On Money and Worry

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Most of us would like a little more money…or a lot more money. With the economy still down and improving slowly, many people are without jobs, drawing on either the government or their own savings to make ends meet.

As a guy, I worry about money quite a bit, not in the sense of needing tons of it, but in the strong desire to provide for my wife. I worry about not getting a job, about us having to sell one of our cars or some other possessions to get by, and about what we’d do after everything we can sell has been sold. I worry that she’ll be the only one of us to find a real career job and I’ll be stuck flipping burgers or stocking shelves at 2 AM.

These fears aren’t really justified. My head, that rational part of me that I often ignore, knows that. It tells me I’m an experienced accountant, but just have a rusty resume. It tells me I’m smart, hard working, and skilled, so with determination, I ought to be able to find some accounting or finance job, even as a temp, to spruce up my resume, then get a pretty good job and be a great provider.

My heart counters with its fears and usually wins.

All the while my spirit is trying to tell me that it doesn’t matter because God is in charge anyway. He can do whatever He wants. He can have the winning Powerball ticket blow through the little crevice under our apartment door, give us minimum-wage jobs that are barely enough to scrape by, or anything in between. Whatever His plan is, though, it’s not on me to provide. It’s on me only to obey.

God is a good Father. This means several things:

1. He wants to provide for us.

2. As God, He has the power to provide for us.

3. He will give us what we need, even if it’s not what we want. Just like a good parent won’t let their children have cookies all day, so God won’t give us things that are bad for us.

4. God is willing to give us things we want, but won’t give us things that will take us from Him. When I wanted a wife more than anything, God kept one from me. When I loved Him honestly regardless of whether I was married, He blessed me richly with Leah. God must always be our chief treasure, not a means to our chief treasure.

5. As my King and Employer, it’s on Him to give me orders, judge my work, and pay me accordingly. He doesn’t owe me anything, but He promises to give to us according to our works (Romans 2:6, Revelation 22:12). He is also in charge of the results of our work (1 Cor. 3:6).

6. His blessings are dependent on my walk with Him. Even if I’m obeying Him in His calling, I can do it out of a wrong heart or have other areas of sin in my life. You don’t have to be perfect for God to bless you (or else we’d never get any blessings), but just as a good parent won’t give a rebelling child presents all the time, so God won’t bless you if you are rebelling against Him.

I don’t have to worry about money. In fact, worrying (by worrying, I mean “having anxiety,” not “paying attention to”) about money or anything else is a sin because it shows a lack of faith in God to provide. If I am His child, I should behave as a little child who wants something from His parents.

Imagine you were six years old and wanted a bike. If you had a good father, you might ask him for a bike for Christmas. If he said yes, you’d tell your friends you were getting a bike. In your mind, it’d be a done deal, even though you don’t have the bike yet. You’d be waiting impatiently for Christmas, knowing full well that you’d get what you wanted when the time came. No worries about how your father would pay for it. No fears that he’d change his mind. No stressing that he’d forget about you or decide he didn’t really love you. He promised the bike, so you were getting the bike.

And if he said no, you weren’t getting the bike and you’d have to learn to live with that. You’d still have to obey him and you’d still love him, even though you’d be disappointed and confused.

We are to be that way with God. We are to come to Him with everything, ask Him for what we want, and then let Him make the decision. If He says yes, then it will happen. If He says no, we should still love and obey Him. Under no circumstances should we have any worry or fear that He will let us down, for He loves us more than any human father ever could and He has more power to protect us than we can imagine.

Don’t worry about money (or relationships, health, <insert other stress here>). You have a loving Father who will provide what you need when you ask Him and trust Him.

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Call Waiting

Another thing I had wanted to post on from Sunday’s sermon was the point that we will all stand individually before God. But delivering that point is not what I’m led to do. It’s what God told our pastor, Gary Wilkerson, to do. What I’m being led to do is write about how people change and I’ve already written about confidence and forgiveness. Pastor Wilkerson is called to teach God’s grace.

Neither of our callings is more important or better than the other’s. God gives to each as He sees fit and He doesn’t demand certain results from us, just that we do our best to serve and honor Him. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents, in which a wealthy man gives one servant five talents, another two, and the last one. The first two both double the money entrusted to them. They get the same reward and same praise from the master. The second servant didn’t seem to be worried that he didn’t gain five talents. He knew he had done his best and was faithful with what had been entrusted to him.

