Thursday, 30 June 2016

IS SALVATION 100% GOD'S WORK?

Someone shared on Facebook that salvation is 100% God's work. His theological understanding probably has been shaped by the following verses:
  • “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).
  • “Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault” (Jude 24).

Though God promises to keep believers strong and safe till, one day, we are ushered into heaven, other factors also come into play.
  • Though God is working in believers, giving us the desire and the power to do what pleases Him, we still have to work hard to show the results of our salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear (Philippians 2:12-13).
  • Though God is able to keep us from falling, it does not mean nothing is required on our part. In fact, we must build each other up in our most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring us eternal life. In this way, we will keep ourselves safe in God’s love (Jude 20-21).
  • Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ (Hebrews 3:12-14).

Here is my response to the one who shared that salvation is 100% God's work:

If salvation is 100% God's work, then we might as well sleep in on Sunday, go for golf and dim sum, stop praying and reading the Word and live our lives the way we desire it. This kind of view, which places the ball entirely at the court of God, is erroneous and fails to take into account huge swathes of scripture that show otherwise.

To assert that salvation is entirely God's work is to deny the role of personal responsibility, forget man’s susceptibility to temptation and deception, do away with the need for endurance and faithfulness till the end and ignore the fact that man has a free will—he can choose either to obey God or live for himself, even after being saved.

In the course of his journey of faith, man can get deceived, choose to deny God or willfully live in sin, and thus overturn and nullify the good work of salvation that God has started in his life.

While it is true that only God can forgive and justify a repentant sinner (John 5: 24), salvation cannot be 100% God’s work. God expects those He has forgiven to henceforth play their part—exercise personal responsibility—by forsaking a sinful lifestyle and turning to God in obedience and righteous living. So how can salvation be 100% God's work?

Jesus, who forgave the woman caught in adultery, required her to forsake her previous sinful lifestyle, "Go and sin no more." To say that we can carry on living in sin—since God's righteousness has already been imputed to us and He sees us as pure—is a gross perversion of God's free gift of grace (John 8:11, Acts 26:20b, Titus 2:11-12).

                                                              
If man fails to keep his end of the "bargain", he may miss out on the ultimate reward of the salvation process that God started in him—eternal life (Philippians 1:6).

While it is true that, at the point of conversion, a believer is justified in Christ, he can fall into sin, harden his heart, deny God and, thus, lose his favour in God's sight (Romans 11:22). His righteousness is not necessarily permanent but dependent on his will, and susceptibility to deception and temptation.

If justification brings about an unassailable position of permanent righteousness for a believer, why is there a need to overcome temptation and deception? Why are there warnings against falling away and apostasy? (Hebrews 6: 4-6) Where do we get the notion that the Christian life is passive and that victory comes easy? Did not Paul proclaim he was glad he fought the good fight of faith and kept the faith at the end of his life? (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

So, at this juncture, it is easy to see why there is a need for persevering faith on our part before the good work of salvation which God began in us culminates in success (Hebrews 10:36-39, Matthew 24:9-13).

Salvation is a process with a beginning and an end, after which believers get to reap the reward of eternal life. Though we are saved by faith to enter into a journey of faith (Romans 1:16-17), believers still have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Faith is a word with broad ramifications. If we claim we believe in God, we have to take action according to what we believe. Otherwise, we will be like satan who also believe God exists (James 2:19).

If Noah merely believed in God but failed to act by building the ark, he and his family would have perished (Hebrews 11:7).

Similarly, in the case of Abraham: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:21-24).

Furthermore, salvation involves the paradox of divine election and free will. No doubt, God is the main protagonist in our salvation: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10). 
  • Even before the world began, God chose and predestined us to be His special, holy people. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:4-5).
  • God keeps those who know Him and obey Him safe and strong till they attain eternal life: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
But the flip side of the coin is that man has a crucial role to play too. This is not to imply that man can earn his salvation, but rather he can become his own worst enemy, meaning that if he fails to fulfil certain conditions, he may lose salvation's ultimate reward—eternal life (Matthew 24:9-13, Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:36-39, 1 Corinthians 10:1-12, 2 Peter 2:20, Revelation 3:5).

Those who think they can just accept Christ, say the sinner’s prayer or make a decision for Christ in a meeting, and then push the “autopilot button”, coast along, and let God take over entirely have failed to understand the biblical concept of salvation, which is a process and not a ‘once a for all' thing.

