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James Merritt - Financial Freedom

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    James Merritt - Financial Freedom
TOPICS: Money, Freedom, Wisdom

I wanna begin by telling you a little bit about my financial history. Neither my Mom nor my Dad went to college. My Dad was a gas truck driver. Mom mother was what we called back in the day, a beautician, a hairdresser. The largest paycheck my Dad ever bought home in a week was $100. On a good week, my Mom would clear maybe $60 to $80, so socioeconomically we weren't what you'd call poor, but we were what you'd call lower middle class. I paid my way through college. I worked every year. My freshman year at Stetson University I got up every morning at 4:30, I'd work in the cafeteria, I had the breakfast shift. I worked every single year. I took out student loans.

Every car I ever owned I bought myself because my Mom and Dad could never afford to buy me a car. The first car I ever bought was a 1964 Volkswagen. It had a hundred thousand miles, I paid $500 for it. I came from a family that had very little money and God was so good, I married into a family that had very little money. When we got married, our rehearsal dinner had ham and cheese sandwiches, potato chips and Cokes. We stepped it up at the reception. We had cake, we had punch, we had mints, and cookies, that's it. Six months after we got married, we went to seminary. $300 in the bank, no job. I was a full-time student, pastored a small country church, Teresa worked as a secretary. Our budget was as tight as a clam with lockjaw.

We had one date night a month where we went to White Castle. We splurged. We had a $7 budget. We'd eat anything we wanted as long as it fit in that $7. For years, we drove a Chevrolet Nova. Some of you don't even know what a Nova is. It had no air conditioning because we couldn't get it fixed. I'm not griping. I'm not complaining. I just want you to understand before I say what I'm about to say, we weren't born with a silver spoon in our mouth. No rich uncles never left us any kind of inheritance. And yet, though, we've been married now for over four decades, and we've had arguments about different things. By the way, if you're married and you don't ever argue, you got a bad marriage, okay. We've had our arguments. But in over four decades of marriage, we've never had one argument about money. Never.

As a matter of fact, you know why that's true? Because for four decades we have lived in financial freedom. And frankly, if you'd told me looking where I was when we first got married, and looking where I am today, if you'd told me this four decades ago, I'd say there's no way I'll be where I am in four decades based on where I am today. And yet, it's because of one simple thing we did. We got married, we made four key decisions. They're all based on what God's word says about managing money. We've lived in financial freedom every single day of our marriage and God has blessed us in unbelievable ways. I know this is a big deal message because the vast majority of people in this country, and the vast majority of people in this room are not living in financial freedom.

I read an article in The Atlantic magazine and here was the title, Most people in the world have know idea how to manage their money. And the article begins by stating this, "Financial ignorance is widespread even as the world has changed in ways that make such ignorance more dangerous than ever before". And then it goes on to say this, "For a large and fast growing number of people personal bankruptcy is just one bad decision away". That blows my mind because by all economic measures we are in a booming economy. Stock market just hit all time record high. Unemployment all-time record low.

And even though the economy is booming, a growing number of Americans are now saying, that the cost of raising a family and financial demands in the home are among the most important problems that they're facing. 62% of adults say today that economic issues and money are one of the top three problems they face, 63%. That's up from 51% just four years ago. Americans are more stressed than ever. And for most of them they say the number one reason why they're stressed is their bank account. 65% of Americans, two out of every three Americans say they're losing sleep over money issues. They're worried about healthcare, saving for retirement, educational expenses, paying mortgages, paying off credit card debt.

And oh, by the way, the generation that's worried the most, Gen Xers and Millennials. They're worried about their financial future. Well, another article I read began with this statement, I love this, what they said here. They said you can take this to the bank, we'll put it up there. You can take this to the bank, Americans are messed up about money. And you know why? When they ask Americans, "Why are you so messed up about money"? They gave three reasons. We don't save enough. We spend money we don't have. We have our financial priorities backwards. Sound familiar. I'm gonna share with you today, four steps to financial freedom.

Now, before I get started, let me kinda go ahead and lower the level of anxiety a little bit. Everybody can take these four steps. So I wanna go ahead and just disabuse you of your excuses. Everybody can take these four steps. And they're true, they work. But they will only work if two things are true that I'm gonna share with you at the end of this message. And by the way, let me tell you why they work. They don't just work because they work for me and they don't just work because I say so. The reason they work is because He says so. This is what He says. Let me tell you why I'm talking about money today. As your pastor I've got two jobs whether you realize it or not. My number one job is to equip you for the life here and now. But I've got another job that's to prepare you for the life that is coming.

