The Secret to Being Thankful at All Times

Thanksgiving, StewardshipIs it really possible to always be thankful?  Can we, as imperfect beings, really practice thankfulness in all situations and at all times?  I believe it is possible and, according to God’s word, it is exactly what we are commanded to do.

The topic of thankfulness is one that is found throughout the Bible, and for good reason.  God is good and the ultimate expression of His goodness was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross.  This is the foundation on which our faith is based and I don’t believe that it is possible to thank God enough for this one marvelous gift.

But it doesn’t stop there.  God is good in the way that He is patient with us and reveals His character from faith to faith.  He spoke through the prophets and apostles that were inspired to write His words so that we could learn and be encouraged and lack for nothing.  And today, His spirit is still working and revealing truth to those who listen to His still small voice.

In addition, God is a provider.  It is His word that spoke this world into existence and it is His will that maintains it.  He provides the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the food that we eat.  He is actively involved in the lives of His children and He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Yet, as thankful as I am for all of these things, there is one piece of knowledge that I must have before I can be thankful at all times.  There is one attitude that I must adopt and one truth that I must believe with every fiber of my being that makes all the difference.  It can be summed up in one word: steward.

I am a steward, not an owner.  I am a caretaker, not a creator.  I am a conduit, not a source.

All that I have and all that I am and all that I experience and enjoy belongs to God.  He made it all and He keeps it going.  He provides the life, the strength, the sustenance, the gifts, and the talents and He has tasked me with feeding His sheep and walking humbly with Him.

This is the key.  This is the pillar on which a life lived in thankfulness must be built.  This is the secret that every man, woman and child should be taught to understand.  Our thankfulness comes not from what we have been given and certainly not from what we think we are due.  Our thankfulness comes from who we were created to be.

A Different Kind of Stewardship

stewardship,health,ministryI’m not discussing money or finances in this post.  I also won’t be focusing on talents or spiritual gifts.  No, the type of stewardship that I’m talking about today affects all of those things but is also completely different.

Before we go any further, I think we should have an accurate definition of stewardship.  In Christian circles we almost always use it in reference to money matters.  By association, the word has become very finance centered when in reality the definition is much broader.  The Miriam-Webster Dictionary says “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something;especially :  the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care” and I really like that definition; especially the last part.

God has entrusted a great many things to our care but the most precious of those is our very life.  How we care for ourselves, our health and well-being, determines in large part our ability to be a steward in other areas.  I have seen this firsthand in the last few weeks and it can be a hard lesson to learn.

When I am overly tired and not taking care to rest my body and my brain, everything else suffers.  I make mistakes at work.  Simple tasks take longer.  Writing becomes more difficult and my thoughts are harder to grasp.  And I am not the blessing to those around me that I should be.  In short, when I don’t take care of myself the ministry that God has entrusted to me is harmed and He is not glorified.

One of the biggest challenges to anyone in ministry is the challenge of giving of yourself completely to others while also taking adequate time to rest and recharge.  Burnout is a very real problem among those in the ministry and it is precisely because we often take better care of others than we do of ourselves.  And while God has called us to work and to serve He has also called us to be  good stewards of our minds and bodies; one is not more important than the other.  Neglecting either one is just as sinful.

We need to make time to rest.  We must make time to give our brains and bodies a break.  We can start by ensuring that we are getting enough sleep at night; seven and a half to eight hours should be a minimum goal.  And that’s just physical rest.  Mental rest and time for fun is equally important for our well being.  Scheduling vacations and using our off time to recharge our mental batteries needs to be a priority.

How about diet and exercise?  Despite being a discussion that’s probably been heard more often than we would like, it’s still an important part of our overall well-being.  Being a well rested person with a terrible diet who doesn’t get enough exercise is only going to cause us health problems sooner or later.  As I recently discovered through the Daniel Fast, we really don’t need most of the fat and sugar that most of us consume.  Small improvements in the areas of diet and exercise now can help ensure that we remain healthy in the service of the Lord for many years to come.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have several areas that need improvement in my effort to become a better steward of this life that God has given me.   The Lord needs us at our best each and every day and we can only give Him our best when we’ve properly taken care of ourselves.  Let us encourage each other to take care of ourselves and to be the best possible stewards of this life that God has blessed us with.

