The Good Life in Hard Times
The world economy appears to be recovering from the financial meltdown of 2008. Productivity is up and asset prices are rising. Business investment and consumer spending are gaining strength. The national Gross Domestic Product of some countries is growing at a red-hot pace—China's is in the double-digits, with India and Brazil not far behind. The International Monetary Fund now predicts that global output for this year will grow by 4.2 percent ("Curb your enthusiasm," Economist, April 24, 2010, p. 12).
And yet, though encouraging, these numbers do not tell the whole story. Some governments are wavering under precipitously high sovereign debt. Greece is a case in point, and other nations such as Italy, Ireland and Portugal are vulnerable as well. And, as a result of their own massive bailout programs, the United States and Britain also face an uncertain future. "Global actors… have in effect made a gamble involving their respective economic destinies. They are either engaged in public spending at levels far beyond their revenue generation capacity or are absorbing toxic private debt… Our analysis leads to the conclusion that sovereigns throughout the world, in particular the United States and the UK, will lose this gamble" (Global Economic Forecast 2010–2015: Recession into Depression, Sheldon Filger, p. 3, 2009).
The "Great Recession" that began in 2008 is not only busting government budgets, it is also costing tens of millions of jobs around the world—20 million in China alone. Unemployment is still hovering around 10 percent in the United States, and the average length of people's unemployment is the greatest since World War II (Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy, Joseph Stiglitz, pp. xi, 313, 2010).
Where will it all end? Is there an even larger collapse looming? Are even "first-world" nations doomed to endure stringent austerity measures for years to come? Is "the good life" many have known for decades soon destined to be only a memory of the past?
For most of the 20th century, the United States was the primary engine of the world's economic growth. More than a hundred years ago, the Washington Evening Star newspaper reported, "On this day of our Lord, January 1, 1907, we are the richest people in the world." During the two administrations of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, the national wealth had been "rolling up at a rate of $4.6 billion per year, $127.3 million per day, $5.5 million per hour, $88,430 per minute, and $1,474 per second" (quoted in The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris, p. 11, 1979). America was certainly blessed—for decade after decade.
But most Americans did not know where their blessings came from. Some assumed the shower of blessings was the inevitable result of ingenuity, hard work, or technological know-how. But nothing could be further from the truth! The blessings America experienced were the direct result of God's providential hand. Regular readers of Tomorrow's World realize that the biblical patriarch Joseph was the forefather of the United States and the British-descended nations. His name, appropriately, meant, "The Eternal has added," for his offspring were prophesied to be a "fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall" (Genesis 49:22). God certainly added blessing upon blessing to the sons of Joseph through Ephraim (the British Commonwealth countries), and Manasseh (the United States). To learn more about the modern nations of Israel—which include not just the people of Judah in today's state of Israel, but also many of the peoples of northwestern Europe—please request your copy of our free booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy.
The blessings of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—particularly through the birthright given to Joseph—have benefited the whole world, as God prophesied (Genesis 18:18; 22:18; 26:4). But unrestrained greed and avarice may yet prove America's greatest weakness and downfall. As God lamented, Joseph "did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold—which they prepared for Baal" (Hosea 2:8). Instead of giving God thanks for the bounty He provides, we have all-too-often wasted it on worshiping the false god of consumerism and focusing ever more on the self.
The roots of the 2008 financial catastrophe can be found in the reckless capital boom of the 1990s. Back then, wages in the U.S. had more or less stalled. Many Americans were losing optimism about their financial future. As reporter Bernd Debusmann noted, "Through most of US history, each generation has been more prosperous and lived better than their parents. Statistics show that this no longer holds true" ("American dream or nightmare? This season, many wonder", Reuters, December 20, 1990).
But then the housing market boomed. Seemingly overnight, home values in many regions of the country began to climb. Millions of Americans were lured into borrowing money against the perceived value of their homes, to compensate for the lack of growth in their paycheck, so they could carry on with their spending spree (Freefall, pp. 1–2). Yet there were warnings for those who had ears to hear. Consider the opening to this July 27, 1999 article by reporter James Schembar: "The government's announcement last month that the savings rate was the lowest since the Depression has prompted much unease. After all, in a time of such plenty, how can Americans not be putting away some of their surplus to prepare for harder times?" ("Americans spend more than they earn," New York Times News Service). In a time of plenty, the net savings rate was at zero—or below. In one year during the 1990s, mortgage equity withdrawals totaled $975 billion—more than 7 percent of the entire U.S. GDP in that year.
The common response to this nagging concern about lack of savings was, "Don't worry about it yet." After all, savings rates were not important when capital gains were growing. But Schembar ended on an ominous note: "The capital gains that have helped the older boomers make up for a low savings rate, of course, could be our fool's gold. Who can predict where markets will be by the time we retire?"
Many in the last few generations have been deceived into thinking that money and possessions bring lasting fulfillment and happiness. For too long, Western society has been obsessed with having more—more cars, more clothes, bigger homes, better televisions—the list goes on and on. Consumers around the world have been caught in the trap of believing that the "abundant life" can be bought. But Jesus warned, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15).
What about you? Has the Great Recession hit you and your family hard? Are you struggling financially? You may be dealing with depression and discouragement. You may have to make some painful choices to keep your household afloat. God knows what you are enduring, and will help you if you turn to Him with true, heartfelt repentance. He will help you if you sincerely cry out to Him and obey Him with all your heart (Hebrews 11:6).
