I recently had a conversation with a rather talented developer in the SharePoint space. For the last 10 years, she’s been working on her own as a contractor through various consulting companies. Her work is steady and she is fairly compensated. Customers like her and she likes them. But inside her is this growing swirl about how much the consulting companies charge the customer and how much they keep. She’s thinking – more and more – that perhaps it’s time for her to start her own company and go direct to these customers to realize a greater compensation for the work she is doing. But she had some questions about starting a business, so over a couple of Coke’s we talked. She’s a believer, it turns out. She wanted to know my advice.
Among several key elements, I mentioned that if she grew a business and hired employees, at some point, she would suffer for her business. “Count on it”, I said. You see, suffering for your business is part of being a Christian Business Owner. It stands to reason. It shouldn’t surprise anyone. As a Christian moves out for the Lord using his or her business to glorify God, the enemy will retaliate. And God will allow suffering too because “It is fitting that God….should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2.10). If Christ had to suffer, why do we think we’ll avoid it? Paul writes in Philippians 1.29, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.” Suffering is a visceral part of the Christian walk. It is a lie and a temptation to sin to believe that if you own a business, you can avoid most, if not all, suffering by using your wealth to buy your way to perpetual comfort and ease. When God calls you to own a business, He may very well call you, at times, to suffer. Leadership and ownership nearly always involve some level of suffering.
Sufferings are an Entrustment
All sufferings that are given to us are an entrustment from God to be stewarded for His glory. But the sufferings have other purposes too. It seems to me that sufferings help us die to ourselves – literally – to be “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 3.28). Some suffering is so severe that we wonder how we get up in the morning and keep going. Yet we do. Paul describes this in 2 Corinthians 1.8-11:
“We were under great pressure, for beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts, we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him, we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.”
Some suffering lasts for a long time – in my present situation, well over a year. I have despaired of life and I think I understand what it means to feel the “sentence of death”. I think it means that you feel as if your time is over – that it should be done – yet God keeps asking you to keep going and provides just enough for you to take the next step. So, I don’t stop – even though by all human measures, I should have stopped long ago. One feels the sentence of death. One despairs. Yet one keeps going. Yet, in myself, I can attest that while, at times, I feel waves of panic and fear, I also have an underlying sense and peace that God will provide and will take care of me and my family. It really is a peace that “passes all understanding”. This type of peace doesn’t come from the world or its’ security structures. It comes from God and God alone.
Running a business can be – and is – one of the most fulfilling things you’ll ever do. Yet it will reveal everything that is in your heart – both good and bad. Those contemplating start-ups should remember this. If you’re not prepared to suffer for your business, then don’t get into business ownership. It won’t be worth it.
Sufferings have an Eternal Purpose
There is an eternal purpose to suffering, I believe. As we suffer, we die to ourselves and learn to rely on God. We learn to rely on the one who raises the dead. And…
If we died with Him,
We will also live with Him
If we endure,
We will also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2.11-12)
When you connect this Timothy passage with James 1, where he writes “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance….”, it becomes clear that suffering is intended to grow our faith in God and our reliance on Him so that we die with Him and hence, reign with Him in eternity.
Reigning with God will mean complete dependence on Him, understanding his voice and happily – willingly – do His will without any hesitation. Suffering will be gone because we will have been perfected. Trials will no longer be needed because our faith will be complete.
Leading a business can be tough stuff. For some, it is much tougher than others. I don’t know why some Christian Business Owners seem to rarely suffer while others seem to suffer a great deal. I leave this God. But I do know that if God allows you to suffer, that He is working on you to grow and mature your faith, to help you rely on Him and to prepare you to reign with Him in eternity.
