This past week's estimate of third-quarter real GDP was positive. The annual rate of growth was an annualized 3.2 percent, which was 0.3 percent higher than the previous estimate and 0.1 percent higher than expectations.
The annual rate of growth for the GDP price index was 1.4 percent; 0.1 percent lower than the previous estimate and market expectations. Personal consumption expenditures, which normally comprise 60-70 percent of GDP, rose 2.8 percent.
November's employment situation report showed that the month-to-month change in non-farm payrolls was a solid 178,000—more than 5,000 above expectations and more than 30,000 larger than the October estimate. Revisions were large. October employment was revised downward 19,000, while September was revised upward 18,000.
The headline unemployment rate was estimated to be 4.6 percent; 0.3 percent lower than the previous month and expectations. The working-age population increased 219,000, while the size of the civilian labor force fell by 226,000. The number of working-age people who are not in the labor force increased by 425,000. Average hourly earnings fell 0.1 percent.
In addition to the highly anticipated GDP and employment reports, the economy had other surprises. Stock market prices are higher, bond prices are lower, interest rates and higher and the dollar is stronger. Manufacturing, corporate profits, personal income and construction spending were up. Pending home sales and mortgage applications were down. New unemployment claims increased by 17,000.
Today's global environment is filled with risks, uncertainty and opportunities. Economic, political, technological and social changes abound. Prognostications have been wrong. Britain's Brexit (vote by Britain to leave the European Community), Donald Trump's election as president and Italy's Prime Minister Renzi's referendum loss were unexpected by many. The long-term future of the European Community has become more in doubt. A feared energy shortage has turned into a glut. In recent years, the world has seen the earth cool instead of warm.
Changing times can create stress, anxiety, problems and fear. But changing times also create opportunities. The winds of change and floods of adversity reveal the spiritual foundation of our lives. The ability to overcome obstacles is dependent on our foundation.
What type of foundation do we have?
- Are we consistently obedient?
- Do we pray?
- Do we meditate on the Scriptures?
- Do we approach problems with the assurance that God can use all things for good?
- When faced with challenges, do we push into God or pull away from Him?
- Do we remember that God is in control?
"We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
Jesus taught many times on the importance of obedience. He spoke far more about becoming a follower (or disciple) of Christ than just a believer. Our spiritual foundation is dependent upon our obedience.
"Whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock. And the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house. And it did not fall, for it was founded a rock. And every one who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them will be likened to a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house. And it fell. And its fall was great" (Matt. 7:24-27).
As pastors and ministers, we need to teach our flock to be obedient. Specifically, we need to teach that:
- God expects us to be obedient.
- Obedience produces joy as we deepen our relationship with the Lord.
- True grace always results in greater levels of obedience and holiness.
- Jesus, the Holy Spirit and our leadership team are willing and eager to help others become more obedient.
- Jesus is always filled with grace and mercy when we fail.
"Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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