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November 18, 2019
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Overcoming Financial Slavery - Discovering Financial Freedom

Larry Julian • Money Management
I know what it's like to see years and years go by and feel you have forfeited a life. For the first thirty-seven years of my life, the bottom-line was my god also. I remember thoughts similar to my email friend after I was fired. I gave my life to a company, working 60-65 hours a week to produce revenue for them, and what did I have to show for my sacrifice? A significant contribution to my failing marriage, overdue bills, and bad back. I thought I was building a better future. Unfortunately my misguided energy was destroying my future. Financial slavery is such a vicious-yet subtle-trap. Not only did chasing money make me a slave to this master, but I actually justified the chase. Looking back, I realize that getting fired was a tremendous blessing in disguise. It led me on a path to finding the Truth that set me free from the bondage of a never-satisfied, bottom-line god.

Money is a good servant, but a dangerous master.

Dominique Bouhours

A few months after God Is My CEO was published, I received an email from a businessman. I had already read countless emails from readers, but this one really stood out-telling a too-common story of slavery to the "bottom line."

Larry,

Two weeks ago I purchased your book, God Is My CEO. Over the past week I have read the book in its entirety and was inspired and grateful. Let me explain.

I'm 41 years old and have always been self-employed. Over the past several months I've been wondering to myself, "for 20 years I've been chasing money-and for what?" As a small-business owner, the demands on my time are constant and the pressures to "make it" are at times. unbearable. It's not uncommon for me to get to the office by 7 a.m. and not leave for home until 7-8 p.m. That's the way my life has been lived for 20 years.

Two years ago my son was graduating from high school. On his graduation day we were spending some time together because I knew things were about to change once he left for college. During a conversation we were having, he said to me, "Dad, I just wish you had spent more time with me, but you were always working." That one comment hurt so much and made such an impact on me that I swore that I was going to change my ways for my younger daughter. Unfortunately, because I just kept getting "caught up" in the demands of business, I never changed. That is, until now.

About a year ago, my business turned for the worse. It seemed the harder I worked, the worse things got, and I couldn't figure out what was going on. A combination of bad business decisions and wrong priorities almost did me in. God was bringing me to a total dependence on Him. I kept fighting it, trying to work this out myself-but to no avail.

Finally, I began to wonder what I was doing with my life. Chasing money??!! Your book has helped me understand that successful business people can have their priorities in order and deal with the pressures of business. Thank you. You gave example after example of individuals doing it the right way and succeeding.

I'm now in the process of reordering my life to have significance and reordering my business to honor God. I have to tell you, it's not easy. I have been a believer for 22 years and this may be the toughest thing I've ever done spiritually. However, I'm committed to allowing God to work His purpose in my life. I sort of feel like I've wasted the first 40 years of my life, and I want the rest of my life to count for Him.

Thank you for a wonderful book and thank you for encouraging those of us in business who are searching for real significance.

May God richly bless you.
 

I felt so much for this man. He represents so many business people who seek to live a meaningful, significant life yet somehow fall prey to chasing money.

I know what it's like to see years and years go by and feel you have forfeited a life. For the first thirty-seven years of my life, the bottom-line was my god also. I remember thoughts similar to my email friend after I was fired. I gave my life to a company, working 60-65 hours a week to produce revenue for them, and what did I have to show for my sacrifice? A significant contribution to my failing marriage, overdue bills, and bad back. I thought I was building a better future. Unfortunately my misguided energy was destroying my future. Financial slavery is such a vicious-yet subtle-trap. Not only did chasing money make me a slave to this master, but I actually justified the chase. Looking back, I realize that getting fired was a tremendous blessing in disguise. It led me on a path to finding the Truth that set me free from the bondage of a never-satisfied, bottom-line god.
 

Money makes it possible for so many worthy and honorable things to be done to improve society and our quality of life. Money can support education and medical research, provide for the poor worldwide, and improve our local communities. Under our own roof, personal wealth can make life much easier. Money can provide for basic needs such as health care and not-so-basic needs like opportunities. When used wisely, handled in a God-honoring way and viewed in its proper perspective, money can be a good servant.

However, money is also a dangerous master. The moment we let our relationship with money take priority over our relationship with God, we slip from freedom to slavery. The danger is masked in subtlety. For business people, what begins as a noble pursuit-being a good provider for our families-quickly becomes a trap from which we can hardly escape. The pursuit of financial gain can cause us to sacrifice our relationships with our spouse and/or children. The desire for advancement quickly turns into political battles with co-workers, hurting people we work with. That well-intentioned mission statement on the wall can become a façade for just making more money. Over time we become slaves to the urgent, bottom-line demands of the moment. Before we know it, we have gone so far down the wrong path that we tell ourselves lies: "I can't be home at a reasonable hour to be with my family because I need to earn that extra money for the sake of my family." "I feel trapped in a dead-end job but am afraid to leave because I can't risk being out of work and not getting a steady paycheck." I know my kids would like to spend more time with me, but I have to work extra hard today to save money for a sound financial future. Over time, we've fallen prey to financial slavery.

