I’m facing a big business decision – whether to invest a significant portion of my retirement funds into a new venture whose financial success is hardly assured. At the same time, last week I worked with a friend who is faced with a very similar decision – whether to invest a big portion of his wealth into a new venture.
Of course, I’m going to use all the analytical tools I have accumulated over the years – we’ll create a best and worst case proforma, do all the due diligence we can on the potential revenue and costs, attempt to identify the potential risks and put in place strategies to mitigate them. All this will make the decision a bit more clear and make us feel a bit better, or worse, about the decision. I’ll recommend my friend do the same.
Unfortunately, none of this worldly effort will uncover the answer to the ultimate question: Is this what God wants us to do? If the answer is a clear and unambiguous “YES,” then all the analytics and due diligence won’t matter. And, if the answer is a definite “NO,” then all the numbers we created will prove to be inconsequential.
Acquiring that “clear and unambiguous yes” is the first challenge. There are a number of excellent books written on the subject of discerning God’s will for your life, and for the big decisions within it. We’ll save a detailed exposition of that for a later post.
Probably the most important element of discerning God’s will in your life is your personal relationship with Him. If you have lived long enough and struggled mightily enough to have entered into something approaching a conversational relationship with Him, then you’ll be secure in the direction you get from Him. If he truly is the senior partner in your business, then you should know Him well enough not to have to guess at his direction.
In a very real and tangible sense, the closer your relationship with Him the more secure you can be in the direction he points you, and the decisions that you must make along the way. Building an ever-growing relationship with God is, then, a mature and wise business strategy.
But what then?
What happens when you have a big business decision, and you have a sense of the direction of it from God? Is it now a done deal?
Alas, no. It is certainly possible to have a direction from God on a big decision, and yet be afraid to implement it. The bridge between intellectual assent and implementation is courage. And courage is a necessary ingredient in the mix for a mature and successful business person.
There is a great Bible story which illustrates the need for courage. Here’s the story. Moses has died, and Joshua is now the leader of the Hebrews – charged with the task of conquering the people living in the Promised Land and taking possession of it. God gives him this promise: “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. … No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1: 3 – 5)
There it is – a clear, unambiguous direction from God, delivered in specific, understandable spoken words. It doesn’t get any better than this. Here was a mature man of God, with a conversational relationship with his creator, given clear, specific direction from God. Not only did Joshua have a clear direction from God, but he also had the promise that his effort would be successful. Does it get any better than that?
Yet, it wasn’t enough. God knew that the command, by itself, was not enough to motivate Joshua to implement that plan. Joshua needs courage. So God encourages him: “Be strong and be courageous because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to give to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and be courageous…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous….” (Joshua 6 – 9)
Joshua has been given the biggest challenge of his lifetime. There is absolutely no doubt about God’s direction and God’s promise to bring him success. And yet, God still had to encourage him – three times – to be strong and courageous.
I know of no other place in the entire Bible where God repeats himself, (“Be strong and be courageous”) word-for-word three times in the course of one conversation. Courage is that important to the success of any enterprise. The larger or newer the enterprise, the more courage required. Joshua’s was a huge challenge, and even with the promise of divine intervention, it required a correspondingly huge dose of courage.
Your next business decision may not involve hundreds of thousands of people, like Joshua’s. It may not be the expression of generations of covenant and prophecy. Once you have God’s direction, though, it will require courage.
Relationship with God and clear direction are the fundamentals. Courage is the finishing piece.
You may want to read some of my other thoughts on courage and business here.
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