Bryan Binkholder answers–Christianity & Uncertain Times…How Should Believers Plan for the Future?
As a believer and a business advisor, I’m often approached with specific questions about the connection between financial planning and the uncertainty of the times we live in, –but you probably could have guessed that.
Questions range from, “If Christ is coming soon, how should I plan for my future? How far in advance?” to “What if I’m missing God as I’m stepping out in faith?”
I want to address some of the questions I receive collectively in today’s post. I’ve found that although they may be posed differently, the questions all have one underlying basis, and that, of course, is the fact that none of us want to be caught in a situation where we don’t have the proper resources for our family. That’s the bottom line.
Are We Driven by Fear?
If you’ll notice, many of our questions, although very genuine in nature, are fear based and have a lot to do with the 24/7 access we have to media and world events. We have a constant stream of negative information bombarding us at every turn. This is something we’ve only had to deal with during the past decade and many of us are still learning how to adjust.
In order to make sense of the times we live in, many of us are in need of a fresh perspective. We need to see the world we live in and the topic of finances the way God sees them. Many of us are looking for Christ’s return and reading the signs of the times, –and there’s nothing wrong with a hopeful expectancy. But, if you’re becoming confused about planning for the future because of the volatility of our times, that can become a problem. Let’s break this topic down:
First, let’s take a look at whether or not we are living in the end times.
1 Timothy 3:1 tells us, “In the last days, perilous times shall come.”
Well of course, we can take one quick look around and think that perilous times are here. This is it! How can it get much worse? Well, just back up a minute. If you really look at the state of our nation and our world, you will see that much of what’s going on today is exactly the same thing that’s always been going on.
Not long ago I was reading through an article published in 1986 by Time Magazine. It was called Maniac Markets! The article was filled with fear and uncertainty, “Up, up, up! Then down, down, down! Has the market ever been so volatile?” This was written back in 1986. If we go back throughout history, we’ve always had turmoil and unrest in one area or another. Just think back to the Cuban missile crisis, the Arab/Israeli war, the oil embargo, the gas price controls in the 70s, the hostage situations, and on and on. We can actually think in time lines of Presidential terms and recall tumultuous times during each four year span. Some were worse than others, but my point here is that we realistically can’t say to ourselves, “The end is upon us so what’s the purpose of planning for our future?” Times are difficult. I’m not denying that, and yes, Christ may return at any moment. But, we are also directed in the Word to practice wisdom in all areas of our lives, including our finances.
If we allow ourselves to be tossed to and fro with every breaking news story or cataclysmic event, we will live in a constant state of distraction (which I talk about in many of my posts). When we are distracted by problems (real or imagined) we can become paralyzed, short-sighted, and emotionally driven. God never intended us to live this way. Finances are important, but the thought of gaining or losing should not consume our waking moments. Our focus should always be on our destiny and our purpose. God has a plan and a purpose for each of us, and that plan does not begin and end with financial issues. Does God want to bless us financially and have us use wisdom for our future? Of course. Does God want us to be aware of deception in the financial industry and make intelligent choices when it comes to who we seek out for advice and how we approach investing? Absolutely! But let’s set our course in motion and carry on. (This means, stop toiling away with worry every time you hear something about the markets, gas prices, the unemployment rate, etc. If you have to, turn off the television!)
Wisdom & Finances
Okay, so let’s get back to the plumb line we drew at the beginning of this post. None of us wants to find ourselves in financial duress. So, let’s look at the wisdom of the Word and finances:
Saving for the Future
Philippians 4:19 gives us the promise, “God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.” Because of this promise, we should be especially good stewards with our finances. I’ve seen Christians use this verse as almost a license to excuse irresponsible spending or lack of savings. If you look at Proverbs 6:6-8, you’ll see that even the smallest of creatures, the ant, is preprogrammed to work hard, be diligent, and to save for leaner times. The Word tells us the ant labors hard all summer to gather food for the winter.
If that one isn’t clear enough, Proverbs 21:20 tells us, “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.”
Planning Out Our Financial Strategy
Planning always makes everything work so much easier. When we have a plan for investing, we aren’t tossed around by every news story or crisis that arises. We understand the way markets work and the fact that they will continue to perform over time, regardless of the situations going on around us. Proverbs 21:5 tells us “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but those who are hasty come to poverty.” In translation, use wisdom to lay out your plan and then stick to that plan, instead of allowing emotions to cause you to make “hasty” and costly decisions.
With investing, we shouldn’t fear a volatile market. In fact, you will learn that when everyone is running away from a certain investment, that’s generally time to get in. The more volatile a market, the more opportunity there is to gain financially. When everyone is resting easy, believing in a particular investment, that’s really the time to pass on an opportunity. That’s why we sell off gains and buy into poorer performers when we rebalance portfolios.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
Remember, as believers, we are blessed so we can be a blessing to others, not so we can hoard everything for ourselves. If we aren’t faithful in saving and planning for tomorrow, learning to live on less and staying out of debt, how will we be able to further the Gospel? Yet another reason to be aware of the deception of the financial industry. If we are allowing ridiculous (and hidden) fees to suck the money out of our investments (think ‘actively managed mutual funds’) then we won’t have the finances to even provide for ourselves, let alone bless others. Wisdom is key here.
Okay, so we can clearly see that God has plenty to say about our finances, but what if we blow it? What if we step out in areas of investing or make purchases that don’t work like we thought they would? What if a business deal goes bad and we lose a chunk of our finances? Where does God fit in to these scenarios?
What if We Make Foolish Financial Decisions?
This is where the scripture from Philippians DOES apply. As believers, we are hooked up to the ultimate financial resource. God is our Provider. Philippians 4:19 gives us the promise, “God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory.” Even if we miss it? Especially when we miss it! I will add in, however, that Paul was writing to the Philippians who were tither’s and givers. It’s kind of hard for God to get involved with our finances when we never return any of the finances to Him! Regardless of that random teaching point, Romans 8:28 tells us He works all things together for our good. That means everything (so it covers foolish decisions and mistakes on our part too).
So, should you worry about financial ruin? As a believer, no. But keep in mind there is a clear difference between worrying and prudently planning ahead. We don’t throw caution to the wind and spend all we have, nor do we go to the opposite extreme and allow fear to rule us.
Proper planning and constant, reliable information from trusted sources (not the mass media) will keep us on the path to success.
For more information on wise investment strategies take advantage of my resources or contact Blue Ocean Portfolios. Their team of registered investment advisors operate on a fee-only basis instead of commission (as is the case with most financial advisors, wealth managers, etc).
Bryan Binkholder, The Financial Coach, is a catalyst for change in the financial industry. With a true passion to make a difference, Bryan offers practical insights on financial topics, investment strategies, and business success. As a business advisor, motivational speaker and author, Bryan is best known for exposing the inner workings of Wall Street and bringing clarity to common investment misconceptions. Be sure to take advantage of his two most popular resources: 7 Deadly Traps of Investing and The Six Pitfalls of Retirement Planning and look for his latest book, 401(k) Conspiracy, authored with Jim Winkelmann of Blue Ocean Portfolios. If you are a business owner, plan sponsor, or 401(k) plan participant, you’ll want this information.