HOW? – 7. HOW CAN I GET OUT/STAY OUT OF DEBT?
We live in a culture based on instant gratification. Buy now – pay later. Of course, this causes enormous problems not only in culture but also in our individual families and lives. When you go into debt, you lose your freedom. Proverbs 22:7 “The borrower is the servant to the lender.” Any time you take a loan or go into debt to someone or some company, you, in a sense, becoming a servant to them because you’re obligated to those people. It becomes a very major trap that many people can never get out of. I want to give you 6 danger signs that you are in over your head - you need to take drastic measures in your finances - 1. LIVING ON CREDIT INSTEAD OF PAYING CASH. If you depend on credit to maintain your lifestyle - if you have to use credit cards to maintain your lifestyle - you’re spending too much. Proverbs 3: 27, 28 “Don’t withhold repayment of your debts. Don’t say `some other time,’ if you can pay it now.” If you have cash to pay it now, pay it now. Don’t put it off until the future, don’t put it on some credit account. How do you know if you’re living on credit? Simple: the balance is going up. There are a couple of problems with living on credit: It shows a lack of contentment in your life. You can’t be patient. You can’t save. You have to have it now. It is a presumption on the future. You say, “I can always pay it off tomorrow.” How do you know? You might be disabled tomorrow. You might have a major accident next week. Proverbs 27: 1 “Boast not of tomorrow, for you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.” Debt always presumes upon the future. 2. DELAYING PAYMENTS/PAYING THE MINIMUM. If you’re missing payments - making late payments - paying the minimum due on that credit card instead of paying it off every month - constantly under tension over money - bouncing cheques because of insufficient funds - withdrawing money out of savings to pay today’s bills - “Something has to stop right now! I’m spending too much money! I’m spending more than I make!” Romans 13:8 "Let no debt remain outstanding.” You need to pay it off. Don’t bounce it over to next month. 3. UNABLE TO TITHE OR SAVE If you’re not saving any money, if you’re not tithing, you’re spending too much money. We talked about these principles last time. God takes this very seriously. Malachi 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob Me. But you ask, `How do we rob You?’ In tithes and offerings.” If I’m not tithing, I’m robbing God. I’m using God’s money to pay my bills. How do you expect Him to bless your finances if you’re robbing Him? Prov. 21: 20“The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.” If you’re not saving any money, if you’re not tithing, you’re spending too much. You need a radical overhaul of your lifestyle. You need a radical overhaul of how your budget is being built. It’s a warning sign that you’re in the debt trap if you can’t do those things. 4. UNABLE TO PAY TAXES Matthew 22: 21 “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” If you can’t pay your taxes that means you’re spending too much money. 5. EXTRAVAGANT SPENDING Proverbs 21: 17 “Indulging in luxuries, wine, and food will never make you wealthy.” You’ve got to spend. So what do you do when you’ve got everything? Here’s the point. When you buy things just because you’ve got the money, that’s stupid. When you buy things just because you can afford it, watch out. When you buy things you don’t need with money you really don’t have – the Bible says that’s not how you get wealthy. 6. LOOKING FOR GET RICH QUICK IDEAS The Bible says run from get rich quick schemes. Proverbs 21: 5 “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty.” When you’re in debt, you’re ripe for a rip off. Some con artist will get you to put down hard earned, good money on a get rich quick scheme that promises to double or triple your money and you’re going to be fooled into doing it. Ecclesiastes 5: 7 “Dreaming instead of doing is foolishness.” Many people - financial situation – looks humanly impossible. But there is a way out. If you will follow God’s financial plan and the steps to getting out of debt, you can do this. If I didn’t believe there was any hope of getting out of debt, I wouldn’t waste your time this morning looking at the principles in God’s word. But they are there and they do work. NINE STEPS OUT OF THE DEBT TRAP 1. COMMIT TO BECOMING DEBT FREE NOW! Not tomorrow, next week, next month – commit to being debt free now. Always start with a commitment. Psalm 37: 21 “The wicked borrow and do not repay.” God says if I don’t pay my debts, it’s wicked. Not just wrong, or ok, or socially acceptable – it’s wicked. God says