The markets are at it again. May 6th’s 1000 point swing reminds us of just how much nervousness and skittishness there is in the financial arena. And while the stock market indices are nicely above their lows of March 2009, they are essentially at the same levels they were at ten and twelve years ago.
The events that seem to drive the markets today are so confusing and conflicting the people are frozen in place, like deer caught in headlights. This is easy to understand in light of today’s headlines: Greece/Spain/Eurozone forced into Financial Austerity, Gulf Oil Spill to inflict Tremendous, but undefined Harm, Relentless Unemployment, Forthcoming Tax Hikes, Socialized Medical Care, China’s Economy Slowing, Continued weak Housing Market. And with all of this happening on the heels of the stock market’s precipitous decline from the fall of 2008 until March 2009, fear of a repeat crash scares us into indecisiveness and discouragement. We’d rather run and hide. Quit, even.
Is that a prudent response? Is that an effective us of our resources? Is that being a good steward?
In his new book Fearless, Max Lucado describes fear as, “Dreadful. It sucks the life out of the soul, and drains us dry of contentment. When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life. Can the risk averse accomplish noble deeds? The worship of safety emasculates life. No wonder Jesus wages such a war against fear.”
He goes on to say that in the Gospels there are 125 Christ-issued imperatives, and of these, 21 deal with fear. Jesus implores us be not afraid. He knows that if we allow today’s anxieties to dominate our thinking, we become paralyzed and no good for service to God or to anyone else.
As Christians, we believe God has given us gifts that we are to use in service of His kingdom. Saint Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 1: 6-9 to,
“stir into flame the gift of God that you have…for God did not give you a spirit of cowardice, but of power and love and self-control.”
It is probable that your investment values are down, that your real estate investments are upside down, that your income is down and prospects for a new job are slim. With that backdrop, it is natural to question your gifts and your abilities to make sound decisions. It is normal to focus your efforts on shoring up your own situation and put off working on building up the larger community. I find this worry and inward focus to be exhausting.
But (continuing in 2 Tim 1) we are to,
“bear our share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God…He called us to a holy life, not according to our works, but according to His own design and grace.”
Our answer to this call is to be the best steward of His gifts that we can be. To do the best we can every day. To not despair, and certainly don’t quit no matter what the current headlines, and no matter how bleak we think our position to be today. Remember, He called us according to His own design to be light to our families, friends and associates.
Listen to Paul in 2 Tim 4: 2-5
“…be persistent; convince, reprimand, encourage, through all patience and teaching…be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform your work…fulfill your ministry.”