Financial slavery is like a dog chasing its tail: You spend all your energy running in circles. Our desire to achieve financial success sets in motion a tremendous motivation and oftentimes a blind ambition toward a monetary goal. We expend an inordinate amount of time and energy doing whatever it takes to achieve our financial goals. We work hard. We sacrifice our lives, even at the expense of our mental and physical health. We live with the anxiety that the "wolf is at the door"-that we're just one quarter away from financial disaster. We're constantly looking over our shoulder, running from the insatiable bottom-line god whose about to devour us. We chase money by striving to achieve our financial goals, and then find money is chasing us because we are worried about the consequences of not making our financial goals.

Whether you're chasing money or being chased, the trap is the same-it's never enough. The real tragedy lies in the deception of the pursuit. We forfeit our present life for what we believe will be a better life tomorrow.

Os Hillman has been there. He understands the tremendous subtlety of financial slavery. His story proves that even the most talented and well-intentioned Christian can fall prey to this subtle master.
 

"Breaking through to Financial Freedom"

Os Hillman could have been the cover model for Perfect Christian Businessman Magazine. For more than fourteen years he built a successful Atlanta-based advertising agency serving high-profile clients like American Express and Steinway pianos. His mission was admirable: to reflect Christ in his workplace. Os did all the things that honor God. He shared his faith with others and he gave more than ten percent to his church.

It was 1994, and Os had what appeared to be the good life. He had a beautiful home on a golf course, played golf three times a week, and had enough money to retire at age forty-four. Then, in a three-month span, his whole life came crashing down.

Os recalled, "One day my wife of fourteen years announced she wanted to leave me. Within weeks, my investments on the east and west coast totaling $500,000 disintegrated. Then our largest client, who represented eighty percent of my business, fired us for no good reason. Shorter thereafter, my vice president left and took our second largest account. I was devastated!

"I was so angry at God. I questioned the very reality of God. I remember arguing with God saying, 'Hey, I've hung in here and tried to be a good husband. I've gone to counseling five different times to make our marriage work. I've done all I can do! And this is how you reward your faithful servant? I've been a good Christian. I've given money to you, supported the Christian cause, and led people to Christ. Why have you done this to me?'"

As bad as things were, they would get even worse. This three-month shockwave was just the opening act of a walk in the desert that would last seven years. Os recalled, "It was like having a boat with fifteen holes in it and three Band-aids. You're scrambling around trying to figure out 'how do I plug this hole and then run over and plug that hole?' I couldn't punch my way out of a paper bag. I consider myself a highly skilled person, but everything I did turned to dirt. I felt like the world was against me."

In 1997, after battling with all his strength to keep his company and save his marriage, Os was hit with a one-two punch that finally brought him to his knees. It marked the lowest point in his life.

"I had expended all my resources. I basically lost everything. I had about $1,000 left in the bank after having about $300,000. During this difficult period, my wife asked for a divorce. I continued to stand for our marriage. I never dated during this time, I prayed for reconciliation, and I prayed for my wife. One day during the divorce deposition, a woman shared a testimony about activity that my wife had been into. Learning of that activity devastated me to the point where I fell to my knees. My attorney had to hold me because I was crying so profusely.

"I remember walking to the top of a hill we have in the back of our house. I spent the entire afternoon alone on this hill screaming at God, 'Is this the way you honor faith and perseverance?'"

Everything was stripped away. During this time, all façades fell and the truth was revealed. The Lord started to speak through a series of people who would enter Os's life. Through others, God would reveal Os's deeply ingrained issue about being in control.

Os recalled, "My mentor once said I was the best survivalist he's ever known. Now, that wasn't a compliment. He was saying, 'It takes a lot to knock you off your horse, and you've finally fallen off a horse that you can't get back up on and you can't control.' So when all these things happened, it was as though somebody had stripped all my clothes off and had me jump off a cliff, because I had no control over anything. I couldn't control my wife's behavior. I couldn't control the client who left me, and I couldn't control the fraud that hurt my financial investments. All the things I had, I lost control over."

This long period of pain and suffering was extremely difficult, yet paradoxically life transforming. Os recalled, "I cried a lot. I was very depressed and discouraged because I hadn't seen any breakthroughs or turnarounds in my life. However, at the same time I was pressing into the Lord. I knew that I was going to either be a victim or a victor in this situation, and I knew the only way was to discover more about God's purpose in all of this.

