Laying a good foundation

Key Points

  • Keep well connected with Father God
  • Get, and keep yourself whole

“The loftier the building, the deeper must the foundations be laid.”

Thomas Kempis

“As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When the flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built”

Jesus Christ: Luke 6 v 47 – 48 (NIV)

I’ve done a few reasonable scale DIY jobs over the years as I’ve moved from house to house, but I wouldn’t claim to be an expert in anything related to house building or extensions.  I have a good friend who recently completed a self-build project constructing a house for him and his wife to move into as a downsizing exercise. It was interesting to watch the project take shape, and it confirmed what I already knew – that this was not for me! I recall seeing Rich having cleared and dug the land and laid the concrete foundations. It reminded me again of the importance of foundations to whatever we build. As the house grew from the foundations up, the huge cost of the materials in building and fit-out was dependent upon the relatively small cost of getting the foundations right.

In my personal experience of starting, developing and growing a business as an entrepreneur, and being part of the senior management team of a new church, and of watching those of a few of my friends and colleagues who have done the same, getting the foundations right is hugely important. In the same way as not getting the foundations right when constructing a house is hugely costly, so it is when setting in place the foundations of a business. So often I have seen that the most important foundations to be built are those relating to the character of the entrepreneur.  This is not glamorous, it doesn’t make the headlines until it all goes wrong – and I’m sure that you can think of a few of those – and most, if not all of it is hidden. But the cost of having flawed foundations reaps a grim reward over the years.

Watching and talking to my friend building his house showed me that there are key stages in the process:

  • clearing the land
  • digging and laying the foundations
  • building from the bottom up.

This may be obvious, but it may not be so obvious when building a business based around the entrepreneur(s).

The foundation on which we build is perhaps the most important part in defining the success of the journey.

By definition, entrepreneurs are risk takers – not foolishly risky I hope – but nevertheless willing to take risk to gain reward. I want to propose what I have found time and again in my own experience, and by observing those entrepreneurs whom I have engaged with on the course of my journey; that the foundation on which we build is perhaps the most important part in defining the success of the journey and building a business that adds value and enjoyment to the lives who journey with us, and to society. I am not simply talking about the implementation of our corporate social responsibility. I am talking about the combined effect of our enterprise on the staff whom we engage, their families and loved ones and friends, to those who purchase our products or services or engage in our programmes, to the lives in the locality of where we do our business, and to the economic good of the country/ies with whom we interact.

Connecting well

The primary mission of Jesus was to open the way for us to know his Father as my Father

In short, what is our personal foundation built upon, and how will it stand up to the stretching and testing that inevitably comes with both difficult times and successes? The primary mission of Jesus was to open the way for me and you to know his Father as my Father. He made the path open to knowing personally Father God as our daddy or papa and invited each one of us to re-connect. I find the insightful comment of Brennan Manning so helpful:

“American child psychologists tell us that the average American baby begins to speak between the ages of fourteen and eighteen months. Regardless of the sex of the child, the first word normally spoken at that age is da – da, da, daddy. A little Jewish child speaking Aramaic in first century Palestine at that same age level would begin to say ab-ab, ab, Abba. Jesus revelation was nothing less than a revolution.  Jesus is saying that we may address the infinite, transcendent, almighty God with the intimacy, familiarity and unshaken trust that a sixteen-moth-old baby has sitting on his father’s lap…”1

This revelation in our hearts fundamentally addresses who are, because we know whose we are. This does not happen in a moment, but as a result of a fundamental shift in our selves. It’s rather like marinating – enough time spent in the presence of Papa causes us to be soaked thoroughly in His nature and character and for that to affect every part of our make-up.  As Antony Campbell says:

“Originally, I believed the acceptance of a loving God involved a sufficient but relative minor shift of attitude. After all, it was on so many people’s lips. The more I worked with it, the more I realise that the acceptance in faith of God’s unconditional love was not only hugely significant, it required a major change of attitude … the major shift may be the images we have of God and ourselves. How radically is our image of God reshaped if we take seriously the belief in God as deeply, passionately, and unconditionally loving us? How radically must we rework our own self-image if we accept ourselves as lovable – as deeply, passionately, and unconditionally loved by God?”2

My experience did not come overnight, or even in the course of a year. It’s an on-going relationship. The more time I spend with him the more like him I become, and the more I get to love who he is even more than what he does!

