Save Me, I'm Drowning!
If you saw someone drowning and God said the only way to save them was to throw in your child, would you do it? I wouldn't. But that's exactly what God did in order to save our souls. We were going under, drowning in sin, and God, our only hope, did what only He could do, which is to bear our sins, in our place, so we could be saved!
Now we're saved, but most of us still know that drowning feeling, because we are drowning in debt and going under financially. One of the main weapons the devil uses to stress out believers is money troubles.
Good news: There is hope, and help. The Bible has the answers. Jesus spoke more about money than He talked about heaven and hell combined! And there's many more principles throughout the Bible that will help us...including right here in our Nehemiah study...
v. 1 They are fighting over money. 'Til debt do us part!
v. 2 They have a shortage for basic human needs...just for food.
v. 3 Just to eat they have to sell their necessities of life.
v. 4 Now they are borrowing money just to pay their taxes! The IRS accepts credit cards because of this.
v. 5 Their children have been sold into slavery, their future mortgaged away. The same is happening in the USA today. For the first time ever, we are raising a new generation who does not expect to have things better than their parents. It used to be that the kids would help the parents later in life...now it's been reversed and if not for the parents, many kids would not survive.
These are God's people in our text, and they are in financial bondage, and that greatly limits both their happiness and what they can accomplish in their lives.
God has a better way. What God orders, He pays for. Where God guides, He provides! He is our source, our be all and end all.
Symptoms of financial bondage:
1. Having to charge necessities of life.
Do you use credit for groceries and gasoline, clothes, etc., knowing you won't be able to pay it off in full that month?
2. Borrowing money to pay fixed expenses.
Talking about the house payment/rent, car payment, phone or cable? Borrowing from one card to pay on another card?
3. Are creditors writing and calling you for their money?
If there's a person in your life you'd like to never see again, just loan them some money!
4. Are you tempted to be dishonest about money?
Do you try to talk your way out of bills? Think about cheating on your taxes? Tempted to do something dishonest or unethical?
5. Do you ever say, I can't afford to tithe?
Do you bring the Lord's tithe [10%] to the Lord's house on the Lord's day so the Lord's work can be done in the Lord's way?
6. Do you and your spouse ever argue about money.
"Theirs was a perfect marriage, except a fatal flaw--one was quick on the deposit, but the other was quicker on the draw!"
One guy said, "My wife and I never argue about money. We made an agreement years ago, that I would make all the big decisions about money, and she would handle all the little ones. It's worked out great, we've been married 30 years and there hasn't been a big decision to make yet!"
7. Do you know how much you really owe?
Are you afraid to add it up? It's amazing in counseling how many people know they are in financial trouble, but have no idea how much they really owe. They sweep it under the rug. They try not to think about it.
23 Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
We cannot bury our heads in the sand. God has told us to be good stewards of what He gives to us. He is entrusting us w/ money, and we are letting Him down!
8. Do you know what it takes to survive each week?
If you added up all your expenses for the month and divided by 4.3, do you know right now what the answer would be, what you need to make ends meet? Many people just put their check in the bank and start writing checks, and then wonder why they have so much month left at the end of the money!
Make a list of all your bills, necessities of life. Put God up top, give Him the firstfruits! Don't leave anything off the list, if it is a need to survive. These are non negotiables. Do the math and see what you have left.
If your total need is $612, and your income is $615, you've got a problem. You and your spouse are arguing, and really, you are arguing over 3 dollars! The rest of the money is a no brainer...already spoken for.
Suggestion: Have a checking account for fixed expenses. Have another account for the difference between your income and your fixed. Do an online transfer or whatever, and that money is what you make your decisions about. You've already made the decisions about your fixed items. The second account is the only REAL money you have!
Don't consider plastic as real money, because it is not! Don't enslave yourself in a dungeon of your own making. Christ wants to set us free from financial bondage. He wants to raise us up from drowning in a sea of debts! We made big credit mistakes early in our marriage as we tried to have everything our parents have, only 20 years quicker. We cut up those cards and paid them off and plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is!
Now, what if your fixed expenses are more than your paycheck? That means every week you go in the hole, and that's before you buy anything you want. That means nothing can ever break down or need repaired. That means you never save, never get a vacation, and never get a break!
Obviously, there's only 2 possible fixes:
• Decrease your outflow
• Increase your income
Most of us really could do some downsizing, but we're upsizing everything including our extra value meals! Whichever solution we choose, the one thing we cannot do is ignore the problem. We must sit down on purpose and prayerfully work this thing out!
Time out, you don't have to be poor to be in financial bondage.
v. 7 The nobles and the rulers were the wealthy who were taking advantage of the people. They were charging exorbitant interest rates, foreclosing on properties, and they themselves are in financial bondage, because they weren't good stewards of money either, even though they had a lot of it!
Some sit here and think they are doing ok. But are you in financial bondage? Ask youself...
Do I trust in my money more than in my God? I don't care who you are, you are supposed to pray 'Give us this day our daily bread.' Your money could take wings and fly away! Money talks-it says, 'bye bye!'
Are your personal goals in tune w/ God? Are you trying to build a personal portfolio or the kingdom of God? Are you laying up treasures on earth or in heaven? Are your values temporal or eternal?
Is every dollar you have available to God? Not just the tithe. What about the other 90%? My God can ask for any of my money or all of it at any time because it's not really MY money, it's all His! I'm supposed to be the manager. And if He can trust me, maybe He will entrust me w/ more!