Salvation: Work it out but not through self-effort
Though believers need to work out their salvation, this stance in no way suggests that we can accomplish it through our own self-effort. We cannot stay strong in the faith, except through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit as we seek His face (Philippians 2:12-13, Psalm 84:5, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Amos 5:4).


Salvation is, at once, the easiest and most difficult thing. It is easy as it is appropriated by faith. However, as the song goes, it is also difficult as it “demands my soul, my life and my all”.

So how can salvation be effortless? How can it be wholly God's work? (Luke 9:23, Philippians 1:29, 1 Peter 1:7, 1 Peter 2:21, Revelation 3:5).


                                                                          
“It would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to “yield themselves” up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.”

Dr Michael L. Brown

RELATED POSTS

IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
Though believers in Christ are heaven-bound, there are conditions to be fulfilled before we arrive at our final destination and claim our eternal reward. Some say that God will never forsake believers and that nothing will ever separate us from His love (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20, Romans 8: 38-39). But has this ever crossed our minds? God may not leave us but we can walk away from God. It takes two to tango.

PROGRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION
Though a believer cannot possibly attain sinless perfection this side of eternity, he can be comforted by the fact he can make significant progress if he yields to the work of the Word and Spirit in his life (Philippians 3: 13-14, Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Galatians 5:16, Ephesians 4: 22-24).

CAN WE TAKE GOD’S LOVE FOR GRANTED?
God’s love towards believers is immeasurable but can we take it for granted?
The purpose of this post is to emphasise the fact that believers cannot take God’s love for granted. We cannot be complacent by merely trusting in a prayer or commitment we have made once upon a time. We need to grasp the fact that there is God's part AND our part in our faith journey and we have to faithful till the end (Philippians 2:12-13, Matthew 24: 9-13, 2 Timothy 2:12, Hebrews10: 36-39).

IS FAITH ACTIVE OR PASSIVE?
http://bit.ly/1KrLg3X

Monday, 20 June 2016

CONSUMER-ORIENTED APPROACH VS HARSH TRUTH

If Jesus were preaching today, would He place consumer expectation and drawing a crowd as top priorities? Or would He value truth above all?

                                                                       
Today, when we walk into a church, what are the sermon topics we are most likely to hear?

Blessings, success, prosperity, God’s unconditional love and mercy, eternal security, comfort and peace, what faith can do for you?

If Jesus were preaching today, would He place consumer expectation and drawing a crowd as top priorities? Or would He value truth above all? (John 6:14-15, John 6: 60, 61, 66).

Why do church leaders today often avoid unpopular topics? If they teach the harsh truth, church attendance and coffers will fall. Furthermore, to avoid being labeled as harsh and offensive, leaders try to give the congregation what they would like to hear (seeker-sensitive or consumer-oriented approach).   

On the other hand, what are the sermon topics we are least likely to hear today? Holiness and repentance.

Other areas leaders often avoid or downplay are hell, judgment, self-denial, obedience, trials, suffering, persecution and the need to overcome. But, for the moment, let’s focus on holiness and repentance.

Long ago when God chose a nation as His own special people, He had already established the ground rules by which they were to relate to Him: “Be holy as He is holy. Repent; or else face His judgment.”

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.”
(Deuteronomy 7:6-11)

Some might say, “Is this covenantal relationship with God and His demand for holiness in our lives applicable to believers today?”

Certainly. Like the Israelites who were once slaves in Egypt under Pharaoh, believers were once slaves too, under bondage to sin and the evil one. But because of our faith in what Christ has done for us at the cross, we were forgiven, made righteous in God’s sight and reconciled back to Him. The power of sin and satan has been broken in our lives (Ephesians 2:1-2, Ephesians 2:4-5, Colossians 2:13-15).

When Jesus came, He not only reinforced God’s requirement of holiness—He raised it to a higher level. Holiness now is not merely an outward conformity to a set of rules or laws but should reflect an inward condition of the heart.
  • Christ came to fulfill and uphold the law: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).
  • “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
For example, Christ asserts that today even ‘anger’ may incur God’s judgment whereas in the past it was a more serious infringement of the law, ‘murder’. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Similarly, Christ warns that even looking at a woman lustfully is tantamount to committing the act of adultery. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

To reiterate, Christ reinforced the fact that holiness is an invariable, non-negotiable quality that God requires of believers, those chosen by Him under the New Covenant.

Apart from upholding holiness and the importance of keeping God’s law, Christ also raised the bar concerning God’s requirements. By not committing the overt act, namely murder and adultery, we cannot be as deemed holy in God’s sight if we are angry with our brother or lust after a woman in our heart, respectively.

