4. Handling Finances

Wilderness Meditations: 4. Handling Finances

Psa 78:19  they said, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?”

Past Uncertainties:  Writing this in the run up to Fall in 2020, we can look back to the months of lockdown, and see the months of uncertainty about how the virus is passed on, whether you remain immune once you’ve had it, whether younger people are less vulnerable, what are the outcomes after you’ve had it, will you survive if you catch it, is testing important and does it work, and when will a vaccine be available?

Future Wonderings: Those were the survival uncertainties but as we gaze into the future (and if you read this in years to come you’ll know some of the answers) there are the consequences of the Pandemic, the economic consequences, that will be seen in respect of rebuilding businesses and even entire industries, coping with mass unemployment, changes in medical provision, changes in education provision, that are impacted by the financial mess left by the Pandemic and the things governments all round the world had to do to help people, firms, businesses etc. survive, that have left a financial and economic wilderness. This is the perspective from this time and in many ways the picture looks more like a lunar landscape than those lush green lands we’ve known in the past. If this perspective is half-way true, then we who are the people of God have the greatest opportunity before us we’ve ever known, but it does involve us first of all learning the reality of the God who provides.

Financial Provision: I think financial provision is a bit like healing – sometimes God involves Himself and sometimes He leaves us to play our part.  Take healing as an illustration. If we abuse our bodies with over-eating, alcohol excess, or drug abuse, or simply never take exercise, we should take responsibility for our state. Repentance may open the door for the Lord to step in or maybe He will require us to get human help or start exercising self-control (Gal 5:23, Titus 2:6, 2 Pet 1:8).

When it comes to finances and the Christian, the starting point has to be a right attitude. When Jesus taught, You cannot serve both God and money,” (Mt 6:24) he was saying you always need to put God above getting money and, as we’ve already seen said that when we seek God’s will and put it first, THEN the Lord will provide for all we need. (Mt 6:33) Note ‘need’ not ‘want’. Having a generous heart towards others in need (2 Cor 9:6 etc.). In fact caring for those less well off is also part of the package (1 Jn 3:17) and in the days to come these elements may prove to be essential:

  • that we put God before finances, putting our trust in Him and in His will,
  • that we learn to be wise and not extravagant in the way we use our money,
  • yet we are generous towards others,
  • and we make a point of meeting needs of other less well off.

God’s Provision: Now let’s assume we’ve got each of these things in place and have an open heart to the Lord, then however hard the wilderness is, we need to hold onto that confidence in Him, that trust in Him, that He will be there for us. Now I believe there are two ways of thinking we need to be clear about:

  • the way that knows God can provide without our involvement,
  • the way that knows God will enable us to see ways of provision.

Now there have been plenty of testimonies through history of the way God turns up and provides for His people – outside their activities. Sometimes that provision is putting giving on the hearts of some of His saints to provide for you. When I was a young penniless Christian, a friend and I felt it was right to leaflet the entire area at Christmas time. We did it two years running. Each year the cost amounted to what today would probably be in excess of a thousand, and each year the Lord provided to within a few pennies of the sum spent, I presume by simply putting it on the hearts of other Christians who heard what we were doing.

Some people are called to ‘live by faith – the Schaeffer’s who, last century, set up the Christian retreat called L’Abri in Switzerland (read the book by the same name to be blessed) were a family who experienced this in action. There have been many others. Perhaps asking the Lord to give you the gift of faith (1 Cor 12:9a) may open the door to a new area of service, yes, even in the wilderness. But finances can come through ways brought about by us when we are inspired by the Lord. When we know He is with us in this wilderness, when we trust Him, put Him first, look to Him, then we can find that new ideas, new creativity, new hope, can spring forth, maybe new businesses, new approaches to how we do things.

Having the debris of yesterdays that didn’t work being cleared away, makes space for the Lord to lead and inspire us if we are open to it. Don’t try reasoning it out. It starts behind the closed door of your ‘quiet time’ as you read His word, pray, wait on Him, seek His face and His will, be still before Him and listen. That is where the fresh resources come, the new ideas come, the fresh inspiration comes from the Creator God who is wiser than we are, knows how things work better than we do, can see into the future and know how various things would work, so He can guide us with what we call ‘wisdom’. It’s a new day with new possibilities. In the world it’s tough. In God are ANSWERS! 

11. Peace with Finances

Short Meditations on Peace 11. Peace with finances

Isa 26:3   You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

For the early part of our married life I had a very good job and, without children, we had no financial worries. The Lord then led me into a better job but with a smaller salary (better in that the quality of our life increased) and then three children came along. I am aware, as I look back that during that period I was constantly looking at what we were spending and wondering much of the time how we were going to get by. As young Christians we wanted to tithe as we saw that as an Old Testament practice at least, it was a useful tool in God’s workbox for our lives to set us free from being slaves to finances and also learning something of faith. Nevertheless, I am sure that during that time I lacked peace about our finances. I know what that is like.  I was sure I was in the right work place but we hardly got by. Incorrect, we had everything we needed and we were not poor.

Now as I think about that testimony above I realise that so much of the time it is all about perspective, how we view our lives. You have no doubt heard Mr McCawber’s adage (of Dickens fame) about finances which in modern terms is, “a pound in the black and peace; a pound in the red and worry.” Apart from a mortgage and a loan on a car many years ago, we were never in the red. If we didn’t have the money, we didn’t buy it. At the end of the month I always pay off our entire credit card bill. When I took early retirement from a teaching job (decades ago now!) we used the money to pay off our mortgage contrary to the financial advice which is to have as much debt as possible. Why keep on paying interest to other people????  No, we had peace.

Contentment is being at peace with what you have. The advertising world and the fashion world and the world in general encourage you to have and get more and more. If you have the mentality of needing to keep up with others, and so need to keep looking for a bigger and better house, a bigger and better car, and so on, you will lack peace; you are living at less than God’s design for your life. Although changing jobs and careers four times in my life, we have managed to stay in the same house for over forty years and live well. Every job change meant a reduction in income but an increase in quality of life. We no longer tithe as such, but we give, some on a regular basis and others when we see a need we sense the Lord wants us to meet. I believe our faith is bigger now than when we first tithed when it comes to money.

Want to avoid the absence of peace in your finances? Receive gratefully what God gives in your circumstances, but don’t overstretch yourself. See what above speaks to you. Read it again.