Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bad Economic News-How to Respond

Every day you turn on the news or read the paper, and all you see is bad news. That in itself isn’t unusual – what’s unusual is that much of that bad news is now affecting us personally. We feel bad when we hear about tornadoes destroying neighborhoods and even whole towns in the Midwest or the South. We feel sorry for those who have been flooded out of their homes by hurricanes or overflowing rivers. We grieve for those families left homeless by raging forest fires in the West, with all of a family’s earthly possessions totally destroyed. For most of us, those disasters involve nameless people who are far away from us.

But then we hear of job cuts, higher food prices, ever increasing gas prices, lower home values, stock market down, bank failures, and the growing possibility of a deep recession. At that point, we get worried, because it’s now it’s beginning to get personal. These are things that affect us directly – if not now, then pretty soon.

How should we as people of faith respond to this flood of bad news? We may have trusted Jesus for our salvation, but can we trust him to get us through the perils of this life? Let’s see if we can learn something about how we as Christians should respond of the challenges of an economic downturn.

Looking at one Old Testament passage, we can gain some insight on how to deal with today’s challenges. In 1 Kings 17:1-9, the Lord declared that no rain would fall in Israel for a period of several years. This was God’s punishment for the evil done by King Ahab and his famous queen of mean, Jezebel. Notice however, that God provided for one of his own with water from the brook and food from the ravens. These were not ideal circumstances for Elijah and his life was disrupted, but God did take care of him. Moreover, when the brook dried up, God had another plan and sent him to the widow’s house.

Again we learn that God takes care of his own in times of trouble. The situation may not be ideal according to our way of thinking, but God cares for us and may spare us from the worst of the trouble.

From this story and similar Bible passages, we learn several lessons.

1. We Aren’t Immune

The first lesson we learn is that we aren’t immune from life’s problems. That isn’t news to us I’m sure, but sometimes we need to be reminded that that’s the way life is. However, we as followers of Jesus have the benefit of God’s help in getting us through life’s challenges. For example, the people suffered during the famine, but God took care of his prophet Elijah and most likely the others who still followed God. The good often suffer with the bad, but yet God gives us the strength to get through it, and provides for those who trust him.

2. Faith in God Is Best

The second lesson we learn is that faith is God is the best way to go. As Americans, we tend to be self-reliant – to us, depending on someone else is often considered a sign of weakness. Yet God wants us to rely on him – to let him do the heavy lifting. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” NRSV

While we are expected to do our part, we are still to put our faith and trust in God to bear most of the burden. We have seen God at work in the Old Testament. We have seen Jesus and the Holy Spirit at work in the New Testament. We have seen God work in our own lives and in the lives of others. God will not disappoint those who trust in him.

If you and I place our faith in God, when the tough times come – and they will – we will have the confidence of children of God. That confidence will be obvious to everyone, and so we will not only be a good example to others, but will be able to share our faith with them. How will that happen? When they ask us, “How can you be so calm when things are so turbulent and the news is so bad?” Then you can share your faith with them by saying:

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

So let’s lean on God, as the Apostle Peter advises in 1 Peter 1:21, NRSV:

Through [Jesus] you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

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