- Success and flourishing are not handed to us on a plate – contending for them is often necessary.
- Faith properly positioned when persevering helps us to stand well when we’ve done everything.
“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible”
St Francis of Assisi
“In the same way that gold and silver are refined by fire,
the Lord purifies your heart by the tests and trials of life.”
Proverbs 17 v 3 TPT
Life is not an equation. Perhaps one day some mathematician will work out one but I’m sure that it will have many variables! Life is a journey. It has a definite start, and in purely physical terms it has a definite end.
We don’t set out on a journey without knowing the destination. We either know the route or we will have set our satnav to get us to the required destination. Perhaps you, like a lot of people, me included, have dutifully followed the satnav directions to find yourself directed to a farm gate with a route across a field, or down a single-track country lane with no passing points. What’s the point? There are occasions when we get into a situation on our journey which we find uncomfortable and perhaps really stressful. It seems like we’re in unknown or unplanned territory which isn’t on our grid of expectations or experience. How we navigate these situations is really important to make sure that we come through them with a good heart.
In our entrepreneurship, as in life, we suffer trials. James writes:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
James 1 v 2-4
And Peter writes:
“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 honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 Peter 1 v 6-7
Trials should be viewed through the lens of God’s goodness
God is good, kind, loving, intimate in his presence, and for me and not against me! He’s also committed to us persevering in faith so that we may be mature disciples being fruitful in our ministry and witness, and as a result bringing glory and honour to Jesus. There is no conflict between the two. Any loving and devoted father and mother teaches and corrects their children so that they may grow well balanced and to become great members of society. Suffering and trials should be viewed through this lens.
“God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Hebrews 12 v10-11
Faith properly positioned
Living in faith is not a recipe for an easy lifestyle! Barriers, obstacles, and opposition in the earthly and heavenly realms need to be brought down by the authority given to us by Jesus Christ. They don’t move without us exercising our authority in faith.
Faith hears the promise and grasps the hope planted in our spirits
As entrepreneurs we are called to lead in the market realm, to demonstrate redemptiveness, compassion and love whilst running an enterprise. Doing this undoubtedly requires, yes even demands, that we live in faith exercising our God-given authority. I used to get frustrated when people I talked with who were ‘living by faith’ thought being an entrepreneur was any different! The work that our clients commissioned paid our staff and suppliers, and we made profit, all by faith! The idea that we were not living by faith showed a lack of understanding of the challenges faced by the Kingdom entrepreneur.
“It is as great and difficult a spiritual calling to run the factories and mines, the banks and the department stores, the schools and government agencies for the kingdom of God as it is to pastor a church or serve as an evangelist. There truly is no division of locations into sacred and secular except what we have created. And that is why the division…. does incalculable damage to our individual lives and to the cause of Christ.”1
Here’s what I learned about faith in navigating my path to the destination. Much of this is based on what the writer to the Hebrews sets out in chapter 11.
- Faith has substance and assurance
- it provides the legal right to possess those things that we hope for (definition of hope – the expectation of good)
- it is the evidence or proof of those things that we hope for but do not yet see with our physical eyes but in our spirits peering ahead into heavenly places to see what is yet to come
- it is not a formula but a relationship
- it is supported and nourished in a believing community of faith-filled people.
Remember that faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God (Rom 10 v 17). Faith hears the promise and grasps the hope planted in our spirits. Presumption is based on wishful thinking. Being certain that we have received faith and are not living in presumption will save us much discouragement and possible rejection.
Prophecy is given to express God’s heart and intent
And what of the place of prophecy in navigating to our destination? God speaks to encourage us, to cheer us on and to assure us of his love, grace and favour. Prophecy is given to express God’s heart and intent. I had to learn that because God speaks it does not necessarily mean that ‘it will come to pass’. We pray and bring it into our world. It is partnering with God to hear, pray, act and possess while staying positioned in the place of rest and not toil. We can and should contend from the place of peace and rest. All authority has been given to Jesus Christ. That is done and nothing can undo it. We are to reinforce that authority on earth as in heaven.
Faith in perspective
The truth is that faith is always fruitful, but it may not always produce the fruit that we expect. Sometimes we are forging the way for others to inherit and follow. For example:
- Abraham waited 25 years for his son
- Moses journeyed for 40 years and didn’t reach the promised land, but Joshua did – the person he mentored
- David didn’t build the temple, but his son Solomon did
- Many prophets didn’t see the Messiah come but they saw Him from afar.
You may recall people in similar situations that you know or have heard of. Whatever happens, faith sees and receives what is ours to come. Mentoring others and passing on our legacy is such an important part of our journey. We pass on, encourage and lead those following us to stand on our shoulders and ‘make our ceiling their floor’. Pioneers of faith are well placed to equip the next generation to produce greater fruit.
We only see in part and not with the full picture as God sees. We should keep pursuing God, brush ourselves down, freshen our relationship with Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit and be renewed in faith again. We’re in the good company of pioneers who were commended by God. Note what the writer to the Hebrews says:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
So, we know God’s calling, we have his word planted in our hearts, our enterprise is flourishing, we have the assurance of God’s encouragement, and the order book is full. Great! But cash flow begins to cripple investment and staff development. I often heard it said that cash flow is king! I dispute that because Jesus is King! However, cash flow is very important, and needs to be treated seriously. There are companies who have had full order books but have had to declare bankruptcy because the business ran out of cash and the creditors would offer no further support to them.
