Faith and Facts
2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us that we “live by faith, not by sight” so what does this mean as it relates to finances; as it relates to dreams, goals, desires, daily activities, relationships, work, health, and all of life?
What do you think of a verse that says, “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26)? Does this apply to selected areas of life or situations? Or only for selected people, or geographic areas?
If God created the heavens and the earth and everything in it (Colossians 1:16) and we’re to be good stewards of all He has presented us to care for (Luke 16:10) what I find fascinating is how difficult it is to apply this to finances and to finance related ‘stuff’.
This concept of letting go control of finances is likely the hardest thing for many people (me being one of them) to accept. It requires a good honest look at pride, fear, self-control and a whole bunch of other mindsets that God says are sin, but we have somehow chosen to ignore because we’re otherwise, loving, caring, sharing people. I’m sure it’s why Jesus was so blunt when He said, ‘we can’t serve both God and Mammon’ (Matthew 6:24).
Mammon is the spiritual force attached to money, and we end up serving it when we make financial decisions based on what we can see, expect to see, or what we claim are the ‘facts’. The facts of course, are the numbers and timeframes and details associated with a particular situation. But what we can see is not what God says is true; it’s what Satan wants us to believe is the truth. Hebrews 11:1 in the New King James Version tell us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. Substance is something tangible – now, even when you don’t see it. How can that be when it comes to finances you might wonder as I did for way too many years?
We have become conditioned to look at numbers and to make decisions based on what we can, or expect to see. When we see something we make a decision based on the knowledge we have in our head from our past experiences, training, and input from others. But, that means we are making decisions based on what we have seen or expect to see, not based on God’s Word or His promises. I find too many people justifying financial situations and other so-called intangible areas of God’s promises based on what they have seen or think they will see – healing is a great example of this. You might not have seen or experienced a healing miracle, but that doesn’t mean God stopped healing, or baptizing in the Holy Spirit. I hear too many people rationalizing They will use the Word to justify their situation and remain oblivious to the ‘fact’ they are actually living under the spiritual influence of Mammon and ‘risk’ stepping out in faith to follow the desires, passions, purposes and plans God has for them.
I made my profession in finance where the ‘facts’ are the basis of the financial plans and advice I give. I know these are important, but I also know now (30 years into my financial career) that God knows the facts and situation better than we do and He expects us to trust, to love, and to walk in faith.
How do you step out in faith when the bank account shows a certain balance, and based on your past experience you expect things to cost a certain amount and that you’ll earn a certain amount of money? Simple. You gather the facts and lay them before the Lord to direct your steps (Proverbs 3:6) but not to limit the direction and outcome because of limited knowledge or past experience.
For example, if you look at your account balance and the upcoming bills you will likely use this information to decide if you will spend money on a particular item or give to a particular cause. You’ll use these ‘facts’ to decide if or when to give or spend or change work, etc. because that’s what seems even ‘realistic’ and that’s what you can imagine having, doing or giving; it’s all based on what you can see or imagine, not on what God has placed on your heart and what He has purposed and promised to do through and for your life.
At this point in the discussion many people shut down because they look at the facts and think I’m going to start saying that if they believe for a multi-gazillion dollars then God’s Word says they should have it by faith. Well, not exactly. God has uniquely gifted each of us with special gifts, talents, purposes, desires and opportunities. The world will attempt to make you think we all need to be millionaires to exhibit Godly success. No. God planned for us to be prosperous which includes financially, but the dollar figure associated with individual prosperity is different for everyone.
This is where facts and faith connect. God will provide for our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19) for His purposes to be fulfilled on the earth. The key is to understand that it is He who gives us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4) so our challenge is to discover what those desires are because He also tells us that He is our shepherd and we will not lack (Psalm 23:1), meaning our needs and wants need to align with His purposes for our life. It’s not ok to say, ‘I guess God doesn’t want me to do this or have this’ just because you don’t see it in your current financial reality. If He repeatedly leads you to a particular desire, or thought, or idea or cause, that’s a wake up call to ask Him HOW, and to take steps towards the fulfilment of that desire.
Faith is the substance of living in perfect love which cast out all fear (1 John 4:18). When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour into our hearts, one of the things we gained as a result, is the spiritual authority of the Holy Spirit living and working in and through us to guide and influence our lives. The Holy Spirit within is greater than anything in the world (John 10:10). It was this same spirit that did the work at creation and was at work to raise Jesus from the dead.
But fear comes when we look only at the natural world and attempt to make decisions based only on what we can see. This means that we ‘should’ be able to recognize when fear is influencing our financial thoughts and decisions. For example, Mammon will create an emotional response that evokes scarcity. It creates desire. It shows us something in the natural, something attractive to us personally, or something we see in the ‘facts’ of our financial situation. Whenever we make an emotional decision based on what we see, rather than based on the substance of what we don’t see, but know because of our relationship with the Lord and what we hear and see in His Word, we will end up making decisions and living under the spirit of fear. The responses will be unbelief, anxiety, envy, jealousy, guilt, pride, self-pity, and just about any negative emotion you want to add.
Our accepted financial planning model for saving for retirement does exactly this. My comments, don’t mean don’t save; they mean if you’re subscribing to a mindset that has a niggly voice saying, ‘you better save’ and ‘be careful, you don’t want to lose it all’ you’ll have seeds of fear and doubt driving your decision making.
Another example of this happens with ‘things’. When you look at a coffee mug for example that was perhaps a gift from someone special, the value you place on the mug will be the emotional response that is triggered. If the gift was from some special, the coffee mug might become a ‘cherished’ item, if it was just something you received as a token thank you gift, it might be discarded without another thought. That same coffee mug can also create a response based on a thought of how you might use it on special occasions to remember the person who gave it to you. A tangible item has brought your past into your present and your future. This will influence how you treat the coffee mug and how you’ll respond every time you see it.
Without even realizing it you’ll find yourself emotionally attached to things because of their memories and possible future use and the command from Jesus to, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19) will end up creating a sense of guilt instead of love for others and His creation. Things and money that buys the things become significant in your life and indicative of a pattern of thought that is either based in scarcity or abundance: scarcity having its root in fear, and abundance having it’s root in faith.
Remember, ‘how you do anything is how you do everything’. The next think you know, you’ll be making a decision about a mortgage and you’ll be thinking about your last home, and dreaming about your future home. This pattern of making decisions based on what you see as the ‘facts’ will also determine what you envision for your life. Your goals and dreams become limited by what you perceive to be the ‘facts’, not based on how you exercise the faith God has given you to gather information, apply wisdom, make decisions and ultimately to realize the good plans and purposes He has for your life.
We need to know the facts; but we also need to live by the substance of faith in order to be in a positon to let God turn the facts into something beyond what we can see, ask or imagine by faith (see Ephesians 3:20). Because, faith is tangible when you have the Word and the Spirit at work in your life, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).