Is an economic “hurricane” coming?

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Is an economic “hurricane” coming?

June 6, 2022 - Dr. Jim Denison

© Who is Danny/stock.adobe.com

© Who is Danny/stock.adobe.com

Jamie Dimon is CEO of JPMorgan and, according to Forbes, “one of the most respected Wall Street leaders.” When he recently advised investors to prepare for an economic “hurricane,” his warning made headlines.

Dimon is worried about rapidly rising inflation, Federal Reserve attempts to counter inflation by raising interest rates, and the possible escalation of war emanating from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Tesla CEO Elon Musk similarly stated that he has a “super bad feeling” about the economy and needs to cut about 10 percent of salaried staff at the electric carmaker. Dimon and Musk are not alone in their concerns: many companies have already begun implementing hiring freezes and laying off workers.

Larry Summers, a former treasury secretary, has observed that whenever inflation has risen above 4 percent and unemployment has dipped below 4 percent, America has suffered a recession within two years. As the Economist notes, we are well across both thresholds now. (For more, see Mark Legg’s “A ‘major’ recession may be around the corner.”)

Making the article’s point, the stock market fell on Friday after jobs data improved and investors worried that the Fed would consequently tighten interest rates even more to curb inflation. The Economist predicts that “given the strengths of the economy today . . . the next downturn ought to be mild.” However, it adds that America will likely “face a painfully slow recovery.”

“Those who can’t find meaning aren’t happy”

Let’s make today’s financial discussion more personal: you’ve perhaps heard all your life that money can’t buy happiness, but it turns out that it can.

In a forthcoming study in Stanford Business, Stanford University marketing professor Jennifer Aaker and her coauthors report, “When people get wealthier, they experience greater happiness.” However, there is a surprising and significant corollary in the report: people with less money view happiness as tied to a sense of meaning—the belief that their life has direction, purpose, and value.

Why this connection between lower income and meaning in life? Aaker points to research showing that making sense of negative experiences is “one route to experiencing life as meaningful.” She and her coauthors also explain that experiences that have been shown to contribute to a sense of meaning—including strong relationships and religion—often do not cost anything.

Aaker notes that since affluent people have greater access to “external sources of happiness,” they may not rely on an “internally constructed sense of meaning.” As Christians know, this is a perilous way to live: “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). As a result, the rich are “not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

This statement by Aaker is therefore significant: “People who succeed in finding meaning experience both meaning and happiness, but those who can’t find meaning aren’t happy.”

“A sound like a mighty rushing wind”

It is interesting that financial wealth does not produce personal meaning and may be antithetical to it. What, then, gives our lives purpose and direction?

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. If you grew up in an evangelical church like me, that fact might hold little meaning for you. This is a problem I want to remedy today.

“Pentecost” comes from the Greek word for “fiftieth.” (The holiday is known as Shavuot in Hebrew.) It comes fifty days after the sheaf offering of the harvest (Leviticus 23:9–16) celebrated during Passover. On the Christian calendar, it falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter.

Christ-followers know the day because of this miracle recorded in Acts 2: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (vv. 1–4).

This event was and is transformationally significant for Christians and for the world.

The urgent question of the day

Let’s summarize the biblical relevance of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

He convicts us of our sins (John 16:8), inhabits us at salvation (Romans 8:9), gives us assurance of our salvation (Romans 8:16), makes us his temple (1 Corinthians 6:19), and unifies us as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). He then helps us pray and is interceding for us right now (Romans 8:26).

He teaches us biblical truth (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13), bears witness to Christ (John 15:26), and guides us “into all the truth” (John 16:13). He empowers our witness “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8; cf. Matthew 10:20; Acts 4:31), gives us spiritual gifts necessary to our ministry (1 Corinthians 12:11), and manifests in our lives the “fruit of the Spirit” vital to our witness (Galatians 5:22–23; cf. Galatians 5:16). When our earthly lives end, he “will give life to your mortal bodies” (Romans 8:11; cf. Romans 8:2).

In short, you and I can do nothing significant in God’s kingdom without the help of God’s Spirit. The Spirit gives our lives meaning and purpose, direction and legacy.

To be “filled” with the Spirit as happened at Pentecost:

  1. Ask him to bring to your mind anything that grieves or hinders him (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).
  2. Confess whatever comes to your thoughts and ask your Father’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
  3. Submit your life and your day to the Spirit, asking him to control, guide, empower, and use you (Ephesians 5:18).
  4. Step out into your day in faith that your prayers have been answered, trusting that you will be empowered and used to impact lives for eternity (cf. Acts 2:4).

When we are “filled” with God’s Spirit, every day is Pentecost. No matter what happens with the economy, no matter our material wealth or lack thereof, every day is filled with purpose, power, and meaning.

So, here’s the urgent question: Has Pentecost come for you yet today?

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