Spiritual Battlefields: Finances

cannon facing old battlefield

Our lifelong battlefields can sometimes seem hard to grasp. They aren’t always tactile, but the way we use our money is a very immediate and tangible thing. Money is important in our lives. We talk about it a lot in our daily conversations. We read and listen about money. We invest money. We stress about money. We pray about money. We use money to purchase things we see as important, valuable, or simply fun.

Trusting Money

By the time we are seven, our spending habits are already formed. Proverbs 3:13 – 14, however, calls wisdom better than money, as does Romans 16:16. Proverbs 18:11 tells us that wealth is false defense. All of that value we place in money, all of that trust we put in our fiscal resources — it’s all wrong.

Putting too much focus on money can hurt our marriages. It can hurt our families. It can cause longterm problems, and it can ultimately take the place of God in our lives. We can say we trust in God while we believe that more money will solve our problems. That is where we place our practical trust, but God wants our complete and total trust to be in Him alone.

The Rich Young Ruler

A man comes to Jesus in Matthew 19:16. He has money, power, and youth on his side. He realizes something is missing, and he asks Jesus about it. This young man questions Jesus right after He talks about being more like the children crowding around. This simple message told the ruler that he was missing something in his life.

Jesus initially answers by quoting scripture, and the young man is familiar with these. He honors the law of Moses, but Jesus wants the man to do more. He wants the man to live it. This leads Jesus to help him see what it really means to have a relationship with God. This should speak to us as well. We might have religion without a relationship. Bridging that gap takes trust.

Trust is exactly what Jesus lovingly asks for when the man presses Him for more. Jesus knew exactly what this man lacked — trust in God that surpasses his trust in his wealth. Unfortunately, the young man sorrows at this. The cost was too much for him, so the gospels record him walking away from Christ.

Looking Past Our Possessions

We can be like this young man when we back down because of doing God’s work because:

  • It doesn’t fit into my budget this month.
  • It just seems too expensive right now.
  • I have to think of my needs first.

Jesus asks us to give up everything for Him. We might talk a good game. When the price gets too high, however, we start to look for alternatives. We want to qualify what Jesus is asking for. We try to align His words with the values of our money-driven culture. But Matthew 6:19 – 24 tells us we can’t trust God while trusting money. Treasure on Earth and treasure in Heaven are mutually exclusive.

If we seek God and His kingdom first, then we will not be anxious for our possessions, our investments, or our savings accounts. The desires driven by those things can never be truly satisfied, but God can give us a contentment that surpasses all of that. He tells us to simply let go of our desires for worldly things and trust in Him instead.

Practical Applications

So what do we do? We should be watching how much we spend — not because we’re saving up for anything but rather because we don’t want to become servants to debt. This means we may have to set limits in the form of a budget, and we should perhaps reduce the focus on money in our prayer lives. We should count the cost of how we’re livings, stop feeling we deserve physical rewards in our lives, and we should be OK with telling ourselves no.

We cannot conform to the focus our world puts on money. Generosity should be more important than providing for our own perceived needs. We should be cheerful givers. Proverbs 11:27 tells giving makes us richer. This isn’t a prosperity gospel, but rather it’s about growing spiritually richer through generosity. Proverbs 19:17 simply says that giving to the poor is as if you are giving directly to God.

There are so many distractions caused by money, but it is hard to worship money when we are giving it away. Let’s look at what Jesus asked of that rich young ruler and learn from it. Let’s put more value on trust in God than trust in our resources. This is one way we are different from the world, and it’s a tough one. But trust God first, and worry less about your portfolio. In the end, it’s the spiritual treasures that matter more than any earthly treasures we may desire.

lesson by Donn Koonce

Spiritual Battlefields: Self

cannon facing old battlefield

We are a culture that can be incredibly focused on self. Who we are, what we’re doing, what we look like — these things can define who we are. We want to reward ourselves, but our selves can often be our own worst enemy. There is a battle going on over our sense of self, and the process can consume us. When we let self overwhelm us, we find we are never satisfied, never at peace, and never centered.

This contrasts with diminishing self-interest and putting Christ at the center of our lives. Instead of everything being about me, I make my life about Christ. When I make my life about Christ, I will immediately make things about others. I will have more room for spiritual things. I will have more room for God. Think of how Peter inserts himself when Jesus is predicting His own death in Mark 8:31 – 33. Peter sees this purely in the light of his own priorities and values, and he doesn’t see the bigger picture Jesus is revealing.

Devaluing Self

When we have a self-centered life, we may think we know better than God. We wouldn’t say that out loud, but we want things solved our way. We want things done on our own timeline. We’re looking after our own interests first. When we try to make our personal will God’s will, then we’re acting like Peter. We’re putting self before God’s plan.

In Mark 8: 34 – 36, Jesus says this about self-interest:

Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life?

To completely follow Christ, we have to lay aside all self-interest and put Him first. We have to let go of control and hand it to God. I have to be willing to admit that I am not in charge.

