Many things in the economy are going well. At this writing, the Dow Jones Industrial Stock Index has risen for 11 consecutive days—the longest streak since 1987. Post-election stock market prices have risen about 10 percent. Although weekly new unemployment insurance claims were up to 244,000 (+6,000), it was the 103rd straight week below 300,000—the longest streak since 1970. The four-week average of new unemployment claims (at 241,000) is the lowest since 1973. Existing home sales are at a 10- year high.
But the economy also has troubling aspects. U.S. household debt is the highest in nine years. Record stock market prices are the result of buyers anticipating lower taxes, a lower regulatory burden and lower health care costs. But of the 549 federal positions which require Senate confirmation, 14 have been confirmed. The country is split almost 50-50. Large pro-Trump rallies and anti-Trump protests are common. Gasoline demand is at levels that almost guarantee a recession. By almost any measure, U. S. stock market prices are overpriced. U. S. consumer consumption expenditures are suspect.
Uncertain economic and political environments, with both strong bullish and bearish indicators, leave consumers, businesses, investors and other parties in unchartered territory. Emotions are high. Anxiety is increasing. Stress is elevated.
Fortunately, believers have a sure strategy to succeed in stressful times. The solution is ancient and time-tested. The Bible is clear. The strategy is simple. If followed, successful outcomes are certain.
Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, had a large multitude of Moabites, Ammonites and some Meunites coming against him. He was frightened and sought the Lord. He called a fast throughout Judah. In prayer, he strengthened himself by recanting the promises of the Lord and expressed his total dependence on Him. The spirit of prophecy fell on Jahaziel, who gave the Lord's assurances and detailed instructions of what to do and when to do it. Jehoshaphat heard from the Lord, did what He said and was victorious.
And he said, "Pay attention all Judah, and those dwelling in Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, 'Do not fear, nor be dismayed because of this great army, for the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow, go down against them. They will travel up by the Ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the back of the valley, before the Wilderness of Jeruel. It will not be necessary for you to fight in this conflict. Take your positions, stand, and observe the deliverance of the Lord for you, O Judah and Jerusalem.' Do not fear or be filled with terror. Tomorrow, go out before them, and the Lord will be with you" (2 Chron. 20:15-17).
David returned to the city of Ziklag and discovered that the Amalekites had burned the city and taken the wives, sons and daughters of David and his men captive. The Bible says they wept until they had no more strength to weep. The people were bitter and talked of stoning David. But David strengthened himself in the Lord and sought the priest for the Lord's direction. The Lord, though Abiathar the priest, told David to pursue the raiding party and promised they would recover everything. David heard from the Lord, did what He said and was successful.
Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a contest in front of King Ahab and the people. The prophets of Baal would try to get their god to send fire and burn a sacrifice. Elijah would call to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel to send fire and burn the sacrifice. The winner would prove the identity of the one true God (1 Kin. 18:20-40).
In Elijah's prayer to God, he pleaded that He would prove Himself to the people to be God, and that He would reveal that Elijah was His servant and that He had done these things at His word. He also asked that the people would turn back to God again. The fire fell, and the people fell on their faces declaring the Lord is God. Elijah heard from the Lord, did what He said and was successful (1 Kin. 18).
As believers, we have the infallible word of God and the Holy Spirit living inside of us. We have been promised that our Lord will never leave us nor forsake us, and that His sheep know His voice. During stressful times, we may tend to look at the situation more than our Lord. We must resist such tendencies. We need to pray, and if necessary fast and/or seek outside counsel until we have received the sure word of the Lord. Then we need to obey. Success is assured.
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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