From the World’s Economy to God’s Economy
As the economies of this world falter and fall, we who are Christians need to understand that God also has an “economy” prepared for the faithful. We must learn to enter this economy by faith and obedience to every word out of the mouth of God. I am reminded of the following quote:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”
This is a quote from Charles Dickens’ book, A Tale of Two Cities depicting life in London and Paris prior to the French Revolution. I think it is a good description of our life here in America today. With all that has been happening in our nation over the past few decades, people have been presented with many news stories or personal situations that demand one make a decision based on one’s beliefs. This has caused a polarization of beliefs. We are either for abortion or against it; for homosexual marriages or against them, etc. The light of Christ has been growing brighter to those who seek him and make wise decisions, while others are sinking ever deeper into the darkness. Some of us are hopeful because we have Christ; others are in despair because in the natural the future looks pretty bleak.
I would like to add one more sentence to this quote from Dickens that depicts a contemporary situation of opposites: “We have the world’s economy crashing, and we have God’s economy rising.”
This is the worst of times if your hopes and your future were tied up in your 401K and the value of your possessions. It is the worst of times if your money determines your life. We are a nation of consumers, and everything we consume costs money. Everything I own, from the smallest, most insignificant thing (such as the pencil in my hand) to the largest most valuable thing (our home) has or had a price tag. What will we do if we have no money? Some people are facing this dilemma right now. They have lost their homes and their jobs. Those who have money are asking the question, Where is the best place to put my money where it will be safe? Should I take it out of the stock market and buy treasury bonds? Should I leave it in the stock market and hang on for the long haul believing the market will ultimately rise again?
The loss of possessions and wealth may turn out to be the best of times for some people, for those who decide to turn to God in a radical, meaningful way. What we are facing in America today has similarities to some things God’s people faced many years before the coming of Christ. We read about it in the book of Nehemiah. After the Babylonian captivity, a group of people returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (described in the book of Ezra) and to rebuild the wall that surrounded the city of Jerusalem (recorded in Nehemiah). Jerusalem was a defeated and ruined city, much like some people’s lives today, yet God helped them, but not without their radical commitment to obey him and follow his ways. The following description of the people’s dilemma recorded in Nehemiah could easily have been written as a description of Americans today…
“About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews. They were saying, ‘We have such large families. We need more money just so we can buy the food we need to survive.’ Others said, ‘We have mortgaged our fields, vineyards, and homes to get food during the famine.’ And others said, ‘We have already borrowed to the limit on our fields and vineyards to pay our taxes. We belong to the same family, and our children are just like theirs. Yet we must sell our children into slavery just to get enough money to live. We have already sold some of our daughters, and we are helpless to do anything about it, for our fields and vineyards are already mortgaged to others’” (Neh. 5:1-5, NLT).
This is not only a description of individuals in our nation today; it is a description of our whole nation including our government. We have sold our children into slavery. They will have to pay for this enormous debt our government has accrued to foreigners. The Bible clearly warns that “the borrower is the servant of the lender,” (Prov. 22:7). Our housing and banking crises are just the tip of the iceberg. What will we do when foreign nations demand that our government pay them what we owe? We do not have the money to repay them. Our whole government will go bankrupt. Therefore, if we have taken our money out of the stock market and placed it in treasury bonds, we will lose that money too. The value of the dollar is only good as long as people believe it has value. The truth is there is no gold to back it up. It is just paper, and our government continues to print more of it which continues to lower its value. Because of this, foreigners have been able to buy much of our nation’s real estate and many of our businesses. Much of America is now owned by foreigners, and our national parks have been given to the United Nations.
There was a message from the Holy Spirit to the churches in the late 1970s and early 1980s warning us to pay off all our debts and “owe no man anything but love” (Rom. 13:8). We were to pay off our mortgages, have a paid-for automobile and live within our means. That message seemed to pass away and many Christians have either forgotten it or are too young to have heard it—at least with the emphasis it had then, although the Bible teaches in many places that we are to be satisfied with what we have and stay out of debt.
Once more as we turn to Nehemiah, we can see how up-to-date this book is. We can read the fate of our nation in Chapter 9:36, 37. This is exactly where we are headed…
“So now today we are slaves here in the land of plenty that you gave to our ancestors! We are slaves among all this abundance! The lush produce of this land piles up in the hands of the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They have power over us and our cattle. We serve them at their pleasure, and we are in great misery.”
People of America, we voted for those people in congress who are making all these decisions that have taken us down this path to national bankruptcy. We have said “Character doesn’t matter. We don’t care if our President has a little fling with some cute little chick and runs around on his wife. We don’t mind if he tells lies once in awhile. We just want to make sure we have all the material goods we want.”
