Why the Economic Crisis is the Greatest Opportunity in 150 Years
- 2010 18 Feb
If you watch the news on a daily basis it would be hard not to get depressed or begin to fear the future. Many have seen their retirement savings and investments plummet. Many are losing their homes and jobs. The unemployment rate has just exceeded 8% and most believe it will get to 10% or more before we see a trend in the other direction. Many baby-boomers who were preparing for retirement realize that date for retirement has to be postponed and some have even lost their retirement savings through scandal, like the Bernie Madoff affair. These are the times that challenge your faith and your belief in the American economic system and its leaders. It provides an excellent opportunity to evaluate where our faith lies.
In the 1990s, I went from more than $500,000 in liquid assets to $1,000. I was subjected to my own "Bernie Madoff" scandal in which many New York City investment executives were taken. I had expenses that exceeded my income by five times per month. I knew what it meant to literally not know where the next dollar was coming from. But God was faithful. He used many creative ways to demonstrate His provision to me. Did I lack at times? Sure I did. But I did not miss a meal. Did I have my American standard of living I once enjoyed? Absolutely not. I had to drop many comforts and things I enjoyed. I had to negotiate with creditors. I had to pay $1 a month to some. It was not a pleasant time, but it was a valuable time. I learned a great deal and it is why I can see the current crisis through a different set of eyes.
If you are being impacted by the current economic downturn let me encourage you not to fear! We know who holds the future. And that is Who we place our trust in. Realize that fear is not from God. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. "
We Have Sinned
In order to have a Biblical perspective on the current crisis, we must view our past, learn from it, and decide how God would have us respond to the current situation. The sin that was committed was rooted in greed and pride. Those who could not afford to buy a home were encouraged to do so because the rules changed throughout the mortgage industry to allow banks and mortgage companies to write business they had no business writing. We are all now paying for that. When the slide began the media covered it to an unprecedented level in our history. There are more news outlets, more cable shows and programs that live off bad news. This served to choke the entire consumer spending to the point that no one wants to spend money due to their own fear. It has become a vicious cycle. And, you have not heard any spiritual answers or recognition of our spiritual failures in this process. God is sitting back waiting for His Church to acknowledge our own failure in this, then for the government leaders to turn to the only solution—a spiritual one. Unfortunately, I believe we are in for a long season until either of these happen. In July 2008 I took a small team of leaders with me to both New York Cityand Washington, D.C. to repent on behalf of the marketplace.
Most of America is in denial of our real core issues. The wisdom of man is on showcase right now. God says, "You can try to figure it all out, but your problems cannot be solved by throwing money at the problem." Having said this, I believe it is the greatest opportunity the Church has had in 150 years. Real Christians can step forward with solutions and the reality of a living faith that shines in darkness. Such was the case in 1857 with Jeremiah Lanphier when 1 million people came to Christ because one man began to pray at the noon hour inNew York City. God will be raising up His Josephs during this time with solutions to the crisis. This will lead to influence by those in the realm of influence just like Joseph did with Pharaoh. It is up to us to press in right now.
1857 in America
In 1857, America's secular and religious conditions combined to bring about a financial crash. The third great panic in American history swept the speculative wealth away. Thousands of merchants were forced to the wall as banks failed, and railroads went into bankruptcy. Factories were shut down and vast numbers thrown out of employment. New York City alone had 30,000 idle men. These conditions set the stage for God's "change agent" to fulfill his purpose.
The hearts of people were thoroughly weaned from speculation and uncertain gain, while hunger and despair stared them in the face. On 1st July, 1857, a quiet and zealous business man named Jeremiah Lanphier took up an appointment as a City Missionary in downtown New York.
This Wall Street businessman began to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer-meeting, to be held on Wednesdays once a week. At twelve noon, on September 23rd, 1857 the door was opened and the faithful Lanphier took his seat to await the response to his invitation. Five minutes went by. No one appeared. The businessman paced the room in a conflict of fear and faith. Ten minutes elapsed. Still no one came. Fifteen minutes passed. Lanphier was yet alone. Twenty minutes; twenty-five; thirty; and then at 12.30 p.m., a step was heard on the stairs, and the first person appeared, then another, and another, and another, until six people were present and the prayer meeting began. On the following Wednesday, October 7th, there were forty! In the first week of October 1857, it was decided to hold a meeting daily instead of weekly.
