Overcome: Financial Difficulties

This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled, “Overcome”.  In this series, we’ll learn how to overcome some common sins of life that weigh us down and separate us from the life of abundance and freedom that Jesus gave His life to give us.
This morning, we’re overcoming the issue of financial difficulties.
Nearly everyone experiences financial difficulties at some point in their lives.  It could be the result of unexpected circumstances or tragedy.  It is far more often, however, a result of poor decisions and a lack of understanding of some basic truths.
One of the very first steps in overcoming financial difficulties is to understand that absolutely everything is owned by God.
Psalm 24:1
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
From the very beginning, even before sin corrupted anything, God created everything in a state of perfection.  On the earth, He created mankind to work.
Genesis 2:4-7;15-18
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Although this is a very commonly understood historical account, we sometimes overlook a very basic truth and revelation that comes from it.  God created everything and it was good, in fact, it was perfect.  However, the view of this perfect earth isn’t exactly what you see in children’s Bibles.  There was no greenery.  God had planted the Garden of Eden and had created every tree, shrub, and bush; in seed form.  Not a single plant had sprung up yet.
That’s where man came into the scene.  God created Adam to work the farm and rule over the animals.  God created Eve to help him in all these things.  In return for their work, food grew and Adam and Eve had all that they needed and then some; they never experienced lack.
This principle has not changed since the beginning of time.  Everything is God’s, we are simply managers, or stewards, of it.  God provides the seed, the soil, the rain, the sunlight, we manage and care for the plants.  To put it in our culture’s terms; God provides the opportunities and everything that you need to fulfill that opportunity, we seize that opportunity and work hard with all our hearts.
2 Thessalonians 3 reminds us of this truth and states that if we don’t work, we don’t eat.  We’re urged not to be busybodies, but to really be busy; to actually settle down and earn our living.
However, overcoming financial difficulties goes beyond just working.  I can continue to fill a bucket with water, but if it has holes all through it, that bucket will never be able to contain enough water and we’ll always be in crisis mode.
The principle of good stewardship is what keeps our financial buckets in good shape, without leaks, so that we have control over how full our buckets are, when they are poured out, where they are poured out, and how much gets poured out.
Jesus gave us the parable of the talents in Matthew chapter 25.  For time’s sake, we’re going to summarize it, however.  Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a wealthy man who went away on a journey and entrusted his servants with his wealth, each according to their talents.  Two of the servants doubled what had been entrusted two them and one of them simply dug a hole and hid what had been given to him.  When the wealthy man came back, he put the two servants who had done well in charge of many things.  The third servant, however, did not:
Matthew 25:26-29
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
This principle of stewardship rings true in every area of our lives, however, it reveals itself most clearly in our finances.  Those who have little never seem to be able to obtain anything more.  Whenever they finally get a step ahead, something arises that pushes them two steps back.
This is far from God’s plan for our lives, however!  God wants us to be financially secure so that we are able to bless and generously give to others in need.
The good news is that with some hard work, self control, and perseverance; we can overcome financial difficulties!
Here are some practical scriptures to apply in order to overcome financial difficulties.
1. Work hard
Colossians 3:23-24
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
We have a tendency to separate the two, however, Jesus views our work at our jobs as serving Him.  Work hard with integrity and honesty and all your heart.  In due time, the Lord will promote us and grant us His favor and blessing as we faithfully work hard.
God provides opportunities, but it’s up to us to work hard and make the most of those opportunities.
2. Budget
After being diligent to work hard, we next must be diligent to decide where those finances will go.  I’ve heard it said that if you don’t manage your money, your money will manage you.  Many of us feel the painful truth behind this saying!  Jesus said:
Luke 14:28-30
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
A quick run through in creating a monthly budget is this.
First, list your total NET income that you bring in.
Next, list off your monthly expenses.
The very first expense MUST be the tithe.  It’s the one area of our finances that we owe to God.  God requires 10% of our gross income, God trusts us with 90% of our gross income.  Cheerfully give to Him what is due to Him because He enabled us to be able to bring in an income in the first place.
Malachi 3:7-12
7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

We wouldn’t generously and willingly give to someone who is stealing from us, so why should we expect God to provide for us and to generously give to us if we are robbing Him?  Doing what He asks of us in this matter will certainly bring blessing and free us from the curse of not doing so.  God said to put Him to the test in this matter!
Next, comes taxes.  All of the various income, social security, and medicare taxes are usually automatically withheld, but then there comes the property tax.  Yes, we are to pay taxes, too, no matter how unfair and ridiculous they may seem to be and no matter what they are used to do.
Romans 13:6-7
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Next, set aside something for savings.  Emergencies only become financial crises when we have failed to save for them.
Proverbs 21:5
The plans of the diligent lead to profit
as surely as haste leads to poverty.Proverbs 6:6-8
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
Put something aside for savings – pay yourself!
The next expenses are were it can get a bit tricky.  God has promised to provide for all of our needs, but we often have a poor understanding of what a need is.  Items such as rent or mortgage and basic utilities (water, sewage, electric, gas) and basic clothing and food are necessary.  Items such as cell phones, internet access, television, brand name everything etc. are not necessary.  Now, our income may permit us to buy all of these things and more, but if it does not, then we should not have these things.
Even beyond these necessary items, there are ways that we can blow our budget by paying more than we should for them.  Transportation may be necessary, but a ten year old Ford Taurus may get the job done just as well as a brand new Ford Focus.  If we can easily afford to purchase a new car, then that’s great, however, if we can’t, then we shouldn’t.  This leads into our next point, however, which we’ll get to in a few seconds.
In budgeting, after deducting all of your expenses from our income, the goal is to have a $0 balance.  So long as we stick to this budget, we’re doing very well in avoiding financial difficulties.
3. Stay out of debt
Romans 13:8
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t ever incur debt.  However, it means that we don’t allow it to remain outstanding.  We should only ever borrow as much as we can easily and quickly pay it off according to our budget.  After all,
Proverbs 22:7
The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.
If you currently find yourself being slave to your lender, take the same advice for one who has fallen into the trap of the final tip this morning:
4. Do not cosign for loans
Proverbs 22:26-27
26 Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge
or puts up security for debts;
27 if you lack the means to pay,
your very bed will be snatched from under you.
Proverbs 6:1-5
1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
2 you have been trapped by what you said,
ensnared by the words of your mouth.
3 So do this, my son, to free yourself,
since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go—to the point of exhaustion—
and give your neighbor no rest!
4 Allow no sleep to your eyes,
no slumber to your eyelids.
5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the snare of the fowler.
If you’re in debt, free yourself!  Work overtime, pickup a second job or side jobs, sell unnecessary items, do whatever you can to free yourself from the slavery and bondage of that debt.  The freedom that you’ll find in the end will make all of your sacrifices and efforts far worth it!
In closing, the Lord’s desire is that we live according to His word and experience financial freedom.  It’s not only for our own good – it’s also so that we can be a blessing to others!