when you make a promise you’re expected to keep it. “The wicked borrow and do not repay.” Some say, “But I’m in so much debt, why don’t I just file for bankruptcy and start over. It’s legal.” Yes it is legal but it’s not moral. Bankruptcy is legal in our country but it is not moral. It is wrong. It is wrong to make other people pay for your excesses. There are a lot of things in our country that are legal, but are wrong - a Christian, a follower of Christ, someone trying to live with integrity, shouldn’t do. It’s not going to be easy - always easier to get in than to get out. It’s going to take commitment to get out of debt. It’s going to take courage – discipline - delayed gratification. You can’t have it all right now to get out of debt. But most of all, to get out of debt, it takes character. Are you just going to walk away from it - “I’m not responsible.” Or are you going to say, “Ok, God, I got myself into this. Help me get out.” It’s not easy but it can be done. 2. START PAYING GOD AND MYSELF FIRST I get that pay and the first 10% goes back to God and the second 10% goes to me (my savings account). I can’t understand how people spend their lives, working hard to make money and they never pay themselves or they never pay God – the 2 entities most responsible for your ability to make wealth. You say, “I can’t afford to tithe, I can’t afford to save.” You can’t afford not to. If you want God’s blessing on your finances, you have to do it God’s way. The Bible says that the purpose of tithing is to teach us to put Him first place in our lives. The Bible says that the wise man saves for the future. So before anyone else gets paid, the first 10% goes back to God. The second 10% goes into your savings. We talked about this last time - Tithe 10%, Save 10%, Live on 80%. It’s tough, but it works. It takes discipline saying, “I’m not going to buy today. I’m reducing my expenditures now so I can tithe and I can save.” 3. LIST ALL I OWN AND ALL I OWE We talked a little about this last time - Proverbs 24:3 “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established.” Ignorance of your financial condition is a sure recipe for financial disaster. You need to know where your money is coming in from and how much it is and you need to know where it’s all going. Proverbs 18: 13 “It’s stupid to decide before knowing the facts.” You’ve got to get the facts on your financial setup, if you’re in debt and you need to get out. 4. HAVE A SALE. Some of you bought a car for the wrong reason. You chose it for status. Cars are not meant for status. Cars are meant for transport. You may need to go and sell that car and buy a more reasonable, second hand car, something that will get you to the same place on time and those payments will come down dramatically. Then you’ve got money for tithing and saving and paying off debts. If God told you to give something away or to sell something and you say, “I could never do that. I’d never sell that, even if God told me, I could never sell that,” there’s a word for that item. It’s called an idol. Ezekiel 20: 7 “Get rid of every idol.” Some people have idolised their houses, cars, holiday homes, boats or whatever. The Bible says get rid of idols. Have a sale. 5. SET UP A REPAYMENT PLAN You will never get out of debt accidentally. It must be intentional and you must have a plan. Proverbs 21: 5 “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity.” Proverbs 28: 18 “Get advice if you want your plans to work.” If you had cancer, you wouldn’t try to cure yourself. You’d go to an oncologist. If you are deeply in debt, you need a financial expert. I’m not talking about a salesman who wants to sell you some product. I’m talking about somebody who, from an objective viewpoint, can look at your finances and help you get them in order, work out a repayment plan, without having to sell you 15 products at the same time. When your emotions get involved you don’t think straight. You need the clear voice of reason - You really can’t afford this. “But I love this house.” You can’t afford it. “Maybe if we just stretch a little!” You can’t afford it. Why do we resist this? Because I want what I want when I want it and I don’t want anybody telling me I can’t have it! You need somebody to say no in your life. Let them help you set up a repayment plan. 6. DECIDE TO DO IT IN HALF THE TIME! Once you’ve decided the plan - say, “Let’s pay this thing off quick!” Think of the interest that you’ll save by paying it off early. The whole time you’re making payments that interest is compounding. Some of you are thinking, “But you don’t know my finances. I am so in debt it’s impossible to pay it in half the time.” Luke 18: 27 “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” You would be amazed at what you could do if you want to do it and you ask for God’s help and you’re willing to do it His way. It’s not easy. But it is possible. So don’t tell me it’s impossible. With God all things are possible. To get out of debt you have to do 3 things: 1. You have to stop overspending - hard habit to break if you’ve been doing it for years. 