Avoid indulgence.

Christians must learn to distinguish between needs, wants and desires in every financial transaction. This applies both to purchases of material goods and investments.

Before you buy something, determine whether the purchase is a need or desire, then check it against God's principles. Before investing, be sure you know your reason for investing and what you'll do with the money if God blesses with increase.

Many Christians are frustrated because they cannot distinguish between luxuries and necessities. Consequently, they seek fulfillment through the same channels as non-Christians and then wonder why they have fruitless Christian witnesses. There's nothing wrong with living comfortably, but God doesn't want us to live lavishly.

Prepare for decreases.

A vital part of keeping financially current is being prepared for unexpected decreases in funds. Evaluate financial decisions on the basis of what could happen if there was even a small decrease of income or available funds. Could you make adequate adjustments to live within new spending parameters without having to go into debt in order to maintain your current lifestyle?

Don't operate at the upper limit of income or available funds. Instead, make your financial decisions being mindful of the possibility that a sudden drop in income might require that you reduce your current living standards.

Let peace rule.

Often, God uses inner turmoil, a "lack of peace," to provide direction. If He doesn't give you peace about something, don't become involved, especially when quick decisions are required. Take the time to think and to pray about any decision -- especially financial decisions that will affect your family, and be determined not to make any financial decision under pressure. "The LORD's blessing enriches, and struggle adds nothing to it" (Proverbs 10:22).

Listen to God's Word.

Become sensitive to God's guidance by being familiar with His directives and leadership procedures, through the study of His Word, and by communicating with Him through prayer.

God provides the right direction for those who seek it. Even when you fail to see the right path clearly in the Bible, or fail to hear Him in prayer, He never will fail to place an unrest or a peace inside you that will confirm His preferred course and His will. Be sensitive to God's leading and you'll avoid financial failures and bondage.

Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the Web at www.crown.org.

© 2005 Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.