Paul commands believers to be chaste for the Holy Spirit indwells the body of a believer.
“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

Paul commands believers to be separate from the world for we are the temple of the living God.
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6: 14).
“What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you’” (2 Corinthians 6: 16-17).

Peter declares that believers are God’s chosen people, called out of darkness into light; therefore, we have to live up to our high calling by being holy.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2: 9-10).

Since God is holy, those whom He has called must be holy, a principle that continues under the New Covenant. As God’s moral standards are not only upheld but raised under the New Covenant, His people must continue to uphold these high standards as an example to the rest of the world. In fact, believers are called to be the salt and light to the world (Matthew 5: 13-16).


                                                                     
If holiness is a topic often avoided at the pulpit, so is repentance.

Radical no-lordship proponents assert that repentance is not part of the gospel, arguing that we only need to believe: When the jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, the latter replied: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household” (Acts 16:31).

But faith is a word with broad ramifications. If a person claims he believes in Jesus but fails to make Him Lord in his life—and continues to willfully live in sin—his belief is fake, spurious and questionable. Genuine faith has to be evidenced by good works. Faith, by itself, without works, is dead (James 2:17, James 2:26).


                                                                           
True repentance involves not only believing that Jesus paid the price for our sins but turning away from sin and turning towards God in obedience. Repentance must involve a change in thought and behaviour—and goals, aspirations and lifestyle as well.

A change in behaviour, in itself, does not constitute true repentance, which involves a change in mind, heart and will and, consequently, transformed behaviour.

According to Berkhof, repentance has intellectual, emotional and volitional components. The intellectual element of repentance is described as "a change of view, a recognition of sin as involving personal guilt, defilement, and helplessness." The emotional element is seen as "a change of feeling, manifesting itself in sorrow for sin committed against a holy God." The volitional element involves "a change of purpose, an inward turning away from sin, and a disposition to seek pardon and cleansing" (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 486).

Perhaps those who claim that repentance is insignificant—and is not part of the gospel—have not taken the following passages into account:

  • Jesus, having emerged victorious from the temptation in the wilderness, preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15).

  • Peter, in the first sermon given at Pentecost: “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2: 38).

  • Paul affirmed that “I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21).

  • In his defence before King Agrippa, Paul stressed: “I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do” (Acts 26:20).

  • Though he was the forerunner to Jesus, John the Baptist preached on repentance: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). He also urged the people to bear fruits in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8).
Let’s not be fooled by those who tell you that repentance is not part of the gospel. They are only trying to pull the wool over your eyes. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Finally, Christ used an incident to illustrate the fact that, unless we repent, we will all perish. Some Galileans, while offering sacrifices in the temple of Jerusalem, were killed by Pilate soldiers and their blood were mixed with that of the sacrifices at the altar. To those who think that these unfortunate souls must have been great sinners, Christ has this to say: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3).

Sermon topics such as holiness and repentance seem harsh and even offensive. But they show us the way to eternal life and blessings forevermore.


                                                                           
POSTSCRIPT

Building Bridges VS Consumer-Oriented Approach

Building bridges, which is positive and done without compromising the truth, must be distinguished from a consumer-oriented approach. Here are two examples of Paul’s willingness to cross ethnic and cultural barriers, provided truth is upheld:

Paul did not condemn the practice of idol worship among the men of Athens when he addressed them. He jumped on it as an opportunity to share the gospel:  “For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23). If he had condemned them outright, he would have lost the chance to witness.

Elsewhere, Paul showed that he was willing to be identified with whoever he comes into contact so that they may be won over to Christ: “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9: 19-23).

Being Seeker Sensitive

"I would say the greatest failure of the Church today is its unwillingness to say and do the unpopular thing. Too many Christians busy themselves these days trying to come up with new ways of being admired and desired by the world rather than simply being obedient to the Lord they claim to love. With a self-sustaining focus on acquiring evermore results and relationships (i.e. “church growth”) by way of pragmatism and consensus, none of which is biblical, today’s Christians are, by and large, being persuaded and trained week after week to embrace surveys, marketing principles, public relations programs and people skills as their new commandments with dialectically-trained consultants and facilitators posing as prophets and preachers – people pleasers who know how to work the crowd and steer the herd while selectively applying the scriptures as needed to maintain a biblical appearance of righteousness and religiosity."


– Paul Proctor in “What's Wrong With A More Social Gospel?”