2. You have to repay the principle and the interest. 3. You have to learn to operate on a financial margin. That means you spend less than you make every month. That’s difficult but with God’s help it is possible. 7. ADD NO NEW DEBT! Most people get into debt for 1 reason - you spent more than you made. You’ve got to stop that right now. You will never get out of debt if you keep putting things on the credit card while you’re trying to pay them off. It’s not going to happen. So you have to be ruthless in this area. Jesus said, “If your right hand offends you, cut it off.” Is he talking about mutilation? No. He’s saying. Be ruthless. Deal seriously with the things that mess up your lives. You can go home and say, “Pastor is encouraging plastic surgery,” because I am. I am urging you to go home and do plastic surgery. If you got in debt with credit cards, you need to go home and destroy those things and never use them again. Credit cards are not bad as long as you do 3 things: you pay it off every month, you don’t ever use them to buy things that aren’t in your budget, you make a promise that if you ever go 1 month without paying it off - you immediately destroy the card and never use it again. If you do that, you’ll never have a problem with credit cards. But some of you need to go cold turkey - destroy them right now. The key to adding no new debt - Heb. 13:5 “Be content with what you have.” Contentment is the single greatest key to staying out of debt. Discontent is what gets you into debt. Jesus gave the secret for staying out of debt - Luke 3: 14 - “Be content with your pay.” The minute you spend more than you make, you head right into the debt trap. 8. SHARE MY PLAN WITH MY CREDITORS First take the smallest debt you owe and pay that one off. Then take the next one, pay that one off. Start whittling them down, one at a time. Write a letter to your creditors and say, "I am a Christian and I don't want to file for bankruptcy. I don't want you to suffer on what I owe you but I can’t pay it all off right now. But I will pay it all off. Here’s my plan.” And you tell them. Look what God says. Proverbs 16:7 “When your ways please the Lord, He will make your enemies into friends.” 9. STICK WITH IT! Stick with the plan. Galatians 6:9 “Let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up.” Getting out of debt takes discipline, effort, sacrifice and time. These principles work but you must work them. In closing, let me say one thing. There is a debt that you will never be able to repay. It is the debt of your sin. The Bible says that all of us have broken God’s laws. Not just financial laws, but others too. We’ve all blown it and the Bible says there is a penalty for sin. The penalty is death. That is a debt you will never, ever be able to repay. So God assumed your debt and Jesus Christ came to earth, stretched out His arms on the cross and paid for your debt that you will never, ever be able to pay. What a deal! What a God! “We owed a debt because we broke God’s laws. That debt listed all the rules that we failed to follow. But God forgave us and took away that debt and nailed it to the cross."” It's as if He took a piece of paper and wrote everything we’ve ever done wrong and then He nailed it to the cross. You say, “You mean I don’t have to pay for my sin?” No. “I’m completely forgiven for anything I’ve done wrong if I accept God’s grace?” Yes. What a deal! You need to get your financial plan in order but before you do that you need to resolve this spiritual debt issue. If you’ve never accepted God’s forgiveness and grace and turned your life over to Christ, you need to do it. Prayer: “Jesus Christ I accept Your free gift of forgiveness to pay for my sins. It’s almost too good to be true that You would love me that much, that You would die on the cross for me and wipe out a debt that I had no hope of repaying. Thank You, ThankYou!” Now why don’t you talk to God about your finances? “Dear God, I’m discouraged about my finances. But I do believe - “What is impossible with men is possible with God” Today, I want to give You my financial mess. I want to do it Your way. I want to follow God’s financial plan. I am willing to do, Father, whatever You and godly counsel tell me to do to get out of this trap. I ask for Your help. In Jesus’name. Amen.”