Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tough Times Coming (Part II)

I’ve talked about preparing for tough times– let me explain what I mean. First of all, there are personal tough times which we all experience, such as the death of a loved one, a terrible diagnosis, loss of a job, things like that. Second, there are the tough times caused by national or global events, such as those which caused the Great Depression and World War II. Those global or national events affect everyone personally as well: disrupting lives, causing economic hardship, loss of loved ones, and so on.

As I said in an earlier post, I’m not usually a pessimist and I’m not an alarmist, but I am not at all optimistic these days because of some of the trends I see in this country and in the world. There could be a convergence of a number of trends, that when taken all together, may possibly result in an economic crisis in our lifetime (see my earlier post). I’m not saying this to scare you, but so that you and I are prepared spiritually and emotionally for what might lie ahead in the not-too-distant future. Who knows whether these will cause a serious and prolonged economic downturn or not? We just don’t know, but they could, and you and I should be prepared.

Of course expensive energy has become the “new normal” and we’ll have to adapt to it (people already are making changes in their driving habits, which is good). It’s a question of what else might happen that could put the economy into a tailspin.

Build Up Your Faith

So what should we do to prepare for the possibility of tough economic times? Most of all, you and I need to be mentally, emotionally, spiritually and economically prepared for any circumstances that might occur. From my perspective, being prepared spiritually is the most important, because if you’re spiritually strong, the other things will pretty much fall into place. We should continue to build up our faith by spending more time with God: in regular worship, in daily prayer, and in Bible study.

As our faith grows by the grace of God, we will be in a better position to deal with adversity, just as our parents and grandparents were during the 1930’s and 1940’s. As we develop a closer relationship with God, he will change our attitudes, our priorities, and our hearts. As transformed people, we will be better able to do what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33:

“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” NRSV

Some of us may have learned that verse this way:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” NKJV

So let us commit to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and trust that all else will be provided to us by God according to our needs.

Let me be clear on this point: our faith and trust in God won’t spare us from some amount of hardship, suffering, and even worry. But if we take that worry to God in prayer, he will reduce the worry and stress. God will help us through whatever tough times may come our way. As believers, you and I aren’t immune from trials, but we are helped by God, and we have this promise from Hebrews 13:5b: Be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” NRSV

Even in the midst of sacrifice, we should also be thankful to God, and be content with what we have – even if it is less than we had before. We have to remember that we are still better off than most of the world. Let me end with a psalm of encouragement from Psalm 34:4-10:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. NIV

As you and I know, God may not give us everything we want, but he will make sure we have all that we need. So I’m not going to worry. I trust in the Lord, and I am confident he will take care of me, because he’s done so in the past in many ways. I hope you’re trusting in the Lord as well.

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