The sad truth is that most will not change their course. Our generation is headed for very rocky times, as a result of our personal and national sins. God's word reveals that as Christ's return draws nearer, worldwide crises will increase until money will be worthless and commodities like food and water will be prohibitively expensive. Even gold and silver will not sustain people through times of widespread famine. The prophet Ezekiel warned, "They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be like refuse; their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord; they will not satisfy their souls, nor fill their stomachs, because it became their stumbling block of iniquity" (Ezekiel 7:19).
Our generation has spurned and despised God's laws (Leviticus 26:15), and we will be punished for it. God long ago predicted calamity upon calamity because of end-time Israel's abominations. Crop failures (vv. 16, 20) and food shortages (v. 26) will even lead to horrific cannibalism, as survivors in desolate cities struggle to survive (vv. 29–31). This will finally lead to national enslavement by a foreign power (vv. 32–33). The unthinkable will happen! The United States, Great Britain, and other nations of end-time Israel will capsize, like the "unsinkable" Titanic. But where does that leave us? Must you and your family "go down with the ship" in the coming punishment on the modern descendants of ancient Israel? Or is there a way to escape this calamity?
Long-time readers of Tomorrow's World know that there is good news coming in the future. Not from a political movement or party, a new economic model, or a governmental alliance, but by the intervention of Almighty God! After Christ's dramatic return to Earth, He will set up a new society. Economic opportunities will be available to all, as the prophet Micah foretold: "But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken" (Micah 4:4). Blessings will be poured out like rain on nations all over the earth, "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). As Amos 9:13 foretells: "'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.'"
Citizens of this coming new age—a thousand-year period we call "the Millennium" (Revelation 20:4)—will live and work in a new society based on fairness, good ethics, honesty, love for neighbor and worship of the true God. Jesus Christ, ruling as King, will teach His "law of liberty" (James 1:25; 2:12), the Ten Commandments. Accompanied by His saints, He will enforce those laws and govern the whole earth (Jude 14–15). This will absolutely revolutionize the world, and make the economy blossom as humanity has never seen!
And there is good news even now! You do not have to suffer the plagues of God's coming punishment—the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). You need not "stumble to the slaughter" (Proverbs 24:11) like others who foolishly reject God's warnings. You can prepare and be ready for more hard times ahead. Believe it or not, you can have the "good life" now.
What is the "good life," really? God does not promise that you will gain a big bank account or will never suffer problems. Paul wrote, "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). Life as a true follower of Christ is not easy. But Scripture shows how you can be happy and fulfilled now. You can have a fulfilling, faithful and enjoyable marriage. You can have a happy and enriching family life. You can even have enjoyable, satisfying work. How?
The key is in recognizing that the "good life" is not measured by how many cars we have, television channels we can access, or square feet of house we can own. It is not measured by fast Internet access or fancy cell phone. It is not based on credit cards or bank accounts. Rather, it comes from a close, personal, and obedient relationship with God. Jesus Christ wants you to have an abundant life now! He said, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ that goes beyond mere words and emotional sentiment? Have you committed to whole-hearted obedience? Have you repented of your sins and decided to commit your life to God? The good life is possible—and these choices are where it starts.
God wants you to "test" Him—to determine in your heart and mind whether or not He and His promises are real. He wants you to get off the spending merry-go-round. He even commands you to tithe to Him. Does He promise to make you a multi-millionaire? No. But He does promise to take care of your needs. What a wonderful promise!
Notice God's challenge: "'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,' says the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 3:10–11).
We at Tomorrow's World challenge you to prove and test God by faithfully obeying His laws. He wants you to keep His seventh-day Sabbath, observe His annual Holy Days, be faithful to your spouse in marriage, reject idol worship, and speak the truth always. God's way is a whole way of life (Acts 22:4)! And you will be blessed for it. As David wrote, "I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread" (Psalm 37:25).
Of course, each of us needs to plan wisely, set aside for hard times, and work as faithfully and as diligently as we can. We must be careful to get good financial advice from those we can trust. But in the final analysis, we must be sure never to put our ultimate faith in human beings—ourselves or others around us. Rather, we must trust in God, who alone can deliver us from the dark days to come. As Jeremiah wrote, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit" (Jeremiah 17:7–8).
Jesus Christ challenges us to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20)—or, we might add, where the vagaries of the financial market evaporate assets like the morning mist. God wants to give us the abundant life if we will look to Him with trust and conviction. Now—of all times—is the time to put our trust in the One who provides all good things to all of humanity (James 1:17). Are you willing to test and prove God? Are you willing to see if what He says is true, and if what He commands is really what is best for you and your family?
The good news is that you can have the true good life, even in hard times. You can have financial security, peace of mind, a sense of purpose and achievement, even in turbulent, chaotic times. You can put your trust in God, and have the calm assurance that He will take care of you. As God said through the prophet Isaiah, "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you—the sure mercies of David" (Isaiah 55:1–3).
There are hard times coming. Bible prophecy shows that we are only at the beginning. Now is the time to get your financial house in order, and decide what you will really want. Money? Possessions? An endless cycle of acquiring and consuming? Or will you let the Great Recession drive you to your knees to forge a new and profound relationship with your Maker? Truly, that is the good life!