According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the economy slowed dramatically during the first quarter of 2017. Its advance estimate of first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) documented slow growth, increasing inflation and weak consumer spending. Annualized quarterly growth in real GDP was 0.7 percent— down 2.1 percent for the quarter and nearly 30 percent below expectations. Inflation (as measured by the GDP price index) saw a quarterly change of 2.3 percent—up 2.1 percent for the quarter and 15 percent above forecasts. The change in real consumer spending was only 0.3 percent compared to 3.5 percent last quarter and nearly 60 percent below forecasts.
Historically, this inflation adjusted GDP growth was the lowest in three years. The growth in consumer spending was the worst in eight years. Consumer spending is particularly worrisome as it accounts for nearly 70 percent of total GDP.
On the positive side, new home sales, at 621,000, were better than expected. The FHMA house price index increased 6.4 percent and the Case-Shiller housing index increased 5.9 percent from the previous year. New durable goods orders were 5.8 percent higher than the year-ago estimate. The U. S. stock market had the best week of the year.
Strong stock prices, with a weak economy, can be partially explained by differences in focus. GDP estimates look backward. The stock market attempts to look forward. President Trump's release of his outline for a tax plan, with sharply lower corporate and personal income tax rates, is bullish for stocks.
The poor GDP report, with geo-political events (North Korea, Syria, Iran, etc.), may tempt many to change focus and move into fear or anxiety. Well-seasoned and savvy business decision-makers will maintain their focus and make courageous decisions which balance risks and rewards.
In the kingdom, we are told to be strong and courageous. The Modern English Version tells us 54 times not to fear, 10 times to be courageous and 61 times to be strong. We are to be doers and not just hearers. Every believer can appropriate the advice and promises which David gave to Solomon. Specifically,
- be strong and courageous,
- do not be afraid,
- do not be dismayed,
- the Lord is with us,
- He will not leave us or forsake us until we have finished the work assigned to us.
"Then David said to Solomon his son, "Be strong and courageous, and take action. Do not be afraid nor be dismayed for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work of the service of the house of the Lord" (1 Chron. 28:20).
Paul reminds us that our focus should be on Jesus; that we should have endurance, lay aside every weight and sin; and that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
"Therefore, since we are encompassed with such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Let us look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:1-2a).
In the kingdom, the world's dramas and our circumstances are less important than our relationship with Christ. We are more than conquerors, and we can do all things all things through Christ who strengthens us. If we lose our focus and concentrate exclusively on our problems, we have lost. If we allow fear to keep us from acting, we have lost. If circumstances cause us to become bitter or angry, we have lost.
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us" (Eph. 3:20).
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