Spiritual Lessons from Difficult Economic Times: Part I

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I am not a Deist.  I believe God is still present.  He is still working.

I believe God is powerful.  So powerful, in fact, that he can make all things work according to his purposes (Rom. 8:28).

I believe God is a teacher.  He teaches us through life, through experiences, through his Word, the Bible.

I believe one of God’s teaching tools is suffering, difficulty, and hardship.

Did God cause this economy? Hard to say.  But can God use it?  I think so.

In this series we will look at times when God used difficult economic situations for His Glory.

Story Number One: Ruth and Naomi

Ruth 1:1 tells us a famine caused a husband and wife to leave Bethlehem and go to Moab.  A famine.  Today we might call it a recession or more likely depression.  In an agricultural society everything depends on rain, and without the rain painful economic times follow.  But, we will see it was God’s plan for this family to journey to Moab.

Initially, the move-to-Moab-decision seemed successful.  Imagine the family photo – Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon, Kilion, Orpha, and Ruth smiling with the typical scenery of Moab in the background.  They were a family full of hope and opportunity.  Regardless of how this family imagined their lives, God purposed a different outcome (at least temporarily).  Fast forward some ten years and you will find these three ladies struck by the unfortunate realties of death.  Male death impacts their economy and the situation is desperate.  Bitterness.  No Hope. The conclusion? “The Lord’s hand has gone out against me.” (1:13)  Naomi leaves because, “the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them” (1:6).  She leaves to find that food.

Hunger – that is why Naomi wanted to leave Moab.  She had nothing.  She was hungry. That is unquestionably a poor economic condition.

When she arrives at Bethlehem, Naomi requests people call her Mara:

I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. (Ruth 1:21a) NIV

Full? Was she full when she went?  Of course, she must referring to her family.  To her future potential.  Financially things were destitute, but yet she was still full.  Perhaps there is a lesson there for us?

The Lord.  Naomi credits God with the activity.  God brought me back.  She sees all of these unfortunate events of death as somehow a work of the Lord.

Fortunately, for our human sensibilities, this story does have a happy ending.  Ruth meets Boaz.  Boaz marries Ruth.  They have a son and name him Obed.  Obed is the father of Jessie who is the father of David.  In Matthew 1:5 we see Ruth mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

We see that God was using these economic conditions to physically move people to the locations they needed to be.  By the way, this is not the first time that God has done this.  Consider how the nation of Israel ended up in Egypt.  A combination of two factors (1) the famine in the land of Canaan (2) God sending Joseph ahead.

“But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” (Genesis 45:7, NIV)

God uses economic difficulties to prepare people for His Glory. Those situations might seem painful, because they are.  But, in all things I believe the future will allow us a view point where we understand that God is always at work for His Glory.

What does this mean for us today?

Do you need to move?  Did you move?  God could still be using economic conditions to physically move people. Think about the number of foreclosures reported in 2008.  USA Today says there were 3 million foreclosures in 2008.  MSN Real estate says foreclosures up 81% in 2008. That means there are a lot of people moving.  Rick Warren (and many others) says people are most open to the gospel when they are undergoing some transition.  I agree.  There does seem to be a lot of transition today.  Even something as simple as a power outage could be an opportunity (by the way here are some power outage tips).  Could God be preparing those impacted by foreclosure for something?  Are we responding to this economic time with spiritual insight?  Are we looking deeper and asking what is God doing?

Churches should visit this foreclosure map to see what the foreclosure situation is like in their neighborhood.  Plan an appropriate response in a way that ministers to people and provides them an introduction to the gospel.

Individuals could visit their neighbors who are going through foreclosure and offer to assist them.

All of us can pray that we can know how God is working through these times.  And, by the way, we might want to pray that we can be part of God’s work.  Don’t just pray to send ‘thee’. Ask God to send ‘me’.

Spiritual Lessons from Difficult Economic Times: Part II will post on Friday, May 8th, 2009.  Part III will post Sunday, May 10th, 2009.