HANDLING ANXIETY IN A TIME OF ECONOMIC CRISIS

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This past week’s release of China’s second quarter GDP growth number – at 7.6% – was viewed as an ominous sign of the future direction of the global economy by some pundits, while others see the Chinese government’s stimulus measures as a hopeful sign that its economic growth will be higher in the second half of the year. It is important to understand that the root cause of the decline in China’s economic growth this year is not the trouble in Europe or funk of the global economy, but rather the unsustainable economic bubbles that have been created by the government, and the collapsing demand that has accompanied it. The central bank’s latest tap dance won’t fix that.

Central banking maneuvering can at best serve to sustain the over-leveraged economy and avoid a systematic short-circuit of debt financing for now. There won’t be much liquidity invested in lending capacity or job creating projects, since there is insufficient demand, so the economic return on credit will deteriorate. If these structural deficiencies aren’t properly addressed by the central government – and soon – the longer term deterioration of the Chinese economy can only continue. The inevitable chain reaction will accelerate, and China will face its economic end game.

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To gauge just how far the health of China’s economy has deteriorated, look no further than how aggressive China’s central bank – the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) – has been acting of late. On 5th July, the Bank cut benchmark interest rates for the second time in less than a month. In December 2011, the PBOC cut the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) by 50 basis points (bp), to 21%, followed by a further 50 bp cut in February and another 50 bp cut in May – to the current 20%. Apart from all the rate cuts, the PBOC also made its biggest injection of funds into the money markets in nearly six months, injecting a net 225 billion yuan (US$34.5 billion) through the reverse-repurchase operations (repo) last week, which followed a combined injection of 291 billion yuan in the previous four weeks.
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Matthew 6:19-34
How many of you still buy and read a daily newspaper?
Most of us keep up with the news one way or the other – either by listening to the radio or watching television news and in-depth reports. Also, increasing numbers of people access the news through the Internet.
It is a pity that it appears that it is bad news that sells newspapers. I wonder if anyone has ever measured the psychological impact of being bombarded with bad news stories from day to day at the expense of the good. How does it affect us and form our world view?

QUESTION How do you handle bad news?
Growing world population will cause a “perfect storm” of food, energy and water shortages by 2030, the UK government chief scientist is warning.
By 2030 the demand for resources will create a crisis with dire consequences, Prof John Beddington predicts.
Demand for food and energy will jump 50% by 2030 and for fresh water by 30%, as the population tops 8.3 billion, he is due to tell a conference in London.
Climate change will exacerbate matters in unpredictable ways, he will add.
“It’s a perfect storm,” Prof Beddington will tell the Sustainable Development UK 09 conference.
This ’Perfect storm’ poses a global threat, says Professor Beddington
“There’s not going to be a complete collapse, but things will start getting really worrying if we don’t tackle these problems.
POINT
This is something our resident scientist Paul Farrant was warning us about in an evening service a few months ago – but with a different timescale.
QUESTION
How do you respond to news like this?
• Some of us will be concerned for the welfare of our sons or daughters or grandchildren.
• Some of us will be concerned about ourselves and the security of our future.
• All of us will to some degree be concerned for the poor who will be effected most by the coming storm and respond appropriately.
• At some time in the future a crisis of one form or another will certainly take place. What kind of a crisis and when and how it will take place remains to be seen.

QUESTION
How would God have us respond to news like this?
READING Matthew 6:19-34
Don’t worry. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. All these things will be yours as well.

THESIS God’s word to us is this:
FOCUS YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE KINGDOM RATHER THAN THE CALAMITY

POINT
It’s amazing counsel. Philosophers, personal trainers, therapists and gurus could not come with anything better.
Nor could they offer anything better. Because all they could offer is a coping strategy – Jesus reveals to us a right way of living that has the backing and substance of truth and spiritual reality behind it.
POINT
Thanks be to God – The Bible offers us a story with a happy ending. The drama of Scripture moves towards an ending in which all things are made new and sin and evil is finally defeated. What is more, the good news is that none need perish in the process – all who put their trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord will be saved.
QUESTION
What does it mean to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness?
It is simply WHAT WE FOCUS OUR LIVES UPON
ILLUSTR
Liz has a digital camera that focuses automatically on the object she want to photograph. But one day it went faulty and the automatic focus mechanism began to drift every time, leaving everything in a blur.

POINT
Our Christian lives can be like this. GOD DIRECTS US TO FOCUS ON THE KINGDOM. But we all too easily drift from focusing on God’s kingdom in our lives, and when we do so everything turns into a blur.
We will always have the tendency to drift. But we CAN ALWAYS REFOCUS and fix the direction of our lives on the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

HOW DO WE DO THIS?

1. THE KINGDOM
John Stott in his commentary on Matthew states that to seek is first to desire = to desire more than anything else to see in everything the Kingdom rule of Christ.

The Kingdom of God is a description of the God’s rule – partially in this present, earthly life, and fully in the future.