We have said over and over again that a man’s private life is no concern of ours as long as we get what we want. We have neglected the Bible’s warnings that ungodly character leads to ruin whether in our private life or in the way we lead a nation of people.
We are not to lose hope because for those of us who have chosen to seek God, he is with us and will help us. It is in the most difficult times that we find God in marvelous and exciting ways. Some of us are actually excited about what is happening because we know that prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes and the true church is going to experience miracles and signs and wonders that we have not seen before…along with great persecutions. Just as the guests at the wedding party exclaimed that their host had saved the best wine for last (John 2), our God is getting ready to pour out his “best wine” upon those of us who are willing to radically seek God and give him all he commands…which is our very life.
The key here is to radically obey God. That is what the post-exilic people of God did in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Their leaders read the books of the Law of Moses to them, and the people repented of their sins and made the extreme changes necessary to follow God. Those who had married foreign wives and had children by them, sent their wives and children away. They cleaned out the temple and restored the priests to their rightful place. The observance of the Sabbath day was restored. These are all types of spiritual realities we are to observe in the church today. We do not put aside our spouses if they are from another country; however, we are to rid ourselves of all idolatry. All these things have spiritual counterparts.
As the economies of the world come down, we can expect to see a one world government and a one world currency begin to emerge. We can also expect great persecution to come to the true church. None of us really know what the true church of Jesus Christ looks like because the tares and the wheat have been growing side by side since the inception of the church back in the first century. Paul warned the believers that ravenous wolves would come into the flock and that they were to beware. This is true and has been true ever since.
One of the exciting things we can expect to see God doing in these end times is the cleansing of his church. He will remove those from his church who are lukewarm and do not want to follow him at all cost. As Paul writes in Romans, “…what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are” (Rom 8: 18, 19, NLT). Only God knows our hearts. He alone knows who are really his, but a day will come very soon when it will become evident just who his own really are as God removes the tares and gathers the wheat into his barn. (I am not speaking of the rapture here.) He will gather together his true church on earth and then we will begin to see the signs and wonders he has promised us.
Once God cleanses his church, he can begin to lead us into his economy. We can’t just decide to do this…it has to be a sovereign work of God. He can only do this in a gathering of believers who have chosen to allow God to be in charge and are willing to be led by the Holy Spirit. A prerequisite for being part of this group of believers is a willingness to be radical for God and follow him at all costs. God will sovereignly remove those who don’t belong and bring in those who do. No human being makes these decisions because only God sees the heart. However, God is going to be imparting the gift of discerning of spirits to some believers. This will be necessary to protect the true church from the enemy’s infiltration.
Peter was exercising the gift of discerning of spirits when he discerned that Ananias and Sapphira were lying about the amount of money they were donating to the church from the sale of their land. Peter knew they were lying to the Holy Spirit. Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead because of their sin. Sins that were once tolerated will no longer be allowed as God cleanses his temple. We see this in Acts 17, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30, 31).
This is the Day of Judgment. God will be dealing with our hearts and purging out everything that is not of him in order to bring us into that New Day he has prepared for us. We can see this in type as we examine Paul’s final journey to Rome and the shipwreck he suffered that landed him on the island of Malta. It would be good to read Acts 27 and 28 at this time. To summarize…
…Paul was a prisoner under Roman guard and was being transported from Jerusalem to Rome where he hoped to appeal his case before Caesar. His true mission in going to Rome, however, was to take the gospel into that part of the world. The ship went through an incredibly severe storm that resulted in the ship being blown completely off course and broken up into little pieces on which some of the men floated and others swam to an island named Malta where none of them had ever been. All the men were saved and Paul was able to perform many astounding miracles on the Island.
In type, the ship is the world; the wind is the Holy Spirit, the storm is the End Times, and the island of Malta is the New Day we are entering. In reading this story with these types in mind, we can learn things that will help sustain us and encourage us through the difficult days ahead. (Many years ago I read an article that brought out some of these points but can’t remember who wrote it or what periodical it was in so I am unable to give credit for parts of this revelation that aren’t mine.)
In this ship were men representing all the persons on the earth. There was Paul (the Church), the centurian (the military), Jesus (the name of one man on board was Aristarchus which means “the best prince” meaning Jesus), the prisoners, workers (sailors) and leaders (helmsmen). We must never forget that Jesus is in the ship with us, and that persons from all walks of life will transition through these turbulent times and enter the age of miracles (Malta).
The Starting Place
Paul’s journey that results in shipwreck actually begins (according to Acts 27) at the town of Adramyttium where they boarded their ship. Adramyttium means “the court of death.” This is where all of us begin our journey…born in sin under the sentence of death.
