Tag Archives: Faith

Christian Business Owners Never Stop Learning and Growing

Proverbs 8.10-11 says this:

10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,

knowledge rather than choice gold,

11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,

and nothing you desire can compare with her

The command is pretty clear: choose instruction and knowledge over money and wealth, because the wisdom that you gain from instruction and knowledge is more precious than any wealth you can accumulate.

There are many things worth more than money and wealth, the Bible teaches. This is just one instance where material wealth is deprecated in relationship to something else that God gives us. Another example is 1 Peter 1.3-7:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. [emphasis added]

Note that Peter tells us our faith is more valuable than gold – more valuable than material wealth.

It is a common temptation for Christian Business Owners to desire wealth because we have such a strong potential for creating it. When we own a business, our potential to create wealth is greatly enhanced when compared to a person who is employed with a predictable salary. And frankly, it is fun to make money. There is a feeling of satisfaction that we get when we’ve closed a big deal or earned a sizable bonus. Such reinforcements to creating wealth can build within us a deep desire to make more money – to get that feeling of satisfaction over and over, stronger and stronger.

Yet Proverbs tells us that we should pursue knowledge and instruction ahead of pursuing wealth creation. Peter reminds us that our faith is worth more than any retained earners we’ll create on our balance sheet.

Another common temptation for Christian Business Owners is to “pack it in” – to coast. To reach a certain age and then stop growing and developing, whether personally or professionally. When we do this, we’re running counter to the given assumptions of the Proverb’s passage – i.e., that we’ll be in a state of always growing and developing. Don’t let the lure of wealth with its’ comforts and perks cause you to stop learning and growing. Keep pursuing knowledge and instruction – keep pursuing learning and mentoring. Never stop. Don’t give up. Keep going. Why? Because those who stop growing become ineffective and unproductive for the work of the Kingdom (2 Peter 1.5-11):

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, our work is for the Kingdom of God, not for our businesses. Anything that gets in the way of advancing the Kingdom and our holiness and sanctification should be jettisoned. This includes “coasting” as we get older.

Be sure that your heart is not set on accumulating wealth. And be sure that you’re learning and being instructed, regularly, persistently.

Bill English

Wisdom, Faith, Suffering and Treasure

For the Christian Business owner, there are four different topics that, when integrated, informs and foundationalizes how business is to be conducted. In a sense, these four theologies are part of a larger topic area on Stewardship, but they are more than just a theoretical discussion. Indeed, when lived out to their full, they represent a life that will be filled with the greatest of joys and the most difficult of trials.

It’s Just Money

I have a saying – “it’s just money” – as a way of expressing the relative value of money to wisdom and faith. I never say “it’s just faith” because for the Christian, faith and wisdom are worth more than the most precious earthly possessions. Consider these two passages, the first on Wisdom (Proverbs 8.1-11) and the second on Faith (1 Peter 1.3-9) [emphasis added]:

1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 3 beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: 4 “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. 5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, set your hearts on it. 6 Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. 7 My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. 8 All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. 9 To the discerning all of them are right; they are upright to those who have found knowledge. 10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Clearly, the Bible teaches us that our wisdom from God and faith in God is worth more than anything. It’s just profits – it’s just money. Let’s not lose sight of that which is truly valuable: wisdom from God and faith in God. These are to be desired more than anything else on this earth, including a big business or a great reputation.

This is why a Christian Business owner does not pursue profits simply to be more profitable or to maximize shareholder value. The Christian Business owner pursues profits so that the other three purposes for business can be fulfilled: Products, Passions and Philanthropy. We recognize that when we hear the voice of God and/or are brought into greater discernment concerning the Scriptures in decision-making, that we are receiving something that is worth more than precious rubies or refined gold. We are receiving something that money cannot buy. We are receiving that which is from the very throne of God.

Suffering is Part of the Christian Experience

Most Christians – including business owners – don’t have a good theology of suffering. Consider this passage from Hebrews 5.7-10 [emphasis added]:

7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

While there are a couple of thorny theological issues in this passage that I won’t deal with in this post, one point that is abundantly clear is this: Christ was made perfect (or complete) through suffering. If our Lord was caused to suffering, then why should we think that God will also not use suffering to complete us?

