I have often wondered what it is going to be like to stand before the Lord and have Him evaluate my works. I wonder whether I will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21 NKJV). Or, on the other hand, will I watch as most of the things that I have accomplished being consumed by fire? My greatest fear is that I may fervently work at the wrong task rather than faithfully complete God’s work for me.
Mark 6:30–44 (NKJV) is a passage on which I often reflect:
Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.
But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.
When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.”
But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?” But He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.”
Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties. And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish. Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men.
Many conclusions that are applicable to financial planning can be drawn from this passage because financial planning is, in reality, the working out of your life priorities. Let’s examine the principles I have taken from this passage.
Jesus said, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). The first step to financial planning is to be alone with God and listen to what He has to say. It is not the development of a plan, it is not getting advice, but it is spending time alone with Him.
“My greatest fear is that I may fervently work at the wrong task rather than faithfully complete God’s work for me.”
Unless you hear God’s voice, you cannot take a second step. Jesus recognized this principle, and it was obvious in His life because He spent much time alone with God prior to making any major decision. Should we do less?
“Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34). A second principle is that our plan should not be our god. Jesus had a plan to go with His disciples to a quiet place; however, when He saw the needs, He had compassion on the people and was responsive to God’s direction in His life at that point. To be totally committed to a plan is to make a serious mistake. God works in our lives through many circumstances, and to ignore them because of a plan is to run the risk of missing God’s will. Changing a plan doesn’t mean you misheard or that God changed His mind. It just means that His plan and direction may differ from your timing.
“His disciples came to Him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread’” (Mark 6:35–36). I have often asked myself, “What’s wrong with this advice?” The answer is, nothing—except that it was wrong. It was very practical and logical, but it was not in accordance with what Jesus intended at that point. Don’t ever thwart God because of merely a practical consideration. God wants to do things in His way, in His time. Practicality does not always coincide with faith. It is not wrong in itself; it simply could be wrong in light of what God wants to accomplish.
Although worldly advice can be logical, its source is not based on God’s truth. Many Christians fall into the trap of listening to non-Christian counselors and expect the non-Christian counselor to give them godly advice. The advice may sound good and may even be good, but unless it is advice that comes from God, it is wrong.
The disciples argued a bit with Jesus regarding His plan, but Jesus did not argue back. Finally, He directed them to have all the people sit down on the grass. This was very illogical because, at that point, they did not have the food to feed them. But the disciples—and the people—obeyed. If God says to do it, I do it. If God says to give, I give. If God says to pay off debt—I do it. If God says to pay my taxes, I do so. If God says to increase or decrease my lifestyle, I do so. The issue is obedience.
When the disciples had the people sit down on the grass, there were three elements present that are always present in a faith plan. First of all, they obviously could not see how the people were going to be fed. Oftentimes, in a financial plan, we may not see how our goal is going to be accomplished either. Second, inadequate resources were available or owned by the disciples to accomplish the goal of feeding them. That may be characteristic of our financial plan, that we have inadequate resources. Third, the disciples did not know what the next step was going to be to fulfill God’s plan. Thus, a faith plan for us may require action without our full understanding. I think of Noah’s building an ark for 120 years, not fully understanding what God was going to do; or Abraham’s leaving Ur, not knowing where God was leading him.
Mark 6:42–43 says, “They all ate and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish.” The results of operating according to a faith plan are that the goal will be reached, God will be glorified, and growth will occur. In the case of the feeding of five thousand, the goal was reached, the Lord received the glory, and the disciples should have experienced growth in their faith.
“Don’t plan God out of your finances.”
However, if you read on in the passage, you come down to verses 51–52, “Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.” What a tragedy! Just a few hours earlier, they had seen an unbelievable miracle. As a matter of fact, they had participated in the miracle by handing out the bread and fish, and then gathering up the twelve baskets. However, the Scripture says, “They were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”
The challenge is, don’t plan God out of your finances. Don’t have a closed mind. Don’t miss the miracle. Don’t miss the miracle of what God wants to do in your life by saying, “It is not appropriate or applicable in my situation, for surely God could not want to do that for me.”
God merely wants you to take the first step, then the second step, then the third step, so that when you stand before Him, you will finally understand that whatever has been accomplished has been accomplished by Him. Because of your faithfulness with regard to what He has given you, you will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21 NKJV).
by Ron Blue with Michael Blue
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