We have a tendency to be jealous of others. “The grass is always greener on the other side,” after all. Unfortunately, we can do this with other people’s callings as well. Even Peter wasn’t immune to it. When Jesus told him how he’d die, Peter was apparently jealous of John, even though it doesn’t seem he knew what would happen to John (John 21:18-21).

A large part of our walk is learning to be content with the walk He has planned for us. There may be death, disease, sorrows, riches, pain, joy, laughter, tears, marriage, children, crushing defeats, heartache, or any other good or bad thing. Your calling may be what you consider small and unimportant. If it is, maybe that’s God’s way of telling you that you must kill your ego to serve Him. If it’s in front of millions, perhaps God has much to teach you from the feedback of so many. In His eyes, though, all of these are really the same because all of them boil down to one simple question and your answer to it:

Will you serve Him with your whole heart?

Tell Them About My Love

When I was in church on Sunday, the ideas for posts this week came fast and furious. At one point, I was going to blog about the pastor’s message. I asked God what He wanted me to say about correction vs. rejection (not the main thrust of the message, but an important point) and He responded, “Tell them about My love.”

And so my first post this week was about how much God loves us all. I could be as eloquent as Shakespeare and still fail miserably to capture the tiniest fraction of His love for us.

Whether I can say it well or not is not important. What is important is that I show it. Most of our communication with people has nothing to do with the words that come out of our mouths. It has been estimated that 55% of our communication with others is in our body language and facial expressions, 38% in our tone of voice, and 7% in our actual words. I would argue that there’s another component to consider: our actions.

When you talk to others, do you just say the right words, or do your expressions and tone make that person feel loved and accepted? Do your actions line up with your words and body language? There will likely be someone where you work or in your social circle who watches you a little more closely just because they know you’re a Christian. They will pay attention most of all to how your actions line up with what they know of the Bible (which may be unfair if their knowledge of it is limited or skewed) and to how much you love people. The one thing that seemingly all non-Christians who have heard of Jesus know about Him is that He commanded us to love others, not to judge them.

I know that when others offend, hurt, or annoy me, I’m not as charitable in my heart as I should be, even though I sometimes manage to say the right words. The problem is that people are very adept at reading when you don’t like them and we all crave love and acceptance. If the God you believe in is not enough to change you, why would people believe in Him to change them?

I honestly don’t mean to come down on anyone. God knows I’m desperately in need of this message myself. I just want you to ask yourself honestly how you’re coming across to other people you meet, whether your best friend, spouse, colleague, or a stranger on the corner begging for change. Do they feel loved after being with you? And how much love do you have for them, especially when you don’t like something they’ve done?

Group Hug!

I had a friend in Virginia who, at a women’s Bible study, said, “I bet when we get to Heaven, Jesus is going to shout, ‘Group hug!'” That mental picture has stuck in my mind since I heard the story. I see Him running up to us, so eager to greet us all, so holy and perfect, greeting us happily when our actions should have condemned us to never be in His presence again.

I used to think the Gospel was something that God intended more for other Christians. I saw it as Him saying, “Well, I kind of died for everyone else, but if you want to hop on the bandwagon, that’s cool, I guess.” I didn’t believe He actually loved me personally, that He would have come to earth, lived a perfect life, and died at my hands to save just me.

When I think of it now, though, I’m humbled to the point that I have to fight back tears.

Our church has a bunch of different people in it. There are people like me, clean-cut but in just t-shirt and jeans. There are people who wear button-up shirts and slacks or dresses. There are a few bikers with their leather jackets and a dozen patches sown into them. There are those who barely part their lips during worship, those who sing loudly and off-key, those who dance, and those who sit down with their head bowed the entire time. God loves every last person in that church.

He even loves the ones who don’t love Him. If He didn’t, He wouldn’t have sent prophets to Israel to warn them about the consequences of their sins. He wouldn’t have sent the disciples to the Gentiles. He wouldn’t have forgiven those who crucified Him. He loves us first, that we may love Him, not because we love Him.

And His is the truest love, for He has nothing to gain by us. Nothing we can offer can make Him more glorious or complete. Nothing we withhold can make Him poorer. He lost His life for loving us and gained nothing.

Just as He showed His love for all of us on the cross with His arms wide open, He is in Heaven now with His arms wide open still, this time waiting for the chance to give us the biggest hug we’ve ever gotten.

When God is Silent

One of the reasons it can be so easy to fret over life’s situations is we often don’t hear God giving us guidance and reassurance, even though we’re praying for them. As babies, we learned the concept of object permanence: that an object still exists even when we can’t see it anymore. As adults, however, we seem to forget that this applies to God as well.