So, I want you to be everything that God wants you to be here, so that you can be everything that God wants you to be there. And one of the greatest ways I can do that is to show you how to live in financial freedom. Now, our whole message is gonna be based on one statement that Jesus made. I invite you to get your tablet, iPhone, whatever you want to use, and turn to the Gospel of Luke. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, four gospels. Turn to the Gospel of Luke chapter 16. Jesus makes one statement there and when you finally realize what he said, you realize, "Man, this is a big deal. I better get my financial house in order. Not just so I can sleep at night. Not just so I got spare change in my pocket. Not just so I can buy what I wanna buy. I better get my financial house in order not just for this life but for the life to come". This is what Jesus said.

Now, just really hone in on this. Jesus said, "if you've not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches"? Now, let that sink in. We talk about all the time, God has a plan for your life, and He does. God has great plans for your life. But you don't think that when you die God's plan for you is over. Hey, when you die, He's just getting started. God has plans for you in eternity. God's got great plans for you in the life to come. But here's what God's telling you everyday, you will be trusted in the same way there with what I want to give you, if you prove to be you can be trusted here with what I've already given you.

So you better get your financial house in order and not just for here, but for there. So, I'm gonna give you today, four steps to financial freedom. They work, you can do it. By the way, they're in order. You can't skip one, you leave one out, you leave 'em all out. Okay, it's like dominoes. If you don't knock the first one over, none of them work, okay. Here we go, number one. See Money Correctly. That's the first thing you gotta do to be financially free, you've go to see money correctly.

Now, I'm gonna make a statement in four words. Everything I'm gonna say for the rest of this message is gonna depend on whether or not you accept those words and you're willing to apply those words. Because if you don't agree, if you don't understand and you don't believe the next four words I'm gonna put up on this screen, you will never be financially free. I do not care if you're rich, you have no debt, you make plenty of money, you have a lot in savings, you can buy anything you wanna buy and you even give some money to charity. If you don't believe what I'm about to tell you right now, you will be in financial bondage the rest of your life. Here's the proposition, God owns it all. Would you say that together? Now, say it like you mean it. All right. God owns it all. All of it.

Now, I want you to imagine, let me give you an illustration. I want you to imagine you took everything you think you own, or you own right now, okay, everything. You're gonna take your clothes, you're gonna take your cars, you're gonna take your cash, you're gonna take your house, your real estate, your 401k, your jewelry, your stock and your bonds, you convert all of it to silver bullion and gold coins. So take everything you think you have today, you're gonna convert all of it to silver bullion and gold coins. Got it, everybody got that, right? So, hear this. The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord Almighty. It all belongs to me. Whether it's liquid assets, non-liquid assets, it doesn't matter. God says, "it all belong to me".

Suppose you're a rancher and suppose all your wealth is tied up in bulls and cows and goats. Hear this, I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. Here's what God said, you're a rancher, if you think your bull belongs to you, you're full of bull. It doesn't belong to you. God owns it all. As a matter of fact, suppose somebody could come today and give you the entire world. Suppose somebody had the power to come to you today and say, "I'm gonna sign the title deed to the whole world. Everything in the world, everything on the world, everything around the world, it all belongs to you". It's yours, they just signed the title deed on you.

You say, man, I own the whole world. No, you don't, hear this. The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. God said I not only own everything you have, I own you. It all belongs to me. Everything in it, everything on it, it all is mine. Now, here's the point. If that is true, if God owns it all, then what does that make us? We're not owners. We're managers. We're just stewards. Okay, how are you gonna manage this? By the way, the reason why we have anything is not so we would have anything. The reason why we have anything is because God says, "Okay, I wanna see how you manage this. I wanna see if I can trust you with what I've given you". Because let me tell you something, if you're sitting out there and you're saying, I don't care what you say, I own my house, I own my car, I own my stocks, I own my bonds, no, you don't, they own you.

