At first glance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) July employment report was disappointing. The monthly change in non-farm employment was 157,000 in July (versus 192,000 forecasted and 248,000 in June). Private payrolls increased 170,000 during July (versus 194,000 expected and June's 248,000). The unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percent to 3.9 percent as expected. Average hourly earnings increased 2.7 percent for the year as forecast. Similarly, the average weekly hours of all employees remained unchanged at 34.5 hours.
But digging deeper into the report provides a look at its more promising elements. During July, there were 155,965,000 employed—the 11th all-time record high for President Trump. Manufacturing payrolls increased 37,000 for the month (vs. 25,000 expected and 33,000 in June). Hispanic unemployment fell to 4.5 percent—an all-time record low. BLS increased May and June's employment estimate by 59,000; hence some of the lofty expectations in July's employment estimates were actually created in prior months.
Many economic reports have details that are not obvious from the headline numbers. A deep dive into the details of the data is required to get an accurate picture. Were there any unusual events during the sample period (weather, strike, bankruptcy, and so on)? When comparing new data with a previous time period, was there anything unusual during the previous period? Examining data details will often provide insight into why the number was unexpectedly large or small.
In our walk with God, we need to go deeper. The human tendency to accept a cursory conclusion can be dangerous. Many have been misled, and have misled others, because they haven't taken the time to dig deeper. Kingdom decisions are important. Some general principles should help us to go deeper for the will of God and avoid the pitfalls of rash decisions.
- Receiving new direction from God. Does it violate any biblical principle? If it does, we have not heard from God. Have we sought the counsel of other mature Christians? We are promised victory with an abundance of counselors. Is He our shepherd, and have we spent enough time in prayer to recognize the voice of the Lord? His sheep know His voice. Do we have any confirming evidence? Have we received prophecy or words of knowledge by people unfamiliar with our situation?
"All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).
"Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety" (Prov. 11:14).
"Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing His purpose to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7).
- Interpreting Scripture: What is the context of the Scripture? To whom was the author speaking? Was the Scripture intended for a wider audience or just for the listeners? Are there differences in culture which would change the meaning of the Scripture? Are there other verses which shed light on the Scripture or which repeat the principles involved? Have you checked multiple Bible versions? Have you checked well-respected Bible commentaries?
- Counsel From Other Believers: Whether the advice comes in the form of a prophetic word, advice or the counsel of well-meaning believers, we need to feel confirmation in our spirit before accepting it. Bad advice doesn't have to be ill- intentioned to cause tremendous harm. What is the reputation of the person giving counsel? Do they walk their talk? Have you attempted to receive confirmation from others (especially authorities)? Be very careful who you allow to speak into your life.
- Abiding in Christ: The best way to go deeper in our Christian walk is to get radical. Radical obedience. Radical love. Radical giving. Radical faith. We need to study and mediate on the Scriptures regularly. We need to continually thank and praise Him because He is worthy. We need to pray regularly and expect answers. We need to fellowship with other believers. We need to demonstrate love in all, because He first loved us. We need to seek the fruit and gifts of the Spirit.
"If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7).
Perhaps current sins, or our past, are keeping us from making a radical decision to go deeper in our walk with God. Jesus will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Mary Magdalene ended up as one of the most faithful women in the New Testament even though she had previously been in deep sin (Mark 16:9).
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Going deeper in our walk with God is not burdensome. The more time we spend with Him in praise and worship, reading and meditating on the Word, and prayer, the more we want to go deeper with Him. Perhaps it is time for us to get radical.
A pastor closes his service by condensing his sermon points into a few sentences and then asks the congregation to try it for a week. If we decided to get radical for God for a week, perhaps we would end up being radical for a lifetime. We would exchange a mediocre (or worse) life for a life of joy, service, peace, abundance, significance and victory. Let us begin a grand adventure with God. Let us decide to go radically deeper with God.
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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