Makeover From Debt

Makeover From Debt

1st Thessalonians 4:11-12 “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you. So that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”   How many of you have enjoyed playing the game Monopoly? You know how the game works. Players accumulate property, build houses and hotels, and then wait for the other players to land on their property so they have to pay up. Eventually you hope to bankrupt everyone else and have all the money and property. Truly, American Capitalism at its best! But, regardless of who wins the game, when the game is finished, the board is folded up, all the game pieces are put away, and the lid goes on the box. It has only been a game.{{more}}Owning a Rolls Royce, an extravagant house, and living a “more-is-better” life will yield no more joy for eternity than winning at Monopoly. When your life is over, the game pieces are put away, and the lid is closed on your coffin. It won’t really matter who owned the railroads or Boardwalk. Earthly wealth does not guarantee earthly happiness or heavenly treasure. Amen!It does not matter whether you earn a little or a lot, whether we spend everything or hoard it all.When you find yourselves in financial bondage you are preoccupied with money. You become anxious about meeting present obligations, and are driven to get more money and the things money can buy. Some of you reading this message may be doing very well in reference to these things. You are living within your income and are being wise and faithful in the use of the money God has given us. Your desires are in check and we are being generous. Others of us, on the other hand, may be in a very difference place. Money is all you think about. It is the thing that causes the greatest tension in our marriage. You screen our calls to try to avoid the bill collectors. Your credit cards are maxed out and you are barely making your minimum payments. The pressure is great and you are not sure how much longer you can bear it. Amen!The good news for all of us today is that God is concerned about our financial affairs. He is not only concerned, he can teach us the right way to handle our money and he will bless us in the process. God knows all too well that the love of money leads to all kinds of evil. He knows that materialism is a trap and that many people have fallen into it and have been plunged into ruin and destruction. And that is why God’s Word has so much to say about the proper perspective toward money and proper principles for handling it.   So, with the rest of the message we will look at six principles that lead to financial freedom.The principle of work. The Bible teaches that you should strive to earn an honest living. The Bible says that we were created to work. When God created Adam, he took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it 2. God is a worker and you are made in His image. 3. Work is mentioned in one of the 10 Commandments “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” but on the seventh you shall rest 4. In 2 Thessalonians 3 Paul writes: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command and urge such people to settle down and earn the bread they eat,” and “We gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat” 5. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul wrote, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you. So that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” So, the first principle of financial freedom is that you must work to earn a living. Amen!Now, that being said, I realize that there is a big difference between all of us and our abilities to make a living. Some have many more abilities than others and many have worked very hard to make themselves more marketable by receiving years training and schooling. But nevertheless, you are who you are, where you are, and you have to do the best we can for the glory of God. The best way to advancement of any kind is to work hard in whatever situation you are in. Many times people sit back and “wait for their ship to come in”, but you must realize that ships do not come in, you have to swim out to them. Jesus taught in the Parable of the Minas that the servant who proved himself was rewarded with more opportunity. Jesus said, “Well done, my good servant, because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.” May God bless us as we work hard in the opportunities and with the abilities He has given us.A Second principle of Financial Freedom is The principle of avoiding debt. People who are financially free work to stay clear of debt. Now that does not mean that they never use credit of any kind to purchase large-ticket items, like houses. But it does mean that they try to avoid getting into debt unnecessarily because they understand how debt works against them. Indebtedness is a crippling epidemic in our culture. Consumer debt sits like an invisible elephant in the center of far too many homes, including Christian homes. The average American household has 12 different credit cards and 20% of them are maxed out. The personal credit card debt carried by the average American is $8,562. There were over 1.3 million credit card holders declaring bankruptcy last year. What we sometimes fail to understand is the way debt works against us. When the credit card company sends their cards, they do not attach an instruction sheet explaining how 21% interest works for them and against us when we do not pay off our bill. Consider the following scenarios in evaluating the intelligence of using plastic. Ellen is 30 years old and has a $3,500 balance on her credit card at 18% interest. She makes the minimum payment each month. How old will she be when she has her credit card paid off? The answer is 70 years old. Susan and Tom needed a new washing machine, so they went to Sears and found one for $299. They got a Sears charge card and made the minimum payment each month. By the time the washing machine was paid off, how much did Susan and Tom actually pay for that washing machine? Answer $1,199. $1200 dollars! See, credit card companies are not there really to help us, but to help themselves and enslave us. In fact, credit card companies have a name for those of us who pay off our balances on time. They call us “dead beats” because we “rob” them of the interest they desire. Amen!Proverbs 22:7 warns, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Amen! When you are in debt, you give your personal freedom away to the lender. So, one of the principles of financial freedom is being very careful about getting into debt, because it is a lot easier to get into debt than to get out of it.A Third principle for Financial Freedom is the principle of budgeting. People who are financially free manage their money by design, not by default. Have you ever heard people say, “I just do not know where my money goes?” The reason they do not know where it goes is because they do not look. And they do not look because they do not want to know. Bringing design to your money management requires that you assess how much you have, identify what is coming in, track what you spend it on, and estimate what you will have for the future.   