian books on financial money management, or on popular Christian radio shows, such as The Dave Ramsey Show. I’m trying to help Christians through financial crises and help them survive so that at some future time they can then organize their income and expenses in a more systematic way. But in the meantime, I show how the Bible has a message for those Christians that are struggling to make it financially in these difficult times. Today, I’d like to talk about the very important principles in financial survival of DIY – or in other words, learning to “to it yourself” as much as possible. What is DIY? It’s simply the ability to tackle one’s own repair or maintenance job without needing or having to call in someone else from outside, an expert or repairman, to survive. And as we all know, to hire someone to do repair or maintenance work is costly. So in a time of financial crisis it’s important to do as much of our own repair or maintenance work as possible, in order to save as much money as possible. Now obviously, it’s easy to talk about repairing or maintaining one’s own possessions — that is, it’s easy if one has the skill and experience enough to do it. Some things we won’t be able to repair or maintain on our own because we lack such skill or experience. But the truth is, there are many or even most things that we can repair if we know how to read an instruction book and use a few basic tools. Unfortunately, we’ve grown used to having everything done for us in our modern, contemporary society. It used to be that boys were taught how to use basic hand tools, and girls were taught to use many household tools as well. But today we’ve become spoiled in our modern, prosperous age into becoming almost useless in fixing or maintaining our own possessions. It used to be the case that farmers and their families would repair and service nearly all of their farm and household equipment. But today it isn’t the case with most modern families. So we have to make a special effort to learn and gain knowledge and skill on our own. Fortunately, there are resources to do this. Today’s passage is 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” Let me say three things about this important verse.

 

First, we should learn how to use basic tools in order to survive during financial tough times. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands. . . .” Now the Apostle Paul is teaching the Christians of Thessalonica – which by the way, was and still is a city in Greece. It’s interesting that this verse is speaking directly to Greeks, because ironically, present day Greece is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy precisely because its citizens don’t know how or simply aren’t practicing self-reliance and self-responsibility in respect to economic activities. Currently, Greece is a heavy socialist economy that relies on big government and that discourages personal self-initiative through a bloated welfare state. But it’s now having to pay the price for this mismanagement. Only time will tell whether the world, and especially the United States, will learn from Greece’s mistakes. But the Apostle is teaching the ancient Greek Christians to take care of themselves and learn to work with their hands. Now why is working with one’s hands so important? Because in order to fix and maintain things one must utilize tools, and in order to use tools one must know how to work with one’s hands. Today, we’re tempted to specialize in some very narrow field, say, computers, and then when a financial crisis hits we can’t do anything but type into a keyboard or work computer programs. But these things aren’t very helpful in avoiding costly repair or maintenance bills around the house. We need to learn how to fix and maintain most of our appliances and equipment around the house. We must be able to do most of our own home maintenance, as well as automobile repairs. If we don’t, we’ll have to spend a lot of money paying other people to fix these things – and that’s really hard when we are struggling financially to begin with. So in order to save a lot of money we need to acquire a basic knowledge of the basic tools needed for home and auto repairs. Fortunately, there are books and resources available at the local library. And on the Internet, there are instructional videos on how to fix almost anything, for example, on YouTube. If we don’t already have the needed tools and skills, we can quickly learn what tools we need and how to use them in order to fix something ourselves. We also need to break the costly habit of thinking immediately that we need to call someone to fix something that’s broken. That’s a luxury we must resist. Instead, we need to pray and ask God to help us fix whatever is broken, especially during financially tough times. The man of the house, especially, needs to take responsibility and pull together a basic toolbox and then get up to speed on how to fix his own possessions when they break. The pipes leak? With the Lord’s help repair them. The car needs new front brakes? Ask God to help you replace them. Fortunately also, a lot of stores like Home Depot and Autozone, for example, are trying to help us with our DIY projects. And like Ben Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

 

Second, we should not be afraid to ask for instruction and help during financially difficult times. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” Now taking care of our own business, being self-reliant and responsible doesn’t mean we should never ask for help and instruction from others. A lot of times, because we are not professional plumbers or carpenters or auto mechanics, we won’t know exactly what to do in order to make the repair. We want to avoid calling an expert to come in and fix something for us because it will cost us a lot of money, which we don’t have anyway. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t interact with experts or people with skill and knowledge about whatever the repair we need. Often we can learn from the professionals how to make a repair, or how to maintain something in our home or on our car. Just by talking to people who know more than we do, we can gain valuable information and knowledge. For example, the other day my electric dryer stopped working. I unscrewed the back cover on it and found a belt had broken. The problem was I never fixed this dryer before and knew nothing of where the belt even goes. So I called the local appliance repairman here in Jamestown and asked him if he had the belt for my dryer; he said he did. Then I asked him how to change it. He told me that he was working on a similar dryer and to come down and see how easy it is to put on a new belt. So I drove about a mile down the street, went around back and watched him for about 5 minutes put the belt on. Now I know how to do it. We can learn through experiences like these. So all I had to do was get a new belt and do what I saw him do and the dryer is fixed! Of course, I always pray to the Lord before, during and after I fix something, for God’s help and blessing. Hey, if I’m in a financial crisis and every dollar counts, I want God blessing me every way possible. And since most of the time we’ll be tackling repair projects we aren’t familiar with, we need God’s help to give us wisdom and skill so that we don’t make things worse! Of course, if we have family members or friends who know something about repair we should talk to them, find out what they know in order to help us make the repair. They may even volunteer to help us make the repair, although we shouldn’t impose on them for their time and ability. Although maybe we can trade off with them by offering to help them fix something we know, in exchange for their help in something we don’t know. That’s an option.

