“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles”—Sun Tzu.
Every opponent was always bigger, especially in the final matches for the grand championship. Weight class did not matter to the judges. After all was said and done, only one would claim the prize. He saw the look of fear in my eyes as I was matched with the heavyweight champion, so he pulled me aside. “You’re always going to be small…nothing you can do about that now. Do what you know how to do and use your head. Listen for my voice,” Dad said while stepping back. I entered the ring, faced my opponent, and waited for the ref to yell, “Tatakae (Fight)!”
Anxiety and fear can come from many sources. These emotions can cripple and weigh us down (Proverbs 12:25; Luke 12:22-26). In some cases, ignoring this built-in defense mechanism is foolish. The very fact that we are afraid of something means that whatever it is—it’s not actually happening yet. Dwelling on hypothetical consequences is contrary to what Scripture teaches (Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Psalm 55:22-23). In the heat of the battle, we can be confident that we are gifted with a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind, not fear (2 Timothy 1:7). For believers, doing what we know means to replace worry with prayer, take the necessary action that the situation calls for, and to always be listening for our Father’s voice.
“That money talks, that I’ll not deny, I heard it once: it said, ‘goodbye’”—Richard Armour, American Poet.
Our attitude about handling money is just as, if not more, important as our ability to earn it. Of all the subjects we are taught and forced to digest in our education system (primary school through university), finances is one of the most neglected. Some are experiencing financial difficulties due to poor decisions and recklessness while others have fallen prey to circumstances, e.g. legal woes, medical expenses, loss of employment, or a change in family structure. Providing reasonable and necessary care for family members who are unable to support themselves can add to the strain, but it is your responsibility. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). No matter which category you find yourself in, bills and surprises come at us steadily. The stress of not having enough funds available to cover expenses can be very emotional. When this happens, it is easy to become distracted and discouraged.
The releasing of debt is a familiar theme throughout Scripture. Being in debt is equated to being in bondage (Proverbs 22:7). In particular, the New Testament illustrates this with parables about financial debt that highlight God’s mercy and forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50). Modern bankruptcy laws are derived from debt forgiveness laws contained in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 15:1-2). These provisions were in place to allow the members of society to restructure and regroup. Conversely, the Bible also addresses those who borrow money without any intention of repaying it (Psalms 37:21; Ecclesiastes 5:5). Peering through scriptural lenses allows us to properly view and examine our lifestyles and the condition of our hearts.
No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum—struggling or heading towards filing for bankruptcy—you have to remember that only you are able to take control through a well-devised plan and course of action. Do not succumb to feelings of guilt or shame. Treat it like a serious wound: stop the bleeding and work on healing. Take inventory of your needs vs. your wants. Be willing to give up some non-essentials and/or explore healthy opportunities for earning more income. Relying on your number to come in or trusting in debt consolidation companies will only add further insult to injury. The more you educate yourself about money and handling finances, the better equipped you will be to proceed. Many churches offer the Financial Peace University course, which will assist you with creating and sticking to a personalized budget while strategically attacking and extinguishing debt. Also, there are many books, workbooks, and templates that can be utilized as you seek to be a good and faithful steward of your resources.
Time spent creating memories with family is priceless. Those pictures and stories provide feelings of a tender sweetness and laughter for years. As our loved ones are taken away, tales of those moments become a source of solace and salve for a hurting heart. Our fondest memories tend to be forged when we are simply relaxing and/or sharing in some sort of fun activity. Leisure and recreation are necessary components of family time.
God Himself established a pattern of rest after speaking the world into creation (Genesis 2:1-2). He declared that all the work that He had done was “very good” and then He took some time to rest. When he sent Moses down to the people with the law, He reminded families to labor six days, but to keep the Sabbath hallow (Exodus 20:8-11).
Modern culture has evolved to include times for recreational activities. We can do a wide variety of things together indoors or out, local or abroad. God’s provision and grace allow for these “down” times and we can still honor Him by taking advantage of them (Colossians 3:17; James 1:17). Discipline and obedience guard us against exercising liberties that can lead to sin or those that can be viewed as stumbling blocks to the weak. We are checking out from work, not worship…worship is continuous.
Take time to renew your perspective and to refresh. Family members need time to take a break from the demands and struggles of their personal worlds. Cherish the time spent together and create positive memories.
Colonel was my most faithful childhood companion. When I was a baby, you couldn’t even peek in my bassinet without a sharp warning. As I began to walk and talk, our bond strengthened. No matter where I went or what I did, he was right there by my side and he was very particular when it came to letting people get near me. Even my mother could not discipline the “little king” without locking him in another room, for he would not hesitate to bite the hand that fed him if that hand attempted to mishandle his king. How’s that for an example of love in action?!?
Love denotes action. Just like faith, it is active. It hears the command and it obeys (John 15:12-13). Only this type of love results in action that compels a believer to follow the King of kings and to love others sacrificially (Matthew 22:36-40; 1 John 4:20). Without selfless love, all gifts, beliefs, and acts are useless (1 Corinthians 13:2). It can be in our nature to reciprocate after our needs and desires are met. When God blesses us or favorably answers a prayer, we tend to be more intentional about praising and worshipping Him. Unsolicited kindness and grace are not extended enough to the people in our lives before they dote and love on us first. Behaving in this manner is contrary to Scripture. It is selfish, not selfless.
My German Shepherd, Colonel, always faithfully loved me. Even more so, our love should be instinctual, readily seen, and ready to act without hesitation. Be encouraged to demonstrate your faith with this purposeful and powerful love (Proverbs 3:3-4; Romans 12:9; 1 Corinthians 16:14). It is a gift from the Father that can be inexhaustibly shared with Him and others (1 John 4:19). Although we will never perfectly express this God-like virtue on Earth, we can rejoice in knowing that we will know no bounds in Heaven.