What is God doing during the Credit Crunch? - Isaiah 44:6-11

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the morning service on 1st March 2009.

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God is completely sovereign. Nothing takes him by surprise. Whether he actively sends a circumstance or permits something to happen the Bible assures us that God is always working his good purposes out in human history.

What purposes might he want to achieve during this period of economic uncertainty? This morning I want to suggest four different purposes that God might have. He will certainly have many more. We won’t know all the reasons why he acts in the way he does until eternity. Like a tapestry turned over to its proper side. However, from my reading of the Bible let me suggest four purposes that God is very likely to have.

1.    To expose the truth about money
2.    To prepare people for eternity
3.    To mature his people’s faith
4.    To provide opportunities for Christians to be generous

First of all, he is using the Credit Crunch to expose the truth about money.

To help us see what this is I’ve asked Phil Brocklesby to read a section of the Bible to us.

Bible Reading: Isaiah 44:6-11

A comparison between the God of Israel and these things called idols.

Let’s start with what the God of Israel says about himself.

•    He is the first and the last.

He has a heritage and he will always be around in the future. God will never go out of business. We will never read this headline in the papers, “Shock Closer: Administrators called into the Heavenly Throne Room.”

This is always important to us. A Past and a future.

We recently had to get a new boiler installed. We were looking for a gas engineer who we could trust. Someone with experience.

How reassuring to know that God has a great past and a certain future.

•    This God knows the future.

Nothing takes him by surprise. He knows exactly what is going to happen in the world. He promises that he is always making sure that whatever happens to those who trust him is for their greater good.

The banks were taken completely by surprise. The Governments have been taken by surprise. They are now doing the best they can. But the God of the Bible was not taken by surprise. He knew what was coming and so therefore doesn’t have to frantically change his plans when new situations arise that he did not foresee. I find this very comforting. 

•    He calls himself a Rock.

What a beautiful image of stability and security. Your feet will be on solid ground with this God. He never changes. He is always the same. Circumstances go up and down, the economy goes up and the economy goes down. We have boom and we have bust. But whatever happens God remains exactly the same.

Compare this to what we read in the Bible about idols. It says the things they treasure (the idols) are worthless.

Idols come in different shapes and forms. Basically an idol is something that we replace God with. It can be another person, a pursuit, a possession. Something we look to instead of God to meet certain needs that only he can really meet. Our need for love, for pleasure, for significance but the one we’re focusing on today is security.

God is supposed to be our Rock. The one we rely on for our future security. But what do a lot of people do? When they push God away the need for security still remains so they replace God with something else. The most common replacement is money. Many people look to money instead of God to ease their anxious hearts and to provide them with some sort of stability for the future.

Of course money does provide some sort of security otherwise no one would spend so much of their time trying to get more of it. But I do think one of God’s purposes during this Credit Crunch is reveal something of the truth about money. To show us that in comparison with God money is a worthless alternative when it comes to providing us with security for our earthly future.

Let’s just think for a moment about how poor a substitute money is when compared with the true and living God. Some people who don’t think they have enough. They have some but they don’t have enough. So they worry and work extra hard to get more and more. Some who do think they have enough but then worry that they might lose it. Could it be stolen? Could the bank go under and we lose all we have? Remember the big queues outside Northern Rock. Or what about savings? Interest plummet and savings plummet as well. Or what about pensions? Perhaps if you get your full payout it might be okay but there are no guarantees that you will. 

Many have been deluded for some time about the security money offers but now we are hopefully beginning to see the truth.

Trusting in money for our earthly future is such a poor substitute for trusting the unchanging God of the Bible. You can know for sure that your earthly future is secure. Your head really can hit the pillow and you can know a peaceful sleep.

Practical example for me and my wife. We bought a house last year at what I think was the peak of house prices. Since then the prices have plummeted. Do I lie awake at night worrying? No. Because the God I worship did not make plans for me then without a knowledge of what would happen to the housing market after we bought the house. So I trust him completely for the future.

One of the purposes of God during this Credit Crunch is to expose the truth about money. Money is such a poor alternative to God when it comes to providing for our earthly future.