It’s a daily struggle. Influences all around us are always telling us to reward our selves, to pamper ourselves, to protect ourselves, to put self before anything else. That’s not what a Christ-like life looks like. Instead, we have to understand that self-centeredness is a battle for our time, attention, and priorities. When we take up the cross of Christ, we put self to death so that He can live through us.

Childlike Trust

In Mark 9:33 – 37, Jesus’ apostles are again struggling with self-interest.

Then they came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me.

We have to be as humble as young children in the eyes of our Father. We have to be as trusting as a little child who relies on their parent for everything. We have to let go of the habit of self-promotion and begin putting others before self. It’s a natural extension of putting Christ in the center of our lives. We put Christ first, then we will naturally put others before self.

Living to Serve

The very next chapter of Mark’s gospel illustrates this struggle again when, in Mark 10:35 – 45, James and John seek a position of power in Jesus’ prophesied kingdom. Jesus answers them like this:

You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life — a ransom for many.

Jesus came to serve. Therefore, we should be living to serve. Humility is the key to this. We should be continually looking for opportunities to help and serve others. Not just those obviously in need, but all of those whose friendship we take for granted on a daily basis. Every day should be spent looking past our own desires and toward the physical and spiritual needs of others. The battle for self never ends, but we can move past it by putting Christ and others first in all things.

Spiritual Battlefields: Our Faith

cannon facing old battlefield

When we talk about faith, we probably all have someone we can look to as a great example of faith through the trials and battles of this life. In turn, any of us might be someone else’s roll model. This knowledge should encourage us all to consider the daily examples of faith we demonstrate. For all of us, we should be striving to turn faith into a habit, learning to rely on God more than we rely on self or other people.

II Corinthians 5:7 simply says that we walk by faith rather than sight. That’s tough. Right there is where the battle over our faith lies. We’re used to things being visible and tangible in this world. We’re used to seeing and touching everything we know. That’s the evidence that something is real — that it can be sensed or measured in some way. Faith is all about trusting in things we cannot see, feel, touch, or otherwise sense.

Hebrews 11 defines faith as an assurance and a conviction in things we cannot see. We believe in God and Heaven though we cannot see no touch either. If that belief becomes faith, those things become tangible in our minds. Think of being in a dark room. You know their are things in the room even though you can’t see them. If we stay in the darkness too long, however, our eyes adjust, and the light can be painful to reintroduce.

The Source of Our Help

Faith should be always driving us toward the light. Think of Mark 2:1-12 where a group of people work together to get a mutual friend to Christ. The friend could not walk to Christ himself, so his own friends were willing to take him to Christ in faith that Jesus could heal. They were confident He was their source of help, and He is our help as well. Psalm 121:1 says that the Lord of Heaven and Earth is our source of help. The first battle we have is in knowing the source of our aid.

So often , we come to Christ in prayer with a remedy for our problems already in mind. Instead of trusting in Him, we try to guide our God. We try to tell him how He should help us. Instead, we should be turning to Him in faith and laying out our troubles at His feet, knowing that He can provide help. It might not be the help we expect, but it is the help He offers to us.

Overcoming the Obstacles

Back in Mark 2, the friends find the path to Jesus blocked. Sometimes, we have to put some extra effort into getting to Christ. There will always be reasons to quit, and we justify giving up so easily at times. Our journey toward our Savior will not always be easy. There will be obstacles. There will be troubles. The group of friends in Mark 2 were determined to get to Jesus, and they took a risk to get to Christ in an unconventional way.

How many ways could their solution have gone wrong? Let’s be honest. Digging into somebody else’s roof to interrupt a great teacher delivering his message would seem like a bad idea. Getting to Jesus is not always a conventional journey. We have to be willing to take risks for Christ and for each other. We have to be determined. We have to be okay with failure. If we have that strong knowledge that Jesus is the only true source of help, then it should make us all the more determined to keep on when fear, frustration, and trials try to keep us away.

Our giving up on Christ is very often rooted in basic fear. Mark 4:35 records Jesus calming a storm for his disciples, and He asked them, “Why are you still afraid? Have you no faith?” Jesus treated faith as the cure for fear. When we allow fear to motivate our attitudes and conduct, when fear influences our worldview and how we treat people or groups of people, we are demonstrating a lack of faith. Faith drives out fear so that we can press closer to Christ despite the things of this world that might keep us away.

The Real Victory

In Mark 2, when Jesus saw the faith in the friends who had brought the paralytic man to Him, Jesus decided to act. Our faith can help Jesus have an affect in other peoples’ lives. Our faith can help others grow their own faith and come closer to Christ. Still, Jesus first words were probably not what they expected, but that was the real victory. They brought their friend so his body could be healed, and Jesus began by healing the man’s soul.

We have to look for the real victory, and that includes giving up what we might think the win should be. We can only see so far, and God is capable if fixing problems we can’t even see. The real victory of faith is so much bigger than any solution we can come up with. It’s a change in our lives that only Christ can bring. If we can keep that in mind, it helps drive away fear in the face of obstacles. It helps us look for our one true source of hope.