Summary: God provides to/for you so you can do likewise.

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The urban dictionary classifies a hacker as: as someone who strictly pursues creature comforts through completely legal means that while frustrating to others; allow him to live his best life

We are all hackers looking for shortcuts or ways to do things which are less stressful and more comfortable. Life is hard enough so finding the fastest way to, or through, the obstacles of life seems like an appropriate subject in this covid reality we have found ourselves in.

So over the next six weeks, we will be sharing simple shortcuts to help you live your best life. Over the next few weeks, we will offer financial, relationship, parenting, purpose, work and even a simple shortcut to God.

Today, we will look for our life shortcut in the New Testament letter Paul wrote to his protege Timothy. In specific, we will be reviewing 1 Timothy 6:6-20

First Timothy is one of three pastoral letters (including 2 Timothy and Titus) that the aging apostle Paul sent to those who would continue his work. Timothy was, in every way, Paul's spiritual son. Young but gifted, Timothy had been assigned to lead the church at Ephesus-a church needing order in worship as well as doctrinal correction, plagued as it was by false teachers. Paul's letter, likely written about a.d. 62-66, counseled the young man on matters of church leadership-from proper worship, to qualifications for overseers (elders) and deacons, to advice on confronting false teaching and how to treat various individuals within a congregation. Paul charged Timothy to live a life beyond reproach, giving believers a standard to emulate. ESV commentary

Paul had just completed a warning to Timothy about those in the church who seemed to be serving themselves over and above serving the Lord. So let’s explore:

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

The thought seemed to validate one of greatest misquotations from the Bible. It happens within verse 10. Please underline and highlight the words “For the love of” because in context the scripture changes significantly. I think we often fail to read the word “For the love of” because secretly we want to support a myth that vilinaizes the rich and glorifies the poor. However, this creates a very damaging half truth. In the same way, verses 17-19 commands the rich 1) to not be arrogant 2) not to trust in it 3) to enjoy it through being generous.

I hope we can be honest for a moment. We all wanted to be on the TV show “lifestyles of the rich and famous” at some point in your life. My dad used to say, “You don’t have to have money to be happy, but it sure makes it easier.” While a half truth, it places too much faith in man’s portable power to fix an inside problem.

Financial Freedom though is not about our zeros but our heroes. In other words, Financial Freedom is not “just don’t think about money and trust in God.” Financial Freedom is actually a bi-product of having a healthy understanding of money and its place in our life.

Both must be understood as warnings and ideals.

Now let’s talk about some financial freedom hacks to give you genuine financial freedom.

The first is to ‘Learn to be content with what you have.” We must learn to be content. Contentment comes from our heart. Paul understood this, In his writing to another church while in prison you can see this Philippians 4:11-13.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

The context is that Paul had learned he can get through anything with Jesus. The best biblical definition of contentment is best defined as: I can cope with everything as it is. I don’t need more to be happy. Larry Osborne said it best, “If I can’t be content here and now. I can’t be content then and there.”

(personal story) A couple of weeks ago, Pastor Mike came by the Center, he was like a boy with a new BB gun. He was like come on outside I have something to show you. I was like ok. Now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but he has a longer stride than I do. He was practically halfway to the parking lot before I came out of the office. When I finally reached the outside door and saw him standing next to a Rolls Royce Phantom, a car worth a half million, I was a little out of breath. The car was beautiful. He gave the history of the car and told me about his cool boss, the car and the weekend plan. He then offered me a ride. I said, “No.” He persisted and persisted. I never took the ride. Later he would ask why I was so reluctant. I told him. I have learned when I experience luxury like that, I sometimes return to my normal life thinking about why I am not so blessed. Why them and not me? Envy creeps in. I just didn’t want to deal with the emotions.I was content and wanted to keep it that way.

Don’t commit a loan.

The second financial hack is to make a “decision to live below your means.”

The scriptures are clear. In fact, proverbs are full of financial wisdom to support this assertion.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)

Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich. (Proverbs 21:17)

The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down. (Proverbs 21:20)

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. (Proverbs 13:11)

Just like we talked about last week, one of the greatest shortcuts to a great life is the reading and applying the scriptures to one’s life.

(Personal Story) Diane and I got married when we were twenty-two. We were poor when we got married. We had love and were sure it would be enough. After a while though, we began to want a little more. A couple of running cars and a bigger place. Now, at the time, I was in sales and knew. If I made more sales, I’d make more money to afford those nicer things. For a while, I didn’t care about saving or retirement. We just made more and spent more. And then it happened, I was feeling a strong call to ministry and wondered “how could anyone afford to follow God?” Let’s be honest, ministers don’t generally make a lot of money and I know the retirement benefits are out of this world. But in my crises of questions, God put a small book in my hand called Spiritual Simplicity. The gist of the book is live on 60% of your take home pay, save the rest. Be diligent and you will never go without. Now, we haven’t been as good at this as I would have liked, but it has definitely carried us through. How much can you live on?

Here at the Center, we have been striving to live below our means. Over a year ago now, we had assembled a savings of roughly 6 months of savings. Thank God the leadership team has been so wise in praying and planning about major expenditures. Covid has been tough on us all. However, we are grateful for all of our committed and generous partners. The discipline of the leadership reminds us all of the practical steps we can take to ensure financial freedom. God has been so faithful to our tribe. When we started in 2017, the Center didn’t have a bank account, savings or even an operational sump pump. We did have prayer, faith and building to share with the community and we did. From a men's group from a defunct church or a break dance ministry, we gave away what God had so freely given to us. Which some found crazy, but we believed the scriptures and a major principle from God.

The third financial hack is “Pay God first - not last.”

Another proverb which speaks to this is:

Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;

then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)

Or as Jesus said in the greatest discourse from His sermon on the Mount,

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

(Personal Story) I’ve always hated when I went to church back in the day and it was “Money Sunday.” The sunday or sundays when the preacher or a finance person guilts and shames everyone about giving to the church. It wasn’t until I was challenged to pray to God and ask him to give me more, above and beyond my normal allowance, that everything changed. The idea was called “a faith promise.” Diane and I were to go home and pray for two weeks about how much we should ask God for, above and beyond our normal salaries and commissions. At the end of two weeks, we were challenged to write down an agreed upon number and bring it forward during communion. All the cards would be totaled by Monday morning and returned to the family and be put in a prominent place in the home (like the fridge). The church didn’t ever remind anyone or ask for an accounting of the promise. It was strictly between God and the couple. If God gave resources above and beyond, you were asked to give until your promise was fulfilled. Occasionally, we’d hear the stories of the bonus checks, the inheritance, the insurance rebates. The first year we put a small amount. Our tax refund was double the norm so it covered the promise. The next year I went big. We received three unexpected checks from the insurance company totaling the amount promised. If ever I wanted to break the promise to God it was then. The next year I went crazy and promised a huge amount. That happened to be the year, I got laid off and was hired back at a gig paying double what I asked for. God’s promises are yea and amen.

So my point is this, If you already are managing your finances God’s way, praise Him by being generous. If you are struggling to get by and seems like you never have enough, consider taking God up on these financial hacks - learn to be content in what you have, find a way to live below your means and finally, test God’s promise to you, by making a promise to give to Him a standard weekly amount or all your unexpected this year - including pay raises, extra overtime and any additional found money. We serve an awesome God who has always given what you need, maybe not what you want, so let’s return the love by doing likewise.