Another purpose is to prepare people for eternity.

One of the popular slogans is about busyness. How are you? It used to be ‘I’m fine thank you’. Nowadays it’s more likely to be ‘I’m busy.’ We don’t often slow down. We’re always running on the treadmill of human existence. So much to do: family, job, shopping and leisure. Our routines keep us so consumed and when we are we don’t really stop and contemplate where we are actually heading to.

We forget the destination and the journey consumes us. Maybe this Credit Crunch will shake some people up and give them space to contemplate where they are really heading to.

One of the reasons the message of Jesus seems so irrelevant to contemporary people is because either they do not consider eternity or think they are fine as they are.

The words and actions of Jesus really do show us how important eternity was to him. He repeatedly warned people to turn to him in order to avoid an eternal future of pain and suffering.

His ultimate mission was to die on a cross to save people like you and me from this horrific existence after death.

Hopefully the Credit Crunch will shake people up and give them time to contemplate their ultimate future. The Bible says that without Jesus we are facing eternal pain but with Jesus we will be protected forever and enjoy a future of eternal love.

These are the first two purposes I want to suggest to you. To expose the truth about money and to prepare people for eternity.

Before we look at another two we’ll sing a great song that encourages us to trust in God for our future. It’s called ‘The Lord’s my shepherd I’ll not want.’
 
The third purpose I would like to suggest this morning is that God is using this Credit Crunch to mature his people’s faith.

To show you this lead me read a section of the New Testament.

Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

We discover what we are really like under pressure. You crush the can and it all comes out.

Do you think you trust the Lord? Yes of course I do. But an unexpected crisis or change of circumstances comes your way and takes away certain things and you discover that all the time although you said you trusted in God you actually trusted in something else. It happened to Paul. God brought this suffering along to mature his faith.

I don’t want to minimise the hardship that this Credit Crunch is bringing and will continue to bring. Some people will lose their job, some will lose their savings.

It is painful to lose you job. I learned at the weekend of a Christian businessman I know who has lost one of his companies. Is this easy? No. Is it painful? Of course it is. But will God be using this for a purpose? Listen to Paul again, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

Because God loves you he may permit you financial hardships in order that you learn to trust him more and more.

What is more important? That you have money in the bank, a certain career or a more vibrant relationship with the true and living God?

The last purpose I want to suggest is that God is using this Credit Crunch to provide opportunities for Christians to be generous.

Read Acts 4:32-35.

This is not communism but is a description of Christian love.

Read Acts 11:25-30.

An opportunity arose which allowed Christians to be generous to each other.

Will we make sure our fellow brothers and sisters at St John’s are not in need?

It involves recognising what these needs are and then acting.

If a member of a small group listen out to what people are going through.

What might this mean in practice?

You hear all this stuff about the latest 1080p HD Ready flat screen TV. Nothing wrong with your old one. Should you upgrade? Then you discover someone in the church family doesn’t even have a cooker. You can’t do both. Why not settle for what you’ve got and help another in need?

The kids will give you stick but what an opportunity to teach them the practical outworking of your Christian faith.

Let me give you another example. You are getting bored with basic TV. You consider getting Sky. Then you discover that there is someone in your home group who cannot meet their gas and electricity bills. You can’t do both. What will you do?

Don’t feel guilty about having money. Simply use it responsibly.
Will those in need accept the support of others? In a self made culture it is more difficult to receive than to give.

These are not strangers who are helping you. It is easier to receive support from your family. This is the connection we need to make. These are your brothers and sisters in the family of God.

Do speak about your needs.

Let us act to support our brothers and sisters.

What a witness this will be to the outside world? What a community to be part of!

You may be a visitor today. Come and investigate more. The truth about money. What about eternity? And what about belonging to such a community? You need to become a Christian and join the people of God. Take one of these booklets and why not come back to church next week and find out more?

As a church member. Be encouraged. God is working his purposes out. He is your rock. He may use it to mature your faith and provide you with opportunities to give or receive. He is working all things out for our greater good.

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