"Spiritually, I was reading the Bible a lot. I was investing my life. I was hungry, but my hunger was motivated out of pain. I wanted to do anything that would get me out of this pain. I read the Bible, went to Bible studies, read books, went to seminars-anything I could because I'm a self-motivated kind of guy. But there came a point when God began to heal my heart-and the motivation moved from pain to love. I began to experience true intimacy with God. I was no longer motivated by pain, but by a genuine love of the Lord. I was motivated to get to know Him better."

Os discovered important things about himself during this time of searching. He discovered the roots of his financial and personal struggles, and as a result, the truth transformed the direction of his life. Os recalled, "My dad had been successful as a businessman. All of sudden, he dies in a plane crash, and our family and finances are immediately impacted. The way we viewed money and security changed dramatically. We no longer had the security and privileges that came with wealth. My mom said things like, 'We can't do that' or 'We don't have enough money.' So at fourteen years old, I developed a subconscious motivation that said, 'I don't ever want to suffer a financial need again.' So you end up working, becoming a workaholic. You work out of fear. You work to succeed on the basis that you don't ever have to experience that again. I became a controller. I became a controller because I felt that if the people around me could fail me financially, I wanted a tight rein around those people. So, I did it in my marriage. I did it with the people who worked for me. People would say, 'Os is a great guy-until you fail him financially. Then he gets angry and controlling.' I didn't know what the root of this was at the time. I thought I was just being a good steward under the Christian banner to make sure I was using God's resources well. I learned that these were the root issues that caused me to have business issues, a marriage problem, and a relationship with God based on works and activity instead of intimacy.

"One of the most important things I discovered going through this process was that investing in others was the formula for getting out of my depression. I started to get better emotionally when I began to invest my life in other people. In late 1997, I began to write my thoughts in a daily devotional. Every morning, for nine months, I would get up and write a simple message about what I was going through, how it related to my work life. I would send it off my computer to friends and associates. I noticed that when I missed a day or two, I would get an email back from my friends saying, 'Where's my devotional?' It was then I realized I was meeting a need. Then another friend who had an Internet site suggested putting the devotionals on a website. Today it goes to more than 100,000 subscribers worldwide!"

Os's experience was truly inspiring. Even so, whenever I interview people and ask how their lives have been transformed, I remain a bit skeptical when someone tells me that he or she is "cured" or "life is great." In this case, it appeared the Lord had restored Os's life back: He was leading a faith and work movement, he was happily remarried, and he made some pretty bold statements about the areas that enslaved him in the past, such as he no longer worried about money and was no longer a controller. Like many, I believe actions speak louder than words. Two actions "told" me that Os was indeed free of financial slavery. The first was Os's decision to create a ministry, whose existence is based on donations rather than profits.

Os recalled, "I used to kid one of my mentors, a guy who 'lived by faith.' He never knew where the next dollar would come from. I used to criticize him by saying, 'I can't believe you live that way. I would hate to live that way.' So after I went through this whole adversity thing, God led me into a faith-based ministry to help people integrate their faith and work. It's totally based on donations and help from others, which dealt with my core issue of control. I was able to remove the fear and insecurity that related to my finances to the point where I honestly don't worry about it anymore."

The second indication of Os's transformation came in May 2002. Through Os Hillman's leadership, the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries was born. To kick it off, Os assembled a conference to bring all the workplace ministry leaders together. Os risked his own money, time, and effort to create this significant opportunity. He felt this was an important meeting that needed to take place. His goal wasn't to make money, but to just break even.

I had the privilege of attending the conference. While the days were Spirit-filled, nothing moved me more than the final morning session. Os was busy in another room preparing for the end of the conference. A conference attendee walked to the microphone and thanked Os, his wife Angie, and all the people who worked to make the conference a reality. Then the gentlemen explained that he was aware Os was going to lose money on the conference and that any donation to offset costs would be appreciated. Within a few minutes, I witnessed the audience of 125 pour out their love and support into a large basket. Like a cornucopia of fruit, the overflowing basket was passed back up to the stage. The gentleman who spearheaded the donation handed the basket to Angie, Os's wife, who broke down in tears. Walking into the room, Os saw Angie holding the basket overflowing with money. Clearly overwhelmed by the generosity of the group, tears fell from his eyes.

Jesus once said, "You can tell a man by his fruit." Os was experiencing the freedom that came when he relinquished his control to God. His joy didn't come from the money. He didn't say, "Oh boy, now I can make my second quarter goals!" His joy came from experiencing God's gifts. Os was free! No longer in financial slavery, he was living the successful life God gave him.
 

