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In a few weeks in the autumn of 2008 the economies of the developed nations of the world have come crashing down. No-one seems to be exempt; the rot started in the USA, with the so-called 'sub-prime' debacle, where money was lent to people who could not afford to pay it back, and it spread across the Atlantic to Britain and the EC, then to Asia. Each day new lows are reached in stock markets, as investors pull out in fear of greater losses. What's the problem? The word that you read day after day in the newspapers is 'confidence' - there isn't any. Banks will not lend money on the security of assets because many of those assets have been found to be overvalued, or even imaginary, and they are being very cautious about trusting anyone. This is not simply a high finance issue; the recession will mean that in the UK alone hundreds of thousands will lose their jobs, and tens of thousands their homes.

What about you and me, as Christians? We can't expect to be exempt from what is happening around us, but we can look at problems as 'trials' - tests. A 'trial' in this sense means much more than our everyday usage, when we mean just an irritation, but it's a test of our character and the source of our strength. Nobody wants to be tested in this way; in fact, when the Lord Jesus was teaching His disciples how to pray, He taught them to ask, 'lead us not into temptation ...' (Mat. 6:13). The older English words tend to give rather the wrong impression, as though God might incite us to do wrong, but this is impossible (Jas. 1:13). The Good News Bible gives the sense well; 'Do not bring us to hard testing ...' Nonetheless, we may have to face the test . How do we deal with it?

The stoic way would be to say, 'If I can't avoid it, I'm tough enough to suffer it.' That's very brave, but might it not lead to pride in our own strong-mindedness and scorn for those who are weaker? It's not God's way. Over and over again Scripture says, 'Trust in the Lord', particularly in the Psalms. Why? Because we know Him, and His character. He is almighty, so no-one can overcome His strength; gracious, so that He gives to us what we do not deserve; omniscient, so He knows what is best; loving, so He does just that. Trust in God means confidence that what He does with us will be for our good in the long term. We may often wish to be rid of a worrying trial, but God may say, 'No.' Paul wrote, ... a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness' (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

Is the result just successful, but aided, endurance? No, it's more than that. Peter writes, ... the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:7), and James adds, Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him (Jas. 1:12). Some of us in the West will have to learn, perhaps painfully, that we cannot trust in the cushion of money, or in the expectation of good health; but, if we end up putting our confidence in God, good will have come out of evil.

Bible quotations from ESV unless stated otherwise