COPING DURING PERILOUS FINANCIAL TIMES
You are well aware of the financial woes that we are experiencing as a country. On the surface, you have every reason to become alarmed. However, as God’s children, we are called to have a different mindset. I was awakened recently with this message on surviving the crisis. For simplicity and retention, I will use the word C-O-P-E as an acronym to outline the basics of what we must do now.
Chill: This is the colloquial term used today meaning to relax, to cease worrying. God is saying to his children, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT). In other words, “chill out”. God is not pacing the floor in heaven trying to figure out how to avert a financial tsunami. He is writing history. Therefore, we have an awesome opportunity to show the world our faith by how we respond to an economic crisis. Our peace should be so evident that others will question its origin. Sadly, many Christian leaders and lay people have become so anxious that they are first in line for the anti-anxiety medications that are selling at an all time high. (This is not an indictment against those who genuinely need such meds due to chemical imbalances, etc.). It’s a slap in God’s face to be anxious when he has promised to meet our every need. Several times a day as negative financial reports are blasted over the airwaves, I remind myself-often out loud since faith comes by hearing-that God has never forsaken those in right standing with him. No need to panic, to pull money out of the bank and put it under the mattress, nor to accept a zillion part time jobs in anticipation of lack.
Obey:It is critical that we remain obedient in paying our tithes, and giving offerings, and helping those in need, i.e., giving alms. Proverbs 3:9 says to honor the Lord with our possessions and the first fruits of all our increase. Be careful not to dishonor God by putting him at the bottom of your financial priorities if your funds decrease; warn others likewise. Further, a crisis is not the time to become fearful or selfish when it comes to helping those in need. The widow of Zarephath, on the brink of starvation, moved beyond her fear during a severe economic downturn and sacrificed for the man of God. As a result, she and her son experienced an inexhaustible food supply until the crisis ended (see 1 Kings 17:8-16). Know that when you are obedient in these three levels of giving-tithes, offerings, and alms-you are insuring yourself against lack, much like insuring yourself against loss when you pay your car insurance.
Plan: When Jesus admonished us to “take therefore no thought for the morrow” (Matthew 6:34 KJV), he was cautioning against worry and anxiety; not wise planning. “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity. . .” (Proverbs 21:5 NLT). The following strategies are a must for financial survival:
- Establish an emergency cash reserve of at least one-month’s living expenses (three is even better). The average American cannot even access $1,000 without having to get a high-interest credit card advance or a personal loan from a friend or relative. Set a deadline for achieving this goal at all cost.
- Manage your credit as never before-especially credit card debt. Avoid paying bills late as a delinquency can trigger higher rates on the card, or have an immediate impact on car insurance rates, interest rates on other credit cards, etc.
- Payoff your credit cards. A simple strategy is to start with the debt that has the lowest balance. Why? It will free up cash sooner to apply to remaining debts. Also, you will feel a sense of accomplishment once a single debt has been totally eliminated, and you will have greater incentive to keep up the good work. Now, add an extra amount to the minimum monthly payment on the card with the lowest balance. Where do you find the “extra amount”? Try eating out less. Is that expensive latte really that good? And do you really need all of those extra telephone services? These savings alone yield at least an extra $50 per month. Must you always get new clothes for an upcoming event? Now, continue paying the minimum payment on all other debts until the smallest debt is paid off. When this debt is paid in full, take the minimum plus the extra payment that you have been paying and add the entire amount to the minimum payment on the next lowest debt #2. If you faithfully follow this strategy, you will turbo charge your way out of debt in remarkable time.
- If you work for a company, tighten up your act. Perform all duties with excellence; submit to your boss with a good attitude; learn processes beyond your area of responsibility, and be a team player. Don’t be a clock watcher; arrive a few minutes before regular start time and leave a few minutes later than the regular stopping time. Don’t steal from your employer by doing personal work on company time or taking home supplies; why sabotage your blessings? Make yourself indispensable, the last person to be considered for layoff. However, don’t operate in fear. Know that God has your back and no man can thwart his purpose for your life (Isaiah 14:27).
Expect God to work on your behalf. Do not focus your expectations on governmental or other solutions to the crisis. Rather, be reminded of the admonition in Psalms 62:5 (KJV): “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” Our primary expectation must be of God and not of man. I have drawn an imaginary horizontal line in my mind which separates the “sense” realm from the “faith” realm; I am determined not to be moved by what I see or hear in the natural. The just live by faith! I learned in physics that no two forms of matter can occupy the same space at the same time. To me, this has profound spiritual application: it is impossible to dwell on negativity while focusing my thoughts on the promises of God. I challenge you to get excited about the miracles that God will work for you-especially if you have been (or have decided to be) obedient in your giving. My own experience bears this out. The current year should have been a trying time financially for my husband and me as his employer cut his workweek in half for almost nine months. Being in full time ministry, my income can be sporadic. However, God has allowed my books to enjoy record sales. I’m happy to report that every obligation has been met in a timely manner. We did not have to resort to credit card debt nor drastically adjust our life style. Further, we have maintained a level of cash reserves never previously attained when we both worked lucrative executive positions! To God be the glory.
God honors his word. You can COPE during these perilous financial times and continue to experience his peace. Receive this word and watch God show himself strong in your life.