One of the most damaging aspects of the Prosperity Gospel – a theology that twists the Scriptures into a world view that assumes God always wants you to be happy and rich – is that people honestly believe that suffering is a result of sin. That is a lie proffered by many who purport to be ministers of the Gospel. I believe they do it to enrich themselves. But it is a lie: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him” Paul wrote in Philippians 1.29. Inherent within the sanctification process is the process of suffering – which produces a refined faith and trust in God as well as a more tuned ear to hear His voice.

Treasure

Suffering also produces a treasure for us in heaven. Consider 2 Corinthians 4.7 – 5.1 [emphasis added]:

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” h Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

And when coupled with the command to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6.20-21) [emphasis added], we learn that for the Christian, our hearts are not set on accumulating material wealth and possessions precisely because it’s not what we value. We don’t really care if we’re rich. “Give me neither poverty nor riches” (Proverbs 30.8) is an overriding theme of the Christian’s life. These theme helps explain why many Christian Business owners live well below the standard of living that they could live at: God has called them to create wealth for the express purpose of not loving that wealth and instead, to give it away.

Summary

For the Christian Business owner, wisdom and faith are worth more than the stewardship of his or her business. Profits are seen as a means to an end – the fulfillment of the other three purposes for business. We recognize that at times, God will use our business to bring suffering into our lives, but the suffering is not about the business per se, it is about the refinement and development of our faith, trust and intimacy with God Himself. We recognize that our faith in God and the Wisdom of God are worth more than money, more than success (as defined by American business) and worth much more than our own reputations. And we understand that our suffering and faithfulness to Christ is bringing us treasures in heaven – which cannot be taken away and which we are commanded to pursue.

The Christian Business owner is a unique breed. We are counter cultural but not weird. We simply have different measures of success and assign different values to profits and money. We have a greater purpose in running a business than creating profits: we serve God through fulfilling His purposes of Products, Passions and Philanthropy.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

Comparative Value of Money and Faith

I was reading through First Peter 1 the other morning and was again struck by how our faith is worth more than precious gold:

6In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

This idea is echoed in later in First Peter 3.3:

“3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

The Christian Business Reference Architecture – which starts with who you are as a business owner – stresses the importance of a life lived in faith and obedience to God as a prerequisite to running a business God’s way. These verses extend that concept to say that within the value system of a true Disciple of Jesus Christ – even if they are business owners – is the notion that money is less valuable than faith in God.

What crossed my mind is that and abundance of either Faith or Money bring us similar things, though highly differentiated. Here are four comparative examples of what I mean. Asked another way – what does one have when they have money vs. faith? Both are valuable – but in the macro – money is valuable in the temporal world and faith is valuable in the eternal world. What we’re asking Christian business owners to do is to flip those realities: value faith over money in this temporal world as you look toward living in the eternal world. At any rate, here are four comparative examples of what I’m trying to express. In the first row, both money and faith bring us power – but very different kinds of power with different effects and different results:

Element Money Faith
Power The more money one has, the more power one has to make decisions, enter into advantageous relationships, tell others what to do and ensure one’s personal comfort. The more righteous one lives and the more mature one’s faith is in God, the more powerful are one’s prayers to God (James 5.16) and the less bondage one has to sin.
Treasures Lots of money can buy lots of things – usually large and expensive: houses, cars, positions, influence, membership, thrills, experiences and so forth. But the treasures purchased with money are temporal and fleeting. (Luke 12.14-21) Our faith is worth more than money, so a mature, deep faith in God brings about a “richness” that is stable and eternal. The “treasures” of faith never spoil or fade (Matthew 5). They are fully enjoyed in heaven, partially enjoyed on earth.
Access High amounts of money brings access to political and business leaders and sometimes access to religious leaders too. Faith is always noticed by Jesus and honored. Look at how many times Christ responded to even the smallest of faith in the Gospels. When you have faith in God, you get access to God
Giving People with large sums of money usually give away enough money to look good, but they don’t give sacrificially. Giving money rarely involves giving of one’s life too. They will give their money, but will lose their soul. (Matthew 6.33) When your faith is deep and mature in Christ, you’ll happily give away your life because you know of God’s provision and purpose for your life. And you’ll save your soul in the process (Matthew 6.33)

 

As Christian Business Owners, all God asks is that we value what He values more than what our American system of business says we should value. The four purposes for business – products, passions, profits and philanthropy – represent four core values that cannot be held in balance and then lived out without a deep and abiding faith in God and His work in our lives.