A motive prompts a person to act a certain way. It's the goal of one's actions. What are your motives for making money? What does money mean to you? What purpose does it serve in your life? To what end or goal are you seeking? Answering these questions provides insight into your motives, actions, and decisions.

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to one

and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."Matthew 6:24

Money isn't the issue. In and of itself, money is just a form of exchange. Our trust in Almighty God is the issue. Most people believe money is the link to their security, power, self-worth, and happiness. In essence, money is a means to that end. However, this is distinctly opposed to what God wants for us. God wants us to rely on Him for our security, power, self-worth, and joy.
 

Choosing between serving God or money is one of the flashpoints of faith. This choice will determine your path in life, like choosing which star to chart your course by. It comes down to this: Who's Number One-you or God? Determining where you place your trust will help reveal some of your beliefs about money.

 

Trusting in God

Trusting in Yourself

My partnership with God will provide for my family's needs

I am the sole providerfor my family's needs

My identity is in Christ

My identity is based on my money, status, and/or possessions

My joy comes from myrelationship with God

My happiness comes frommy possessions

Power comes from God

Money creates power

God is in control

I am in control

My wealth is a gift of God

I create my wealth

Financial slavery has nothing to do with either the accumulation of money or the lack of money; it's the result of our motive. Financial slavery is a crime. It robs us of the precious commodities of time, energy, and a joy-filled life when God invites us to live in freedom. Discover the true motives behind your financial decisions and allow your partnership with God to put you on the path to financial freedom.
 

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it."1 Timothy 6:6-7

"When God gives any man wealth and possessions and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work-this is a gift of God."Ecclesiastes 5:19

What if you truly believed that everything you receive is a gift from God? What if you woke up and the pressure to provide, to produce, and to perform was off? What if you genuinely believed that God would provide for your every need? What would your life be like? How would your life change? How would your approach to money and business change?

Our partnership with God supplies peace, contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction, no strings attached. All we need to do is take Him on His Word. When we accept God's promises, we are free to live life without having to pursue or worry about money. We will still face daily business and financial obligations, but we aren't alone. God is with us, and He blesses us with the gifts we need to succeed. What does this "financial freedom" look like?

Financial freedom is living a rich and full life in peace, love, and joy without wondering how the next bill will be paid. Financial freedom is appreciating what I have instead of complaining about what I don't have. Financial freedom means knowing the quality of my life has nothing to do with the quantity of my possessions. Financial freedom means I'm free to choose my career, determine the right balance between work and family, and enjoy a lifestyle within my financial means. Financial freedom means my work is a form of worship that I express through my interactions with others, the excellence of my craft, and the way I conduct my business.

Financial freedom means I can choose to do the right thing regardless of the potential financial consequences of losing money or even getting fired. Financial freedom means that I can become what God designed me to be and that I can achieve my God-given potential in business and in life.

Financial freedom has nothing to do with the amount of money or possessions I have, as I can experience a life full of joy with an empty bank account as easily as with millions. Financial freedom allows me to pursue my calling without worrying about failure. Financial freedom means living today and not worrying about tomorrow. Financial freedom means I respect deadlines but won't let them rule my life, as I accept God's timing to set my life's pace. Financial freedom means I can be content where I am without striving for something more. Financial freedom means I've thankfully accepted that my future business ventures may be a complete bust or the wildest success.

With financial freedom, my self-worth is based on who I am in God's eyes and isn't dependent on my possessions or status. Financial freedom means I'm content with who I am and where I am. Financial freedom allows me to conduct my business and life with a sense of assurance and peace, knowing that one way or another, God will provide for my every need. With financial freedom, I understand my role in partnership with God: I'm to be a good steward of the gifts given to me. Financial freedom makes me fiscally responsible, allows me to make wise financial decisions in alignment with God's will, and trust the Lord with all the circumstances beyond my control.
 

I see you rolling your eyes, thinking, "Sounds great on paper. Now, how about some reality here?" Millions of people live paycheck to paycheck. They would love to have peace, but are stressed to make next month's bill payments. Many more want to follow their calling but feel they can't because they have to provide for their family. Many want to honor God and do the right thing, but the financial consequences are too risky.

Our everyday monetary decisions aren't always easily discernable. Being fiscally responsible is biblical. After all, a board doesn't hire a CEO to sing "Kumbaya," but to use his or her leadership skills and financial acumen. Real-life dilemmas present themselves regularly and making the right decisions for the right reasons can be challenging.