There are times where God is not silent, but merely quiet, that you must draw closer to Him in order to hear Him. At other times, He is completely silent, and these are the ones that truly frighten us, for our mind wonders what we did wrong, what we’re supposed to do now, and what will become of us.

As with everything He does or allows, though, there is a purpose: to show us our hearts and strengthen our faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We must have faith in God even when there is no tangible, incontrovertible proof that He is on our side or even exists. When we require a sign often, it shows a lack of faith in Him to guide us and account for our mistakes in His plan. It shows that we don’t truly think of Him as good, loving, and forgiving enough to take care of us when we’re imperfect. And it shows that we think of Him as a poor Father who would let His children down.

When God is silent, we are to seek Him and stay near so that if He should speak, even in a whisper, we would hear it. Aside from that, provided we are living according to His will and commands as well as we can, we are to assume that we are right where He wants us for the moment. No general would expect his troops to move without giving them a command first; just so, God will not expect you to do something differently without telling you first.

Rest in Him, serve Him, praise Him. It may well be that God is silent because He wants your trust to be in Him, not in the manifestations of His power and goodness.

Seeking Rest

I recently began reading The Confessions of St. Augustine, and I’m already thinking you’ll be seeing a lot more posts inspired by him. His passion alone, even without his considerable rhetoric, is inspiring. Just reading what he wrote, it’s hard to not have the thought of, “This guy gets it.”

One quote in particular that jumped out at me was this:

Thou (God) hast prompted him (mankind), that he should delight to praise Thee, for Thou hast made us for Thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in Thee.

I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to praise God sometimes, especially when I’m worried or upset about something. I have less peace when my heart isn’t trusting in Him. With less peace comes less of a desire to praise and, cyclically, with less praise comes less peace because I forget the magnitude of God.

Oddly, even knowing this, I still have a tendency to worry about certain things, particularly money. I tend to take my focus off of God and put it where it has no business being, which is really anywhere but Him.

If you’re like me in this, I’d like to encourage you to try something with me: take at least 5 minutes every day this week and just praise God. No requests, no confessions, no crying out to Him about how you feel – just praise for His power and goodness.

It’s said that home is where the heart is. God created our hearts, now He wants to be their eternal home.

The Results are In

I’ve been writing quite a bit lately about how to go about starting a real change in your life. I believe that everyone has a change they should work on, whether that’s a moral or personality issue like losing their temper too easily, an addiction like gambling, or simply a way to improve their lives. Rooting out the bad habits and starting good ones is a wonderful thing. Changing your heart is much better still.

The best changes, though, are the God-inspired and God-aided ones.

One thing God has been dealing with me on is my motivations for writing. I have to admit that there’s a part of me that wants to make a fair deal of money from the books. Part of me wants to go into a bookstore and see what I’ve written on the shelves. The former is based in part on a desire to support my wife, myself, and our future children, but both are based in large part on ego.

There are two problems with this. The first is that it’s wrong to use God’s work for your glory. God doesn’t exist to honor you; you exist to honor Him. He doesn’t owe you anything, even if you give your life and everything else you have to Him, because He has already given His infinitely more valuable life for you. God often chooses to bless those who serve Him well because He loves us, but He owes us absolutely nothing. If you’re using your calling to honor yourself, God will not be in your work. You may become wealthy and famous, but you won’t be blessed by God, and His gifts are always better for you in the end.

Second, you can’t control the results. In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” God gives each of us a calling in life, but rarely does He tell us the outcome. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were called to warn people of God’s wrath and impending punishment. A few people listened, but it seems they were largely disregarded. The fact that they were ignored does not mean that God was not with them, though. It does not mean they did anything wrong or didn’t give it their best effort. It was not on them to ensure results, only to obey God in what He bid them.

Whatever your calling is, whether it’s to talk to one person one time and plant a seed in their heart that will eventually lead them to Christ though you never see it, or to become the next Billy Graham, preaching to millions worldwide, God will not demand specific results of you. He just wants your obedience. It is on Him to provide the results.

As one last point, keep in mind that His idea of success almost certainly differs from yours. For example, as my wife sometimes has to remind me, if God had me write my books to reach only one person, and that person got the books, then He’ll consider my ministry a raging success. All the effort I’ve put into writing, editing, and getting them out won’t guarantee my definition of success, nor His if I do it with a wrong heart. All I can do is serve Him willingly and wait for His results to come in.