Money: Seeing the Eternal Through the Temporal
- Friday, December 23, 2011
I would submit that some of the financial difficulties our nation is experiencing may not necessarily be a bad thing. Most humans look up only when we have been sucker-punched and are lying on the floor flat on our backs. That’s when we tend to see the eternal through the temporal.
As you read this, the financial markets may be shooting toward the moon, or they may be in the tank. Historically, stock market investments go up roughly 70 percent of the time. Over the last 100 years, stocks have gained value in most every ten-year period, including during the Great Depression.
The question laid squarely at our feet is how will we respond to the tempests in the teapots of our lives in view of eternity? What if tough times caused Christians to again become the salt that Jesus directed us to be? What if we, again, led by example? What if we bought fewer “extras?” What if we paid off our credit cards and purchased only cars we could afford? What if we saved more than we spent? What if we always had money to give to others and were truly ready unto every good deed? What if we got serious about being all we could be as God’s witnesses before the world?
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (2 Peter 2: 11-13, NIV)
Three Reasons Why People Who Are In Debt, Stay In Debt
As I write this, I’m on a plane returning home to Nashville from a No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar that we concluded last night in Montana. The church was filled with sweet, godly people. But many of them were struggling with their money. I was especially touched by a couple of situations where the people felt hopeless. I’ve learned several things through the years as I’ve taught the seminar around the country, and one of those lessons is that people who are in debt stay in debt for three reasons:
1. They feel hopeless. In truth, they are usually not hopeless. Most people who follow what we teach in our seminars can get out of personal debt (not counting their homes) in a one- to four-year period. Granted, there are huge benefits to starting this process early rather than later in life. But if you’re already in your late forties, fifties, or older, it’s not too late. There are people who start savings plans in their seventies and still see helpful results. Remember, it’s never too late to start doing the right thing. (By the way, in addition to the financial implications in that comment, there are also some profound theological implications. The God we serve is not only the God of the second chance—He’s the God of the ten thousandth chance, too!)
2. They feel all alone. This is where Satan does his best work—he convinces a person that he is the only one with the problem. So, naturally, he’s embarrassed and tries to hide it by putting on his mask and pretending like everything is okay. Yet, inside, he’s dying. His spiritual vigor is gone. He’s fighting with his spouse. He doesn’t have time for the kids. He can’t sleep at night. He’s depressed.
The truth is if you’re in debt, you’re not alone. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m convinced the majority of Americans are only one paycheck away from trouble. It’s been estimated that many of us are spending 20 percent of our income paying off short-term, high-interest rate debt.
And as long as the devil keeps us convinced that we’re the only person hurting—he wins!
I’ve about decided that the devil is nothing more than a roach. Have you ever gone into a dark room, turned on a light and seen a roach in the middle of the floor? What does it do the second the light hits it? That’s right—it runs for cover! Dear reader, the devil is a roach. When we begin to shine the light of Jesus on him, he scrams! What we need to do as Christians is develop the “koininia-style” fellowship that the Bible tells us to develop. We need to become each others’ best friends and confessional partners. When we start to talk openly with each other, things change. Church is much more than sitting for an hour looking at the bald head in front of you! It should be the place where we develop our closest friends and confidants.
But to be painfully pointed here, the church is sometimes its own worst enemy. In many churches, “that sort of thing just isn’t done,” some Christians might say. After all, if we’re God’s kids, aren’t we supposed to have our acts together? Sure, we can admit to some of the socially acceptable sins: “I wish I didn’t lose my temper so easily” or “I spend too much time at the office and not enough at home with the kids.” But that’s where we draw the line. After all, many of us are “people of the mask.” When we come into the church building, our neckties are straight, our dresses are in fashion—and our lives had better appear to match up. Maybe it’s time to shine the light of Jesus on that old roach!
When we become involved and invested in one another—and start telling the truth—we’ll begin to open up. Some of you guys need to begin a weekly men’s prayer breakfast so you can cultivate this kind of atmosphere. Some of you ladies need to get gut honest in your prayer circles. Some of you husbands and wives need to invite another couple over, pop some corn, and start the conversation. And if you don’t know what to say, try something like: “I’m sitting bolt-upright in bed at three o’clock in the morning scared about my debts;” or “My wife and I are at each others’ throats;” or “I haven’t given anything at church in six months.”
I believe if you try a stunt like that you’ll be surprised at how the conversation will flourish. And you know what the really neat thing is? There’s a high probability that the other people will breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Me too!”
3. They feel dumb. It’s amazing how often when I’m talking to people about their debts, they’ll stop and look at me and say, “I feel so stupid” or “I’m such an idiot.”
Here’s the fact: Being in debt and being dumb are two entirely different things! Sadly, it’s possible to be totally out of debt and still be a dumb person! But, seriously, the opposite is also true. It’s possible to be in debt and not be dumb at all! I could share a number of stories with you of people I’ve known who were smart business leaders but got themselves into terrible debt troubles.
Granted, most of our debt dilemmas are the result of dumb decisions. But making a dumb decision and being a dumb person are two totally different things!
Steve Diggs has presented the No Debt No Sweat! Money Management and ReTooled & ReFueled Essential Life-Skills Seminars over 500 times at churches, colleges, conferences and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve at www.NDNS.org, www.RetooledAndRefueled.com or www.SteveDiggs.com or call 615-834-3063. Today, as the author of seven books Steve is a TV commentator and fulltime speaker. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four grown children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.
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