 

 

The Six Keys to Financial Success – Book Review

Six Keys to Financial Success, Book Review, Sean HymanAfter writing “More than Giving, More than Saving”, I began my search for knowledge in regards to the world of finance and investing.  In my search, I came across the work of Sean Hyman.

Sean is a former pastor who has dedicated his life to teaching others what the Bible has to say about success, money and financial stewardship.  Sean’s book, “Six Keys to Financial Success”, is one of the tools that Sean uses to assist people like you and me in making financial decisions based on Godly principles.  “Six Keys to Financial Success” is an ebook and at only 47 pages, is more of a booklet than a full fledged book.  Don’t let that stop you from reading it, however, because it is well worth your time.

Being a novice, I appreciate the simplicity and straightforwardness of Sean’s book.  Sean uses plain, everyday words and grammar and while finance and investment does contain plenty of advanced concepts, “Six Keys to Financial Success” is written for the beginner and assumes you have no prior knowledge or training.  In other words, it’s a great place for a person like me to start.

Along with being easy to read, “Six Keys to Financial Success” is also generally encouraging and provides a lot of useful information for anyone who wants to get their life on solid financial ground.  If you’ve ever suffered (or are suffering) from debt problems and can’t seem to get your head above water, “Six Keys to Financial Success” would be a great place to start your debt recovery.

Sean’s basic premise in “Six Keys to Financial Success” is that God desires his people to live in such a way that we are always in a position to bless others with our abundance.  Debt causes a deficit and a lack of abundance and inhibits our ability to bless others and based on what the Bible says, God would not have us live in such a way.

Sean’s six keys are as follows:

1. Pray for God’s Favor and Blessing in Your Work – I love that Sean starts this with prayer.  Beginning any endeavor with prayer and entreaty to God means that we are acknowledging Him as the ultimate authority and that without His blessing we are laboring in vain.  Seek Him first!  Pray for the business that you work for and pray for those who work along side you and over you.  Acknowledge God in all your ways while working and He will bless the fruit of your hands.

2.  Tithes and Offerings: 10% Plus Some, Not just 10% – God desires us to be givers.  If you’ve read last month’s book review (Plastic Donuts: Giving that Delights the Heart of the Father) then you know that while tithing is important and God promises blessings to those who tithe, it is joyful giving that really pleases Him.  God richly blesses those who give in abundance.  I’ve seen this in my own life and Sean writes about how he has seen it in his life.  I’ve always heard it put “you can’t out give God” and that is entirely accurate.  Be a giver!

3.  Save Money and Reduce Your Debts – The Bible clearly shows that this world will go through times of plenty and times of lack.  Those who “build a storehouse” will not suffer loss when the lean times come.  For us today, that means having a healthy savings account and developing the discipline to keep it that way.  Despite what we might think, we don’t need the latest and greatest of anything and we could probably do without much of what we now have.  By cutting expenses and putting the extra into savings we are putting ourselves into a good position for a rainy day.  There’s no need to stress about a car repair or appliance replacement when we have a healthy savings account and we are certainly in a better position to help others when we aren’t having to worry about making ends meet each month.

4.  Invest for Your Future – Much like the topic of “More than Giving, More than Saving”, Sean encourages putting your money to work by wisely investing it.  Using the parable of the talents, Sean illustrates how God gives to us according to our ability and then expects us to develop what He has given us.  In order to be given more, we need to “enlarge our territory” by increasing our abilities.  God is only going to bestow on us the blessings that we can handle.  In order to be more fully blessed, we need to be in a position to receive it by learning and working as hard as we can.  Invest in knowledge, invest in increased ability and invest the finances that God has blessed you with.

5.  Philanthropy – Once again, be a giver.  Put yourself into a position where you can bless your pastor, your church, your family and the poor and needy with your finances.  Sean says, and I agree with him, that those who give generously tend to do better in life than those who don’t.  That’s pretty self-explanatory but it really can’t be overstated.

6.  Be the Lender and Not the Borrower – Following the above five principles will put us in a position where we are not dependent on the bank or a credit account.  We can become the lender because we have the abundance to do so.  Proverbs 22:7 says the borrower is slave to the lender and our Lord would not have us be in bondage to anyone or anything.  Taking on debt to obtain material goods may be the American way but that does not make it God’s way.  God does not get glory out of His children being poor and destitute because of bad financial decisions.