Bringing design to your money management implies having a plan or a budget. One person described the function of a budget as “telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” Another person said, “Money talks and mine always says good-bye.” Often you avoid budgeting because you want to spend impulsively, and a budget requires that you sort out the difference between needs and wants. But if you really value financial freedom, then a budget is invaluable. A budget is simply a spending plan.A Fourth principle for Financial Freedom is the principle of investing.  Proverbs 21:20 says, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.”And so the Bible teaches that it is wise to save. Unfortunately, saving is no longer an American virtue. Americans today live with the motto: “Spend it now, live for today.” Certainly, God does not want us to worry about tomorrow, nor to put our trust in our savings, but as wise stewards you need to learn to save and allow compounding interest to work in our favor. Saving teaches us to delay our gratification for a later day. Amen!A Fifth principle for Financial Freedom is the principle of giving. People who are financially free are in a position to be generous. Because they have been intentional with their finances, they are not strapped by debt and are in a position to respond generously for kingdom purposes and to the needs of others. I want to say something that may really surprise you today Giving to the Lord cannot wait until we have financial freedom; it must begin immediately, regardless of the situation you are in. When you find yourselves financially strapped, the first thing to go out the window is usually your giving to the Lord. Amen! What I want you to realize is that giving to God must be your first priority; he must not be last on your list and receive something only if there is something left over. The principles of giving to the Lord come to us first from the Old Testament. Before the Law of Moses was put in place you see God’s people offering sacrifices to the Lord and we see Abraham giving a tithe 10% of what the Lord blessed him with. The principle from the Old Testament is that the Lord always had to receive the first fruits, not the last fruits, and that no one should appear before the Lord empty handed. God chose 10% as the reasonable amount for the Jews. I do not know why he chose that amount rather than 5% or 25%, but I have always tried to use that as a beginning point for my giving and I would challenge you to do the same. Many others readers can attest to God’s faithfulness in response to generous, sacrificial giving. Amen!You might be wondering why I am encouraging giving even when the money is tight, and the reason is that I believe you can never get ahead by cheating God. God simply will not bless us if you are not expressing your faith and obedience to him. Look at Proverbs 3:9-10, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Amen! Look at Proverbs 11:24-25, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. “ Amen! 2nd Corinthians 9 has a lot to say about giving, but let me remind you of verses 6-8, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Amen! To achieve financial freedom, you must start by honoring God with your wealth, and by returning to him an amount that shows your trust and appreciation. Let me offer one more principle for Financial Freedom-The principle of contentment. People who are financially free are content they simply are not obsessed with getting more. I am not sure who the fabled Joneses are or how they got to represent a standard of achievement, but people who are content are not pressured to keep up with them. Money is, itself, a neutral medium of exchange, but we have attached a myriad of meanings to it. For some of us, money represents power. For others it represents prestige or security. The meaning that some people have attached to money becomes the hook that pulls them toward greed and places them into bondage. I read a book once where the author described greed as “just a little bit more.” Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep you lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’’ God is the one who is most valuable to us, and He satisfies! 1st Timothy 6:6-8 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” Amen! The world tells us that financial happiness comes by having what you want, but the Bible tells us that the key is not having what you want, but by wanting what you have. Amen! Contentment is its own form of riches. A Florida newspaper reported that a study showed that 70% of lottery winners in Florida are bankrupt within three years. A Reader’s Digest article asked, “Does money really buy happiness? No. Because happiness is not for sale. Many people get tripped up by this one, amassing wealth only to find themselves cycling into a bottomless pit of unsatisfiable yearning. Turns out, joy and misery are not that far apart when it comes to very big wads of cash. Consider the case of a Kentucky couple who won $34 million in 2000. Thrilled to be released from the demands of their boring old jobs, they frittered their fortune away on fancy cars, mansions, all the usual stuff losing everything that mattered in the process. They divorced, he died of an alcohol-related illness, and she died alone in her new house just five years after cashing the winning ticket.” Paul calls us back to a reality check we physically brought nothing into the world, and we physically take nothing out of it. All of your stuff is just temporary. I heard about a man who decided to take it all with him. He made his wife promise to put all his money in the coffin with him when he died. So, at his funeral, she dutifully wrote a check for all his money and put it in the coffin with him. No checks are cashed where he was going! The Bible says that we will never ultimately be satisfied by things. Isaiah 55:2 reads, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” Real happiness is found in godliness and contentment. These are great gain!Financial bondage is a heavy burden to bear, but by God’s grace, it is possible to break free and live in financial freedom. Here are some things you must begin doing immediately to move toward financial freedom: First, you must act our wage. You must stop spending more than you earn. That may mean reducing your monthly commitments Second, you may need plastic surgery. How do we do that? By cutting up your credit cards. One way to begin to dig out of debt is to stop creating more debt. Third, you need to systematically pay off your credit cards. Have a sale and sell everything you do not need, and then apply that money to your cards. Pay them off one by one, and apply the payments you were making to the remaining cards. A place like Consumer Credit Counseling Center is very helpful in working out a budget and helping in negotiating with creditors. You are looking at offering a course on financial management by Dave Ramsey called Financial Peace. Whatever you do, do not give up. Ask for help. Remember Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Money and things do not equal life. God offers real life; real joy; and real peace. Now you how to get a makeover on your debt! Amen!