If you think you own anything, whatever you think you own it owns you. But once you see that God owns it all, then guess what you say? Hey, I'm no longer an owner, I'm a manager. And let me tell you something, you talk about changing the way you think about your finances. I thought the other day, I wish I could stamp those four words, God owns it all, I wish I could stamp those four words on every checkbook, pocketbook, income tax refund, stock transaction, credit card, home, car, condominium, every piece of real estate, every piece of jewelry, everything that moves, and everything that doesn't. Because when you remember that one thing, God owns it all, you just took your first step to financial freedom.

Now, the second step is gonna shock you. Let me just tell you right now. The second step will be the hardest step for many of you to take, but it has to be the first practical step you take with your finances. Let me just stop and say this. No matter what else you do, if you don't do this and you're not doing this, again, you can say, "You can't tell me I'm not financially free. I'm rich, I got more money than I know what to do with. I can buy anything I want when I want it. I don't owe anybody any money". But if this is not true, you are not financially free. And you will have failed the test that God has given you with money. As a matter of fact before I put this up there, let me go ahead and warn you, Google is your friend.

So I googled money management tips, I googled that. I found the top 10 websites on how to manage your money. Are you ready for this? Not one of them had this in their list. Nobody. Not one financial advisor said you need to do this and yet it blew my mind 'cause this is the single most important step to take to be financially free. All right. First step, first step is this, you gotta see money correctly. Second step, you share money generously. You share money generously. Now, once you adopt the attitude that God owns it all, you'll naturally follow this step of financial freedom, okay. So, here's the practical step, all right. Here's rule number one financial freedom, ready? Pay God first. Let's say that together. Ready? Pay God first. I know for some of you it hurts to say it, try it one more time. Pay God first. All right, pay God first. Don't take my word for this.

The richest man who ever lived by all accounts was a king by the name of Solomon. Kinda knew what he was doing when it came to making money. Here's the financial advice he gave. Honor the Lord with your wealth. How do you do that, Solomon? With the first fruits of all your crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing and then your vats will overflow with new wine. Now, those words were written to an agrarian culture. The number one occupation back in that day was farming. So, here's what Solomon was saying. Farmer, you're sowing the seed, and now you have reaped a harvest. When you reap that harvest, you take the first part of that harvest and you give it to the Lord. If you're a rancher and your birth some calves, Mr. Rancher, you take that very first calf and you go and dedicate it to the Lord.

As a matter of fact, even the first born of every child was to be committed to the service of the Lord. That's what Solomon meant when he talked about the first fruits. Now, Wall Street won't tell you what I just told you. Your financial advisor, unless he's a good one, won't tell you what I just told you. The wisest money managing minds of the country don't even mention this. But the most important money management principle you will ever hear, and the key to not only managing your money, but making sure that your money never manages you. Here's the key, you ready? You give God the first fruits of your income, not the leftovers. You give God the first fruits, not the leftovers.

Now, let me just stop right here because I kinda put myself in your shoes when I was working on this message, right, and I know what some of you are thinking right now. This sounds totally counterintuitive. Because some of you are thinking right now, it doesn't offend me, I get it, I understand, you're going, "Wait a minute. Are your rippin' kiddin' me? I can't even pay my bills. I can't even pay off my credit card. I'm paying interest, I'm not even paying principle. I don't even know if I can pay the light bill next week and you're telling me to pay God first"? It's a great question. It gets to the heart of the matter. And here's my answer. The greatest thing you will ever do when it comes to money is to make God your financial partner. The greatest thing you'll ever do with your money, actually His money, is to make God your financial partner.

Now, you're saying, "I can't do that". Well, let me just ask you a question. How's your way working out for you? You're sucking air. You can't sleep at night. You got credit card debt you can't pay off. You don't know how many times I've heard people say, "Pastor, I'd love to give to the church, I just can't afford it". I've heard that a thousand times. How's that working out for you? 'Cause here's what God is saying. God is saying, "Okay, do it yourself. Let me know when you're ready for me to get involved. I'm waiting". I'm telling you as a satisfied customer, when we made up our mind we can't do this on our own, we're not gonna try to do it on our own. We want God to be our financial partner. You say, "How do you do that"? The only way God will ever get involved in your finances is when you come to God and you say, "I'm gonna honor you first. I'm gonna put your first".