A really important message in the Bible is that without knowing the Father we are spiritual ‘orphans’, or put another way, we are fatherless. We fail to grasp how much we are loved and cared for and always tend to grasp at causes, movements, people, friends, religion, self-help or self-growth programmes (the list could go on) – and yes, I tried a few of these myself in my time! I’m not saying that these in themselves are not worthy things. What I am saying is that they don’t address the fundamental issue of who we are and whose we are. In this sense, the word orphan is used to give an equivalent meaning to those who have no father and/or mother, or have absent fathers or mothers, whether through estrangement, divorce, separation, family breakdown etc. Either we have not known our father or mother, or we are distant from them. This is exactly what Jesus was saying; through no intimate knowledge of the Father we are orphans, and we adapt our character and behaviour to cope with the loss.  Thus, our foundations get skewed, broken down or damaged. 

You can’t prop up a faulty foundation with a quick fix for very long without the building tipping over

The problem with this is that we replicate who we are. There’s nothing that we can do about it. In our words and actions we can only live consistently and genuinely as the people that we are, which in turn is so deeply rooted in our self-image and self-worth.  I guess many of us have tried to live as those we’d like to be. It’s hard work, it’s disingenuous, and in my experience, you can’t keep it up for more than a few weeks! You can’t prop up a faulty foundation with a quick fix for very long without the building tipping over. The story that Jesus told about a house that was built on sand compared with a house that was built on rock was all about the foundations of our lives. The house was the same and built with the same materials, it was only the foundation that was different. And when the rains came, symbolising pressures and difficulties, the sand got washed away and the house fell, while the house built on rock was untouched. 

Internal to external

In my opinion, the internal realisation that we are deeply, passionately and intimately loved by God is the most important foundation in our lives. Why? Because this internal reality is played out in our external expression of how we love those with whom we interact. After all, as the Bible puts it, you can only love our neighbour as well as we love ourselves! As entrepreneurs we are those who have tremendous potential to demonstrate God’s love, grace and mercy to those we employ, partner with, or supply to. And I believe that God’s calling on the Kingdom entrepreneur is to be precisely that – through the medium of entrepreneurship to influence those in the arenas in which we operate. For sure, this can be done through the excellence of our products or service, the way we treat our contractors, and the way we treat our customers, and so on, but all this comes down to loving our neighbours as ourselves.

There are some helpful ideas on the fingerprints of an orphan spirit. It benefits to honestly examine whether we show some of these fingerprints:

  • jealousy and unreasonable competitiveness
  • fear of lack, rejection, failure etc
  • arrogance
  • self-sufficiency.

The two extremes of the orphan spirit are i) powerlessness and victim mentality and ii) powerfulness and bullying, resulting in an abusiveness and causing offence.

A couple of years ago I met with a senior lecturer at one of the UK’s leading business management schools. I was interested to know if on their MBA programme they dealt at all with a person’s character. The answer was no. The reason given being that people did not want to spend time and a lot of money on a prestigious course examining their character; what they wanted to spend their time on was how to run highly successful businesses. In part I understand that, but in part I have learned that we replicate who we are. If our foundation is flawed, and we hire others with flawed foundations (and probably flawed in different ways to us), two wrongs do not make a right. Granted, if we hire people who complement our flaws, and allow them to be complementary in the day to day working of the business, then the outcome is likely to be better. But better still is to get our foundation solid. This can only come about by ‘foundation surgery’ not by programmes which cover them up. The truth will out!