Robert is between jobs, seeking employment, and his money is running out fast. He seeks the right career move, yet feels pressured to get a job quickly. On one side he wants the appropriate time to pursue the career he desires, but on the other side, he needs to provide for his family. What's the right thing to do?

Susan is the CEO of a large company, and it has gone through two tough quarters in a row. She's faced with the difficult decision of whether to lay off loyal employees in order to stabilize the company. What's the right balance between people and profits?

You work for a company that's unethical, and you feel your values are being compromised. You want to work for an organization that allows you to live your faith and values, but you feel stuck. Your job is paying the bills and in this weak economy, it doesn't make sense to risk quitting to look for another job. What should you do?

What's the answer to these dilemmas? I believe most followers of God want to do God's will, but struggle with the realities of the bottom line. There is the noble pursuit of God's call, and there is the practicality of the need for money in day-to-day living. How will I know I'm following God and not my own selfish desires? How do I balance my financial obligations at work with my passion and calling? How do I balance my commitment at work with my time with my family? How much money is enough?

I wish there were a simple formula or an easy answer. It comes down to arriving at a place where you know with confidence that your motives are in alignment with God's will. Let's revisit the give-and-take postures of our partnership with God.
 
 
"A certain ruler asked him, 'Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
 
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good-except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'

'All these I have kept since I was a boy,' he said.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, 'You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, and follow me.'

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked at him and said, 'How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"Luke 18:18-25

One day I had lunch with a business owner, a good friend whom I admire greatly. He's a pillar of the Minneapolis community, and a wonderful, godly man with great integrity. He also happens to have significant power and wealth. We were talking about financial freedom, and suddenly he alluded to the story of the rich young ruler. He wondered aloud: "I understand the point, but that doesn't really mean giving up everything, does it?"

Intellectually and emotionally, my friend understands the point: Our identity, security and happiness come from God, not from wealth and possessions. Even so, the story of the rich young ruler strikes at the very heart of our identity and security. My friend's life is built around a family reputation, power, and wealth. It would seem impossible for him to actually choose to give up all this wealth, power, and privilege to follow Jesus. On the surface, it even appears to be unfair.

I started thinking about how the parable applied to my own life. Being painfully honest, if Jesus confronted me today and said, "Sell everything you have and give it to the poor," I don't know if I could do it. I greatly admired Mother Teresa, but I can't imagine living like she did. As I started to apply this challenge to my own life, I found myself getting agitated. I started to think, "This is unfair! I love the Lord and want to follow Him, but what He's asking is impossible!"

As I re-read this parable, I didn't like the way Jesus communicated with the ruler. Jesus didn't appear either loving or understanding of the ruler's situation. After all, the young man was a good guy. He kept his nose clean and seemed to be a good leader with good intentions. Jesus could have cut him a little more slack. It appeared that Jesus was putting down rich, talented, successful people.

As I struggled with the parable, I received a phone call from another friend, Ward Brehm. During my conversation with Ward, I realized my viewpoint was misguided. I was coming from the viewpoint (albeit a selfish one) of not wanting to give up that which was mine. Then it struck me. Jesus doesn't want us to give up everything; He wants us to understand that He's everything we need!

Ward Brehm is an affluent, driven, "Type A" Minneapolis businessperson. Like Os, he also had a wonderful family, business, and good health. But he was restless, not satisfied with his life. Ward was looking for something more. A powerful encounter with God came during his second trip to Africa.

During an earlier trip to Africa, one of the tour members gave a little girl a sugar packet. When Ward returned two years later, he spotted the little girl. He was stunned when she held out her gently cupped hands and showed him the very same sugar packet. Ward realized that the sugar packet was her one and only possession! In that profound moment, he envisioned his own life.

One question stirred in Ward's heart: What does it mean to have nothing? During his years in Africa, Ward developed an understanding of the people in a small, remote village in Northwest Kenya who came to know the Gospel. As a result, he gained deep insights into that question. These people lived in the worst poverty imaginable to man. Their needs were dire and they lived in great danger. Despite having no "safety net," they walked with an incredible inner peace. Ward soon discovered why. Ward reflected, "They needed God for everything! Their very existence was dependent upon the weather, the health of their cattle, overcoming common and normally curable diseases-everything! Conversely, many successful businesspeople have everything, so what do they need God for?" Ward realized that many of us have everything, so we feel we don't need God's provision. This speaks to the point Jesus made to the wealthy ruler. Who is the true provider of life? Who is the provider of peace, contentment, and satisfaction? You or God?

When Jesus said that it was difficult for the rich to enter of the kingdom of God, He was referring to the fact that their dependence on their own wealth, power, and possessions makes it very difficult to depend on Him. As a result, they invest a lifetime trying to feed the insatiable god of money rather than being satisfied with the gifts of peace and contentment with which God has blessed them.