Contending is a part of the life of an entrepreneur
I’ve been at the place where cashflow problems have a serious impact on the business – more than once! In fact, for periods of time we were in a position where we were operating at full capacity but as much as 25-30% of our debtor value was unpaid within credit terms. This seriously hampered us. Our clients we mainly large corporate organisations and we were very small in comparison. Many agreed reasonable payment cycles but then some fragrantly ignored them! We had one large organisation write to us to advise us without warning or discussion that they were unilaterally prolonging their terms from 60 days (which was already a difficulty to us) to 90 days! This was crippling! We had to consider carefully whether to advise them that in these circumstances we could no longer work with them. We were fortunate, and favoured, to have many clients, and we were able to ride cash flow problems in this way. I still had to make some difficult calls to our bank when we had to pay our employees and payments had not come in. I thank God that we had a supportive bank manager who saw our value and what we were achieving. By God’s grace they agreed to temporarily extend our overdraft facility every time to get us over the problem. We also had an accounts manager that worked hard to address cashflow issues, and with some success. I had a few trustworthy friends who prayed with us to see this situation turned around, and I developed a prayer style to address the situation. It went along the following lines:
“Father, this is your provision for me/us; it belongs to me and not my debtor/s. I release any and all obstructions and blockages. Please work in and through computer systems and software and internal arrangements, and please deal with people holding up payment. I ask that you send angels to bring in the money overdue. I receive this is the name of Jesus.”
Contending is a part of the life of an entrepreneur! We don’t pass on moving obstacles that we have to face through fear, self-doubt, wounds or passivity inherited from our old Adam (nature). They are raised up to oppose what God is doing. Our position is to enforce the victory of Jesus using the authority that he delegated to us. There were occasions when I felt that I had done everything that I could and that I was now holding my ground and refusing to let go. In these times Paul’s instruction to the church in Ephesus is so helpful:
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand…. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Ephesians 6 v 10-13, 18
Having done everything that we can, we stand. We are thrown wholly onto the mercy and grace of God to see us through. We can do nothing else except stand to hold our ground and watch to see God’s salvation. It can be so frustrating for the personality type who is a ‘doer’. But we’ll have done everything. We are surrendered entrepreneurs. We don’t earn our salvation; we receive it purely by God’s grace.
“Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning. Effort is action. Earning is attitude. You have never seen people more active that those who have been set on fire by the grace of God.”2
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Galatians 6 v9-10
Scripture identifies people upon whom God showed favour – Joseph, Samuel, Daniel, Mary the mother of Jesus, Jesus, and the first church in Jerusalem. Joseph is an interesting testimony of God’s discipline, preparation and favour upon a person.
Joseph kept prospering no matter his circumstances
At age 17 he was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt. Potiphar (one of Pharaoh’s officer and a captain of the guard) bought him. Joseph was successful and prospered in Potiphar’s house. So, Potiphar made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. Potiphar’s wife repeatedly tried to seduce Joseph and then accused him before Potiphar of rape. Potiphar threw him in jail. Joseph found favour with the keeper of the jail and he put him in charge of the jail.Pharaoh’s chief butler and baker were put into the jail and Joseph interpreted their dreams and what he told them came to pass. Pharaoh was troubled with a dream that no-one in the land could interpret. Then the chief butler remembered Joseph and suggested that Pharaoh approach him for the interpretation. Not only did Joseph interpret it but he also gave Pharaoh the strategy in order to fulfil it! Pharaoh placed him over his house and “all the people shall be ruled according to his word” (Gen 41:40).
Favour is contagious!
Joseph did everything correctly despite the circumstances and the temptations. He just kept on prospering no matter where he found himself and whether the circumstances were good or bad. God’s favour rested on him. When he knew great success, he did not let greed develop. He kept his focus on his God-given dream and believed that God would fulfil it. He kept a good heart about him. This is why God could give him much favour with so many people. He had reasons to become bitter and wounded, but he rose above them and chose to forgive people. He kept his soul from being polluted. He even forgave his brothers who had planned to murder him. If we become negative, thinking bad about others and ourselves, then we need to change our attitude and expect better things about people and our life. Yes, people will let us down, but God’s favour will cover us and put us over, working all things for good. When we start to believe in God’s favour, you will begin to have favour with others. And I believe that favour is contagious! (for example, Genesis 46 v 31).
I found it so helpful that I had a small band of people praying for me and the enterprise. They were mature followers of Jesus whom I respected, and I valued their input. I gave them permission to speak into my life, and I prayerfully weighed up what they brought to me, whether this could be perceived as being positive or negative! I strongly encourage you to do the same and I believe that you will be blessed.
Finally, I really like this quote and it seems a good place to put it! This is how Alex Ferguson, one of the top football (soccer) managers of all time, viewed his role. Be blessed!
“My job was to make everyone understand that the impossible was possible. That’s the difference between leadership and management”.
Sir Alex Ferguson
- Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, HarperCollins, New York, 1988. ISBN: 0-06-069442-4.
- Willard, Dallas. Christian Herald (UK), Live Life to the Full. 14 April 2001. http://www.dwillard.org/articles/individual/live-life-to-the-full.