The destitute Christian

Think Job—the Old Testament man whose life story is told in the book bearing his name. (BTW, the book of Job offers an enormously important perspective on life, but you need to dig deep into its message to find that meaning. Job is worth reading and rereading.)

Maybe you’re desperate. Your life is a financial nightmare. You find yourself in survival mode. You’re so busy trying to figure out how you’re going to make it to tomorrow that you have no time to even consider whether your mess is your fault, somebody else’s fault, or nobody’s fault. The destitute Christian looks to others for comfort and support, but often receives blame, condemnation, slander, and judgment instead.

It’s important to understand that Christians are sometimes destitute. It’s easy to assume that people are to blame for their financial problems. Sorry. That isn’t always the case. Sometimes they are not. Sometimes—not always, but sometimes—being destitute is even a badge of honor—a path chosen for only a select few of God’s servants. If we don’t get this, we will be arrogant, hard hearted, superficial in our faith, and condescending.

What an opportunity for God! There’s a million creative things God can do with your situation. He might use your plight to break a hard heart somewhere in the Christian community, and introduce someone to the joy of sacrificial sharing. He might use your experience to teach you something very deep and very personal about Himself—something you might not be able to learn anywhere else. He might use your situation to propel you into leading a world-class business, or to show you how creatively He can provide. I don’t know, but in the end, I believe you will stand in awe of God.

The dangers here are many, but two of the biggest are these: losing faith in God and losing faith in people. Job’s counselors abound. (If you’ve read the book of Job and you’ve found yourself in this situation, you know exactly what I mean.) It’s so easy to become bitter. But there are still good people out there; this is just a path that most people don’t understand. God has not abandoned you. He will see you through.

Verses for further study: Hebrews 11:36-39, Job (entire book and especially 1:8, 2:3, 42:7, 42:10 in context), James 2:1-7, 1 Kings 17:8-24

We are looking at five different ways Christians experience money.
1. The diligent Christian
2. The Christian living by faith
3. The destitute Christian
4. The prosperous Christian
5. The Christian in financial recovery

Image adapted from an image by Jeremy Weate, Flickr, Creative Commons.

The Christian living by faith

Think Elijah, the Old Testament prophet who was fed by the ravens and who drank at the brook.

Maybe every day is a financial miracle for you. Nothing is guaranteed, but somehow God provides day after day, week after week. You never have much, but you always have what you need.

If this is what God has called you to do, then your experience with money also shines a spotlight on the goodness and greatness of God. Your life of faith demonstrates the faithfulness of God. Others can learn from you not to worry; God will provide.

The danger of living your entire life here is that you may not fully develop some of the character strengths that mark the diligent Christian. You may expect God to show up when you haven’t put in the work God requires. Or you might expect others to work for you without fairly compensating them. It’s also easy to get impatient with those who don’t share your level of faith or your level of generosity.

Verses for further study: Hebrews 10:38, Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:25-34, Proverbs 10:4, 1 Timothy 5:18, James 5:4, Romans 15:1

We are looking at five different ways Christians experience money.
1. The diligent Christian
2. The Christian living by faith
3. The destitute Christian
4. The prosperous Christian
5. The Christian in financial recovery

Image of sailboat adapted from an image by Federica Chioni, Flickr, Creative Commons.

The diligent Christian

Think Paul, the New Testament apostle who, during seasons of his life, supported himself as a tent maker.

Maybe you go to a job every day, work hard, bring home a paycheck, follow a budget, give generously when you can, invest wisely where you can, make sacrifices, and reap rewards. You earn your own living, pay your own way, plan for the future, and provide for your family.

If this is what God has called you to do, then your experience with money shines a spotlight on the goodness and greatness of God. God values your hard work, your diligence, providing for your family, your sacrificial generosity, your wise planning. These are bedrock values in a healthy society. These are character qualities that mark a man or woman of God.

The danger, however, of living your entire life here is this: It’s easy to look at others and assume they are morally deficient because their life experience is different than yours. It’s easy to become impatient with those who are struggling, hard hearted toward those who are needy. Another danger is this: When disaster strikes, you may not have learned the spiritual skills needed to sustain you when all your money is taken away. It’s easy to put faith in your own ability to provide, instead of putting your trust in God.

Some verses for further study: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12, Proverbs 10:4, 11:4, 11:28, 12:24, 13:11, Colossians 3:23, Luke 8:14, 12:42, Matthew 6:19-21, 6:24, 7:1-5, Philippians 4:11-13, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, James 2:1-7

We are looking at five different ways Christians experience money.
1. The diligent Christian
2. The Christian living by faith
3. The destitute Christian
4. The prosperous Christian
5. The Christian in financial recovery

Image of construction worker adapted from a public domain image provided by pixabay.

Five different ways Christians experience money

Over the next several posts, I will be describing five different ways Christians experience money:
1. The diligent Christian
2. The Christian living by faith
3. The destitute Christian
4. The prosperous Christian
5. The Christian in financial recovery

I’m not saying that every believer will fit neatly into one of these categories. Probably not. In different seasons of your life, you may fit into one or more of these categories—or maybe none of them at all.

What I am saying is this: Understanding that these categories exist opened my eyes to a God I never knew was there. Understanding that these categories exist also opened my eyes to something else: We usually need to look outside our own life experience to gain a better understanding of God and how He operates. Its very easy to judge others by our own life experience, but in doing so we miss a huge opportunity to identify with the heart of God.

One other thought: Getting out of debt, getting ready for retirement, giving wisely and generously, becoming a better financial manager, and earning more money are all worthy goals. But they take a back seat to simply staying in step with God and His purposes. If you let Him, God will use your financial situation to show you and your world His goodness.

