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“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8, NIV).
Homework for Chapter 1
Before attending the first class
Memorise: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). Use the Quizlet Memory Verse Tool
Log on to the Compass web site and click on Business to acquaint yourself with all the business tools available on the web site.
The Bible and Business
Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Hebrews 4:12. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Read Isaiah 55:8-9. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (NIV).
God’s Ownership and Control
Read 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 “Everything in the heavens and earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as being in control of everything. Riches and honour come from you alone, and you are the ruler of all mankind; your hand controls power and might, and it is at your discretion that men are made great and given strength” (TLB).
Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (NIV).
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Read or listen to the Starting Well Notes.
Please read or listen to the notes after completing the Homework questions.
Dave Palmer was speechless. It was as if a high voltage electrical shock had jolted him.
Scott, the Chairman of the Board, unexpectedly informed Dave that he was no longer employed at the company, effective immediately. When Dave questioned Scott about the reasons for termination, Scott angrily told him that three other executives had met with the Board and given them an ultimatum: fire Dave or they would resign.
“But this makes no sense,” Dave responded in bewilderment. “Our market share is at an all-time high, we’re financially healthy, and we have great new software under development.” But Scott flatly refused to discuss it further.
Dave was the founder and CEO of this highly successful global software company that he had started in his garage a quarter of a century earlier. Dave had been generous to reward the work of others by giving so much of his company’s stock to the Board of Directors and leadership team that they now owned a majority of the stock and were in control.
Dave had been mentoring three executives looking for his possible successor, and he had chosen to be paid less than any of them. Later, Dave learned that they had become impatient waiting for him to retire and conspired with the Chairman to fire him.
Devastated, Dave took a year to recover before starting a new company, Palmer Software. Although he made a commitment not to initiate recruitment of his former company’s employees, many approached him because its culture had changed dramatically after his departure. Dave’s new business grew steadily.
In less than a decade, his former company’s revenues shrivelled to twenty percent of what they had been when Dave was fired, and it was close to going out of business. Their largest customer became dissatisfied with the performance of their most recent software and asked Dave to become their software provider.
Dave had forgiven Scott and his former leadership team years before and prayed often for them. He felt that God wanted him to help Scott, so he had his software engineers analyse their deficient software. They discovered how it could be improved. Dave called Scott and told him that for no cost he would help improve the software so that he would not lose the customer.
Crazy Christianity! That’s what some would say. Others would add, “Insanity! What about greater market share and putting your ruthless competitor out of business? What about the bottom line?”
By now you may be thinking, Where did Dave go to business school and learn to manage his business? Dave’s decisions are based on what the Bible – a book written thousands of years ago – says about operating a business.
Dave Parker had been mentoring his 38 year old son, Adam, to succeed him as CEO of the new company. Dave’s decision to help the leadership of their company bewildered Adam.
Adam charged into Dave’s office and shouted, “How could you do this, Dad? They stole your company, and for the past ten years they've lied about us and tried to sabotage our company. If that’s not enough, you’re helping them without charging a penny!”
“I know it doesn't make sense, Adam,” Dave leaned back in his chair and responded quietly. “It doesn't make any sense a part from operating our business God’s way. Remember, we make our decisions based on this book,” he said picking up the Bible on his desk.
It may surprise you to learn how much the Bible has to say about business and finances. More than 2,350 verses address God’s way of handling money and possessions, and hundreds of verses have application to operating a business.
The Bible makes these remarkable claims about itself: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and . . . able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12-13). “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The truths in the Bible are timeless. It’s truly a living book that communicates God’s direction to all generations.
When we think of people who are skilled in business decision-making, we often think of experts or those who are older and more experienced. Yet the Bible offers us more insight and wisdom than experts who don’t know God’s way of operating a business or handling money. The psalmist wrote, “Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. . . . I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes” (Psalm 119:98-99, NIV). “I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts” (Psalm 119:100).
I would rather obey the truth of Scripture than risk suffering the consequences of following my own inclinations or the opinions of so-called experts.
Warning: It’s going to be different
The way most people operate a business stands in sharp contrast to God’s business principles. Isaiah 55:8 puts it like this: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” (NIV). The most significant difference between the two is that the Bible reveals God being closely involved in every area of our lives, including our work. Many people fail to realise this because He has chosen to be invisible to us and to operate in the unseen supernatural realm.
The next verse reveals: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways” (Isaiah 55:9, NIV). Not only are God’s ways different, they are amazingly better. So fasten your seatbelt! This study will transform your business, your finances, and your life as you learn what the God of the universe says about operating a business and so much more. This study is for everyone in business – whether the business is large or small, well-established or startup, prosperous or struggling, a for-profit enterprise or a non-profit charity.
After graduating from college as an engineer, Dave Palmer founded his first software company, and he proved to be amazingly creative. Soon after starting the company, Palmer’s perspective of business was radically transformed by participating in a Bible study on money. Not only are we to honour Christ in our company, he thought to himself, but everything we have belongs to God, even the business.
Recognising this changed everything! He felt as if he had been elevated from the role of just operating his business, to the most important position possible – a person entrusted with managing God’s business. Dave Palmer had embraced the most significant truth for the Christian in business – ownership.
God owns it all
The Lord owns everything in the world, including our businesses – public or private, large or small. “To the Lord your God belong . . . the earth and everything in it” (Deuteronomy 10:14, NIV). “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains” (Psalm 24:1).
