The U.S. consumers' confidence is soaring. The Conference Board's February Consumer Confidence Index, at 114.8, is the highest since July of 2001. The index was 2.9 percent higher than a strong January index. Compared to pessimists, more consumers were optimistic about the prospects for future jobs, by a margin of 6.8 percent. Consumers were more optimistic about their future incomes by a margin of 10.1 percent. Consumers believing that jobs were hard to find was at a very low 20.3 percent (down 0.8 percent from the previous month).
Regardless of high confidence, consumers' incomes continue to be whittled away by inflation. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) documented that January's disposable personal income increased by 0.3 % for the month. But when adjusted for inflation, it fell by 0.2 percent. Partly in response to falling real incomes, consumer expenditures are weakening. Inflation adjusted personal consumption expenditures fell 0.3 percent for the month.
Inflation is beginning to pick up. The BEA report showed that the rate of monthly inflation which consumers face increased from 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent. On a year-ago basis, the annual rate increased from 1.6 percent to 1.9 percent. The Federal Reserve is widely expected to increase interest rates this month to dampen inflation—especially since current inflation is close to their 2.0 percent target rate. But the contractionary monetary policy will also dampen the economy.
Consumer confidence generally drives consumer incomes and expenditures. Currently, confidence is diverging from both incomes and expenditures. The Trump phenomena likely explains the disjunction. Consumers are expecting a stronger economy with more and better paying jobs. If the economy strengthens and consumers face lower taxes and health care costs, their confidence will likely be well-placed.
As believers, we can be confident that our prayers will be answered. We need to have confidence before God and confidence in God as well as be persistent in our confidence. God promised. He cannot lie. Victory is assured. The biblical principles we need to follow include:
1. Have confidence before God. We need to have a heart that is free from condemnation, keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
"Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, then we have confidence before God. And whatever we ask, we will receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:21-22, MEV).
Specifically, we need to recognize and believe in the finished work of Christ. We need to
a. Recognize that we can confidently approach the throne of grace.
"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who was in every sense tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us then come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15-16, MEV).
b. Believe that we are an unfinished work which God will finish.
"I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6, MEV).
c. Believe that through His grace we can live by the Spirit.
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1, MEV).
2. Have Confidence in God. Our God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (all-present) and omniscient (all-knowing). If we love Him, we will ask according to His will. His principles are given in His Word. Specific applications age given by the Holy Spirit. Our confidence is in Him.
"This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. So if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have whatever we asked of Him" (1 John 5:14-15, MEV).
3. Persistent in our confidence. Our reward, harvest and success will depend largely on whether we persist. When the trials and temptations are at their peak, when our minds tell us there is no way, or when our flesh screams for relief, our confidence persists. We have set our souls to be rewarded by our King. We have determined to receive the promise.
"Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which will be greatly rewarded. For you need patience, so that after you have done the will of God, you will receive the promise" (Heb. 10:35-36, MEV).
"Do not strive in your own strength; cast yourself at the feet of the Lord Jesus, and wait upon Him in the sure confidence that He is with you, and works in you. Strive in prayer; let faith fill your heart—so will you be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might."—Andrew Murray
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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