Their Ending Place
We are only considering here the part of the journey that pertains to the storm and shipwreck. They ended up on the island of Malta. Malta means literally “affording honey.” If you can afford something you can have all you want of it. The Bible tells us that the Word of God is sweeter than the honey and the honeycomb. Since Jesus himself is the Word, this is a place where there is no limit to how much of Jesus we can have. It all depends on how hungry we are. This is where the storm will take us so it will be worth whatever we have to endure to get there. Many people who are dead in their sins at the beginning of their journey will find Jesus Christ during this great storm.
Since Paul is a type of the church, we can expect the church to be doing and experiencing the same types of things Paul did on the island. A poisonous snake bit him and he had no reaction to it at all. This amazed the natives who wanted to call him a god. This shows that there will come a day when the world will have respect for the church. God’s power and presence in us will be evident to all.
The leading citizen on the island had a family member who was seriously ill. Paul healed that person and then people all over the island began bringing their sick to him and he healed them too.
The people of the island provided Paul and all the passengers from the ship with food, and their every need was met.
No one on the boat recognized the land when they saw Malta (v. 39). The land where God is taking us spiritually is a place where none of us has been. We will not recognize it.
The storm raged for 14 nights (Acts 27:27). This is the only place in scripture where nights are numbered without days. The darkness we are going to experience will be very severe, but we must never forget that Jesus is with us and will see us through. However, everything we are trusting in will be removed. That ship was completely broken to pieces by the storm. In order to survive the lifeboat had to be cast off. They threw overboard all the ship’s tackle in order to lighten the ship. They even cast their wheat overboard. By the time they reached Malta, the ship no longer existed except in bits and pieces that people clung to as they floated and paddled toward the shore.
The storm began with men being independent of God. It ended with their total reliance on God and God alone.
The storm began with the military (centurion) and the wealthy (ship’s owner) in charge of the ship. Paul’s good directions were ignored. It ended with Paul giving directions that they all willingly followed. (Imagine a world with a perfect church in charge!)
It began in the natural realm and ended in a supernatural realm. During the storm, an angel of the Lord appeared to Paul to encourage him and give him information.
It began with them providing their own sustenance and ended with others providing for them.
I believe God wants to transition us from the world’s economy to his economy. This will be very difficult because all most people have known is the independence of having money and deciding what to buy on their own. To suddenly or even gradually find ourselves in the situation where either we have no money or there are no goods available to buy is unthinkable.
May we be encouraged by Jesus’ words in Mark: “And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible (Mark 10:23).
For the most part by the world’s standards, almost all Americans have been rich. It is probably our idolatrous love for prosperity more than anything else that has caused us to forsake God. We can take courage that with hard times, more people will be able to find their way into the Kingdom of God.
In Acts chapter four we see a description of the economy of God working amongst the believers. “All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favor was upon them all. There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.”
This will only work when the believers are of one heart and mind. If someone just wants to go along for a few freebies, they can’t be part of this kind of church. The “gimmie because you owe it to me” mentality that has gripped much of our nation cannot be a part of this kind of church. When a government tries to impose the kind of economy described in Acts upon a country, the result is socialism that leads to communism. God’s economy can only be ruled by God working through his sold-out, God-fearing followers who are led by the Holy Spirit. The Bible states that if a man will not work, he should not eat. God is not in the business of putting people on welfare!
In the world’s economy, at least here in America, people can live independent of one another because as long as we have money, we can buy whatever we want. Because of this, many people are not part of a community. These people will have difficulty surviving when the economy comes apart. Those who have chosen to live in relationship with others will fare much better. Those who have chosen to pursue godly character will also fare better when families have to open their homes up for other families to share. Our prosperity of “one family…one house” will not be able to continue as the costs of housing, food and energy rise. Only people with godly character will do well in this kind of living situation because if we don’t die to self and put others first, we will live with arguing, strife and all manner of misery.
God promises to provide for us. However, there is something we have to do in order for him to do so. We must be seeking the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matt 6:25-34).
Jesus warns us not to get the wrong focus about finances. He says, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matt. 6:19-21).
If we lose our retirement savings (which I believe most will) or if we lose our home or our job, these are extremely difficult situations to cope with. If we have been seeking God first and obeying him, we will fare much better than most when things collapse. If we, as Christians, have lived only for ourselves, we have missed an opportunity to store up treasures in “heaven’s bank.” I believe every time we have helped someone without expecting anything in return, we have made a deposit in the “bank of heaven.”
If we will begin to seek God first and lay up the treasures of heaven in our heart, we will find that Christ truly is all we ever needed and in him can be found all that we ever wanted and more. To come to this place will require a journey, traveling through a great storm and perhaps losing everything. Let us keep our eyes on the reward and believe God when he says that “weeping lasts for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” It will require a re-shifting of our priorities as we put God first and cast aside the things of this world that are only temporal. We will gain that which is eternal in the process…and this cannot be taken away from us.