The comparative value of money and faith is essentially this: money brings us temporal, but substantial power, treasure, access and opportunities for philanthropy. Faith brings us power, treasure, access and opportunities to give of ourselves. The question is this: which do you desire more? You cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 5). As a Christian business owner, I ask you this simple question: which do you value more? Money or faith?

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

Leadership Lessons – Part VI: David Fights Goliath – Part III

Being Yourself in Your Calling

Reading from 1 Samuel 17.15-40:

Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”

26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”

28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.

32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

41Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.

In this study on the leadership lessons that God taught David as he was preparing to be King of a nation, David had learned:

The lesson of being underestimated: People may underestimate what a leader can accomplish based on any number of factors.

The lesson of submission: In order to be a good leader, one must first be a good follower

The lesson of knowing when to risk: Leaders take risk in order to lead. Knowing when to assume risk and when to demur from risk is essential for good leadership

The Lesson of Authenticity: Being Yourself in Your Calling

After David had learned what Goliath was doing day after day – defying Israel and the Lord Himself, David inquires about the reward for the man who would take out Goliath. One wonders if David hadn’t already decided in his heart to go fight, but was asking this question in almost as a sidebar. David’s larger motivation, it seems, is to defend the name of the Lord and defeat a rather annoying and arrogant person in the process: Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

His own brother’s “despised” him. The text doesn’t tell us why, so we are left to speculation. It seems to me that they despised him because, in part, he was showing a faith in God and a confidence that (in their minds) bordered on arrogance. There is often a fine line between confidence and arrogance and those who are not walking closely with God often get the two confused. David learns that those who most oppose you as you move out for God may be those who are closest to you. And we also learn that it is not unbiblical to be motivated by rewards – cf. Matt 6.19-24.

So David volunteers to fight Goliath. He is probably around 20 at this point. When he is taken to Saul, the King, who himself is terrified of Goliath, Saul discounts David to his face. He tells him he is too Young to fight and that he lacks the proper experience to handle a difficult situation like this. Doesn’t David know that Goliath is older, wiser, and more experienced at fighting? It is so often true that those in leadership who demonstrate an inability to solve tough problems will still discount those who think they can. Saul is portrayed as a man hanging onto a no-win situation – something that leaders who move projects, teams, organizations or countries forward – cannot afford to do. And we learn that those who have deep faith in God never find themselves in a no-win situation because with God, all things are possible.

So David gives his resume to Saul. He has killed lion and bear and besides, God will kill Goliath for His own glory. David couches this in terms of rescue: God will rescue me from Goliath. The only possible way that God could do this without bringing shame on His name is to ensure that David kills Goliath.

Consenting to this seemingly foolish plan, Saul nevertheless wants to give David every chance possible to win. So, Saul dresses David in His armor. Now, remember that Israel didn’t have swords and spears for every fighting man. Only Saul had such weapons. In this context, a sword was the latest and greatest weapon of warfare. The Philistines had them – the Israelites did not. The present day analogies are clear: To be successful, one must adopt the latest techniques and technologies. So, do this ministry this way and you’ll be successful using our methods and our tools and our philosophies. But David is right to throw off such things: If the present leader’s methods, tools and philosophies have rendered that leader (in this case, Saul) impotent to lead a nation against a Goliath (or any seemingly insurmountable problem), why would those who believe that Goliath can be defeated depend on that leader’s ways? If the leader’s dependence on the latest techniques and technologies, methods, tools and philosophies have rendered that leader unable to act, why would we adopt those elements if we intend to win? Saul is the picture of a leader who is paralyzed by the belief that there is no winnable solution. And this is because he lacks faith and confidence in the power of God.