RELATED POSTS

COMFORTING LIE, BITTER TRUTH
God’s word and His faithful teachers may hurt you with the truth but they will never comfort you with a lie and give you a false sense of security

UNPALATABLE TRUTHS
Minimising the significance of harsh truths has its dangers

BETTER NOT TO ROCK THE BOAT?
Speaking positive words from scripture to bless and encourage others has been the usual practice. Out of politeness or fear of upsetting good relationships, we are afraid to use the Word to correct or rebuke.


EXTERNAL LINKS

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO REPENTANCE?
By David Wilkerson
Whatever happened to repentance? You rarely hear the word mentioned in most churches today—even in evangelical circles. Pastors nowadays seldom call for their congregations to sorrow over sin.

HOW THE SEEKER-SENSITIVE, CONSUMER CHURCH IS FAILING A GENERATION
Seeker-sensitive services originally promised to woo post-moderns back into the fold. Out the stained glass window went the somewhat formal 45-minute exegetical sermon, replaced by a shorter, story-based talk to address the "felt needs" of the congregants while reinforcing the premise that following Jesus would dramatically improve their quality of life.
Jesus understood that the irreducible gospel message—that we are all sinners in need of being saved—was, and always will be, offensive. No brilliant marketing campaign could ever repackage it.
http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/august/how-seeker-sensitive-consumer-church-is-failing-generation.html

REFERENCES

Jesus stood up for truth, not popularity

“When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself” (John 6:14-15).

“Many of his disciples said, ‘This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, ‘Does this offend you?’” (John 6:60-61).

“At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him” (John 6:66).

Once dead in sin, now alive and victorious

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air (satan), the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2).

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, He (Christ) disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities (satan). He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15).

Called to be salt and light

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5: 13-16).

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

MONEY TIPS FROM PROVERBS

Though it warns against greed, the book of Proverbs also guides us on how to manage our money wisely.

                                                                      
Just as there are warnings in scripture about the dangers of pursuing riches, there are also clear instructions on how to handle money.

Though warnings abound in the book of Proverbsriches do not profit on judgment day (Proverbs 11:4) and those who trust in riches will wither (Proverbs 11:28)it is also filled with wisdom for all who aspire to walk in the path of financial freedom. Scattered all over this rather disjointed book are many tips on how to manage our money and avoid pitfalls that lead to financial loss. ** 

Putting God first

First and foremost, we must fear God, which is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Those who cherish wisdom—the by-product of seeking God—will profit from gains greater than having silver or gold (Proverbs 3:13-14).

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honour and life (Proverbs 22:4). If we honour God with our wealth, we will be materially blessed (Proverbs 3:9-10).

But we must not envy the riches of the unscrupulous for the “little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked” (Psalms 37:16).

Committing our venture to God

Those who commit their work or enterprise to God, acknowledging that His wisdom is superior to their insight, will see God guiding them along the path of success.
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make straight your paths”(Proverbs 3:5-6).

  • “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Psalm 32:8).

  • “Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3).

The righteous recognises the fact that God is the One who ultimately determines success; there is no need to strive in our own strength or wisdom. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31).

Hard work

We are told to observe the diligent ant, which gathers food in summer so that during winter (hard times) its needs will be well provided for (Proverbs 6:6-8). In contrast, the following verses warn that sloth and slumber will result in poverty, which is the lot of a vagabond (Proverbs 6: 9-11).

“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense” (Proverbs 12:11). “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys” (Proverbs 18:9). Pleasure lovers will also remain poor (Proverbs 21:17).

So when it is time to work hard, we should not be sleeping or seeking pleasure. Immorality may also lead to financial ruin as “a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth” (Proverbs 29:3). Similarly, those addicted to internet porn or online sex will be so distracted that they cannot be productive in their work. Their habits not only enslave them morally but destroy them financially.

Be proactive and plan

The wisdom of God is seen in the way He planned for the provision of His people’s physical needs. By sending Joseph way ahead into Egypt, God prepared him as a channel of blessing when famine descended on Israel (Psalm 105: 16-17).

Most are familiar with Joseph’s story—how he rose from pit to prison to the position of governor of Egypt, second in rank to Pharaoh. After interpreting Pharaoh’s dream that seven years of famine would follow seven years of plenty, he moved ahead with plans to build storehouses to stockpile grain. So when famine struck Israel, his brothers could come to Egypt to buy grain.

