Perhaps you have seen enticing advertisements in you newspaper or on television promising you financial independence. What a wonderful prospect! Although God has blessed many of His children with wealth, most of us can only dream about financial independence. Financial freedom, however, is for every Christian steward who faithfully follows God's plan for giving, saving and spending.
Financial freedom means having enough to provide adequately for your household and to give generously and joyfully to God's work.
God wants you to be financially free so you can put Him first in your life and be sensitive to His voice, ready to follow Him whenever -- and wherever -- He leads.
If this is God's plan, why do many Christians live in financial bondage? The reasons are basic. Not understanding or obeying scriptural principles of stewardship, they succumb to the world's philosophy of money. They burden themselves with the material concerns of life and make little or no commitment to God's work.
I believe that materialism is the greatest hindrance to the worldwide propagation of the gospel today. Perhaps in no other area of our lives are we more guilty of rationalizing. When it comes to material possessions, we seem quite capable of not only convincing ourselves that we need them, but that we also deserve them.
This is not to say we shouldn't enjoy life. In fact, Jesus promised an abundant life to all who trust and obey Him. The Spirit-filled Christian enjoys life more than anyone else. What I am asking you to consider is this: What material possessions in your life are consuming too much of your time in order to secure and maintain them?
Materialism is not just a Western problem. People in all countries and cultures -- from New York to Paris to Calcutta to Nairobi to remote villages along the Amazon -- wrestle with some form of materialism.
Bailey Marks, vice President for International Affairs for Campus Crusade for Christ, relates a story which illustrates this:
One day a friend of mine was visiting a pastor in a remote African village. His house was very plain. Built of sticks and mud, it had only a dirt floor and its sparse furnishings were crudely constructed.
My friend asked the pastor, "What is one of the most difficult problems you face in your ministry?"
Without hesitation, the pastor slapped his hand on the table and exclaimed, "Materialism! If my people have one pig, they want two. If they have two pigs, they want a cow, or several cows..."
When I first heard the story, I had a good laugh. But then I realized how true this is of all of us.
It is in the faithful stewardship of that which God entrusts to you, not materialism, that you find fulfillment and true meaning to life.
Let me share with you six specific things you can do to ensure financial freedom for you and your family:
God's will about money is not a mystery. Biblical principles of stewardship give you a clear revelation of His plan. By basing your decisions on these precepts, you will experience lasting financial freedom.
Every investment of your time, talents and treasure, unless otherwise directed by the Holy Spirit, should be determined by the "sound mind" principle which I mentioned earlier. Additionally, you should seek the wise counsel of godly people who have successfully applied biblical principles in their financial giving.
God's Provision for Guidance
There will be times in your life, however, when difficult situations arise for which no scriptural principle or human counsel offers specific direction. You may wonder, Which course should I take? How do I know for sure that my decision is right? Even then God makes provision for guidance.
The apostle Paul instructs, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace." What does this mean?
Peace is a gift and a calling. The Holy Spirit guides you by the presence or assurance of peace in your heart. When you make the right decisions, you will sense calm even in circumstances that are very difficult. When your actions do not coincide with His plan, however, you will feel restless and uncertain.
No better way exists for you to know God's will in your financial decision than to base your actions on the principles of His Word, and then to incite God to guide you with His peace from within.
True financial freedom requires spiritual health. For many years, I have taught the principle of "Spiritual Breathing." In Spiritual Breathing, I explain, you exhale the impurities of sin by confession. The Bible promises that if you confess your sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive you and to purify you from all unrighteousness.
To confess your sins is to agree with God about your sins. This means you agree that your sins are wrong and grievous to God; you recognize that God has already forgiven your sins through Christ's death and the shedding of His blood on the cross; and you repent -- change your attitude: Through the strength of the Holy Spirit, you turn from your sins and change your conduct.
Then, I explain, you inhale the purity of God's righteousness by claiming the fullness of His Spirit by faith on the basis of God's command in Ephesians 5:18 and His promise in 1 John 5:14,15. In this way you invite Him to direct, control and empower your life.
As Spiritual Breathing sustains your spiritual health, so "Financial Breathing" preserves your financial freedom and well being.
Exhale and Inhale
You exhale financially by confessing your sin of claiming personal ownership of the resources God has entrusted to you and of withholding those resources from God's work -- as though, because you earned them, by right they actually belong to you.
You inhale financially by acknowledging His lordship over all your time, talents and treasure and by sharing with others the abundance God provides.
This simple act of faith calls for a total, irrevocable commitment to the ownership of God over every area of your life.
A written financial plan gives you the framework for your economic decisions and enables you to measure your progress toward financial freedom.
Developing a plan is not difficult. The family budget serves as a starting point. Easily identifying your needs, wants and desires, the plan provides a vehicle for setting priorities and forming strategic short-range and long-range goals to govern your spending. Furthermore, the budget enables you to think before you buy, thus keeping your spending on target, enabling you to live modestly and effectively manage credit.
Let me suggest a sound approach to accomplish this goal:
Living With a Budget
In developing a budget, you will need to calculate your normal monthly cost of living, including insurance, plus seasonal expenses such as vacation and Christmas and long-term needs such as your children's education and your retirement.
Once you have established a budget, make a commitment before the Lord to live on that amount. Of course, the budget may need to be adjusted from time to time to provide for inflation or changes in circumstances.
Any income over and above what you need according to the budget can be designated as surplus. For example, if you receive a special bonus during the year but you already have enough resources to cover your budget, assume that God has given you this to help others invest in His work. Any salary increases beyond what your needs require can be passed on as well. By setting a limit on personal needs, you will not only begin to enjoy financial freedom, but you will be able to give substantially to the work of the Lord as God blesses you.
I am not suggesting that you set your needs so low that you cannot adequately live in the society in which God has placed you. I caution you, however, to be careful not to mirror the values of those around you for whom increased income automatically means increased spending on self. God doesn't necessarily reward us as we progress in life by allowing us to increase our standard of living without reference to some set guidelines on what our needs are. He blesses us so that we will have enough for our needs with "plenty left over to give joyfully to others." This would, of course, include laying up treasures in heaven to help fulfill the Great Commission.
Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Experience the Joy of Giving, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. © Cru. All rights reserved.
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