I appreciate “Six Keys to Financial Success” for what it has already taught me and how it is shaping my thinking about finances.  Sean Hyman would be a great person for any Christian who wants to know more about financial stewardship to read and study more about.  His life story and path to success is based on Godly wisdom and Biblical principles and the world we live in could use many more people like him.

 

 

“Six Keys to Financial Success” is published in eBook form by ebookit.com and is available from Amazon.com for Kindle products and from BarnesandNoble.com for Nook products.

ISBN -13: 9781456602444

Copyright 2011

47 pages

More than Giving, More than Saving

investing,saving,giving,stewardshipAs I continue to seek God and follow hard after Him (Psalm 63:8), I learn something new almost every day.  To be a committed Christ follower is to be a student who sits at the feet of his Teacher and longs for instruction.  I believe that I have learned more about God and Godliness in 2013 than in all of my previous years as a Christian combined for one simple reason: I have made it my priority.  Rather, He has become my priority and everything else flows out of that.

Stewardship

One of the topics that I have given some attention to in the past several months is the matter of stewardship.  I know and have believed for a long time in the idea and practice of tithing and financial generosity.  I’ve mentioned before that my wife is a natural born gift-giver and Operation Christmas Child (where she gets to prepare shoe boxes full of goodies for kids all around the world) is one of her absolute favorite things.  In her, I have an excellent model of what it means to be generous with both time and finances.

As a couple we currently give between 15 and 20% of our yearly income to the church and to charitable causes.  We do it because we believe it is both a responsibility and a privilege that has the promise of many blessings.  Everything we receive is given to us by God and we take our responsibility as stewards of His resources seriously.

Beyond giving, however, there is another aspect of stewardship which I confess has been a weakness of mine.  Responsible money management was, for many years, an area in which I stumbled.  I spent freely in my college years and amassed credit card debt.  I was also a procrastinator when it came to the checkbook and would, on occasion, bounce a check because I was not keeping good, accurate records.

All of that changed when I married Vicki.  She has an affinity for numbers (she’s a high school math teacher, bless her heart) and is inclined to be a saver where I was inclined to spend.  I know one of the reasons that the Lord brought her into my life was to begin to show me how important it was to be responsible with finances.  Though the early years of our marriage were lean ones, she was eventually able to eliminate the credit card debt and through a well structured household budget, get us to the place where we were spending less than we were making.  At that point we did what anyone else would do, we began to put the extra income into a savings account.  This is a practice that we have continued to this day and it is a good, solid financial decision to save a portion of what you bring in.

More than Giving, More than Saving

Lately, however, I have become convinced that there is more to good stewardship than simply being generous in our giving and smart with our budget so that we have some savings.  I believe that God wants us and expects us to grow and increase that which He has given us.  Consider again the familiar parable of the talents found in the 25th Chapter of the book of Matthew:

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. (Matthew 25: 14-18 NIV)

If you know the rest of the parable then you know that when the master returned he called his three servants to each give an account of what they did with the resources they had been entrusted with.  The two servants who increased their original allotment were praised while the third servant, who did nothing with his allotment, was rebuked and stripped of what he had been originally given.

I admit, until very recently I did not consider that this parable had very much to do with money.  I used the NIV version of the text because it specifically says “bags of gold” (in other words, the master gave each servant an allotment of wages) but in the King James version it says “talents”.  I always took that word “talent” very literally and applied this parable to the abilities that God had given each one of us.  And I still think our Master expects us to use our talents and abilities that he has gifted us with and to grow and develop them for His glory.  There’s no doubt that one day we will be called into account for what we did with our abilities during our time here.

But will we not also be called to give an account of what we did with our financial resources as well?  If the Lord has so blessed us such that we have a surplus coming in each month then I believe that the parable of the talents makes it clear that God expects us to wisely and prayerfully put that money to use in such a way that it will grow.  After paying our bills, tithing and giving of gifts it can become as much of a sin to “hide” our money away, fearful of losing it, as it would be to spend it frivolously and without wisdom.  In other words, we need to look at carefully putting our money to work by investing it.

For me, there’s only one small problem; I know next to nothing about investing.  I am going to spend the next several months learning all I can about how to do it and praying for wisdom and guidance as I go.  I’ll be talking to other Christians who I trust and getting their perspectives on the matter as well.  Please pray for me as I seek to honor God with every single resource that he has given me; time, talents and finances.

How do you feel about the matter of finances as it relates to the Kingdom of God?  Do we have a responsibility to use and grow what God has given us?