Within six months, 10,000 business people were gathering daily for prayer in New York, and within two years, 1 million converts were added to the American churches.
Could this current economic crisis be the greatest opportunity for the church in the last 150 years? Let me encourage you to be ever more sensitive to those people around you. Just yesterday I met with a man who told me about a business leader who had committed suicide because he was experiencing financial problems and simply could not face it. He left a wife and two children behind. I met with another man who was in the midst of his own "Joseph Pit". I counseled him and sent him along with several resources to help him navigate his situation.
When times are bad, people are more open to spiritual answers.
The darker the times, the more opportunity there is to see the light. When things die, new things often birth. I think of what my crisis led to in the 1990s. It led to the birthing of my current ministry and the writing of TGIF Today God Is First daily devotional that impacts men and women around the world. Crisis times become times for the birthing of new Kingdom initiatives. What might God want to birth through you at this time? Who might God want you to encourage during this time? What answers might you provide to others who need them right now? Joseph was a man thrust into his own pit experience for 13 years. God placed him in a place of slavery and later in prison. He had every right to be mad at God. But Joseph was faithful. And through his faithfulness, God used him to save an entire nation and become the second most powerful man in the entire world. He gave him supernatural solutions to a world problem of famine.
God is placing His "Josephs" in position to be problem solvers in this day. It is a time for God's marketplace leaders to shine and prove to the world that we are different because we have a relationship with the living God. You ARE different. You have the Holy Spirit inside of you. You have solutions to problems. You have solutions to your own problems. Isaiah 48:17-18 says "Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go. Oh, that you had heeded My commandments!" The key right now is to heed His commandments.
What do you have in your hand?
In the Old Testament there is a story about a widow who was on her last meal. She was at her wit's end. She had enough for one more meal for herself and her son. The prophet Elisha was a friend of her family. He asked the widow and important question that each of us should ask: What do you have in your hand? In other words, what has God given to you that He might generate provision through for you? She told the prophet that all she had was a few oil lamps in her house. He told her to go to her neighbors and ask for any unused oils lamps she could have. God did a miracle by filling each oil lamp which allowed her to sell the oil and get the money she needed to live.
I want you to notice a few things in this story. First, she had something that God could work through—her oil lamps. Second, God multiplied provision supernaturally through what she already had in her possession. Third, she was required to participate in the process. She had to go to her neighbors to ask for something. She had to engage her faith in the prophet's words.
What has God placed in your hands? Perhaps you have a skill not used in the marketplace yet. Perhaps you can work at a grocery story. Perhaps you can do some odd-jobs in your community. Now is the time to think creatively to allow God to work through "what you have in your hand."
God is Birthing a Joseph Season
I believe we are in a Joseph season. God is taking many into their Joseph pits. Others who have come out of the Joseph process will play a major role in reclaiming culture. It is a season to see the reality of our faith revealed through the crisis times in which we live.
God Restores What the Locusts Eat
"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - My great army that I sent among you." - Joel 2:25
There are seasons in our lives that involve times of famine and times of restoration. Solomon tells us that He has made everything beautiful in its time and that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven. (See Ecclesiastes 3:1-11.)
God brings about both the good and the bad. The seasons of famine have a divine purpose in our lives. They accomplish things that only these hard places can accomplish. But there is a time when those hard places have accomplished their purpose and He begins to restore. God did this with the nation of Israel after a season of famine and devastation.
"Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - My great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will My people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will My people be shamed" (Joel 2:23-27).
God wants each of us to know that there is a time of famine and a time of restoration when He will demonstrate His gracious hand in our lives. He is a loving Father who tenderly guides His children through the difficult places. If God is taking you through a time of leanness, know that He is the restorer of that which the locusts have eaten. Wait patiently for Him to bring this about in your life. He will do it.
A final word from Habakkuk
Habakkuk saw his nation being invaded by another ungodly nation as God brought judgment on Judah.
The future was now very uncertain. Yet, Habakkuk makes a remarkable statement:
"Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills" (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
Let us place our trust and reliance upon the God who made the markets, the God who made Heaven and earth, and the God who holds our futures in His hand.
February 22, 2010
Os Hillman is author of The 9 to 5 Window: How faith can transform the workplace and TGIF Today God Is First, a free daily email devotional that goes to more than 100,000 people daily. He is president of Marketplace Leaders and the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries: www.marketplaceleaders.org