Money Management Marathon – Part 3 – Embrace the Present

A first time marathon runner’s account of his experience details how he had to keep his focus on one step at a time to finish the race:

“On the way up this long hill between miles 20-22, I began to see fellow racers struggling. Some of them began to stumble and fall back while others had to drop out completely…”

The runner also stated that he knew there would be another difficult hill between miles 23-25, and he began worrying about whether or not he would be able to make it. As soon as the runner started worrying about what was down the road he started losing focus on taking the steps right in front of him. He recalls zoning out for a period of time:

“I have no idea how I lost the memory of miles 22-24… I finally knew I was going to finish. Until that point, I wasn’t sure if I could do it or not. But, at that moment, I knew, and I was filled with a calm and a joy that only those that have been there can possibly understand. I was going to finish a marathon, and there was absolutely nothing that could stand in my way.”

How was he able to zone out for 2 miles of the race? His training kicked in and he was on autopilot. His discipline was paying off. He also mentioned people who passed him, but all he could do is shrug it off and keep moving forward. He didn’t lose his mind and start trying to keep up with them. He was content to finish the race at his own pace. All he had to do in that moment was take one step at a time – embrace the present.

Managing money almost always feels like a marathon, and the reality of life is the money marathon never really ends until we die. The challenge we all face in finishing well financially is being prepared for the future without worrying in the present. Preparing involves awareness, discipline and contentment. Worrying involves fear.

Matthew 6:25-27 reminds us that we shouldn’t worry about what we have or don’t have now or in the future because it has no bearing on whether or not God will provide what we need to fulfill his purpose for us. All we can control is our discipline, our contentment, and our belief that God will give us at least what we need in the future; that shouldn’t be so hard to believe since we already have what He’s given us to take one step at a time in the present.

What are your worries and fears about the future of your finances?  How do you overcome those worries and fears to continue taking one step at a time?

Money Management Marathon – Part 2 – Embrace Contentment

Every distance runner knows that maintaining pace is critical. Good distance runners know when they should hold their pace steady and when they should push it faster. Based on their countless hours of training they know what their rhythm of energy is and how they perform in varying conditions.

It does no good to push the pace to the first place position only to pass out short of the finish line. Marathon runners know that no matter who is doing better than them or how bad they want to win, finishing the race is more important than how well they place. One of the things I admire about the running community, in general, is the attitude of finishing over winning. If you win, great. If you finish, you’re part of a community that is content with finishing and supportive of one another.

I’m not a great distance runner. My idea of running a race is sprinting 50-100 yards. In school, I played sports that involved sprinting more than pacing. So I’m still trying to get better at distance running.

When I’m on a run or in a distance event with friends I tend to try and compensate for my lack of training by making up time on the downhill sections of a run. They always warn me, “You might think that is a good idea but you’ll realize how much energy you’re spending when you get to the next uphill.” They’re right every single time. I have yet to figure out how to control my pace and build up my endurance to a sustainable level that helps me win, but I’ve learned to be content with finishing.

The way we manage money should be a lot like the way marathon runners manage their pace. We might not have everything we want or do better than anyone else, but we all should be content. There will without a doubt be good times and bad in our finances, and how much it affects us depends greatly on the state of contentment in our mind.

Philippians 4:12-13 teaches us to be content whether we have plenty or not, and that the way we have that contentment is to trust God the provider. The problem is we get ourselves so worked up with wanting more and more for pleasure, comfort, or comparison. We allow the marketing of our consumer driven culture to control our level of peace and contentment with the constant reminders of what we don’t have. This is a struggle for us all W.ether we’re savers or spenders, we never seem to be content with what we have whether it’s savings or stuff.

It’s time to make peace with our own pace and be content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5). The best way to increase our contentment here on earth is to increase our belief in and desire for treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).

Money Management Marathon – Part 1 – Embrace Discipline

If you’ve ever known someone who has finished a marathon you might have an idea of what extreme discipline looks like. Marathon runners consistently train with high levels of intentional planning and diligence. They begin a training regimen months ahead of a race or event, and they have to stick to the plan to finish the race well.

A few years ago my wife and I ran a half marathon. When we signed up for the event we had a plan to train very consistently and diligently, but along the way my wife got sick. While she wasn’t feeling well we fell off the training regimen and never fully got back on it. Needless to say, race day was painful. We did manage to finish, but not nearly as well as we might have had we persevered through the training. It wasn’t that we finished slow. It was we finished extremely sore.

There are many areas of life that we have to develop discipline for in order to finish well as God calls us to. Hebrews 12:1-11 teaches us to overcome everything that hinders us and to run with perseverance the race set out before us. One of the many challenges of life we have to learn to persevere is managing finances.

Overcoming challenges in our finances is much easier when we train with discipline to manage money according to God’s instructions. Our future performance in the race of life depends on how disciplined we are today. Here are a couple of things we can all do to be more disciplined in how we manage money:

Have a budget, and stick to it. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” This is a simple instruction to have a plan (aka budget). Simply spend less than you make and include giving and saving in the plan. The trick to budgeting is not the math. It’s the discipline.

Give, save, and spend wisely. We all know we’re called to be generous and I believe most of us truly have the desire to be, but so often we fall short in saving and spending wisely and create a cycle of scarcity that hinders our generosity. We can never stress enough the importance of saving and spending wisely. Keep this verse in mind as you practice the daily discipline of saving and spending wisely. Proverbs 21:20 says, “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but falls gulp theirs down.” We can’t continue to consume everything we have and not save for whatever God’s future plans for us may hold.

Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” When it comes to finances that righteousness and peace comes in the form of generosity and contentment that are developed over time as we are daily disciplined in our management of money.

How are you doing staying disciplined and sticking to a monthly plan for your finances?