In Financial Chaos? Pass the Test!!
James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Mark collapsed in his desk chair. What a day, he thought. His project at work was late, 2 weeks late to be precise and his manager was not happy about it. She had made that very clear to him during a meeting earlier today. Driving home had taken him more than an hour due to an accident on the freeway. Under normal circumstances, the drive would take less than 20 minutes. He missed dinner with his family, something he always look forward to and cherished. Instead, he had just finished eating the microwaved leftovers by himself.
To top things off, he once again was unable to mow the lawn as it was dark once he finally got home and had dinner. He was only about 2 weeks behind on it and was expecting a “reminder” letter from the HOA any day now.
Looking towards the desk, he spotted the checkbook, and next to it a huge pile of bills just waiting to be paid. Mark had put “bill night” off as long as he could. A few were already overdue and a few others due within the next day or two.
Turning on the fluorescent desk light, he began opening each one and adding them up…
- HOA Letter reminding him to mow his yard – figures he thought to himself. Sighing, he tossed it in the trash
- Samson’s Workout World – $90 ($40 for last month – he had forgot to pay, $10 late fee, and $40 for this month). Funny thing was, neither him or his wife had been there in 6 months. They kept meaning, just never had the time.
- Ford Motor Credit – $520 (Total Balance $15,000) – They had purchased a new SUV last year
- Southeast Hospital – $1,600 (for his daughter Sarah’s stay in the hospital 6 months ago)
- Visa – $300 (Total Balance: $8,312)
- Discover Card – $119 (Total Balance: $3,217)
“Wow, this doesn’t even include the mortgage!”, he said out loud to himself. He opened his paycheck he had received earlier that day and winced as he looked at the amount. His check wouldn’t even cover the minimum payments.
He sighed, knowing he now had to do the thing he had feared most, “Samantha? Honey, we need to talk…”
Mark is in what I like to call, financial chaos. Not only is his personal life stressful and hectic, his finances are a mess making his level of stress exponentially higher. He has more incoming than he has outgoing. He’s facing bills that are falling behind, late fees and way he’s in way too much debt. To top it off, he had a bad day at work, a terrible drive home, missed dinner with his family, and now he has to tell his wife they can’t make the minimum payments on all of their bills. Mark and Samantha are being tested. Ever been in their shoes? Does this maybe all sound too familiar?
Mark and Samatha have two options for how to handle their situation (note: I didn’t say Mark’s situation) :
- They can get angry, ask God why he is letting this happen to them and wonder why their non-Christian neighbors get by just fine. This is what most people tend tend to do. They pray and don’t change their behavior at all, hoping that God will just make it all away. But we don’t change one bit.
- Understand that God tests our faith and gives us what seems to sometimes be unsurmountable problems but never gives us more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). How we handle the test is really what drives us to success and allows us to follow the path that God is trying to lead us down.
We as humans, have a tendency to want to blame everyone but ourselves for our problems including God. How often have you asked God why He was allowing some bad thing to occur in your life? Shamefully, I have, far too many times.
When the storms of life began to blow a little harder than we are comfortable with, instead of becoming angry or frustrated, we need to realize that the situation is most likely a test. A test designed to see how we will react. A test designed to test our faith and the strength of our relationship with God. God does indeed test us, and does so to increase our faith. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 says “On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.” Deuteronomy 8:2 reminds us that God also does this to humble us and better know us, “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”
When we are tested we two options, pass or fail. Who wants to fail God? I certainly don’t. Each time you face a trial or difficult time in your life, ask yourself is God testing me? Chances are He is. Don’t fail Him and look at the trial as a chance to learn and strengthen your relationship with him. God has a plan for everything that occurs in your life, regardless of how big or how small, and that plan is always in our best interest.
Going back to personal finance, God wants us to be good stewards with out money (Luke 16). Luke 16:10 tells us – “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much“.
Make every effort to be a good steward and to pass the tests, trials and tribulations (James 1:2) you may face daily.
So what happened to Mark and Samantha? Let’s find out …
Mark informed Sarah of the bad news. It wasn’t a pleasant conversation, but fortunately, this chaotic financial moment became the turning point for their finances. They decided to pass the test and show God they could be good stewards of their finances. The recognized that their “I want it now” mentality was the ultimate cause of their financial situation. They realized their situation was a way of God teaching them good stewardship and to help them get on a better path. That evening, they recognized they were the problem. They decided to work on their finances together, they developed a budget, to hold each other accountable, and to reduce their expenses to live on less than they earn.
The next morning, Mark listed their the new SUV they had purchased on Craigslist and sold it that week. They owed more on it than it was worth and had to borrow some money to pay the difference, but owing $2,000 was better than owing $15,000.
Mark got a second job working at UPS in the evenings. They took the first UPS paycheck and got current on their bills. They then saved up a $1,500 emergency fund and developed a debt snowball. They began paying as much as they could on their debt. A few weeks later they realized the house they had was just too way too much for them, so they sold it and bought a smaller home a little further out of the city that was significantly cheaper. They found the smaller home was really nice, as it required less upkeep and allowed them to spend more time with themselves and their children.
Two years later, Mark and Samantha signed the check that would pay-off their Visa card, their last debt. They had a nice home that was well within their means, two payed for used cars than ran well, and a ton of spare money each month they could allocate to their 401k savings program and their 6 months emergency fund. Both of them made a number of sacrifices during that two years. They didn’t eat out much and spent more time at home. They never stopped tithing and continued to tithe 10% each month. It was hard, but they did. Mark and Samantha both agreed it was worth the effort. The freedom they now felt could not be explained in words.
Mark and Samantha passed the test, will you?