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Overcoming the Challenges of All Things Financial – Part II

 

There is a sharp and very helpful contrast in the New Testament between two couples. Both of them evidently had some degree of wealth. Both of them seemed to be in their prime, perhaps in their 40’s or 50’s. Both are introduced to us in the book of Acts. But how they saw and handled their wealth was vastly different, as was the fruit of their lives.

 

The first couple we are introduced to in Acts chapter 5 is Ananias and Saphira. They owned property – enough to where they could sell off one piece. They sold it off evidently because there was a move of the Holy Spirit going on in the church in Jerusalem to such a degree that members of the church were laying down their lives and their possessions for their brethren in need. It is a thrilling story told in Acts 4:32-37. Many believers “…who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.” (4:34,35).

 

When God pours out His Spirit in a given church or region, many will want to be a part of it, but not always for the right reasons. This couple evidently were very much into their image. And very much into hoarding and holding on to as much of what they had acquired as they could. They probably agreed intellectually with the basic doctrines or truths of Christianity, but apparently did not know and walk with God daily. Their passion was not to be rich toward God and see His kingdom come and His will be done. So they devised a plan to give only a portion of the proceeds of the sale of their property, but to make it look like they gave it all like the others. They were posers, imposters, hypocrites. God revealed to Peter what was going on in their hearts including Satan’s role in it all.  And Peter then in front of everyone rebuked Ananias and later his wife, and God took both of their lives - again in front of everyone. One of the more sobering stories in the N.T.  for sure (see Acts 5:1-10). The result is seen in vs. 11, “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.”

 

The other couple, had they lived in Jerusalem at this time, would have probably gladly given all of their proceeds for the right reasons. But they lived in Rome and then in Corinth. We are introduced to them in Acts 18:2. Paul had just arrived in Corinth and we are told in vs. 2, “And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.”  This precious couple in time would become co-workers with the apostle Paul and a big part of the move of God in Corinth. They worked in the same trade as Paul (vs. 3), traveled with Paul (vs. 18), they helped him disciple and equip young zealous men like Apollos (vs. 24-26), and they later opened up their home for a house church (I Cor. 16:19). In the last lines of the last letter the apostle Paul wrote before his death, he told Timothy, “Greet Prisca and Aquila….” II Tim. 4:19. They were precious friends and co-laborers with him because (among other things) they overcame in all things financial, and did not give in an inch to the love of money that destroyed Ananias and Sapphira.

 

Key to a sustained pouring out of the Holy Spirit in our land before Jesus returns is more couples like Aquila and Priscilla/Prisca to rise up. May this post and the one to follow be used to that end.

 

We’ve been looking at challenges the Holy Spirit wants to help each of us overcome in all things financial and one of those is the problem of Laziness. Leave it to King Solomon to help us see the dangers therein - “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer, And gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from you sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest – And your poverty will come in like a vagabond, And your need like an armed man.”  Prov. 6:6-11     (see also Prov. 10:4, 13:11 & 19:15)

 

Occasionally I come across the extreme thinking that because God is our provider and supplier, we can relax, and besides “hard work is legalistic or fleshly”, etc. But diligence, the opposite of laziness is actually very Christ like. Jesus was not religious, but He never wasted a moment and worked hard until His last breath.   Faith no matter how great will ever take the place of diligence.

Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Proverbs 10:4  The Holy Spirit loves to help His children with this as we learn to submit to and depend upon His leading, wisdom and power. The more we love Jesus the more we will want to steward every moment and every asset for His glory and purposes.

 

But we are warned in scripture of extremes in our work. Diligence is one thing. Workaholism is quite another. As the Psalmist stated, “…It is vain for you to rise up  early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” Psalm 127:2  It is vain when we are striving in our own flesh. It is vain when we are doing it out of worry and anxiety and fear of lack. It is vain when we are doing it because of image or to win someone’s approval. Motives herein are key.

 

One of the things that can help us if we struggle with this is learning the exceeding value of wisdom and understanding over money and material things. King Solomon spoke of this when he said,  “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding. For its profit is better than the profit of silver, And its gain than find gold. She is more precious than jewels; And nothing you desire compares with her.”  Prov. 3:13-15  (See also Prov. 8:10,11,19)

 

Later in the Proverbs we are warned against the pursuit of wealth instead of more important things, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealthy certainly makes itself wings  Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.” Prov. 23:4,5  We may attain it for a time, but if the attainment of it becomes our passion it will not serve us well, and we will find it slipping through our fingers.