Examples
• It is to desire justice for the poor – whether the nations or the poor, powerless and marginalized in society.
• It is to seek to make Jesus Christ known to those who might receive him as Saviour and Lord in a personal response of faith.
• It is to seek each day to ‘take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ’
• It is desire, and to make our goal, the fulfillment of what we pray for: ‘your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.
APPLIC/CHALLENGE
• What is the focus of your life this morning?
• Is your concern for your personal well-being greater than our concern for the Kingdom?
• What is first in our list of priorities? The Kingdom or our personal need?

MOTIVE
The better we know ourselves the more aware we may be that our concerns for our wellbeing are often greater than our concerns for the Kingdom.

We may even decide to seek first God’s Kingdom and righteousness because our main concern is for our own personal security, well-being and freedom from worry!

APPLICATION
• Are we more concerned with what the Lord might do for us? Or with what we might do for the Lord?
Seeking first the kingdom means to do so with pure motive.

2. HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS
Again, John Stott says:
To seek his righteousness refers to our social responsibilities because God hates injustice.

SHARING
Let’s not forget the plural; that there is a community dimension to what Jesus is saying.
POINT
Jesus addressed the people as a community = a group of disciples.
They were expected to share not only with one another but also with the poor. The early church put this into practice.

Jesus was explicit. He gave a list of do’s and don’ts.
19-21 DON’T store up treasure on earth,
DO store up treasure in heaven
22-23 DON’T focus on the things that worry you;
DO focus on God’s priorities instead
24 DON’T be controlled by a drive to be wealthy
DO focus your life on pleasing God first
25-34 DON’T focus on your fears, doubts and issues of
financial security
DO seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness

APPLICATION: Faith states that God will take care of his own interests, and if we make God’s interests our interests then God will take care of us too. But only as we seek to take care of others.
QUESTION
Some committed Christians might today be asking the question, ‘Why is it that we still have material needs that are not being met when we have made it our priority to seek first the Kingdom of God?’
Sometimes it is an issue of faith
ILLUSTRATION
George Muller, by the end of his life, built five large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans. The entire
time, he depended on God’s response to his prayer of faith to supply the needs of the orphans in his care. Through faith he raised thousands of pounds to meet their needs.

He described faith in these terms: Faith is the assurance that the thing which God has said in His Word is true, and that God will act according to what He has said in His Word. This assurance, this reliance on God’s Word, this confidence is FAITH.

ii. There is a place for sharing our resources.
ILLUSTRATION
In the early church there were widows in need. Their needs were provided by the church. Also, churches that could assisted other churches in times of famine.
POINT
God promises to meet our NEED as God sees it and we understand it.
The statement ‘My God shall supply all your need’ Phil 4:19 is in the context of Paul telling his readers of how he had learned to be content, whatever his financial circumstances – much of which depended on generous or otherwise his fellow-Christians were to him.
There were times when he had suffered financial hardship and gone hungry. But his needs had always been met.

Application:It can be the most difficult of learning curves to be content with less that we are used to and less than we had hoped for. And at some time in the future it is a learning curve many will go through. But ‘godliness with contentment is GREAT GAIN’, and as we focus first on the Kingdom of God, not only shall we enjoy greater contentment but be satisfied with the way God meets our needs.

3. SEEK FIRST
i. It is PERSONAL – Repent and Believe
To seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness involves personal repentance and faith in Christ.
John the Baptist announced ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’.
Seeking first the kingdom means first of all surrendering our lives to the King – to Jesus as Saviour and Lord

Application:To seek first the kingdom means to get right with God
[GOSPEL]

ii. It is GLOBAL – Remember the Poor
When we pray ‘ Your kingdom come’ we follow up with the parallel statement ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.
To seek first God’s kingdom is to embrace our Lord’s mandate found in Luke 4
Luke 4:18-19
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
[19] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Application:To seek first the kingdom means to remember the poor.
It DOES include the implications of climate change and growing world population and the strains on the earth’s resources and its impact on the poor both now and on into the future.

iii. It is EVANGELISTIC – Be Witnesses
Reading Jesus’ words in Mark 16:15-16 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. [16] Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Application:There is a mandate on us to preach the gospel to others. Seeking first the kingdom means that we are not going to be complacent about this, but that we will make it our priority to be witnesses for Jesus.

iv. It is FUTURISTIC – Be Prepared
It is astonishing to read the bold statements of Jesus and of Scripture spoken over 2000 years ago in which we find predicted wars, earthquakes, famines, the increase of knowledge, the increase of wickedness, the rise of antichrists, false prophets and imposters claiming to be Christ and the statement:
Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

POINT
Jesus followed up by saying:
Matthew 24:44
So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

APPLICATION
To seek first the Kingdom means to be ready for his coming.
CONCL/APPLICATION
In a world where it pays newspaper companies to focus on the bad news;
In a world where, even as Christians, our focus will always tend to drift to the issues that cause us anxiety;
We have God’s word today directing us to focus our thoughts elsewhere and to keep them there:

Do not be anxious. Seek first his kingdom.

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