David rejects the armor and will kill Goliath as he had the lion and bear – with the King’s armor. David will trust God for deliverance. So he goes to the brook and picks up five stones , though he will need only one. David approaches Goliath alone. Note the contrast: Goliath – big, bold and bombastic – has a shield bearer in front of him. David – confident and swift – comes alone. David predicts victory and gives the glory to God before it happens: This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.

David “ran quickly” toward Goliath. Note the contrast: Israel “ran” from Goliath while David “ran” toward him. We learn from this that Godly leaders “run toward the bullets” and take care of problems quickly and decisively. David slings his stone and kills Goliath, who falls face down, just as Dagon had fallen earlier (5.1-5). For those who don’t walk with the Lord (both unsaved and carnal Christians), God’s way seems foolish to them. Yet, often, God’s way is one of comparative loneliness and risk. David didn’t ask Saul to “back him up” – David had the Lord and that was enough for him.

This victory defied natural explanations. David didn’t use conventional techniques or the latest technologies. Yet this victory brought to each nation what they needed: Israel needed to see God at work and the Philistines needed to know that God exists and is more powerful than any of their gods. America is such a stunningly unbelieving nation: we search high and low for natural explanations for miracles. We defy faith, unless it is faith in ourselves. And some Christians make it worse: they are only interested in miracles of healing or other “cool” stuff that provides immediate excitement but little long-term glory to God. But if you want to see the full power of God at work, then consider this: the greatest miracle that God ever performs is a life changed because God has regenerated them and given them a new heart and a new nature (cf 2 Corinthians 4).

At the end, the writer doesn’t tell us that Saul thanks David or is pleased with David’s faith and what God accomplished through him, instead, Saul appears to not know who David’s father is and is most concerned about having him join his court. Saul is the picture of a leader who has the form of Godliness but lacks its’ real power. Saul is the picture of a self-centered leader who intended to follow God but who really doesn’t. The church has many such leaders.

Learning the lesson of Authenticity:

  • Being faithful to the experiences that God has given you
  • Being faithful with the gifts that God has given you
  • Being true to the methods you feel comfortable with and which have stood the test of time

What we learn from David’s route of Goliath is this:

  • Don’t be surprised if opposition to your ministry efforts come from those closest to you
  • Rewards are sometimes a proper motivation
  • Godly leaders “run toward the bullets” and take care of problems quickly and decisively
  • Greatest miracle is a life changed because God has regenerated them
  • Godly leaders factor in God’s presence and power: Ungodly leaders do the opposite
  • Faith in God plus your willingness to follow God is a greater combination than anything the world can throw at you

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

Each One of Us will be in This Place Someday

Dear friends of ours in another city recently experienced the loss of her mother. I’ve copied part of their email here in this blog post to remind us all that we each will one day face this situation. This story touched me – not only because of the tenderness between Lisa and her mom, but also because of their faith in Christ. Nearly all of what we do on this earth is meaningless – that’s one of the core messages of the book of Ecclesiastes. But how and why we do what we do will matter a great deal in eternity. If you’ve never accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, I invite you to contact me to learn more how you can know Him personally and be assured of your eternal life.

Here is part of their email to us:

“It was a crazy week last week with Natalie’s high school graduation and then Lisa’s mom.   She went into the hospital on Friday, May 11, suffering with severe pain in her legs.  After a couple days of tests, they discovered a number of blood clots in both legs that blocked the circulation.   Long story short, she had one surgery to remove the clots, but after a week in the hospital she was extremely weak, the blood clots were returning to her legs and she was starting to have other complications.  It got to the point where a foot or leg amputation would be required in order to save her life.  She was still lucid enough to tell Lisa and her brother/sister that she didn’t want any further treatment but instead was ready to “go home”.   She also wanted Lisa to be at our home, celebrating Natalie’s graduation.    They put her into hospice care on Friday, May 18.    Lisa was OK staying away as she was able to talk to her mom some during the hospital stay. But she was really worried that her mom would try to hang on in the midst of terrible suffering until we could get [back to her mother] early this week.  Our prayer was that [Lisa’s mom] would not suffer and would not linger on.  What an answer to prayer Lisa got!  On Sunday morning when we first got up, Lisa felt a strong need to call the hospice.  The nurse told her that her mom was failing pretty fast and couldn’t talk but could still hear.    They held a phone up to her mom’s ear and Lisa was able to tell her all about Natalie’s graduation, to thank her for being a great mom and to tell her how much we all loved her.  As Lisa was finishing talking the nurse came back on the line and told her that her mom passed away while Lisa was talking to her.   The nurse believed her mom was holding on until she got to talk to Lisa one last time.  That was a huge answer to prayer and a huge comfort to Lisa – that her mom wasn’t suffering anymore. Her mom lived a long (92 years) full life and was in remarkably good health right up until the end…”

