Summary: The effects of the current financial crisis are weighing heavy on the lives of many; but we must not allow ourselves to be controlled by fear, because the Scriptures and our faith in God reassure us that we are going to be all right.
Since the middle of the 20th century, every piece of US Currency has printed on it the national motto, “In God We Trust.” Yet how many of us, when we pull a bill out of our wallets to pay a balance due, are gripped not by the confidence borne of faith, but rather by a sense of fear? We find ourselves in the midst of an economically frightening time. We cannot trust our financial institutions, the stock market, our banks, or our government and we find ourselves very afraid. The fear that grips us in our present situation may indeed be the most potent enemy we are facing today, worse even than the financial hardships themselves.
Over three-quarters of a century ago, our nation found itself in a financial crisis of epic proportions, not unlike our present state. In the midst of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President. I would like for us to hear today some of the words he spoke in his first inaugural address, beginning with these: “[L]et me first of all assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” FDR goes on to say, “In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory…In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels. Taxes have risen, our ability to pay has fallen, government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income, the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade, the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side, farmers find no markets for their produce, the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
“More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.
“Yet,” says Roosevelt, “Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we still have much to be thankful for.”
And that, my friends, is the key for us in this present age. We still have much to be thankful for. In the face of whatever may challenge us, we must believe and not be afraid. This is precisely the message which Paul is urging upon Timothy, and all the readers of this pastoral letter. Our hopes should not be in the uncertainty of riches, but in God who richly provides. The question is not “if” but “when” the economic downturn will be reversed. When we look at past economic trends, there was always a significant turn-around after a time of loss. While we wait for that rise, the reality is that more people may lose their jobs or their homes. Others may need to sell their cars because they can no longer afford the payments. Many may need help and support. And some may not feel the effects of the financial crisis at all. But we must not allow ourselves to be controlled by fear because we are a people of faith, and the Scriptures and our faith in God reassure us that we are going to be alright.
“Do not fear, for I am with you,” says the prophet Isaiah. “Do not be afraid, for I am your God.” Indeed, God is with us in the midst of whatever crisis we may be facing in our lives, financial or otherwise. But to know this comfort, we have to keep our faith in God. We cannot bend to the whims of society, which tell us that security lies in wealth. At the heart of our current situation is the credit crisis. Credit comes from the Latin word credo, which means “I believe” or “I trust.” When credit is extended to us, it is with the trust that those resources will be repaid. But as we now see very clearly, trust in the material, in the things of this world, is as fragile as sifting sand. We have borrowed beyond our means for too long because we sought security in acquisition. As Christians, our credo, our belief and our trust, is in God and God alone. We affirmed that this morning when we said together the Apostles’ Creed. As you recall it begins with this phrase, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” We believe in God Almighty, our trust is in Jesus Christ, “his only Son, our Lord,” the Savior of the world. But do we really live out this belief in our lives or have we put our trust in the wrong places and now find ourselves consumed by fear?