Annie Johnson Flint
As you learn to rely on Him, you’ll find that He gives and gives and gives – grace and peace and just enough strength to keep going. Consider the life of Annie Johnson Flint. Born on Christmas Eve in the small town of Vineland, New Jersey, she was welcomed by Eldon and Jean Johnson as their greatest earthly gift. Three years later, little Annie would lose her mother, who died as she gave birth to Annie’s baby sister. Mr. Johnson, who himself was suffering from an incurable disease, willed the children to the Flint family who would bring them up in the Baptist faith.
It was during a revival meeting at the age of 8 that the Spirit of God brought Annie’s young heart to faith in Christ. She always believed that at that time, she was truly converted. Though she did not join the church until 10 years later, she never doubted that “the eternal work was then wrought.” She strongly opposed the idea that young children cannot comprehend spiritual truths. She felt that divine mysteries were often plainer to the simple faith of a child than to many adults, blinded by their own prejudices and intellectual doubts.
It was about the time that Annie passed through this spiritual experience that the poetic interest began to awaken within her. She tells of the thrill of her life when she realized that she could express herself in verse. A friend of that period tells of her early recollections of Annie as she then appeared, “a pretty, dark-eyed girl with a clear olive complexion and long black curls. She was kindhearted, merry and vivacious — a favorite with the boys and girls at school.” This friend wrote: “Every Saturday afternoon we met as a select literary society of two to read our favorite poets, and then we attempted verse ourselves.”
Whether by nature or through her early Christian experience, Annie was generally disposed to be cheerful and optimistic. She looked on the bright side of life and was able to get much enjoyment out of life. Her forward-looking, lifted-up head was a characteristic attitude and was typical of the courage she was to manifest in later life. She certainly learned to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
Her acute sensitivity made her keenly alive to the needs and the wrongs of others, and — as is usual with one of this nature — also made her likes and dislikes intense. She records her greatest fault as a lack of patience with herself as well as others. She wanted to see results at once. With this was coupled a dogged persistence, and she refused to give up anything once begun until it was finished.
After high school, she spent one year in teacher training and had a position offered to her, but felt that she was really needed at home. Later in her second year of teaching, arthritis began to show itself. She grew steadily worse until it became difficult for her to walk at all, and she was soon obliged to give up her work, followed by three years of increasing helplessness. The death of both of her adoptive parents within a few months of each other left Annie and her sister alone again. There was little money in the bank, and the twice-orphaned children had come to a real “Red Sea place” in their lives.
Picture if you can the hopelessness of Annie’s position when she finally received the verdict of the doctors from the Clifton Springs Sanitarium — that henceforth she would be a helpless invalid. Her own parents had been taken from her in childhood, and her foster parents had both passed away. Her one sister was very frail and struggling to meet her own situation bravely. In later years, she always stated that her poems were born of the needs of others and not from her own need; but one knows full well that she never could have written as she did for the comfort and help of thousands of others if she had not had the background of facing those very crises in her own life.
Her verses provided a solace for her in the long hours of suffering. Then she began making hand-lettered cards and gift books, and decorating some of her own verses. Testimonies came from many directions of blessing received, so two card publishers printed some of her greetings and released the first little brochure of her poems. The publication of her booklets and the action of the Sunday School Times linked her up with a worldwide fellowship, and she carried most of the correspondence, though one wonders how she could get a pen through those poor twisted fingers. Her letters were as rich as her poems, always bringing a touch of humor that was refreshing. She loved to give to others, but was reluctant to receive, even though she suffered great times of trial and testing. Eventually she gained new understanding and learned how to share the hard moments of her life with others who could not understand the hardships of their lives. She put into poetry words that she titled, “What God Hath Promised.” And through those words and many others, she became convinced that God intended to glorify Himself through her in her weak, earthen vessel; and like Paul, she gained real assurance and could say with the apostle, the promise granted to him: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” She could also say with Paul, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” She believed that God had laid her aside for a purpose, even though that purpose was obscure to her at times. (Story taken directly from Homecoming Magazine)
Here is a hymn she wrote out of her suffering – It encourages me daily. I hope it will encourage you too.
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!
Bill English, CEO