Do you find yourself making money when you ought to be serving God? Do you ask for overtime on God's day? Do you say, "I can't go to church, I'm too tired from work." Or, has God blessed you to the point that you buy things which in turn take you away from Him? The worst thing that ever happened to some Christians is that they had enough money to buy a boat! They have money to travel, and travel they do, especially on God's day, because Monday is coming, and I've gotta make money to cover things!
We've seen the problem of financial bondage, now...
The Principles of Financial Freedom:
v. 14 Nehemiah is saying, "I was in charge and could have easily taken advantage and lined my own pockets. But I didn't because I fear God!" God in your heart should be greater than greed. God is #1 in my life, not making money.
1 Timothy 6:10
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Some things are more important than making money.
ill.--I had a summer job during college in sales, but part of our pitch was deceptive, tricking people into buying [Bibles at that!]. I quit after a few weeks and got an honest job.
I know many believers whose conscience made them quit driving a beer truck or working a Sunday job, or whatever was getting in the way of them putting God first.
The fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of wisdom, it is the beginning of wealth.
v. 16 'I continued in the work...' Nehemiah could have just supervised, but he got his hands dirty and set the example.
"Many people are itching for things they aren't willing to scratch for!"
We need to work, or not eat! There are some who are legitimately disabled and need help, but they can't get much because our tax dollars are going to so many who just don't want to work!
Isn't it the ultimate goal to be able to quit your job and not have to work? They buy lottery tickets, and seek get rich quick schemes.
But I say, not working might be a tragedy in your life. I so appreciate some who have been blessed w/ free time, but they consider that just more time to work for their Lord! [Ted]
We think of work as a curse, but God told Adam to work before sin ever came into the world.
I appreciate our retirees ... they haven't retired on God! They know that God has something better for them than a Winnebago that they drive around looking for fishing holes and restaurants that give senior discounts! Shuffleboard and bingo are fun, but is that what God has left us around for?
I may someday get to the place where I don't have to work for money, but I never want to get to the place where I no longer have to work for God! I want to finish well.
4 The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.
13 Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.
19 He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.
'Vain persons' is the slick guy w/ the get rich quick scheme. You can't get something for nothing. We need to work!
2 Thessalonians 3:10
10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
In America today- half the people don't think they need to work because the other half will feed them, and the other half thinks it does no good to work because they'll just have to give it to someone else. We're in trouble! The government cannot give to anyone what it does not first take from somebody else.
"Where do you get your check?" "The government." No, they have no money. We the people, we are the government, and it's time we take our nation back! [Obama money video]
v. 17-18 He says, I fed all these people every day, and not w/ government funds, but out of my own pocket. This is one of the principles of financial blessing ... let's learn a lesson from God, that if you give, more will be given back to you. It's the simple principle of sowing and reaping.
24 There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.
God blesses the cheerful giver. Do you have an open hand or a clenched fist? Just giving doesn't get you out of debt, you also have to obey God w/ the other 90%.
4. Reliability. [trust]
Malachi 3: 10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.
We either believe that or we don't.
ill.--Ask a person in the pew for a dollar. Return a bill to him. Why did he give me a dollar, no questions asked? Because before the service I said if you do when I ask, I'll give you $10 in return for your trouble. Why did he follow thru and do it? He believed me at my word. If he didn't trust me he wouldn't have done it.
If you believed Malachi 3, you'd tithe. Don't say, I can't afford to tithe, just tell the truth and say, I don't believe those verses.
Tithing has never been a matter of money, but a matter of trust. It's a trust fund. Many times in our marriage we have written our tithe check out when we weren't sure how it was gonna clear or how we were gonna buy groceries...but God always made it come out right in the end.
v. 18 "God took good care of me in a time of dearth." When many were suffering around him, Nehemiah was well cared for. And God promises to take care of His children when they obey. The Bible says God takes pleasure in the prosperity of His people. I'm not saying He wants us all to be rich, but it's also a myth that He wants His people to be poor. There's nothing noble about poverty.
27 Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.
3 John 1:2
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
Biblical prosperity is defined here in Nehemiah's experience. It is having what you need in order to do what God wants you to do. What does God want?
• For you to have enough to meet your needs. God wants your bills paid. Perhaps you've created bills that weren't in God's will...ask for forgiveness and for His help in getting out of debt.
• For you to have enough to be able to give generously. Missionary Arn this week testified of how they as a family asked God to give them enough so that they would be able to give...and they as a family support 3 missionaries to other fields!
• For you to have enough to save for the future. The Bible teaches that this is a wise practice. "Consider the ant" who prepares for the winter during the summer.
If you don't have enough to do the above, then something is wrong which needs to be righted. Take inventory. Draw out the budget. Let me help privately and confidentially. Attend the new Financial Peace course beginning next month.
Remember these principles from our text:
Priority-is God first in your life? Tithing is the first test you must pass.
Industry-have you been as diligent as you should be?
Generosity-are you faithful above the tithe?
Trust-are you trusting in God or plastic?
Some feel like they couldn't have clothes w/out credit cards. But God promised to clothe the lilies of the field, and said, how much more will I clothe you?! Some of you need to go home and in faith cut up those cards and just say God, I trust you to clothe me, and if not, I'll just not be clothed. [Don't come to church naked, however!] God will clothe you if you let Him. He will bless you in ways you'd never dream if you don't take your prosperity in your own hands, but trust it to Him and do it His way. We get most of our things from Goodwill, and you'd never know it. We have many other nice things that He has given to us, because we wouldn't have spent the money on it. Our focus is on eternity, but He blesses our present!
Are you drowning? The Lord wants to save you!