 

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

What Does the Bible Have to Say About Opportunity?

I’m teaching Sunday School today at church. I felt led to teach on the subject of “opportunity”. Here is what I’ve learned in my studies. What’s interesting is that in the word studies, there was a fairly strong connection between the concepts of “opportunity”, “season or period of time” and “Appropriateness of Action”. Here are my notes, for your encouragement. If you do use this outline, please give proper attribution.

When running a business, opportunity is always knocking at your door. The art of leading is knowing which opportunities to pursue and which ones’ to decline. Taking advantage of opportunities vs. staying focused on the short- and long-term strategies of the company is a balancing act that requires maturity and discernment in the leadership of the company. Many small business owners struggle in this area.

Introduction

Quotes:

“luck is when opportunity meets preparedness” (unknown)

“without the strength to endure the crisis, no one will see the opportunity within” (Chinese Proverb)

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. (Thomas Edison)

Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently (Henry Ford)

We are all faced with great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations (Charles Swindoll)

 

Good Biblical Definition?

Opportunity is an event or moment at which actions of importance or significance can be achieved.

  • Greek word (Kairos)
    • It is more than a succession of moments (chronos)
    • Critical or decisive point in time
    • Period marked by distinct conditions
  • Hebrew Word translated in the Septuagint from Genesis 1.14:
    • “seasons” – to set or appoint a time
    • Used to translate a variety of Hebrew words, but the core meaning is a period of time in which conditions are right for a particular course of action

What can we learn?

  1. Times of opportunities must be discerned – Ecc 3.1
  2. Every possible opportunity to do good should be taken:
    1. Galatians 6.10
    2. Luke 10.33
    3. John 9.4
    4. Ephesians 5.16
    5. Colossians 4.5
    6. 2 Timothy 4.2
  3. Examples of opportunities
    1. Rahab saved the spies and her household – Joshua 2.8 – 14
    2. Naaman’s wife’s maid helped Naaman by telling her mistress about Elisha – 2 Kings 5.1-3
    3. Nehemiah gained permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem – Nehemiah 2.2-5
    4. Esther saved the Jews from Haman’s plot – Esther 4.14, 7.3-6
    5. Daniel offered to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream – Daniel 2.14-16
    6. Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos – Acts 18.24-26
    7. David could have killed Saul – 1 Samuel 24
  4. Common threads in these opportunities (with application):
    1. Foresight: The opportunity was noticed – it’s easy to see in hindsight – not so easy to see with foresight
      1. Watch and Pray – often it will take the Holy Spirit prompting you about the opportunity
    2. Action: The actor acted – took action – didn’t just “pray about it”
      1. Take Action – be balanced between waiting on God and taking action
      2. Appropriateness – the course of action is indicated by the opportunity at hand
    3. Discernment: not all opportunities should be followed
      1. Ensure the Lord is directing you
    4. Risk: Most opportunities involved risk
      1. Accept Risk – IF God is directing, it’s always an acceptable risk
      2. Set Fear Aside – cannot move out with risk if you’re afraid
    5. Dependence: All opportunities involved dependence on the Lord
      1. Depend on the Lord – but get going
    6. Prepared: All of the actors were prepared before the opportunity ever came along
      1. Personal and professional development is a lifelong effort – Eph 2.10
    7. Unique: Each opportunity was a singular event – it would likely never come again
      1. Have a sense of urgency – *now* is the time

The Call of Abraham to the Promised Land

There have been a number of people whom I have heard exegete Genesis 12.1: “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” I am not so much concerned with Abram’s obedience in this post. Instead, I am concerned with the nearly universal conclusion that Abraham had no idea where he was going. His leaving his country is usually portrayed as Abraham starting out in faith and moving forward that God would show him where he is going. Indeed, if one were take this verse out of context, that is precisely the proper interpretation.

