The late 2000‘s were a shock to our financial nerve system. And the tremors continue in this decade. The last three years we have seen unprecedented changes in our world and nation as a result of the worldwide recession.
We all remember the headlines: multiple bank and business bailouts, rising home foreclosures, jobs lost and firms downsizing, a growing global indebtedness, 401ks and IRAs dropping in value, and rising grocery and gasoline prices. This was the decade when 85 percent of the American Middle Class said they could no longer maintain the lifestyle they were accustomed to due to the recession that began in 2007 recession and the financial crisis it sparked in 2008. And the bad news just seemed to linger and trapped many people in a cycle of helplessness and then hopelessness.
So what can we learn? Actually we can learn a great many things from this decade, but I would like to simplify the process by asking one question: Where is our trust? In the 2000’s, many people put their trust in portfolio managers, stock options, and dividend yields, in property values continuing to climb, and in continuing salary increases. People stopped thinking about potential risks and sought after short-term gains and instant profit. In some ways it is reminiscent of a gambler who is on a roll and thinks his luck will last forever. Eventually his luck runs out. And that is exactly what happened.
So what we can learn from this decade that we can apply to future decades? Yes, it was a rough ride, but I also believe it was and is a “teachable moment” for all of us. And that teachable moment begins with remembering who holds our future.
The 2007-2008 recession reminded us that we are not in control. Even the best and brightest minds were powerless to stop it and were just as affected by the recession. God is in control, even in times of uncertainty and recession. Romans 8:28 is still in force: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
I am also reminded of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” He said. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
And then Jesus goes on to say (in Matthew 6:25-33): “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
These are timeless truth that we can learn from in any decade but especially in 2007 and 2008. The Bible is reminding us that God will provide for our needs. His provision may come in different forms than we expect, but His promise to meet our needs has not expired in the 21st Century. Nor does it expire in times of recession and doubt.
Jesus’ words also remind us that our problem is neither low standards of living nor financial insecurity, nor is our redemption found in big houses, large bank accounts, and bigger spending. When we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, we operate according to His priorities—connecting the hearts of people to God’s heart, and impacting future generations by proclaiming Christ.
But what does this mean for Northstar as we plan our future? We barely have room for the congregation that currently calls Northstar home. Do we build a building – trusting that God is going to grow this congregation and that we will need all that we are building? Do we look for investment properties? Do we continue our strategy for installing satellites in areas where people aren’t served by Biblical churches? Here is my point. If we made decisions based on 2007 and 2008 we would take no risks at all. We would choose having cash in the bank over people who can’t find a seat at the service or worrying about the place getting too dirty, the carpet not lasting at least a decade, and whether we have the right people to produce a moving worship service each Sunday.
But God is in control. There is absolutely nothing that happens in the universe that is outside of God’s influence and authority. God has no limitations. God created all things and holds all things together, both in heaven and on earth, both visible and invisible (Colossians 1:16).
God knows all things past, present, and future. There is no limit to His knowledge, for God knows everything completely before it even happens (Romans 11:33). God can do all things and accomplish all things. Nothing is too difficult for Him, and He orchestrates and determines everything that is going to happen in your life, in my life, on Wall Street, in America, and throughout the world. Whatever He wants to do in the universe, He does, for nothing is impossible with Him (Jeremiah 32:17).
So the 2000’s taught me that it’s not about me. It’s about God. It’s not about you. It’s about God. It’s not about Northstar. It’s about God. And it’s about placing our trust in Him.