Jesus loves us dearly and doesn't want us to fall prey to the false sense of security that comes with money, power, or achievement. Jesus comes across as harsh in this story because He needs to be in our face about this topic. The lure of money and power is so subtle. The thought of giving up of our possessions is counter-intuitive. We understand the principle on an intellectual level, but deep down we can't bring ourselves to let go of the things we hold dear. As a result, we find ways to both follow God and keep our possessions as a back up-just in case life gets too hairy.

It's fallen human nature to want to "have our cake and eat it, too." We find convenient ways to cover our real motive and justify our intention to buy that new car-because the family needs it. We rationalize our decisions to further our career-to provide for the family. We compartmentalize our work and worship-to compete in the real world. We compromise our core values-to fit in at work. We use our success in business to validate our worth. Even our own faith in God can become a trap as we build our riches doing things for God instead of with Him.

Here's the bottom line. We hold the key to our financial freedom, but instead we choose to justify our captivity. As long as we rationalize our need to be in control, money will always be our master. We will never experience the peace and contentment that comes with completely trusting God. Jesus sees us as talented, highly skilled, gifted individuals who are caged by our own ambitious minds. All of these pursuits seem noble and worthy on the surface, but deep down Jesus knows they imprison us.

In the business world, we become adept at justifying our goals and actions. We are so good at it that we can even fool ourselves. But we can't fool the Almighty God. He knows better. Better yet, He knows us-better than we know ourselves. God sees what is best for us; we can't. He's totally confident and at peace with your potential and wants you to experience it. Sometimes, when we're faced with the potential of having nothing, we finally discover and appreciate that we already have everything we really need. It's this revelation that sets us free!
 

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant!

You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.

Come and share your master's happiness!'"Matthew 25:23

I once coached a business owner who was in the process of turning his family business over to his son. The man had built a business with a wonderful reputation. He had a mission that honored God, provided great customer service, and contributed to the community. Unfortunately, his son, who was beginning to run the business, started to make decisions that were adversely affecting the company. The son was more focused on making money than on carrying on honorable business traditions. His decisions negatively affected customers and the community around him. The father was grieved that the business, which took him most of a lifetime to build, was being destroyed. He was not only concerned about his son; he was concerned about all the other people who were affected by his son's direction. As painful as it was, he fired his son and sought out someone else whom he could trust to run his business.

That story reminds me of how God wants us to handle our money. God gives each of us gifts, not just for our gain, but also to serve a greater purpose. Those gifts can be talent, money, resources, and time. Some have more, others less. In God's economy, the amount doesn't matter. He only cares about what you do with the gifts He's given you.

Whereas the "surrender posture" helps us understand that everything we have is a gift from God, the "take-charge posture" helps us discern how to wisely use our gifts. God is clear in His expectations of us as we handle money. He isn't looking at our financial skills; He's looking at our motives. Some people are lazy. They have talents and skills but don't want to put forth effort. Some people are ambitious and have tremendous talent but their pursuit is misguided. It's good to ask: What am I doing with my gifts of time, talent, and resources? Am I using my gifts wisely or has the improper handling of money taken me off course? Can God trust me with all the resources He's provided me? Discovering our true motives will help us make the necessary course corrections to ensure we're going down the path God intended.
 

King Solomon is one of the best biblical examples of a business leader who had great intentions but went astray. While he could be compared to today's wealthy, talented, high-energy business executive, the lessons apply to each of us. King Solomon provides us with a unique perspective because he served both masters-and then presented a white-paper summary of his findings.

On a worldly level, Solomon reached the pinnacle of talent, power, and wealth. Spiritually, he was blessed by God to be the wisest man on earth. His story and his final words provide us with both clear-cut advice and practical applications.

King Solomon started his leadership on the right foot. He prayed to God for wisdom so he could discern right from wrong and lead others in a God-honoring way. Solomon flat-out asked God for the wisdom to serve God instead of money. Because of this, the Lord was pleased and gave him not only wisdom, but also riches and honor (see 1 Kings 3:7-13). During his reign as king, Solomon had many achievements and amassed great wealth and fame (1 Kings 10:23-24). He was greater in riches and wisdom than all of the other kings of the earth. From around the world, people sought an audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom that God had placed in his heart.

As wise as Solomon was, however, he was still human. Solomon had a weakness. He loved women, particularly foreign women, and they introduced him to other gods. (1 Kings 11:4). As Solomon grew old, his heart began to turn to other gods.