But look at 11.31-32, which says in part: “…and together they set out for UR of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.” And the consider 12.4-6: “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him…he took…all the possessions they had accumulated…in Haran and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.”

It is my interpretation that even before 12.1, Abraham knew he would end up in Canaan and that the phrase “go to the land I will show you” is more of an idiom that essentially says: “I want to show you the land that I’ve already told you to go to”. I think leaving on pure faith that is interpreted that Abram had no idea where he was going in 12.1 is incorrect. He knew where God was taking him – as stated in 12.4-6. He “set out” for the land of Canaan. Most will disagree with me. I’m fine with that. It won’t be the first time I’ve been in the minority.

Now, why make such a fuss about all this?

Because, in business, you can’t just hope that you’re moving in the right direction without something certain from the Lord. Most business owners get into business, not because they planned it, but because it just “happens” to them. After a few years, they often realize that they need to refine and hone the mission, vision and purpose of the business in order to ensure they are moving on the right track into the future. Bathed in prayer, all of this can be found in direction from the Lord. But I’ve not met anyone who has said, “God told me to start a business, but He didn’t tell me what that business would be” and then moved to form a business without first knowing what the business would be. Many have long-term ideas as to what they want to do and what their business might look like – just like Abraham had a long-term view that he was headed to Canaan even though he stopped for a number of years in Haran.

God may give you a future vision for a business but allow you to take time doing something else (your stop in Haran) before he definitely calls you to action on owning a business. There is nothing wrong with this. But when the call comes, be sure to obey and move out. He will supply your desire and funding to get your business going. And you’ll find that owning a business will be a journey that will hone your love for the Lord and your ability to work with people.

I really believe that we can change our nation if we could coalesce Christian business owners around a common purpose and theme. I will write my vision statement in my next blog post.

Bill English

Do We Pursue that Which is Most Valuable?

I was reading in Luke 3 this morning the following:

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”

I’m sure most of us have heard sermons on how all these rich, powerful, influential people were unworthy to receive the Word of God. In other words, God’s word came to a low, poor and un-powerful person in the wilderness. The potential for abuse of interpretation is obvious.

One cannot argue from this passage that the poor are inherently closer to God than the rich,  though I can imagine that some have tried. My interpretation is that the Word of God came to John, not because he was out-of-the-loop politically or was poor or was not powerful, but because he had a strong faith in God and had a calling on his life. If Herod had turned his life over to God, I believe the Word of God could have come to him too.

My thoughts then turned to First Peter 1 where we are told that our faith is more valuable than gold. If you have lived in the United States over the last few years, you cannot have missed the gold commercials on TV and radio. Everyone is selling gold as the ultimate, most secure form of wealth. But the Scriptures tell us that our faith is worth more than gold – that our faith is the most secure form of wealth.

One of the things that I must pursue as a business owner is profits. No business (and non-profits seriously need to learn this) can exist indefinitely without profits. Profits are good. Profits are a social good. Profits are a spiritual good. Profits show you’re doing something right. Profits enable you to live to fight another day. And it is from profits that we create wealth for the Kingdom of God. I was sitting in my hotel room yesterday (am at a conference in San Diego this week) with another business owner. He and I were discussing how we need to make a profit and how we want to make a large profit over the next 5-15 years. We talked at length about where we think the market is going and how we hope to survive in this market. But never once did we discuss that which is the most valuable “asset” that we have been given – our faith in Christ.

As a business owner, what do I pursue? In all cases, the first pursuit should be the growth of my faith – growth in sanctification and holiness. Growth in my faith in God and in my love for Him. Pursuing profits is good and is part of what we do as business owners. But if we pursue profits alone without a great emphasis and energy spent in growing our faith in God, then our efforts are in vain. So, today, if you run a business or own a business – be sure to pursue the First Pursuit – and that is your faith in God.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

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