I was recently asked to preach and given a very BROAD topic. The topic was "Christians Today:Consider our challenge"………………………………
How would you interpret that> I took it to be asking: WHAT IS OUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
READ HABAKKUK 1:1-4……though written thousands of years ago…I think it could have very well been written today. And if Habakkuk were to have this SAME discussion with God in Dec of 2008..it may sound something like this:
"Habakkuk 1:1-4 2008 version"
"Oh God…how long will I cry out for help and see no changes? I cry out about wars and corrupt men, but see no changes. Why do I still see injustice? How can you continue to watch this evil? All around me is sickness, poverty and pain. Every year 3.5 million new people experience some form of homelessness. 4000 children a day are victim of death by abortion. 49% of all new marriages this year will end in divorce, and even as we speak more lives are being added to the over 4200 soldier lives lost fighting overseas. Peace is hard to find, and the law seems nonexistent. The rich get richer and poor get poorer, and justice is always perverted."
We may have never prayed it just like that…not many have the guts to talk to God like this prophet did. But I would venture to say that most of us have felt this way at some point or another. And I suspect that today…possibly more than other year ends in the past…we may feel this pressure more than we have ever known.
There are challenges all around us….as 2008 ends and a new year begins……there are IMMENSE challenges for people of faith. We just listed many of them. The list is growing by the day….I asked 50 folks and got many answer such as resisting the temptation to be "emergent", managing our time in a busier world, finding our voice in a world that hushes it ..etc……..but one theme came through LOUD & CLEAR………. It was: REMAINING FAITHFUL IN FINANCIAL STRUGGLES.
After considering this, and praying about it, I felt sure that God was leading me to talk about how we as Christians will react in thye current and coming financial crisis. I wanted to argue out of this…I mean it is a touchy and sensitive topic. I thought “Lord, I can’t do this. I am not qualified. I am not a banker or financial planner. I am not an expert economist”…..and God said back to me: “But have YOU ever had a financial crisis”….and I thought “yes Lord----pretty much every month”….well then..YOU ARE QUALIFIED :)
It is no secret that as we enter 2009…we are in one of the worst economic crises’ of our countries history. Unless you have been living in a closet you have heard about it. You personally may have already been affected by it. I have SEVERAL friends who’ve lost jobs. I know folks close to losing homes…and this year I've met SO MANY people who were literally starving……… TIMES ARE TOUGH…yet, we, as children of God, are told to LIVE BY FAITH. So what will we do?????????? How will we act?
I believe this is our biggest challenge in the months and year to come…how will we react to this financial crisis??? Because like it or not…it is here. You WILL be affected by it! I recently heard a very rich radio/tv personality make a statement I found disgusting. He said “I choose not to participate in this recession”…….I like that idea…but it is a farce my friends…WE ALL WILL PARTICIPATE ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.
And with this..our faith will be tested and evaluated! Because I believe the world is watching. Will we stand strong and trust in the Lord to provide or will we continue to doubt and worry? Will we learn contentment or will we still be driven by greed….what picture of faith will we give to the world…. I ask you today to seriously CONSIDER OUR CHALLENGE
Now here we are…..and we have stood in front of our coworkers and friends and family, even our own children and we have preached for years….. LIVE BY FAITH. GOD WILL PROVIDE. TRUST IN THE LORD. STOP WORRYING ABOUT TOMMOROW. The problem is…..we said that when times were pretty good. When our bellies and cupboards were full, and when our jobs were secure. So…what kind of example will we be with the very real possibility of all that going away? Will we still be as confident in our Lord…or will our faith crumble? I am afraid that our faith may be inexplicitly tied to our finances. But I also challenge each of us today..that it SHOULD NOT BE…because our God will take care of us!
Whether we know it or not…..or really whether we ACKNOWLEDGE IT OR NOT….God’s word has MUCH to say about money. So today, I want us to consider together 3 attitudes towards money and the crisis that is coming with it to help us as a people of God in 2009:
3 attitudes toward money to help in 2009
1. Contentment in Circumstances—not Casualty of Circumstances
What I mean is this: Don’t let your circumstances dictate your faith! We have to make the choice…will we find a way to be content in whatever lot befalls us…or will we watch our joy and happiness and ultimately our faith DIE when things are not exactly what we want?
I Tim 6:3-8
A BIG LESSON I LEARNED IN AFRICA WAS THAT THE LIE OF THE HEALTH AND WEALTH GOSPEL WAS CAUSING GREAT PROBLEMS… this is the promise that God rewards the strong in faith with health and riches (at its most basic level)…give your money and efforts to Him you will get health and riches!!! Of course the problem comes when this does not happen!!!!! I hear so much talk of how it is destrying foreign missionm fields, but I say it has SEVERELY permeated America!!!!…….. WHY?!?!?!?!?!?? EX: There is a church in an Ohio city…. They recently added a $25 million addition to their building. The local newspaper ran a front-page story the same month about a study revealing that one in five people in that city lived in poverty.
WHY IS THIS?????? ***** Somehow we have bought into this on some level….that Christians SHOULD be rich as a result of their faith in God. ****But truth is…..we were NEVER ONCE told that life would be full of blessings or that times would be rosy and merry once we had Jesus in them! God never promised us an easy path if we had faith! In fact, if we pay attention…we were told quite the opposite!
JOHN 16:33 SO----Why do we somehow think this does not apply to money?
GOD NEVER PROMISED US THAT FAITH IN HIM MEANT RICHES…HE NEVER EVEN PROMISED US THAT IT MEANT “COMFORTABLENESS”…he simply said that he would provide what we need.
Brothers and sisters…….do we truly believe this?
2- Temptation of Monetary Infatuation
1 Tim. 6:9-10, 17
I cannot promise you many things in this life my friends…but I can PROMISE you that if you let your life be led by the pursuit of monetary things…..you will NEVER BE SATISFIED….for satisfaction only is found in the Lord. Some of the richest people I have ever seen are the most miserable…and I have been to places and seen poverty you could never imagine where they are the happiest people I’ve ever met.
please let us change our idea of the “AMERICAN DREAM”….for when I read about the beautiful first church…the “American dream” was nowhere in it!
Will we let go of our greed?
3. Helping Others—Especially Brothers
I John 3:16-18
I TIM 6:18-19
I think this may be the biggest part of today’s entire lesson. How are we going to react to all of this in regards to lending a helping hand? And how will we take care of one another?????
Isn’t the reason for the church in the 1st place??????? I said it earlier…I believe the world is watching us right now……how will we react. Even when we have little…are we going to be willing to reach out a helping hand, trusting that God will take care of us? (compliment on Xmas baskets/Wisdoms etc)
I believe that God’s children will rise up….and we will overcome…through love.
I cannot tell you what is going to happen tomorrow in the banks. Should you put your money in your mattress? I have no idea if I will ever retire. I can’t promise us that we will have our homes a year from now. Many of us may be working in different jobs. Will gas go up? Will more folks lose their homes?
I DO NOT KNOW…..but what I do know is that as for me and my house…we will trust in the Lord. For I know that he loves His children and will never leave them!
Remember Habakuk..I want to close with some words from it that I think may the most beautiful in all of scripture. May these words be our motto as people of faith in the struggles to come.