Now, what all this boils down to is one simple decision you gotta make and let's just go ahead and make it right now. Here's the decision. Do you believe that God will do what He says, if you pay Him first or not? Now, if you say, "No, I don't". Then, I got some advice, keep your money. Keep doing things the way you've been doing. But you know what the definition of insanity is, right? Expecting different results when you keep doing the same thing. So, if you love where you are financially and you think you're in financial freedom and "I don't need God". Okay. But if you decide, "You know what? I do believe what God says He'll do if I pay Him first".

From the time I was a little boy, one of the greatest things my Dad and Mom ever did for me, from the time I was a little boy, my Mom and Dad taught me the principle of the tithe, giving God 10% of everything you make. When I was in church as a little boy, I'd sit with my Dad. I still remember every time the offering plate was passed, my Dad put a $10 check, remember he made $100 a week. My Dad would take a $10 check, put it in the envelope, and he let me put the envelope in that offering plate. You know why I was so thrilled? It was his money, it wasn't mine. I'm not losing anything. But you know what my Dad was doing? He was teaching me something. "Son, give God first". Give God the first 10% of everything He gives to you.

Listen, there are a lot of promises in the bible. I've never found one to be false yet. But I was telling the staff this morning, if there was only one thing about this book that says this has to be the word of God, it's because of a promise that God has proven to me and my wife for 43 years is absolutely true. It's this promise. God said, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house". Then He says something that's amazing. "Test me". Test me. I'm gonna put this in the married translation. Tell me to put up or shut up. How strong is that? Tell me to put up or shut up. "And see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing there will not be room enough to store it".

It's the only time in the Bible where God not only allows us, He commands us. He says, hey, tell you what to do. Hey, James, test me. Try me. Call me out. Put me on the spot. Draw a line in the dirt and say I double dog dare you. Go ahead and do that. When we got married, beginning on our wedding day, we decided we're gonna believe God. From the first paycheck we ever made together or separately, we always gave God. Let me just say this, can I be honest? When we went to the seminary, I'm an accounting major, I know my stuff. On paper, it made no sense. I didn't have a church. We got one income, I'm a full-time student, we got expenses. Didn't make sense. We just made a decision. We're gonna believe God, we're gonna trust God.

You know what? God met every need we ever had. And oh, by the way, you think this is strong? Jesus was even more blunt. Here's what Jesus said. Jesus said, "Give and it will be given to you". Now, let me stop right there. Here's the way we think. Here's what we say to God, you go first. You give to me first then I'll give to you. God says, no, that's not the way we're gonna work. You're gonna trust me and give to me first. And when you prove to me that you trust me and believe me, then it will be given to you. By the way, given to you by who? By God. Jesus said, "Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you".

So notice the order. Give first. Then, it will be given to you. Now, you say, Pastor, do you really believe what Jesus said? Dude and dudesses I don't just believe it, I'm living it. I've seen it for 43, I've seen it for 66 years. He doesn't lie. He tells the truth. He's not gonna get embarrassed by you or anybody else. You bring your tithe to the storehouse and you give first, it will be given unto you. So we want to help you and make it easy for you to give first. So we've provided multiple ways for you to give. You can give through our website, you can give through text giving, you can just put a gift in the basket in the worship service.

Matter of fact, let me tell you how Teresa and I do. This is an easy way to do it, it will help you. We do what we call recurring giving. We don't even think about it. One of the first things at the first of the month, first thing that comes out of our bank account is our giving. It just comes out automatically. You set it and your forget it. So you wanna make sure we're giving to God first. So I would encourage you to do it the way Teresa and I do it. Again, please hear me. I understand many of you are struggling financially. You barely can keep your head above water. And I know deep down you're thinking you mean it, you love and respect me, but I know what you're thinking.

You know, Pastor, it's real easy for you to stand up here and tell me to trust God. You don't even know what my finances are. You don't know how bad I'm sucking air. It's real easy for you to kinda stand up here and tell me how to trust God and believe God and pay God first. Listen to me, I get it. I felt the same way when we moved to the seminary. But we did it. We trusted God and so this is what I'm gonna ask you to do. I'm gonna ask you to do one thing, one time under one condition. The next paycheck you get, give God 10% of your income first. One time, just one time, just one time. Now, only do it under one condition. Here's the condition, you believe God keeps His promise and you want to make God your financial partner.

