A few months ago, a couple of the savvy business owners in our church indicated we were overdue a severe market correction. In other words, the bull would become a bear and probably persist as a fairly wimpy bear for awhile.
Now, it is becoming apparent we are not just experiencing a market correction, but we are at the uncomfortable beginning of a culture correction. While much of our discomfort is caused by the symptoms—market volatility, unemployment, personal and corporate budget reductions—at some point, we must deal with the root of the problem. Evangelist Vance Havner once asked, “What good is it to keep tearing down the web if you’re going to do nothing about the spider?”
My pastoral observations are somewhat naïve and certainly lack the expertise of an economist or a sociologist, but from where I sit, at least three concerns seem conspicuously obvious:
Many have adopted unattainable or unsustainable standard of living goals, which often are incongruent with an individual’s faith, values and productivity.
Many are experiencing great distress and anxiety as a result of the quest to achieve their desired standard of living by mounting up debt. This personal crunch disrupts families and ultimately contributes to the overall corporate crisis.
Many feel trapped and hopeless in their personal financial dilemma or in their current business venture or vocation, with little or no hope for the future.
Ironically, a quick return to market normalcy, continued access to easy credit and continued lifestyles of accumulation and acquisition—factors that might relieve the tension of the moment—actually only postpone the inevitable. We must adopt life goals and management strategies that enable us to live life with meaning and purpose and embrace a way of life that minimizes anxiety, elevates passion and enhances relationships.
As a follower of Jesus, the teachings of the Bible and the initiatives of Christ constantly are re-formatting my lifestyle, calling me to leave behind the errant ways of my past so that I might live more authentically, more passionately and more faithfully. As I reflect on the tough times many of us are experiencing, I invite you to think with me about the life-changing lessons we can learn in tough times. For starters, consider several suggestions, asking whether they may be applicable to your life situation:
• Seize the current season of adversity as an opportunity to upgrade the way you approach life, order your priorities and live out your faith.
• Base your sense of self-worth and your self-esteem on the love and uniqueness that God has given you, not on your status or your “net worth.”
• Adopt a lifestyle of living within your means, avoiding unnecessary credit and making informed purchasing and investing decisions.
• Teach your children to make life decisions based on faith and values, not on default cultural trends.
• Be prepared to assist with vocational networking or engage in vocational transitioning and retraining.
• With a nonpartisan disposition, pray for the leaders of your community, your state and our nation, that they may act with extraordinary wisdom and discernment.
• Invest your gifts and passions in proactive service in the church and in the community, always toward the greater good of the whole body.
• Share from your blessings with others who may have greater needs and a lesser portion.
• In seasons of both prosperity and adversity, honor God with all of your assets—your tithe, your time and your talent.
• Practice the biblical principles of Sabbath, ceasing periodically from industry and anxiety to rest and worship, and of jubilee, releasing your grip on property in order to rotate, revitalize and restore.
This season of economic adversity could be remembered as the toughest time since the Great Depression. But out of that depression came those whom Tom Brokaw called “the greatest generation.” Perhaps God could teach us a few life-changing lessons during these tough times, lessons that will shape us into more responsible citizens, more respectable parents, more competent leaders, more productive workers and more effective servants than we’ve ever been before.
Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Fla.