Multi-colored image adapted from an image by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr, Creative Commons.

What money teaches us about the heart of God

My experience with money is probably different than yours.

With no money to my name—zero dollars—I made an offer on a million dollar piece of real estate and bought it. Many people don’t understand how that works. Yes, I was part owner of a million dollar piece of property. But that didn’t make me rich. It just meant I had partners, I had debt, and I had risk—if anything went wrong, I would go bankrupt and lose everything.

I’ve had the experience of sitting in swanky downtown offices with high-priced attorneys discussing how we would obtain $35 million in funding to turn our million dollar property into something spectacular. I’ve also had the experience of getting my food at a food pantry because I didn’t have any money to buy groceries. Sometimes both those experiences occurred on the same day. (By the way, the $35 million never came together; we ended up selling the property for a modest profit.)

I’ve had a middle class government job where I received a regular pay check that I needed to budget to make sure we had funds to pay our bills. And I’ve been self-employed—sometimes making $75 or more an hour, sometimes working for months without earning a cent.

I’ve been homeless. I’ve gone bankrupt. I’ve been debt free, and I’ve been heavily in debt. More times than I can count, I’ve not had money to pay the rent or the mortgage, but—miraculously—that money became available at the last moment.

I’ve bought groceries for others, and others have bought groceries for me. I’ve been the recipient of great kindness, and I’ve been ripped off for thousands and thousands of dollars.

I’m grateful for these life experiences because they’ve allowed me to see something about the heart of God that I might otherwise have never seen. Over the next few posts, I’d like to share those thoughts with you.

Image of woman on bench adapted from an image by PetteriO, Flickr, Creative Commons

What does it take to make heaven a home?

It seems to me that God has to pull together a family from unlikely sources. Pacifists side by side with Crusaders. Slave owners living next door to civil rights leaders. Polygamists, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Democrats, Republicans. People from every tribe and nation, from every generation.

We might look some who manage to get inside heaven’s doors and hold them guilty for the things they did in God’s name. Even King David, the man after God’s own heart, a hero I admire greatly, most likely killed hundreds of people with his own sword. I cringe. Yet people from another time and place might look at my life and be horrified at what I’ve done, or left undone.

Somehow, we’ll all live in the same home. We’ll all like one another. We’ll enjoy hanging out together.

How will God do this? I don’t know exactly. But I’m reminded not to be arrogant. I’ll probably get to heaven, just like the rest of us, and discover that I was way off the mark, but somehow, in His grace, Jesus still opened the door and let me in.

“I want to change, but I can’t!” (part 5 of 5)

When we want to change, but we can’t, we need to identify the beliefs that are resisting that change. We may need to return to the memory that created those beliefs. We take those beliefs to Jesus, and let Him do what only He can do.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

You might be thinking, “I already know the truth.” And you might be right. You probably do know the truth. But understand this: It isn’t the part of you that wants to change that needs to know the truth. It’s the part of you that can’t change that needs to know the truth.

Just like my son. He knew he shouldn’t be hitting his sister. Part of his mind was already informed.

But it’s the other part—the part that does not want to change—that part needs to receive from Jesus the truth that will set us free. The amazing thing is this: Jesus knows exactly how to deliver that truth so the part of us resisting the change can take it in.

When the beliefs change, the resistance goes away, and change becomes easy, natural, no, super easy and supernatural.

Hope this was helpful. This is a topic I cover in much more detail in my course, Spiritual Self Defense.

Abstract image: Marco Nürnberger, Flickr, Creative Commons

“I want to change, but I can’t!” (part 4 of 5)

Let me give you an example.

For many years, when my wife got sick, I got angry. This was not a good thing. Here she was, sick, vulnerable, needing my care, and I was just getting snippy with her. “How long are you gonna be sick?” “Why do you always get sick when I’m busy?” Yada, yada.

Okay, let’s all agree: I was being an absolute jerk.

Trouble is: I knew I was being a jerk. I just didn’t know how to fix it.

Then I started looking at my feelings. (HINT: Your emotions are a huge clue to help you discover what you’re really believing.) I started connecting the dots, and came to this realization. When I was a boy, I didn’t feel safe with my dad. (I’m not saying that was his fault; I’m saying that’s how I felt.) So when my mom was sick, there was no one there to protect me from my dad.

Anyway, I took all of this to Jesus. I shared my faulty beliefs with Him. I don’t remember now exactly what He said or did to correct them; I just remember this: Next time my wife got sick, I wasn’t angry. She was sick; I cared for her—all part of life.

More next time, and this is a topic I cover in detail in my course, Spiritual Self Defense.

Train image: Marco Nürnberger, Flickr, Creative Commons

“I want to change, but I can’t!” (part 3 of 5)

The growth process:
Step #1: Getting past “I don’t need to change.”
Step #2: Getting past “I can do it on my own.”
Step #3: Getting past “I want to change, but I can’t.”

While we each technically only have one mind, it’s helpful to think of our minds as having several parts. Part of my mind wants to do the right thing. For sure. If that wasn’t so, I’d still be stuck at Step #1. But part of my mind does NOT want to change. If I don’t figure out what’s going on with this part of my mind, I will never change.

If we’re going to change and grow, we need to take a close look at that part of us that resists that change and growth. What does that part of your mind believe will happen if you change? What do you lose? What do you give up?

It’s important that we take our time with this and look at whatever FEELS true, even if we know it isn’t true, even if it’s ridiculous. These beliefs are often connected with defining moments in our lives, often with events that happened when we were young and still figuring out how our world works.

This is where we need the intervention of Jesus.

More next time, and this is a topic I cover in detail in my course, Spiritual Self Defense.

Ice cave image: Giuseppe Milo, Flickr, Creative Commons

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