By Dr. James Emery White, Crosswalk.com
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Johannes Plenio
In October 1991, a storm stronger than any in recorded history hit off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts. A unique meteorological event, it was actually three storms combined into one: the remnants of Hurricane Grace, a front coming across the Great Lakes, and an existing weak front set to receive them both.
Sometimes, when storms collide, they can neutralize each other. Sometimes they can flip around each other, almost bumping off of each other. But sometimes—and it’s rare—they can feed off of each other and combine into what the National Weather Service calls a “Perfect Storm.”
That’s what happened in October 1991, creating an almost apocalyptic situation in the Atlantic Ocean, with boats encountering waves of 100 feet—the equivalent of a 10-story building. As you may know, this event was made into a bestselling novel by Sebastian Junger, and then a movie starring George Clooney.
Potential for a Perfect Storm
We are currently in the midst of the potential for a perfect storm, only this one isn’t meteorological. You already know two of the forces coming together—COVID-19 and the ensuing economic upheaval it has caused. These two forces are, as we speak, colliding with a third.
Will it be another “perfect storm”?
As mentioned, when storms collide they can neutralize each other, bump off of each other, or feed off of each other and combine into something devastating.
In 1991, it took a third front that was in place but somewhat weak. It couldn’t cancel anything out; it couldn’t bounce anything off. Instead, it absorbed the energy of the other two fronts and created havoc.
In our situation, the third front is our personal faith.
This means that many of us are set up for a perfect storm in our spiritual lives. We have an existing, but somewhat weak front of faith that is receiving the storms of what’s happening in our world and in our personal lives in a way that gives these storms the foothold they need to wreak havoc in our spiritual lives.
Perhaps it is because our faith in God is real, but new.
Financial Faith in God Is Tested
This can be particularly testing when it comes to financial faith in God, which is one of the most difficult, advanced areas to maintain faith for any believer.
Without a doubt, it is the financial ramifications of the pandemic more than the virus itself that is most challenging. This past January, our church went through a series on what it means to bring our financial lives under God’s leadership. Countless individuals and couples made the decision to begin trusting God with their money and following His principles.
I can only imagine how those faith steps are being tested.
Choices Build Faith
Faith is like a muscle. When you use it in new areas, it can hurt at first. It takes time to build strength, to have choices become habits and habits become disciplines. It takes time to find out how faithful God really will be as you are faithful to Him, and to then keep trusting Him time after time.
This is why this is such a pivotal moment in all of our lives, no matter where our faith is being tested. It holds the potential for creating a perfect storm set to do horrific damage to the one thing you need most secure, most protected, most alive at this moment in history: faith in God.
What you must not have is a weak front of faith. This means you cannot give in to fear.
Fear Is the Enemy of Faith
Instead, go deeper in your faith. Remind yourself what you have faith in and why it has strength in your life.
Intriguingly, when the Bible talks about faith in God, much of it is expressed in terms of financial faith. The reason is simple: nowhere will your faith in God be tested more than in the arena of money. This is why money is the number one area of our life where God seeks to assure us that He can be counted on if we’ll just trust Him and follow His principles.
In our Online Campus this past weekend we looked at these words from Jesus:
“So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not.
“And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you? You have so little faith!
“So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing...Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” (Matthew 6:25-33, NLT)
Financial Crises Cannot Overcome Faith
Yes, the pandemic is real and changing how we live our daily lives, and it’s threatening the lives of many we know and love. Yes, the economic havoc is real and will be real for months to come.
But the third front in this storm need not be weak. It can be strong. So strong that it might cancel the other two forces out, even exercising such strength that they bounce off of it when they interact.
During the financial crisis of 2008, Tony Carnes wrote of an executive at one of Wall Street’s leading investment banks. He was in bed, watching a CNBC report that his competitors were going belly-up. He said he was surprised at how quickly it had come. He knew his company could be next. He prayed it wouldn’t be.
His wife rolled over and asked, “Are you worried?”
“No, I’m not,” he said.
She asked, “Are you stressed?”
He thought about that for a minute, and he said, “Even if the worst happens, we will still be together as a family and have Christ who loves and cares for us.”
Source: Tony Carnes, “In Crisis, Wall Street Turns to Prayer,” Christianity Today, September 19, 2008, read online.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.