After the worst new year start in history, the U.S. stock market has reversed course. The S&P 500 Stock Index turned positive for the year (+ 0.28 percent year to date).
It is now 13.2 percent higher than its 52-week low. It has gained one percent each week for the last five weeks, which has not occurred since the spring of 2009. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also turned positive for the year and posted similar increases.
In addition, the Empire State (New York) and Philadelphia Fed manufacturing reports were surprisingly strong. The Empire State index of general business conditions ended seven months of declines by increasing from -16.64 in February to 0.62 in March. New orders, shipments, and average workweek components all grew. Similarly, the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing business activity index reversed a five months tumble by increasing from -2.8 to 12.4 from February to March.
Time will tell whether the turnarounds are a long-term reversal or a short-term blip. But, economic data suggest caution. For the S&P 500 index, the current price to earnings ratio is estimated to be a very high 23.6; which suggests a fall in stock prices and/or increase in profits. Given burdensome U.S. inventories in relation to sales, slowing U.S. retail sales, a still strong U.S. dollar, and feeble global economy, falling U.S. stock prices are more likely.
Citizens of the kingdom also face reversals. The reversal, or change in direction, can be voluntary or involuntary, good or bad, temporary or long-term. But as sons and daughters of the most high God, we know that any negative reversal can change into something good.
"We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28, MEV).
When threatened with a negative reversal, the Bible is filled with God-ordained strategies. Jehoshaphat provides a good example. A large multitude of Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites were coming against Judah for battle (2 Chronicles 20:1).
Although Jehoshaphat was fearful, he took action. He did not wallow in fear, depression, self-pity, or anything else. He decided to seek the Lord. He called a fast throughout Judah and summoned everyone together for prayer (2 Chron. 20:2-4).
As Jehoshaphat led the congregation in prayer he expressed:
- the rulership of the Lord, His sovereignty, and His might (2 Chronicles 20:6);
- a history of the Lord's faithfulness (2 Chronicles 20:7-8);
- the promises of the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:9);
- the current situation and the justice of their requests (2 Chronicles 20:10-11);
- their petition, helplessness, and faith in the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:12).
They were open to the Lord and He did not disappoint. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel and he prophesied that the battle was the Lord's, told them where the enemy would be, and told them to take their positions and observe.
Jehoshaphat expressed thankfulness and did as commanded. With strong faith, he sent the singers before the army. The enemy destroyed each other and Judah was three days gathering the spoils. Jehoshaphat led Judah in triumphant praise, and experienced quiet the rest of his days (2 Chron. 20:18-30).
Negative reversals are not an issue if we approach the problem the way the Lord commanded. We should:
- allow any fear to motivate us to fast and pray;
- remind ourselves of His faithfulness and promises;
- get others involved;
- expect the supernatural;
- be open to the Spirit;
- implement any strategies directed by the Lord;
- be thankful throughout the process.
Negative reversals are nothing to fear. We are citizens in the kingdom. Our Lord is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 6:9).
Dr. James R. Russell is professor of economics and chair of the Undergraduate College of Business at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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