 

One of the wonderful fruits of abiding in our Savior and making our pursuit of Him our highest of all pursuits is He gladly gives us good boundaries and helps us know when enough is enough. And He is faithful to help us get in touch with our deepest motivations for why we work like we work.

 

One of the ways He helps us with these things is by seeking good counsel and instruction even reproof from those who have overcome in all things financial by the grace and power of God. When Anne and I were newly married and living in Dallas, TX, we learned of an old godly seasoned man in our church who loved to help young couples with these kinds of things. He had been very successful in the banking world. And he knew of the dangers and pitfalls that young people face in handling money and work, etc. So we met with him for a few times, and while I don’t remember the specifics from our time with him, I know we were greatly helped by him. I also remember in those early days of marriage we attended a seminar with Ron Blue, who was a godly man who taught seminars (back then) to help people live a life pleasing to God in these things.

Sadly many for whatever reasons do not do this and King Solomon makes clear the fruit of such negligence,  and the fruit of those who seek help, “Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline (or instruction), But he who regards reproof will be honored.” Prov. 13:18;

 

Even though the Ron Blue seminar was over 40 years ago, I still remember him saying, “Most people do not plan to fail, they just fail to plan.”  But sometimes we need help in our planning. Not everyone’s plans bear good fruit. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” Prov. 21:5

Sometimes out of our fear and anxiety, we just jump in and go after things without adequately thinking through the ramifications of such. Good planning requires diligence, self control and times where we put the brakes on all our activity; things which the Holy Spirit promises to produce in us when we learn to depend on Him.

 

Somewhat akin to diligence in planning and forethought is that of being shrewd. Jesus only speaks to this once, but He does speak to it, and thus we should look to Him for how to walk in this, “….And his master praised the unrighteous steward because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light….” Luke 16:1-12  This was not exactly a compliment for believers. And this is one example where we can learn some important things from the lost. To be shrewd can be defined as: marked by clever discerning, awareness and hard headed acumen; given to wily and artful ways of dealing.”  Spirit led shrewdness is not being dishonest. Dishonesty is always displeasing to our Lord. Shrewdness is not.

 

I want to end this post with the grave danger of giving in to sexual immorality and passions of the flesh. These sins can and will greatly affect your ability to make and keep wealth and steward it in a way that pleases God and bears fruit for His kingdom. King Solomon speaking of men pursuing immoral sexual pleasure with another woman warned, “Keep your way far from her, And do not go near the door of her house…Lest strangers be filled with your strength, And your hard-earned goods go to the house of an alien….” Prov. 5:7-14.  Sexual immorality can ruin your family and your future. Do not play around with any form of it. Please note he warns, “Keep your way far from her.” Absolutely no compromise is a must if we men want to avoid this snare.


Later Solomon states, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” Prov. 21:17    It is one thing to have a piece of pie here and there. Or perhaps a glass of wine here and there. But if you allow your flesh to “love” it, you will begin to make excuses for enjoying it and pursuing it most every day. And when you have to have it every day, your productivity will sooner or later show it. And it will become what you most love.

 

What we love or what we are passionate for and about determines what we give ourselves to in the end. Prov. 29:3 “A man who loves wisdom makes his father glad, But he who keeps company with harlots wastes his wealth.” Oh do we need the Holy Spirit’s help to see the great value of wisdom! When we don’t see it, we easily settle for far less.

 

Yesterday I was meditating in Luke 15 and I realized the younger son is exhibit A of what we are talking about. Let’s look at vs.11-14 “…A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and the he began to be impoverished.” The older brother in vs. 30 reminded his father that the younger son “….devoured your wealth with prostitutes…”  He was self righteous and quite entitled. But sexual immorality is what led to the younger son losing all of his inheritance.

 

I have to say this is where the secular money managers are often blind. They do not understand how the ability to make wealth is one thing; but the ability to keep it and use it appropriately is quite another. Some years ago an older man who had become a millionaire twice and both times lost it all due to character defects attended our church for a while. He was very forthcoming about it and God was beginning to patch his life back together. But much of his wealth was gone. Sexual immorality and the passion for pleasure hurts our concentration; dulls our senses; and damages our soul. May we in Christ’s church get this problem more out on the table and learn to help each other overcome it for the sake of our families and our witness in this sad and desperate world. God bless you and use you mightily as you learn to be “rich toward God” and as you learn to hate the things He hates.

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