Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Sometimes it helps to put our troubles into perspective. Let me share a memory from many years ago. As a young pastor just beginning a family, I served several churches as pastor on a small salary. My wife Mary and I had some financial struggles, but we were happy, getting by living in a mobile home nicely furnished at one church, and later a larger pastorium, although we sometimes didn’t have the money to refill the butane heater. Our first child, Melissa, was born. Money was tight, but God provided. Eventually, I decided God was calling me to return to New Orleans Baptist Seminary and work on a doctoral degree.
Those days in seminary working on my doctorate were especially difficult times financially. I gave up my church position as pastor to dedicate myself to study, and I took a job on campus working for the grounds crew three days a week, so I could be in class and study the other days. I also worked as a grader for the professor, but that paid very little. My income was even less than when I worked for a church, even with Mary working. We stretched the money every way that we could.
One December day during this time, I got a call from the church there in New Orleans where we were members. They wanted me to pick up a Christmas gift for a needy seminary student family. I was so excited, because I thought that must be for my family. I arrived at the church, and they gave me the name and address of a student family in my apartment building. My heart dropped, but I dutifully took the gifts of food, gift cards and other presents, and went to the door of the family and knocked. When they opened the door, I was shocked– the family had an apartment full of kids, and had almost no possessions inside. They were so much worse off than me and Mary and Melissa. It put things in perspective, and I rarely felt sorry for myself again. I was thankful for what I had.
We all have a choice, to look down at our problems, or look up at our God, the Lord who provides (Genesis 22:14). As the apostle Paul wrote, “Set your minds on things above, not earthly things” (Colossians 3:1). A poet put it this way: “Two men looked out prison bars/ One saw mud, one saw stars.” It all depends on your perpsective, so let’s look up and be thankful for what we have.
Back at the beginning of “The Great Recession” in early 2009, our church went through a study on how to get out of debt, using the teaching materials of Crown Financial Ministry. Here is a summary of 10 wise and Bible-based principles for getting out of debt:
1. Pray for God’s provision (see 2 Kings 4:1-7 for an example).
2. Start giving regularly (Malachi 3:8-10).
3. Don’t go further into debt. Stop charging with credit cards!
4. Establish a written spending plan by writing down every penny that you spend for a month, and then developing a spending plan that is realistic and living within your means.
5. Open a savings account and contribute faithfully to it until you have $1,000 in savings for emergencies. (This prevents further debt because you can use your savings for unexpected expenses.)
6. List everything you own and see if you can sell unnecessary assets to eliminate debt (Proverbs 27:23).
7. Make a list of everything you owe.
8. Establish a debt repayment schedule. Pay off the smallest debts with the highest interest first. When that debt is paid, apply that payment amount to the next second debt, and so on. See Crown Financial Ministries for free calculators and tools that can help at www.crown.org/Tools/Calculators.
9. Consider earning additional income.
10. Consider a radical change in your lifestyle (Romans 12:1-2).