Now, if you don't believe God keeps His promise, keep your money. If you're not interested in making God your financial partner, don't do it. I came across an article that got my attention with this headline. It was in the Wall Street Journal. And here was the headline, Before you even think about asking, think of giving first, secrets of a million dollar start up. This guy started a company, I don't even know if he's a believer or not. He started a company and when he started it up, immediately it was worth a hundred million dollars. Here's what he said, and I'm quoting, "Generosity breeds success", says Bryan Pallas, founder of the introduction site, Opportunity Network, a startup valued at 100 million dollars. This man, I don't know who he is, don't even know if he's a believer, he said the key to his financial success was he decided right up front I'm going to be a generous giver.

Don't go out here and say, Pastor said if I give I'll have a hundred million dollar startup. That's not what I'm saying, okay. Here's what I am saying. If you will give God first, you will be on your way to financial freedom and God will be your financial partner, okay. So step one, you pay God first. See money correctly. Share money generously. You say, does it get easier? No, it gets harder. Save money regularly. Save money regularly. Rule number one, pay God first. Rule number two, pay yourself second.

Now, let me tell you how this works out, okay. Now, soon after Teresa and I got married, we realized we need to start saving money. We didn't have a lot of money. I've already told you things were tight. So in my little country church I was making a hundred dollars a week. My little country church came to us and they said, "Pastor, we love you. We know thing are tight. We want to give you a $10 a week raise". That's a 10% raise, $10 a week. We wanna give you $10 a week raise. Well, Teresa and I talked about it, I said, "tell you what I want you to do. Do not give us the raise". They said, "Okay, what do you want us to do"? We said, "We want you to take that $10, $40 a month, $10 a week, and we want to invest it. Can we do that"? They said, "Yeah, you can do that".

So we invested it. We started back when we were young, early 20s. We started investing in the Presbyterian Minister's Fund. Now, I know what you're asking, "Why didn't you put it in the Baptist Minister's Fund"? Because Presbyterians paid more money. So we put it into the Presbyterian Minister's Fund. But the point I'm making is, we started saving right after we got married. You say, "Where'd you get that idea"? Right out of this book. Here's what Solomon said, "The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down". He said, you know what wise people do? They pay others. They pay themselves second. They don't spend everything they get and they don't realize they get everything to spend. They start saving money.

Now again, let me just say this, I know what you're saying right now. Wait a minute, dude. You just told me to give God 10%, I can't even pay my bills. And now you're telling me save. Are you serious? Okay. I want to say something to you that will either make you mad, sad, or glad. That's okay. I don't care what your financial situation is and I'm willing for you to come to me and I'll prove this to you any time you want me to. Everybody can save something. So don't sit there and tell me you can't save. Everybody can save something. You know what's amazing? If you start early enough, you don't have to save a lot to have a lot. Let me give you an example. I want you to pretend you just turned 20 years of age. Today's your birthday.

Now, I want you to pretend you turned 20 years old today. Watch this. If you save a dollar a day, when you're 20 years old, okay, so you're 20 years old, you're saving a dollar a day, okay. Now, let me make it easy. That is the equivalent of a Chick-fil-A sandwich combo. So, every week you're gonna save a Chick-fil-A sandwich combo. If you invested that at the age of 20 in what we call an ETF, an Exchange Traded Fund, tracks the S&P 500, assumes an annual return of 11.23% which was the average return from 1965 to 2014. So for 50 years, just look at this, for 50 years, if you started in 1965, a dollar a day, and you invested that until you turned 70 years of age. So you're now 70 years old. You ready for this? You would have 698,450 bucks. That is a dollar a day. 50 years, you would have 700,000.

Now, look, I believe practically almost every one of us probably eats at Chick-fil-A at least once a week. I mean, if you're an American, and you're saving, you walk with God, you're gonna eat at Chick-fil-A at least once a week, okay. One Chick-fil-A combo a week for 50 years, you got $700,000. And somebody, "I don't eat Chick-fil-A". All right, how about you Starbucks people. If you forgo two Skinny Vanilla Lattes a week, for 50 years, you can drink all the Starbucks you want and never miss the money. And by the way, there are all kinds of creative ways you can save. I can prove this to you. I heard about a man that loved to save money, kind of one of these coupon cutter kind of a guys. Kinda like my wife is. I call 'em cheapskates. Just a joke, hon, keep doing it.