In 1 Kings 11:4, we're told, "his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord". As the wisest, richest, most powerful man on the planet, he justified in his mind that his actions were somehow acceptable to God. This subtle shift in thinking led to his downfall. As the story goes, he blew it. He lost it all! The Lord took away Solomon's leadership and gave it to a subordinate.

Fast-forward to the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon's white-paper summary of the meaning and purpose of life and work. The first time I read it, I thought Ecclesiastes was a nonsensical rambling. It seemed to claim, "Life stinks, and then you die, so what's the point of it all?" Closer scrutiny clarified some things for me, and soon certain points jumped out with tremendous simplicity. In these words came a clear warning signal for today's ambitious businessperson, as well as some practical advice on how best to overcome the issue of financial slavery.

"I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well-the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

"I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind, nothing was gained under the sun."(Ecclesiastes 2:4-11)

As society defines it, Solomon epitomized success. He had wealth, fame, power, and pleasure. But, as he surveyed his life, he exclaimed that it was meaningless. Further in the passage, Solomon uses the analogy of the dog chasing its tail, a vicious cycle of chasing and being chased. He makes two statements that today's harried businessperson can identify with.

"What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23)
 
"Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless."(Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Solomon knew what it was to work for two masters. He speaks to us as someone who began with noble intentions and ever so subtly fell prey to his own talent and power. In the end, God's wisdom was with him as he tries to describe the true meaning of life.

"Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him-for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work-this is a gift of God." (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19)

Solomon's message can be summed up in the first words he penned in Psalm 127: "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain." Any work without God is futile; it's chasing the wind. If the love of money, possessions, or achievements is your master, you'll always be running in circles and never be satisfied. It will never be enough. On the other hand, work that is based on God's foundation has meaning and purpose and provides personal satisfaction. In the end, every good thing you receive and the ability to enjoy it is a gift of God.
 

"You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth..."Deuteronomy 8:17-18

Are God's gifts of money, time, talent, and resources serving your needs-or have your gifts somehow started to rule you? The answer lies in where you place your trust. Do you trust God will provide for your every need or do you trust only in yourself?

When you rely on yourself, it's never enough. When you trust in God, everything you receive is a gift-and it is enough. Whether your possessions include a million dollar bank account or a single sugar packet, trust that God will provide you with the resources you need. Understanding and appreciating this Truth will provide you the financial freedom to be the success He intended you to be.

I have a friend, Lon, whose small business was going through significant change. Due to a change in market conditions, his core business was drying up. Over a four-year period, the business that comprised 75% of Lon's sales had reduced to only 20%. It wasn't looking good. After a period of prayer, he decided to take the "opportunity" (though he wasn't sure that's what it was at the time-it felt more like a risk) to begin a type of ministry that he felt God had impressed upon his heart. Lon was more content than ever. He was doing what he really wanted to do and found his new work to be more fulfilling than he had ever experienced before. The downside? His income dropped off considerably. Long term, he didn't know if his savings could support his family. Lon knew he was right where God asked him to be, and he chose to continue to trust God with the situation. A few months later, Lon was presented with a multi-year contract in his new area of expertise.

The journey towards allowing God to meet your financial needs is a fulfilling and rewarding one. For most of us, it's also a challenging one, where overcoming becomes a daily process of releasing our needs and trusting God for the results. When you surrender by trusting God for your safety and security and take charge by being a good steward of the gifts and resources God gives you, your reward is God-given security and a prosperous life of abundance. Financial freedom is just that-freedom.
 

Exercise - Financial Freedom or Financial Slavery?

Step One:To begin finding answers to your practical dilemmas of money, you need to explore what money means to you. The more clearly you identify your motives and beliefs, the better equipped you will be to solve your financial dilemmas. Read each of the following statements. Determine whether you agree with the statement, disagree, or aren't sure. Don't get caught up in judging yourself. Use this time to discern the truth.

 

Agree

Disagree

Not Sure

I can choose to do the right thing regardless of the potential financial consequences, including losing money or even being fired.

I can become what God designed me to be and can achieve my God-given potential in business and in life.

I can experience a life full of joy as easily with an empty bank account as with millions.

I can pursue my calling without worrying about failure.

I can live today and not worry about tomorrow.

I respect deadlines but won't let them rule my life, as I accept God's timing to set my life's pace.

I can be content where I am without striving for something more.

I've thankfully accepted that my future business ventures may be a complete bust or a wild success.

My self-worth is based on who I am in God's eyes and isn't dependent on my possessions or status.

I'm content with who I am and where I am.

I conduct my business and life with a sense of assurance and peace, knowing that one way or another, God will provide for my every need.

I'm to be a good steward of the gifts given to me.

I'm fiscally responsible, make wise financial decisions in alignment with God's will, and trust the Lord with all the circumstances beyond my control.

