The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its April Employment Situation Report. April nonfarm employment increased 164,000 for the month (nearly 30,000 less than the average forecast, but 29,000 higher than March). Private employment increased 168,0000 during April (a little more than 20,000 below average expectations, but 33.000 above March). Both nonfarm and private payrolls were slightly disappointing. Average hourly earnings were 2.6 percent over a year ago, compared to 2.7 percent in March.
On the positive side, the April unemployment rate fell to an 18-year low of 3.9 percent, compared to 4.1 percent in March and forecasts of 4.0 percent. The black unemployment rate fell 0.3 percent to 6.6 percent—an all-time low. The Hispanic unemployment rate also fell 0.3 percent to 4.8 percent, which was also an all-time low. The unemployment rate was 3.7 percent for adult men, and 3.5 percent for adult women. For workers with at least a bachelor's college degree, the unemployment rate was only 2.1 percent. Teenage unemployment fell 0.6 percent, but was still a high 12.9 percent.
Professional and business services, mining and logging, education and health services and manufacturing were the sectors which increased employment the most. Wholesale trade, government, transportation and warehousing and retail trade were the sectors which hired the fewest.
Even in the face of a lackluster jobs report, more U. S. workers are seeing opportunities for employment. An additional 164,000 workers had jobs in April, and employment has increased more than 2.3 million over the past year. A tight labor market gives increased opportunity for advancement for the currently employed. More reports are surfacing of employers willing to train workers to fill labor shortages.
The lives of believers are constantly filled with opportunities. God provides the opportunities, but we often must meet the opportunity with faith and stewardship to see the fruit. We are called to make the most of every opportunity. Regardless of our calling, our vocation, or the situation, we are called to witness and testify. We are given the opportunity to do good to all people. It is up to us, with the grace of God, to make the most of every opportunity.
"Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, wisely using the opportunity" (Col. 4:5).
"It will turn out as a testimony for you" (Luke 21:13).
"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10).
The parables of the talents (Matt. 25:14-29) and minas (Luke 19:11-26), are about our stewardship of God-given opportunities. Both parables are about money, but could also be more broadly interpreted to apply to any of our giftings from God. A talent was worth about 15 years' wages of a laborer, while a mina was worth about 100 days wages. Second, in both parables, the master entrusted the money to his servants, who were then expected to multiply their giftings for the benefit of their master. Similarly, we are expected to steward the opportunities the Lord gives us.
In the parable of the talents, a man entrusted his possessions to his servants. To one he gave five talents, to another two talents and to another one talent according to their abilities. When the master returned, he found that the servants who had been given five and two talents, respectively, had doubled the money entrusted to them. The servant that had been given one talent still had only one. The master put the faithful stewards in charge of many things and invited them to enter into his joy. The unfaithful steward lost his talent and was thrown from the Master's presence.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants and entrusted his goods to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to every man according to his ability. And immediately he took his journey" (Matt. 25:14-15).
"'His master said to him, "Well done, you good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things. I will make you ruler over many things. Enter the joy of your master"'"(Matt. 25:23).
"'So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents'" (Matt. 25:28).
In the parable of the talents, all three servants were given an opportunity by their master. The opportunities were given according to their abilities, so it was equally fair. Faithfulness in grasping the opportunity determined their rewards (or lack thereof).
With believers, every situation is an opportunity. If we love God and are called according to His purpose, all things work together for good. Joseph was faced with the challenge of slavery and used the opportunity to be become overseer over all of Potiphar's possessions for the Lord was with him (Gen. 39:3-4). Joseph faced the challenge of wrongful imprisonment and used the opportunity to become overseer of the prison because the Lord was with him (Gen. 39:21-23). Joseph faced the challenge of faithfully caring for the prisoners and used the opportunity to become overseer of Egypt (Gen. 41:38-41). Joseph was challenged with managing Egypt but used the opportunity to save all of Israel (Gen. 46-47). What opportunities are we facing that are disguised as challenges?
"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).
"You may not realize initially how many other opportunities are wrapped up inside the first one. After you go through the first door, you'll then discover more doors automatically opening behind that one. One door leads you to another door, which leads to another door, and so on. It's like 10 other boxes packed inside one box. The initial door that God opens is your access to more opportunities. But you must be willing to walk through the first one to get to the other good things God has for you" —George Foreman.
Let us embrace our God-given opportunities in faith, thankfulness and anticipation of the good things from a good God.
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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