The Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) December Employment report was very strong. From the headline numbers to the details, everything about the report was a blowout. The monthly change in non-farm employment was 312,000 (130,000 above pre-report expectations and 136,000 above November). The change in total private employment was estimated at 301,000 (116,000 above forecasts and 128,000 above November). The monthly change in manufacturing employment was 32,000 (12,000 above expectations and 5,000 above November). October and November employment were revised upward by a total of 58,000.
The workforce is optimistic. Average hourly earnings increased 0.4 percent for the month compared to the forecasted 0.3 percent and November's 0.2 percent. The December Unemployment rate jumped to 3.9 percent, which was above the November rate and forecasts of 3.7 percent. But the reason for the jump was not a lack of jobs.
The combination of greater job prospects and higher wages encouraged more people to join the work force. The civilian labor force increased by 419,000 and was the reason for the higher unemployment rate. The average workweek increased to 34.5 hours. Voluntary job leavers increased to 142,000 in December, as more workers felt optimistic enough to leave their current jobs.
The December report documents the current job market is very strong. At the present time, there are more job openings than people searching for employment. A mismatch of skills is an issue. But, with today's job market some companies are willing to hire workers and train them with the skills they need.
The kingdom of God has similar worker issues. For the last 2,000 years, the kingdom has had a shortage of workers, especially trained workers. Because of His compassion, the Lord put out the spiritual equivalent of a help wanted sign. He indicated that it was harvest time and the harvest is bountiful, but the Kingdom needs workers.
But when He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they fainted and were scattered, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest, that He will send out laborers into His harvest" (Matt. 9:36-38).
The Lord, through the Holy Spirit, taught that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. But there is a problem. They have to believe in Him. They have to hear about Him. Someone has to carry the good news The Lord called even the feet of those who bring the good news beautiful.
For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring good news of good things!"
Paul warned Timothy of conditions which will be present in the last days. Specifically, many people will not endure sound doctrine, will reject the truth and turn to myths. They will find teachers that teach what they want to hear. Although some will have a form of godliness, they will deny its power.
"For the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, but they will gather to themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, having itching ears, 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn to myths" (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
"having a form of godliness, but denying its power. Turn away from such people" (2 Tim. 3:5).
In the United States, most people have at least heard of Jesus and the cross. But the Jesus they have heard from some pulpits and ministries may be unlike the Jesus of Scripture. Similarly, the example they have seen from too many believers is not one which they would wish to emulate. People need and deserve a clear, concise, accurate, biblical and Spirit empowered explanation of Jesus and the work He did for all. Similarly, this world needs to see loving, humble, compassionate, sacrificing, united, committed believers who model the entire gospel with their lives.
We are called to be witnesses. We have been asked to make disciples. We are supposed to be biblically literate. We are called to go into all the world with the gospel. Specifically, we are supposed to be kingdom-empowered missionaries everywhere we go. What differences could be made if the world of business, government, education, health care, entertainment, religion, journalism, publishing and other institutions were to see the examples of believers who truly followed Christ?
The world is seeking answers. Whether it is wisdom, peace, love, righteousness, security, self-confidence or outside empowerment, we have the answers. Are we willing to answer the "help wanted" notice of our Savior? Are we willing to be workers in the great latter-day harvest? Jesus is waiting for our answer.
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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