Wellspring of life

Shalom is the way things ought to be

Shalom, usually translated ‘peace’, is one of the great words of the Old Testament. It occurs 350 times. The root meaning is to be whole, sound and safe – the fundamental idea is one of totality.  

It can be thought of as the seamless integration of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. It has been defined as:

“Universal flourishing, wholeness and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its’ Creator and Saviour opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights”. 

Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.

God’s plan is to bring a universal ‘shalom’ to his creation.  This is vastly more than the absence of conflict and immensely more than inner peace or peace of mind – these are shallow reflections of what God means when He uses the word shalom. It carries a sense of harmony, right relationship and proper functioning of all elements in the environment. This is how God planted the Garden of Eden and placed humankind within it before our rebellion, and it is the state to which it will be returned when Jesus presents the Kingdom to His Father at the end of the age. Shalom is not about being but a collective well-being. Everything within us and around us is well, fruitful and blessed. 

What is amazing is that when Jesus says “peace I give you – not as the world gives do I give you” he was speaking with shalom in mind. The writer of Proverbs 4 had this in mind as well:

“Fill your thoughts with my words until they penetrate deep into your spirit. Then, as you unwrap my words, they will impart true life and radiant health into the very core of your being. So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4 v 21-23 (TPT)

In our busyness we do ourselves no favours if we neglect the affections of our hearts and the welfare of our innermost beings

We fail to understand ourselves, and how God made us if we think of ourselves other than as a whole being and not split into different parts, i.e. body, soul and spirit. I do not doubt for a moment that we consist of different but complementary ‘aspects’. However, if we think of our relationship with God only as spiritual beings then there is a danger that we underplay or even damage our souls and bodies. We are made as one integrated and whole being and how we treat one aspect of our identify affects the whole. I can speak to my spirit, soul and body. The Psalms contain many references of the Psalmist speaking to his soul; why are you downcast, stir up my soul and so on. When we declare healing to our bodies then we are speaking to our body. Our welfare is intimately tied to the wellness of our whole being.

In our busyness we do ourselves no favours if we neglect the affections of our hearts and the welfare of our innermost beings. I’ve had to work hard at this over many years by constantly finding time in a busy schedule of family, work, and church commitments, to ensure that I was looking after my own inner health. Many times, I found it while driving to a client, or taking a train or a ‘red eye’ flight, sometimes taking 10 minutes or so before the start of the day in the office, and particularly making sure that I had time at weekends to keep myself in good physical and spiritual health. I imbued a culture in the business that I founded where we worked hard Monday to Friday but tried to keep weekends free for ourselves, our families and our wellbeing. There were times when we needed to travel on Sunday afternoon/evening to get to a client ready for 9am on Monday, and as the main business grew internationally and we worked more in the Middle East countries we had to work their weekends and not those of the West, but we developed a TOIL policy (time off in lieu) to compensate.

I also made space in my demanding lifestyle to make sure that I went to the gym once a week. I found that after dropping my children off at school and before the demands of a day in the office was a good time. I’d be in the gym for 0845 and after a light breakfast I’d be in the office for 1015. I tried to do this on the same day each week so that I developed a rhythm. My PA knew this and fielded any calls or enquiries until I got into the office.

Jesus called us to be people of peace; peacemakers who are recognised as sons and daughters of God (Matthew 5 v 9), and those who can promote peace, leave peace in an environment, or keep it to ourselves (Luke 10 v5,6). But we can only do this when we have developed shalom as an internal reality. Thus, our presence can help to create a Godly atmosphere in all settings that we live. As we manage our own being then we are able to release peace around us – in our own homes, when we enter other homes, workplaces, shops, gyms, restaurants etc. As Bill Johnson says:

“Your internal reality will always become your external reality”.

  1. Manning, Brennan; The Furious Longing of God – p43, David C Cook, 2009. ISBN 978-1-4347-0086-5.
  2. Campbell, Antony; God First Loved Us, Paulist Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8091-3977-4.