But there was this guy who always loved to save money. And so he walked into a barbershop one day and he said to the barber, he said, "How much do you charge for a haircut"? The guy said, "25 bucks". He said, "Really"? He said, "Wow, well how much do you charge for a shave"? He said, "Five bucks". The guy jumped in the chair and said, "Shave my head". See, there's all kinds of ways you can save money. Now, we need to save for two things, right? We need to save for two things, right? Rainy days and retirement. By the way, when I talk about retirement, the Bible doesn't talk about retirement. I don't believe in retirement. When I talk about retirement, I don't mean now I quit, I just watch TV and die early. That's not what I mean by retirement. Retirement means you just quit serving God one way and you gotta serve God in another one, okay. But you gotta save for rainy days and retirement.

Now, listen to this, the Employment Benefit Research Institute estimates that Americans have a retirement savings deficit of 4.3 trillion dollars. Not billion, trillion. That means with all U.S. households that have the Head of Household between the ages of 25 and 64, they got 4.3 trillion dollars less in savings than they need for retirement. The median retirement account for people who even have a retirement account is $60,000. How about rainy days? This broke my heart. 12% of Americans say they don't have enough cash to cover a $400 emergency. 61% of Americans say they don't have enough savings to cover a $1000 emergency like a visit to the E.R. or car repair. 9% of Americans say they have no savings at all. None, they haven't saved any money.

Now, I want you to understand, I'm not trying to be insensitive, I'm not trying to be harsh, I'm not trying to be unkind, I'm not trying to make you feel badly, but let me just tell you this. If you're sitting there trying to tell me you just don't understand, Pastor, I can't save anything. Then, just do me a favor, go somewhere and watch an ant crawling on the ground. Just go watch an ant crawling on the ground. You say, "Why would I do that"? Well, because here's what the scripture says about the ant. Go to the ant, you sluggard, consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer, no ruler, yet it stores, it saves its provision in summer and gathers its food at harvest. So I'll just leave you with this, if an ant can do it, don't say you can't do it.

So what's the principles? See money correctly, God owns it all. Share money generously, pay God first. Save money regularly, pay yourself second. And here's the last step, we're done. Spend money wisely. Spend money wisely. Okay, so here's rule number three, ready? Pay others last. Pay God first, pay yourself second, pay others last. Now, again, here's what this wise king named Solomon said. He said, "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds, for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations". In other words, here's what he was saying, once you've found the first two rules, make sure you're careful and you apply the third rule. 'Cause see here's where a lot of us get in trouble. Some of us do give. Some of us do save. But we still don't know how to spend our money. We spend it so unwisely.

Let me just say this, there's an attitude and an action that will destroy everything I just told you. If you don't get control of this attitude, and you don't avoid this action, you're gonna be in financial bondage the rest of your life. The attitude is materialism and the action is debt. Now, let me just get a dirty little secret out, okay, I'm gonna make you feel good. Including me, the Pastor, we're all materialistic. We're just materialistic in different ways, for different things at different times. I've heard people say, well, I'm just a materialistic person. Well, we're all materialistic. We all are. By the way, you know what it means to be materialistic? Here's what it means? If you want more of something that you don't need, you're materialistic. It doesn't mean it's wrong, just means you're materialistic.

By the way, we sometimes think, "Well, you know rich people are materialistic". You don't have to be rich to be materialistic. There is a financial counselor, his name is Ron Blue. Ron Blue was visiting Africa, he went on mission trip, and he was out in one of these really remote poor villages. So, he's talking to a villager and he said, he asked him, he said, "Hey, what is the greatest problem that you face in your village"? And he thought this guy would say, they needed more food or more clothing, or medical supplies, or whatever. He said the response just blew him away. He said, "Well, our number one problem is materialism". He said, "What"? He said, "Materialism, what do you mean"? He said, "Well, if a man has a mud hut, he wants one made out of stone. If he has a thatch roof, he wants a tin roof. If he has one acre, he wants two acres". Blue said, "It hit me, materialism is a disease of the heart. It has nothing to do with what you have and nothing to do with where you live".

So one of the best things you can do if you want to spend money wisely and it's not hard to do, have a budget. Just have a budget where you make sure that four things were provided for. You only need four things to live. You only need four things. You need food, you need shelter, you need to pay your utilities, and you need transportation. That's all you need. That's all you need to live. Everything else is a luxury, right. Everything above that. Now, listen to me, there's nothing wrong with luxuries. There's nothing wrong with having a boat at the lake, there's nothing wrong having a Sea-Doo, that's not where I'm going at all, there's nothing wrong with that. But here's my simple advice. Don't go into debt for luxuries. Don't go into debt for luxuries.

