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During tough times, work hard, take responsibility, be hopeful

You want a bailout?

Bank of America got one. General Motors got one. So, too, did American Express.

Why not you?

Many Americans find themselves envying the corporations that have been rescued – for now – from economic collapse with truckloads of taxpayer cash.

We lightheartedly ask the question at water coolers and soccer games: “Who’s going to bail me out?”

And we’re only half joking.

Let’s be careful what we wish for.

If a government reflects its citizens, then we ought to be bothered by what we see in the mirror. This age of bailouts reveals a quick-fix culture that prefers not to own its mistakes, or do the hard work necessary to get out of trouble, let alone prosper once again.

I won’t judge whether bailouts make for good government. But I’m troubled by what this bailout culture suggests about heart attitudes, including my own, at times.

So I’ve run to the Bible for some encouragement and direction. Here’s what I found:

1. God desires for us to work hard, rather than presume on someone else to meet our needs.

“He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame” (Proverbs 10:4-5, NKJV).

No, the Bible is not telling us to pursue riches by working nonstop. It’s telling us that God’s way of providing for our needs often is through our own hard, thoughtful, consistent labor.

It’s not government’s responsibility, nor yours, to provide for me.

Again, proverbs are instructive: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer, or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-7).

2. Our mistakes are our own, so let’s own the consequences.

King David’s confession of sin, recorded in Psalm 51, is the ultimate example of owning up to missteps.

David, as you know, was a fellow who committed adultery, who sometimes lived selfishly, who sometimes soaked in self-pity.

But he didn’t stay that way.

Here’s his take on mistakes, even big ones: “For I acknowledge my transgressions … against You, You only, have I sinned …” (Psalm 51:3-4).

David does something we all need to do from time to time: own up to our part in whatever mess we’re in; stop blaming, stop excusing.

3. Troublesome times often are used by God to shape us.

Make no mistake; I don’t welcome life’s trials. When I’m in them, I want out. Just like you.

But the Bible tells us that God works through those trials. To wish to be bailed out all the time is to miss out on God’s best for us in the long run.

James 1 says it better: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4, NLT).

Rather than pining for a bailout, God would have us trust him through our trials and even look forward to the good that he will bring out of them.

You know, it really seems to me that our nation has more faith in government and its ways than God and his ways. Christian friends, that should not be true of us.

Don’t wish for a bailout.

Trust in the Lord. Take seriously his design for working hard, owning our mistakes and enduring trials hopefully.

Steve Massey is the pastor of Hayden Bible Church in Hayden, Idaho ( www.haydenbible.org). He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or steve@haydenbible.org.


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