Ask Chuck: Making Wise Decisions in Unsettling Times

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Chuck Bentley is the CEO of Crown, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late, Larry Burkett.

Dear Chuck,

Every time I turn on the news, there seems to be so much violence, political turmoil and turbulence in the stock market. I don't feel like I can trust the media and things always seem to be spiraling out of control. I want to shepherd my family well and be a good steward, but sometimes my fear makes me think we should prepare for the worst. How can I make wise financial decisions to protect and prepare my family to live in these crazy times?

Thanks,
 Worried and Unprepared

Dear Worried,

I agree with you, we are living in unsettling times. I commend your desire to be ready if and when those tough times hit. Here are a few tips:

First, broaden your perspective to see current events from God's perspective.

Will an economic disaster of biblical proportions occur within our lifetime? It's possible, but no one knows the future. In John 16:33 Jesus instructed his disciples, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Knowing this, we can experience an abundant life full of joy and peace regardless of what happens, for we belong to the One who knows our future.

Countless men and women have lived and died in difficult situations. Noah, Joseph, Moses, David, Ruth, Esther, the prophets, the disciples and the apostles are just a few of God's servants that suffered many trials. Yet, they all trusted God.

If we believe God is in charge, reigning from on high, we can trust Him regardless of what we may face.

Second, don't procrastinate doing what you can to be prepared.

"The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it." (Proverbs 27:12)

Immersing ourselves in the Word will give us a proper perspective on world events. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." (James 1:5) We have an advantage the world does not - the Holy Spirit. He is our Counselor, and will help us discern issues we can't understand on our own, because as children of God, we have the mind of Christ.

Armed with wisdom and discernment, we can prepare for the future whether a calamity strikes or not. In fact, preparation will reduce the fear of uncertainty.

Pray and Set Financial Goals

Seek the counsel of wise advisors, and get your financial house in order. Plan as though danger is coming like Joseph did in Egypt. Write down goals you want to accomplish over several years and throughout the rest of your life. You can use the Money Map as a guide.

  • A long-term goal should be to build emergency savings of the equivalent of 15 months of your annual income. This was Joseph's advice to Pharaoh during the great famine of Egypt.
  • Eliminate and pay down debt by attacking the high-interest bearing loans first, and continuing until all is paid. We refer to this as the Debt Snowball Method, and have a calculator that will create a payoff plan for you in a few easy steps.
  • Sell unnecessary "things" to help pay off loans and/or build savings.
  • Spend less than you earn as a rule to live by.
  • Invest wisely. Look at financial downturns as opportunities to make money.
  • Find ways to have fun without breaking your budget.
  • Take good care of your family.
  • Prepare a will.

Don't "hunker in a bunker" out of fear, but be wise and prudent so that you are prepared to help others in the event a calamity.

Practical Steps

  • Store extra food, water, medical supplies, and necessities.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half-full.
  • Keep some cash on hand.
  • Diversify your personal equity and investments.
  • Deposit some money in a large, strong bank and some with a local banker you know.
  • Eat healthy and exercise regularly.

Spiritual Goals

  • Be a part of a Bible-believing church and serve the body.
  • Give generously.
  • Read the Bible and memorize Scripture.
  • Lead your family in daily devotions.
  • Pray regularly with your spouse.
  • Share the Gospel with a needy world.

Guard Your Mind

  • Be strong and courageous. God is in control. (Joshua 1:9)
  • Be still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)
  • Be known for your love by serving others. (John 13:35)
  • Ignore media hype. It's becoming increasingly difficult to know what to believe. Keep current but keep things in perspective. Try to find a balanced news source (and let me know when you do).
  • Work as unto the Lord with a grateful heart. (Colossians 3:17) Take every opportunity to share the hope that is within you.
  • Stay connected with those in your industry in the event you ever need a job or help in finding one for others.
  • Resolve to not panic even if those around you do.
  • Develop a close circle of family, friends and neighbors who will work together in time of trouble.
  • Don't get attached to this world. (John 16:33)
  • Trust the Lord in all circumstances. Remember what Paul said in Philippians, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Finally, take one day at a time.

I understand the temptation to be fearful about these unsettling times, and wrote a whole book about it. The S.A.L.T. Plan will help you understand biblical principles about possible economic outcomes, and how you need to prepare. We don't know what tomorrow holds, but we do know God will never leave us or forsake us. So, if or when a catastrophe strikes, we can rest in the knowledge that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Chuck Bentley is the CEO of Crown, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is an author, host of My MoneyLife, a daily radio feature, and a columnist for the Christian Post and a well-known speaker. Follow Crown @CrownUpdates. For interviews or speaking requests contact media@crown.org.