Now, I can spend a whole 'nother message just on this and I don't have the time, but let me just say one thing right quick. Do you know how to tell if you got too much debt? Do you know how to tell if you're not managing debt well? There are three surefire signs you've got too much debt. You ready? It's beyond your ability to repay it on a timely basis, you go too much debt. If you're paying interest only on a credit card, you got too much debt. If you're two months behind in your mortgage payment, you got too much debt. Whatever the reason is, if you cannot repay your bills on a timely basis, too much debt. Number two, if it prevents you from giving to God. I'd love to give to God, I'd love to support God's work, I just can't afford it. Pay gotta pay this, gotta do that, gotta pay this.

Okay, you've got too much debt. Number three, it prevents you from saving for the future. You cannot leave any step out. It won't work. It all goes together. So, let me say it one more time. It doesn't matter how much money you make, how many things you have, how much savings is in your bank account, how big your 401k is, if you don't see that God owns it all, if you're not paying God first, yourself second and others third, you are not and you never will be financially free. It will not happen. Now, I told you there are two things you have to do or you won't take those steps. So now I'm gonna give you a test and you're gonna know whether or not I've just wasted 35 or 40 minutes of your time. And this is not gonna go anywhere and you're not gonna change your life, or we're gonna see if maybe this may be one of the greatest days of your life.

Then, we're gonna see if this is gonna be one of those days you're gonna look back on it and you're gonna come to me one day and say, "You know, Pastor, of all the messages you ever preached, thank you for telling me that. Thank you. I wished I'd heard it 20 years ago. Thank you for sharing that with me". But you got to take these two steps. Number one, you gotta decide to trust God. I've said this to you before, I'm gonna keep telling it to you. I've learned it 40-something years. I'm telling you, your money is not about finances, it's about your faith. So you gotta decide, trust God or not.

Number two, you gotta determine to obey God. Lord, I trust you, I'm gonna obey you. If you really think, if you even have this much of a thought that this preacher is after your money, keep your money. No harm, no foul. I haven't lost anything anyway, so keep your money. If you think I preached this message for my benefit, or the benefit of our church, keep your money. But if everything I said is true, it's not for my benefit, it's for your benefit. I'm trying to help you out. I'm trying to get you to a point where you stand before God one day and God says you passed the test. I gave you this money and here's what you did with that money. Now, let me show you what I'm gonna trust you with.

Many of you are gonna get so much and you're gonna say, "Oh, God, thank you. Thank you that I showed you I could trust you with that which meant so little". So now you're gonna trust me with that which is so much. And here's why it's such a big deal. This world needs to see Christians start acting like they really believe what God says. This world needs to see some people like you and me, just ordinary, run of the mill, dime a dozen people that looks to the world and says, you know what, we're not gonna manage our money the way you do. We're not gonna look at money the way you do. We're not gonna let money dominate us the way it dominates you. We're not gonna do that. We're not gonna be sucked in by the culture of this day that says all that matters is wealth and money and influence and power and what you can get in your pocket. We're not gonna do that.

There's a different way and there's a better way. So Winston Churchill put it this way, "The world looks with some awe upon a person who appears unconcernedly indifferent to home, money, comfort, rank, or even power and fame. The world feels not without a certain apprehension here is someone outside its jurisdiction, someone before whom its allurements are spread in vain". This world needs to see people like you and me that have just ordinary jobs. You drive downtown to Atlanta everyday, you teach in a school, you drive a truck, you dig a ditch, you're a veterinarian, you're a doctor, you're an attorney, it doesn't matter.

This world needs to see people like you and me stand up and say, "Let me tell you something. My money doesn't control me, I control my money. I don't worship money, I worship God". Jesus said no man can serve God or money, but you're gonna serve one or the other. And this world needs to see this is what it looks like when you decide to believe God, and this is what God does for those of us who do. So why don't we leave here today, you're sick and tired of being in financial bondage, can I tell you something? I'm sick and tired of you being in financial bondage. Let's go to the God that owns it all. Let's go to the God who gave it all. Let's go to the God who can do it all. Let's surrender it all to Him and then let's see what God will do.
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