 

Third, we should not be afraid to try to tackle DIY projects during financially tough times. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” The last part of the verse talks about not being dependent on others. In other words, we should strive to be independent of others, so that we don’t have to rely on others for our support and life. Obviously, we all do need each other in many ways – that’s why communities form to begin with, why villages, towns, cities and nations exist. We do need each other. But what Paul is talking about is each person taking care of their own business so others won’t have to take care of us. Now some people, unfortunately, will need cared for, because of a number of different circumstances — for example, the elderly, the sick and infirmed, and so forth. This is acceptable. But what isn’t acceptable is for an able bodied person to rely on others to take care of him when in fact he is perfectly capable of taking care of himself. But if we assume that when every time something we own breaks or needs maintained we must call for a repairman or expert, or take whatever is broken in for repair, unless we have a lot of financial resources, we’ll spend a lot of money, and maybe go broke in the process. Especially during financially tough times, it’s important we learn to repair our own broken things, and maintain our own home and auto – more or less. I add that last qualifying phrase, because one of the secrets of DIY is knowing when and when not to tackle a DIY project. For example, because I’m a pastor who works with typically small congregations, I never have enough financial resources, so I make a point to buy a car that is easy to fix. In my case, a Ford Escort. I’ve owned a number of different Escorts over a twenty-year period, so I’m familiar with this car. I’ve replaced brakes, starters, alternators, and mufflers, even engines in these cars. I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years, using only basic tools and the repair manual. But even I know when I run into a repair I should leave to experts, like the transmission. Sometimes it’s necessary to bite the bullet and pay a repairman. But for most repairs, we really can do it ourselves if we apply ourselves to doing it. It’s a great feeling to know that a repairman would charge $1000 for something I’ve fixed for $25. Not only am I saving a ton of money, I’m depending on the Lord’s help, so my faith increases, and also I feel more confident about repairs in the future. It’s a great challenge to see how much money you can save by fixing something yourself.

 

Like I said before, we’ve gotten spoiled in our modern contemporary age. We think that because the Yellow Pages are full of repair shops and repair men that we must use them. We don’t have to use any repair service if we can do it ourselves! And one of the great motivating factors in experiencing a financial difficulty is that when you don’t have enough money for a repairman it forces you to do it yourself! As they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I love it when I’m visiting someone at their home and I see a homemade repair. It might not look pretty, but I know that they’ve saved a lot of money doing it themselves. On the other hand, I know people who seemingly don’t ever even try to do any repairs themselves. I know one man who even said, “I’m really bad at repairs. I tell my wife all the time that it’s cheaper to call a repairman, because I’ll screw it up worse and then we’ll only have to pay even more to undo the damage I’d do.” I don’t buy that! I think the man is really afraid to tackle something outside his comfort zone. Hey, if you’ve got the money to pay others to do repairs, great. But if you are going through a financial crisis, you’d better not be calling the repairman for this and that, because if you do, you’ll not only be in money trouble, you may find yourself in bankruptcy. The truth is, with average intelligence and average skill, the average person can make their way through most basic home and auto repairs. I’m not talking about the major repairs; I’m talking about basic repairs. As Americans we’ve grown used to many modern conveniences. In fact, we’ve grown so used to the convenience of prosperity that we’ve almost forgotten how to fix things on our own. But during financial crises, we might need to relearn or learn for the first time how to become self-sufficient and self-reliant. I think we’d surprise ourselves how many things we can truly fix without having to call the experts to do it for us. Most basic repairs require only a service manual and a few basic tools to do. If we can read we can get a pretty good idea what the repair involves. If we can use a screwdriver and pliers we can probably fix it. Now I don’t want to oversimplify the situation, but I really believe that God will give us the ability to save a lot of money, especially when we are going through financial hardships, in order to keep us afloat. God promises to supply all our needs according to his riches in heaven, Philippians 4:19. Sometimes his supply is giving us just enough knowledge and just enough skill to make repairs for ourselves and not call in outsiders who will charge a lot for their services. But whatever it takes, God promises to supply us with whatever we need. Amen.

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