Sunday, August 30, 2015

Economic crises and Christ's redemption

Tyre harbour
Tyre harbor today (Wikipedia)
Isaiah shows that God's control of financial systems points to the redemption found only in His Son Jesus Christ (Isa. 23:15-18).
Financial systems globally are in turmoil, this time in response to  currency devaluations and slowdowns in the Chinese economy, the world's largest. But the prophet Isaiah, who deals with financial downturn across the system as a result of the decline of the commercial heavyweights Tyre and Sidon, shows us good news from Isaiah 23:15-18. 
The good news is that God is merciful. Tyre is similar to Jerusalem, Isaiah says. Her dirge is set to music (Isa. 23:16). She, like Jerusalem Isaiah says, is a prostitute (Isa. 1:21; Hosea 1:3), trading with any city who had the money to spend, and like Jerusalem, she will see mercy in 70 years (Isa. 23:15, 17; Jer. 25:11; Dan 9:1-2). Despite the immensity and persistence of sin, God continues to show Himself merciful. Tyre and Sidon's wealth would be used for God’s glory in the coming days (Isa. 23:18).
Stratfor.com, in their 2010-2020 forecast, says, “From the American point of view, the 2010s will continue the long-term increase in economic and military power that began more than a century ago. The United States remains the overwhelming — but not omnipotent — military power in the world, and produces 25 percent of the world’s wealth each year. The United States is [emerging from its] fourth economic crisis since World War II: the municipal bond crisis of the 1970s, the Third World Debt Crisis and the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s, and [the 2008-9 Great Recession] investment banking crisis. Each represented excessive risk-taking in the financial community followed by a federal bailout based on monetizing privately held assets through printing money and taxing. Each resulted in recessions, and each ended in due course. The magnitude of the problem of the early 2010s is debatable, but we see no reason to believe that this crisis will not work itself out as did the other three."
God’s plan is to bring the nations to redemption. Often He must use the thing that is closest to our heart and that is closest to worship, and for many of us, whether believer or not, financial matters are an idol. In Tyre and Sidon, their great pride was in their ability to command prices through their monopoly on the seafaring shipping industry in the Mediterranean. What is the great pride of Americans? Our global wealth despite our debt and our global power despite our political inability to use it. God uses economic forces to draw people to trust first and foremost in Him and His Son Jesus Christ. You can trust the Lord to provide for you through this economy as you are obedient to him in following the commands of Scripture regarding money. You can trust his character and his leadership with what is and will go on in our new global economy.
So here are a few things I recommend you do to prepare yourself and your family
  •                  Get out of debt as quickly as you can, including your house.
  •                  Cut back on your spending to levels below what you make. A good rule of thumb is to tithe 10%, save 10%, and live on 80%.
  •                  Develop relationships and friendships with people in your church and in your community. When the hard times come, and they come to all of us, financial crisis or not, having friends and sharing resources as older people remember doing during the Great Depression made life sweet and manageable. Look for opportunities to help others and to offer what you have to help families without. Your witness to Christ's love and redemption in your own life will draw others to the redemption offered to them through Jesus Christ.
  •                    Teach your children to be self-sufficient and to do more with less. Show them how to plant and harvest a vegetable & herb garden in your yard. If you don’t have a yard, offer to help a family member or friend do theirs so your kids can learn. Teach them how to change oil and cook a meal and gain strength from Scripture.
  •                    Pray for provision and protection in the days that are ahead. As judgments were poised to strike the nations, Isaiah was in constant communion with God in prayer. "Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee " (Isaiah 26:8). Isaiah was prepared for anything because he was already "praying without ceasing." “It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation... He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath Spoken it" (Isaiah 25:8-9).
  •                   Trust the Lord, His character, His provision, His protection, and His peace. Here is the second reason Isaiah had come into a place of peace despite all the upheaval around him. He was saying to us - indeed, to believers of every age - in effect: "You who live in the very last days can also have this double portion of peace. Abandon yourself to simple trust in the Lord, your Rock." "Trust ye in the Lord at all times: for in the Lord Jehovah is [your] everlasting strength" (Isa. 26:4). "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation" (Isa. 12:2).[7]

Larry Burkett in 2000, three years before his death, cautioned believers in this way, Although I still believe that this economy cannot continue at its present rate without suffering irreversible damage, I do not suggest that everyone run out and withdraw from the stock market or change all of their investments or retirement plans. My intent is to inform people of the seriousness of our national economic situation, to encourage them to become debt free (including their homes), and to inspire people to get angry enough to demand changes in our current government spending patterns. We also must seek God’s intervention and encourage others to do so. Scripture is clear about repentance bringing change. “[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Although we may not be able to forecast when a forthcoming economic collapse will happen or how to protect our holdings when it happens, God knows, and we can trust His guidance! Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God, and God would provide for our needs (see Matthew 6:33). A danger of being “financially independent” is that it often means we imagine ourselves also independent of God. We must decide if we truly believe God is able to supply our needs or if we are just saying we believe it. We may not be able to control the world economy, but we can allow God to control our lives, and we can live our lives for His glory. That is all God asks of each of us.[8] The most important thing you can do to prepare for the future is to secure your eternal future by repenting of your sins and trusting Christ with your life. Won't you do that today?