In God We Trust
Grace United Methodist Church
September 6, 2009
1 Timothy 6: 6-8, 17-19
6Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.
17As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
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?
Indeed, fear is a natural human response. There is no avoiding fear in the midst of the horrors of this world. The question is this, what will we do when fear strikes? Above all, we must seek Jesus and we must cling to God. In the midst of crisis and financial worries, Christ offers us comfort and hope. He says, “[D]o not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?…But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Our greatest security rests in God in Christ Jesus, and in him, as Paul tells Timothy, we must place our hope. In the midst of financial crisis, we cannot let our faith wane. When we place our faith in God and follow God’s will for our lives, then we are “storing up for [our]selves the treasure of a good foundation for a future.” In such a foundation, says Paul, we may “take hold of the life that really is life.”
Even as we hear Paul’s assurance of life in God, there is a difficult message that comes with it. How do we know and experience this life ourselves? Paul tells us that we are “to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.” I think we all know this is difficult to do, especially when funds are as tight as they are right now for so many people. But it is possible, and as an example, let me tell you a story about this very church. Grace, like many other churches and non-profits, is in a very tight place right now too, and really has been for some time. Even today, we are in the midst of an increasingly precarious financial situation, one that grows more dire each day. Let me assure that as we work through these present times our leadership will be faithful and will keep you informed. As one member told me this week, “We’ve never had a lot of money, but we get by.” Well, I want us to celebrate for a moment all the ways that Grace is “getting by,” all that Grace does in the name of Christ, even with extremely limited resources. On this very day, we have begun a revitalized Children’s Sunday School program. We have sent a team on mission to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi for several years. This past summer, around 20 young people walked through our doors to participate in Vacation Bible School. Our weekly Bible Study is going strong and growing. We have an amazing staff that does amazing work every week, and often goes beyond the call of duty, giving to this church in extravagant and sacrificial ways. We are in the beginning stages of gearing up for the now annual Grace Pumpkin Patch, through which potentially hundreds of people will step foot on our campus. Indeed, Grace is stepping out in faith to follow God’s will in this world; and even in the face of financial strain, great ministries are happening!
When we are faithful even in a little, God will also be faithful. Yet, part of learning faithfulness is learning to give; learning to trust God in the same way that God has placed trust in us. In the end, we will become not what we own but what we do. As the Lord asks of us, we must be ready to “do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.” We cannot in fear hopelessly grasp at the empty things of this world. You see, God has appointed us as stewards of creation. As Paul reminds us, “we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” Everything that we have is God’s. We will know assurance of faith, contentment, peace, and hope when we are able to recognize God’s generosity in our own lives and in turn be generous with others. God has entrusted us with the care of this earth’s resources, and in faith, we are to be generous with what we have; keeping hope that through our generosity we will “take hold of the life that really is life.”
Certainly, good and generous hearts build lives worth living. But the generosity God calls us to should not simply be about ourselves. In selfish thinking, we lose faith in God and in its place we invite fear and sin. The economic crisis that we find ourselves in today is in great part a spiritual crisis that has stemmed from our failure to seek God’s will in our lives and to pursue it in complete faith, totally and unabashedly giving all of ourselves in service to the kingdom. In order to keep hope alive and squash the fear that so often grips us, we must recognize our place and our task in the midst of the body of Christ. Even as we navigate these tough financial times, we are to be beacons of hope and light for others. In our striving not only to keep our own faith but simply to keep our heads above water, we must hold fast to the hope of our salvation and share the message of that salvation with the people around us; inviting them to find deliverance, redemption, hope, and a new way of life.
“In God We Trust.” This should be more than a motto printed on the bills that pass in and out of our wallets each day. This should be our life credo, the hope which keeps us from falling into fear in the midst of crisis. When we put our whole trust in God, when we have faith that God offers to us “the life that really is life,” and when we pursue that life and God’s will with goodness and generosity, then we will find the security that today seems so elusive. I would like to end as I began; with the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural address. “These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and our fellow-men.”
One of the greatest examples of ministry comes at the Lord’s Table. Before dining this last time with his disciples, Jesus knelt and washed their feet, serving those whom revered him as their Master. And then Jesus presided as the host at a table of remembrance and a table of anticipation, offering himself in sacrifice so that all who call upon the name of Christ and gather at this table might know life and life abundantly. As we share in this meal today, let us be assured in faith of the hope offered through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and let us be reminded of the summons of Christ to be in ministry in the world with glad and generous hearts; bringing hope and light throughout this land.