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A spiritual checklist for when life isn't going well

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Things in the physical world are influenced by the spiritual realm. Paul told the Ephesians, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Your obedience to the Lord has a huge impact on not only your understanding of what is occurring around you, but on the events that shape your life as well.

One of the ways you measure the circumstances in your life is most likely your financial situation. Certainly, other events are just as crucial, but many times your finances are the canary in the mine shaft.

This is a spiritual checklist for times when things aren't going as well financially as you want. Some of these items come from pastors who ask these questions during counseling sessions.

1. Have you been baptized? (Matthew 28: 19; Mark 1:9; Acts 2:38,41; 18:8; 22:16; Gal 3:27)

Many people are surprised when a pastor asks this and want to know what does being baptized have to do with their current problem. Baptism is the first act of obedience. It is hard to imagine that God would advance you any further along the path of sanctification until you are baptized. (1 Sam 15:23)

2. Do you tithe? (Malachi 3:8-11)

God said that not giving the tithe is robbing from Him and those that do not tithe are cursed with a curse. However, He said He would bless those that do tithe. I have met plenty of people who have testified that when they tithed, God blessed them; when they did not tithe, they consistently had money problems. Jesus commanded us to lay up treasure in heaven. If you don't tithe and give offerings above the tithe, you're not laying up treasure in heaven. If you're married and since I don't know how God can bless half of a marriage financially, both of you have to tithe. You will never be able to attain your financial goals if you do not tithe.

But, "Isn't tithing a requirement of the Law and we are no longer under the Law?" you may protest. The Bible records that Abraham gave tithes and Jacob promised to tithe before the Law was given by Moses. Would God not expect us to give willingly in this age of grace as He required under the Law and as the Patriarchs gave before the Law? What is your real objection to giving 10%? Is it because you don't think it's necessary under Grace or is it because you covet your money?

My wife met with a woman at our church once who was always short on money and claimed that if she tithed, she couldn't afford to buy groceries. My wife promised that if the woman tithed and couldn't afford groceries, my wife would buy them for her. That Sunday, the woman tithed. On Tuesday, a check came in the mail for the lady from a legal proceeding that had been pending for years. My wife never had to buy her groceries.

3. Is there some sin you won't give up? (Hebrews 11:4-13; James 1:14-16; 1 John 2:15-17)

God uses hardships to chastise His children when they sin. If this is the case with you now, you can expect hardship to continue until you get the message that God wants you to live a holy life and not one that is marred by sin.

4. Are you asking God? (James 4:2)

Sometimes you don't get what you want simply because you don't ask God.

5. Are you asking for the right thing? (James 4:3)

Or, you might ask, are you asking for the wrong thing or for the wrong reason? If you're asking for money so that you can use it to spend it on your pleasures (as James puts it), then you're not going to receive. Knowing that wealth is a snare and can cause people many sorrows and to stray from the faith (1 Timothy 6:10), why would God give you something that He knows will harm your relationship with Him (Matthew 6:24)? It was the desire to have money and nice clothes that destroyed Achan and his family (Joshua 7), Gehazi (2 Kings 5:50-27), derailed Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), and to some extent, led to the death of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10). But, if you ask for money so that you might be cheerful givers to the kingdom of heaven first, then you are asking for the right reason – and cheerful giving is the key to receiving abundance (Luke 6:38).

6. Are you going where God wants you to go? (Jonah 1:1-3)

God wanted Jonah in Nineveh (the capital city of Israel's bitter enemy at the time), but Jonah, knowing God would spare the city if he obeyed, refused to go and went the other direction. Not only was the sea tempestuous for him, but for those around him as well. Achan knew he wasn't supposed to take the accursed things, but he did any way and it cost him his life and the lives of his family and some of those who attacked Ai.

7. Is God trying to strengthen your faith? (James 1:2-7)

God allows tough times in our lives to strengthen our faith so that we might learn patience and He wants us to have patience so that we might lack nothing. But, the Bible's definition of "lack nothing" is different from “the American Dream.” Paul told Timothy that we should be content with nothing more than food to eat and clothes to wear (1 Timothy 6:6-9). In other words, at the end of the day, if we have clothes on our back and food to eat, we should be satisfied. Now, He didn't say that we couldn't have more or that we shouldn't have more, but the idea is we should be content with only those things. To constantly want and pursue money and more materialistic things is like a cancer that will continually eat away at you. Faith allows you to be happy with what God promised – food and clothing (Matthew 6:25-34) and that if you seek God's kingdom and His righteousness first, nicer things can come.

James 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

James compares desiring wealth and possessions as adultery because you are cheating on God. The same picture is painted often in the Old Testament. Some people literally kill to get money, possessions, and have affairs. Others figuratively kill themselves with overwork and debt and they kill their marriages. They fight with spouses; they fight with fellow employees; they fight with their children all because they want something more than what God is providing. And he points out that God doesn't provide it sometimes because you simply don't ask Him, but rather try to get something on your own. Other times He doesn't provide it because it's something that will lead you astray.

2 Kings 13:14 Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died. And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. 15 And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows. 16 And he said to the king of Israel, Put thine hand upon the bow. And he put his hand upon it: and Elisha put his hands upon the king's hands. 17 And he said, Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, The arrow of the Lord's deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them. 18 And he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground. And he smote thrice, and stayed. 19 And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.

Do we really take God seriously or do we do just enough religious things to appease our church leaders? The king said some religious sounding stuff. He even put his hands on the bow and shot, but by stopping, it reveals that he didn't really believe that what he was doing made a difference. It was if he was trying to make Elisha happy, but it didn't alter his behavior.

I watched a Cross TV show years ago, and I still remember the title to one of the episodes, “Does the truth matter any more?” Do the truths of the Bible really matter any more in the way you live your life and your marriage? After you have finished reading this article, will it mean anything to you? Will you be baptized? Will you tithe? Will you let go of that sin you harbor? Will you quit coveting? Will you go where God is asking you to go? Will you take Him seriously or will you continue to do things your way?

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