Scripture even reveals specific items God owns. Leviticus 25:23 identifies Him as the owner of all the land: “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine” (NIV). Haggai 2:8 says that He owns precious metals: “‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ declares the Lord of hosts.” And in Psalm 50:10-12, the Scriptures tell us: “Every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills . . . everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains.”
If we’re going to be genuine followers of Christ, we must transfer ownership of our businesses to the Lord. “None of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33). When we acknowledge God’s ownership, every business decision becomes a spiritual decision. No longer do we ask, “Lord, what do you want me to do with my business?” The question is restated, “Lord, what do you want me to do with Your business?”
Wanting to be the owner
When we act as if we are the owner of the business, we often allow it to own us! In 1928, a group of the world’s most successful financiers met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. The group read like the Fortune 500: the president of the largest utility company, the greatest wheat speculator, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, a member of the President’s Cabinet, the greatest “bear” on Wall Street, the president of the Bank of International Settlements, and the head of the world’s greatest monopoly.
Collectively, these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the United States Treasury! For years, newspapers and magazines had been printing their success stories and urging the youth of the nation to follow their examples.
Twenty-five years later, this is what happened to these men:
Charles Schwab, the president of the largest independent steel company, lived on borrowed money the last five years of his life and died broke.
The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cotten, died insolvent.
The president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, served a term in Sing Sing Prison.
The member of the President’s Cabinet, Albert Fall, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home.
The greatest “bear” on Wall Street, Jesse Livermore, committed suicide.
The president of the Bank of International Settlements, Leon Fraser, committed suicide.
The head of the world’s greatest monopoly, Ivar Drueger, committed suicide.
When these men originally met in 1928, they all thought they alone were responsible for making their fortune. But not one of them understood Jesus Christ was the owner of their business, and they needed to operate it His way.
We are stewards
Our responsibility is summed up in this verse: “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2, NKJV). A steward is a manager of someone else’s possessions. We are managers of the businesses and possessions that the Lord entrusts to us.
Before we can be faithful, we must know what we are required to do. Just as the purchaser of complicated software studies the manufacturer’s manual to learn how to operate it, we need to examine the Creator’s handbook – the Bible – to determine how He wants us to operate His businesses.
Every successful business has four primary components that function well: Values, Strategy, People, and Finances. If one is missing or weak, the business will not reach its potential. In this study, we will examine how to significantly improve each of these components – all from God’s perspective. See the diagram below for learning Business God’s Way.
It’s been said that the best way to finish well is to start well. This first chapter has been all about starting well, which simply means learning and embracing the foundational truths that God owns your business and His way of operating it is the best way.
Few enterprises succeed without a well designed Business Plan. In each lesson, you will complete a practical step aimed at improving your existing Business Plan or helping you develop one tailor-made for your business for the first time.
In this Chapter, you will complete a SWOT Analysis. Its purpose is to help the leadership in evaluating the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to the organisation or department. Once these facts have been gathered, it aids in the development of your Business Plan.
At the end of each chapter, we will focus on those who are starting a business or contemplating it. These sections will address issues entrepreneurs face – all from God’s point of view.
What do you have in common with Sam Walton, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates? Plenty, if you’re starting a new business. Your business may not grow to the size of a Walmart, Apple, or Microsoft, but every business is begun by an entrepreneur who has a vision. The French word entreprendre is the root word for entrepreneur, and it means “one who takes a risk.” Let’s face it; it takes courage to start a business from scratch. A friend is fond of saying, “I learned a lot by starting a business through trial and terror!”
Every new business starts small, many on a dining room table or in a garage. I've been involved in two business and two ministry startups, and it’s easy to become disheartened by all the challenges. Zechariah 4:10 has encouraged me repeatedly. It says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (NLT). Think about this for a moment: If you are a follower of Christ and He has led you to start a business, the Lord Himself is rejoicing to see it begin.
Business is intended to help us grow closer to the Lord, to make a profit, and to be a platform to influence others for Jesus Christ. Therefore, a big part of what God wants to accomplish when you start a business is to develop your character and dependence upon Him. Often, He achieves this by allowing us to face what seem like insurmountable challenges that feel as if they will never end.
One of the most amazing startups in history was the birth of the nation of Israel after the Lord orchestrated their release from 400 years of Egyptian slavery. They found themselves in the desert without food or water for 40 years! How’s that for a challenge that lasts a lifetime?
When God miraculously provided manna, the Israelites were to “gather enough for that day” (Exodus 16:4). He provided enough for only one day at a time and didn't allow keeping leftovers.
Deuteronomy 8:16-18 reveals how the Lord was using these circumstances to accomplish His purposes. It says, “In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth.”
The Lord wanted the Israelites to learn to trust and depend on Him alone as He provided their daily food. Often something similar happens in a startup business. We don’t know how we’ll meet payroll at the end of the week. We can’t see how we will be able to survive when a competitor introduces a better product at a lower price. We are driven to trust and rely on Christ.
If we embrace the challenges of starting a business and seek to use them to grow closer to Christ, it can be one of the most exciting and spiritually productive times of our lives.
The Compass – finances God’s Way website is created to equip people to handle money and operate businesses God’s way. The Business tab, contains excellent business resources, videos, online tools and answers to frequently asked questions. It also has a Genius Bar that will connect you with experts in various fields of business.
Allow me to add this one personal note: As I wrote this study, I prayed for you. I truly did. No, I may never have the privilege of meeting you personally, but I prayed that each and every person who embarks on this journey would experience the tremendous sense of hope, peace, and encouragement that comes from discovering how to conduct business God’s way. I am excited even as I write these words, because I know that great things are in store for you.