 

 

 

Step Two:Think about and answer the following questions.

·Satisfaction vs. achievement-On which do you focus your thoughts more? Are you satisfied with and appreciate what you have? Which do you do more: appreciate what you have or seek to attain that which you don't have?

·Faith vs. fear-What motivates your business decisions more: faith in God's plan or fear of not achieving your goals and losing your status and/or possessions?

·People vs. profits-Which is more important to you: helping people or achieving profits? If you had to, would you choose profits at the expense of people or people at the expense of profits?

·Purpose vs. profits-Which guides your business decisions more: serving a purpose greater than yourself or the bottom line?

·Giving vs. getting-From which do you derive more joy: giving to others or getting what you want?

Step Three:Evaluate your responses to Steps One and Two. Discern whether you are living in financial freedom, financial slavery, or somewhere in the middle. This may be challenging, because the questions you answered don't have right or wrong answers. Ask yourself, "Does money serve me or has money become my master?" On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is financial slavery, 5 is living in freedom but need to be vigilant, and 10 is financial freedom, where do you rate yourself overall?

Step Four:Identify the areas where you run the risk of financial slavery. Put your issue(s) in writing to God, as specifically as possible. Ask the Lord to help you gain clarity and confidence to overcome these erroneous beliefs.

Step Five:Financial freedom is a daily, decision-by-decision process. After you've prayed, start making decisions in alignment with God's will.

For example, I believed money would provide me with security. As a result, my motive was to make lots of money, because that would provide security. In order to be an effective author, however, I needed to understand my underlying beliefs and motives. If I didn't understand and address my motive, I would have written God is My CEO in a way as to sell as many copies as possible. Helping the reader would have been a secondary motivation. God revealed my false motive-"I have to make money to survive"-and helped me turn it into a God-honoring one-"I'm called to help others integrate their faith and work." Through this process, I was able to find the financial freedom to be effective as an author.

For many people, new beliefs are a radical shift from their old way of thinking, so discovering freedom may take time. Ask God to make you aware whenever you begin to drift back to your old beliefs. Continue to choose financial freedom, and financial freedom will follow.
 

Part 1

1.Regarding Security.
a.What are the tangible benefits of money as they relate to your sense of security?
b.What does security cost you in terms of worrying about money?
 
2.Regarding Power.
a.How does having control add to your quality of life?
b.How do you deal with things that are beyond your control?
 
3.Regarding Self-worth.
a.How do your wealth, status, and possessions impact your self-worth?
b.How would you feel about yourself if you lost your wealth, status, and possessions?
 
4.Regarding Happiness.
a.How much of your happiness is derived from attaining the things you want?
b.What happens when you don't get the things you want?

Part 2

1.What did Os Hillman and the rich young ruler have in common?

2.In what area(s) are you most vulnerable to falling into financial slavery?

3.What are some of the false beliefs you have about money?

4.How have you been impacted by your false beliefs?

5.What does financial freedom mean to you?

6.How does financial freedom impact the way you approach work and life?

God is My Success: Transforming Adversity Into Your Destiny

Larry Julian is a consultant and speaker who specializes in Biblically-based leadership development and strategic planning. Larry is the author of the nationally acclaimed and best-selling business book, God is My CEO: Following God's Principles in a Bottom-Line World. As an active participant in the integration of faith and work movement, Larry's passion is to help businesspeople overcome the dilemmas that keep them from experiencing the success God intended. In addition to many churches and non-profit organizations, his clients have included 3M, American Express Financial Services, AT&T, BP Amoco, General Mills, Honeywell, Mayo Clinic, PepsiCo, Qwest and hundreds of other large and small organizations.

From his research following God is My CEO, Larry found that most people want to integrate their work and faith but struggle with five obstacles that keep them from being the success God intended: pain, financial slavery, lack of confidence, business/distractions, and fear and worry.

God is My Success shows that our adversity holds the key to our destiny and the success God intended. God doesn't promise a life free of adversity. He does, however, promise to be with us in our adversity. As we partner with God to overcome our obstacles we discover that, ultimately, God Himself is our success. From pain, we discover destiny. From financial slavery, we discover financial freedom. From lack of confidence, we discover courage. From distractions, we discover God's whisper. From fear and worry, we discover peace.

For more information on Larry's books and services, visit www.larryjulian.com.

**********

The following has been excerpted from

God is My Success: Transforming Adversity into Your Destiny

By Larry S. Julian

Published by Warner Faith

Copyright © 2005 - All rights reserved

 

For more information on God is My Success or Larry Julian's books and services, visit www.larryjulian.com
To order God is My Success click on Faith and Work Resources.com link on right side of this page.

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