The prudent takes proactive measures to cushion the impact of impending financial crisis: “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it”(Proverbs 22:3, 27:12). “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

While we are still productive, we should plan our finances.  The need to plan is obvious, what with a longer life span and the ever-increasing rise in fuel and food prices, cost of medical care and nearly everything that impinges on our lives. He who retires at 55 has to sustain himself for roughly another 20 years. It’s advisable to start planning when we are in our 30’s or, better still, when we commence working.

Lack of planning may cause us to outlive our finances. We may then have to depend on handouts from relatives or friends. We may even have to come out of retirement and go back to work but will our health permit it?

Resilience

We must not be easily discouraged by failure.  If we fail under pressure, our strength is too small (Proverbs 24:10). The ability to rise up again and again, despite failure, is a hallmark of a successful person.

Improving our skills

“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29).

With corporate restructuring and rationalisation, workers today often face job uncertainty and even retrenchment. Therefore, it is important to continually improve ourselves and widen our repertoire of skills (upskilling) so that we remain marketable in the eyes of potential employers. Others may decide to add another string to their bow by creating alternative income streams such as freelance writing, e-commerce or multi-level marketing.

Learning to invest

“Be diligent to know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds...the lambs will provide your clothing and the goats the price of a field” (Proverbs 27:23-26).

In an agrarian community, people attend to their flocks and gather hay for subsistence. But today we need not soil our hands as we have various investment vehicles, including property, shares or business.

Seeking knowledge

The wise man seeks knowledge before making any investment decisions, especially if it a major one. “In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly” (Proverbs 13:16).

Hasty decisions made without due diligence often leads to failure and regret. “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Proverbs 19:2).

If he lacks knowledge, he will do research or consult others who are experts in the field before making the move. “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Proverbs 13:14).

The greater the number of sources he seeks counsel, the less likely he will make wrong decisions. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).

Thrift and delayed gratification

“One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth” (Proverbs 13:7). Those who live by credit and pursue the latest fashion, electronic gizmos or fancy cars in order to impress others may face mounting debts. To come out of this modern-day slavery, they will have to live simple lives and progressively whittle away at their debts.

Assailed daily by advertisements in a consumer-oriented society, beckoning us to buy, we often have difficulty resisting. Yet, discipline and the ability to delay immediate gratification of our desires are needed before we can be free from clutches of the debt monkey.

Greed and taking risks

Those who are greedy and love to gamble or partake in ‘get rich quick’ schemes often suffer financial loss.

“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (Proverbs 13:11). “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it” (Proverbs 15:16).

Honesty and integrity

When God blesses us, He gives us peace and the ability to enjoy His blessings. “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honour and life” (Proverbs 22: 4). “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22).

What is the point of being rich if we neglect our calling, spouse and family, cheat others or compromise our values? What is the point of achieving worldly success if, in the process, we suffer from coronary artery disease or insomnia, constantly worrying as to how to manage our business or debts?

In conclusion, God is not stingy. He wants to abundantly bless His childrenoften materially (Psalms 103:1-5). But wealth is like a two-edged sword. How many can be trusted with great wealth? How many are like Joseph, a faithful steward who manages well the resources entrusted to him by the Master? How many can keep themselves safe from the snare of riches?

Though this blog makes a firm stand against the 'prosperity gospel', it must be stressed that money is not evil but neutral. It is the love of money which is evil: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs”(1 Timothy 6:10). 
                                                                   

The same Jesus who promised an abundant life (John 10:10) warns against greed, citing that a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15).

May we strive to be better stewards of our finances: “And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven” (Luke 16:11)? 

For this task, we are thankful for the book of Proverbs, which teaches us how to manage our money for God’s glory.

RELATED POSTS

MORE THAN ENOUGH
Facing hard times? An all-sufficient God is able to meet all our needs. How can we affirm and declare this truth?

HOW TO ATTAIN FINANCIAL FREEDOM

BIBLICAL INSIGHTS ON FINANCIAL PLANNING FOR RETIREMENT

MAKING WISE FINANCIAL DECISIONS
Our worldview and values determine how we make financial decisions in life. A wise move from an earthly viewpoint may not necessarily be so from an eternal perspective.

DOES FINANCIAL PLANNING NEGATE FAITH?

DOES GOD CARE WHETHER WE MAKE A PROFIT?

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS GOOD DEBT?

BUYING YOUR DREAM HOME
Does God’s wisdom merely guide us along the correct moral path? Has it no relevance to us when we make mundane decisions in life—like buying a home?


** Note:   Psalms, to a lesser extent