But remember the LORD your God, for it is
he who gives you the ability to produce
wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which
he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
On my way back from a speaking engagement recently I read an article in the New York Times. This unassuming, short article was practically buried on the fourth page of the business section in a small pullout box. The short headline whispered and blared at the same time: “Bankruptcies Continue to Rise.” Uh-oh. No good news there.
My eyes rapidly scanned the content. I felt an ache in my heart for the 1.6 million people who had to file for bankruptcy protection in the last year. That number, a new all-time high, was almost 3 percent higher than the previous year. The article went on to point out that the financial problems were caused by the lingering effects of increased spending, made possible by historically low interest rates and heavy household debt.
Have you noticed the first reaction we have when we read bad news like that? If we’re not in trouble, we might think, “People should be more careful and spend less.” But that assumes a lot. In fact, almost everyone I’ve ever counseled who has struggled with debt and finances knows that obvious truth. What makes it hard is learning how to say, “Yes” to the smart expenses and “No”(or “Not yet”) to the unwise expenses. True, wisdom and discipline are key ingredients in this equation. But they’re not the starting place. The starting place for our work together is with God. You need to know that His desire is for you to make a healthy income, spend it wisely, enjoy life, and expand His Kingdom.
Several years ago I wrote my first book, Take God at His Word: Experiencing the Power of Giving. One of the discoveries I made while working on that teaching is the theme passage for this first step in your journey From Debt to Life. Deuteronomy 8:16-18 says, “He (God) gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.”
In all my years of Bible study, I had never noticed this passage before. When it comes to finances, God both humbles us and empowers us. His covenant includes both! This truth encourages me greatly. Let it sink deeply into your heart, as well. If you’re struggling to pay your bills right now, allow the Lord to humble you enough that you can listen to truth. Truth is always good, even when it’s hard to hear. God’s truth is also designed for your good. Life will get better as you apply and see the results. So take what you’re going through right now and look for messages, ideas, and skills God will use to teach you to rely on Him and not on your own strength and ability. The children of Israel wandered until they learned this lesson. Their journey had to take forty years, but yours does not!
Stop right now and make it your goal to find favor from God in your finances. Do this first. Do this before you build a budget, analyze your debts, or worry about your credit score. Start with desiring God’s touch on your finances. Do you think this might make a difference? Absolutely. Anything on which God will improve .… guaranteed.
The favor from God we desire has two distinct themes. First, we want God to show you (through any means He chooses) what you can do to reduce your expenses, break free from debt, restore your credit, and stop beating yourself up for past mistakes. In other words, we’re seeking His help so that you can stop the negative actions and consequences that are hurting your financial life.
The second equally important theme is to find God’s favor for increasing your wealth and financial force or strength to support yourself, providing for your family, giving to expand the Kingdom, preparing for your retirement years, and also enjoying life right now. In short, we’re seeking God’s help to add the positive financial ingredients to your life.
In both themes of favor, I’m going to show you how to change your direction. Stop moving backward in your finances and start moving forward. When you do, you can expect to see God guide you to find ways to create wealth.
This brings me to an important question: What is wealth? Is it having lots of money? I doubt it. Many people who have a great deal of money also have huge expenses. One of my most trusted, wealthy friends likes to remind me that people have a tendency to spend whatever they make, regardless of whether they make a lot or a little. So begin immediately to recognize that you are “becoming wealthy” simply by living within your means. The real definition of wealth has more to do with what you have left after you pay all your bills … and how you feel on the inside. As Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.” When you have peace and the presence of the Lord inside your heart, you are living in the middle of great blessing. That, my friend, is wealth.
Several years ago a national magazine quoted a fascinating comment from billionaire Ross Perot. Evidently, Mr. Perot was speaking to a group of rich business leaders. He told them not to confuse having lots of money with being happy. Here’s how he put it:
Guys, just remember, if you get real lucky, if you make a lot of money, if you go out and buy a lot of stuff, it’s gonna break. You got your biggest, fanciest mansion in the world. It has air conditioning. It’s got a pool. Just think of all the pumps that are going to go out. Or go to a yacht basin any place in the world. Nobody is smiling, and I’ll tell you why. Something broke that morning. The generator’s out; the microwave oven doesn’t work … Things just don’t mean happiness.
“Things just don’t mean happiness.” Exactly! Ross Perot’s conclusion fits whether you make $40,000 or $40 million per year. Don’t let the world’s economic system shove you around. Modern marketing ploys play to our vulnerability. Some of the brightest minds in the world are pitching you and me to, as the famous saying goes, “… buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t even like.’” Know the feeling? Sure. We all do.
That’s why I took a second look at God’s definition of wealth, especially in this passage. I was surprised to find that in the original language of the Old Testament, the primary definition of the word refers to “something with power or force.” While the word “wealth” is occasionally translated as “riches,” the main use of this word is in describing an army and especially one that is “valiant.” I love this imagery!
Valiant, courageous, high-impact … God wants us to create this type of wealth in us. When He does, He can also trust us to manage it for good purposes, blessing, encouraging, and creating positive results. That’s why He wants you and me to experience His creative blessing through our work. This is a part of His covenant with us as we follow Him.
Now, by knowing this truth from God’s heart and looking at even the harshest circumstances you may be facing, you have a starting point. This is the spot where you take courage, knowing that God intends for you to be financially healthy, strong, and productive. Poverty, debt, and financial struggle are not His plans for any of us. We may have to face them, but we do so in order to defeat them!
With this in mind, draw some new conclusions with me:
Read through each one; write down at least one response to each question as a start for your Action Plan. Write more if you like!) You will begin to experience God’s favor.
Psalm 20:4 – “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”
What desires do I have for my finances?
Proverbs 28:20 – “A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”
What are a few of the ways that faithfulness to God brings blessing?
Proverbs 16:3 – “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”
Which financial plans would I like to see God bless?
What do my commitments to Him in these areas include?