Christ in you, the hope of Glory
What has been interesting during the Coronavirus/Covid 19 lock down, has been watching how people have reacted to crisis and the restrictions, and how their approach has changed over time. Two groups of people have stood out; the first have been successful leaders talking about their battles with fear and in security despite, in the eyes of many, having made it. The second have been a tiny group of people who have expected to thrive during this season.
I would fall into the second group, even when sales events were cancelled removing half our personal income. The article I wrote called “Counter Culture” has more on my lifestyle change during the last few months.
Part of the reason for my approach was something a friend said in early 2014 when I was moaning about life being so quiet; “Make the most of it as you’ll never have this time again.” He was right, as within two months everything started to pick up with our book distribution business. When the lockdown came, David Stark’s words came back. When the national lockdown came, my prayer was two-fold: (a) keep it in place just long enough to create the systemic change in lives, priorities, nations that you want; (b) allow us to personally prosper during this season, however you want.
Christ in You = the favor of God in you, permanently. The favor I carry is ONLY because of Christ in me. Favor is always about “who you are” and not“what you do”. It is a gift of His presence in me and not from my effort to earn it. Our performance in life must come after the gift of favor is given. The world pursues performance-based favor, whether at school, in clubs and societies or in the workplace. That approach turns us into “human doings” rather than human beings. If favor is performance based; when we fail to perform in the eyes of anyone, our favor vanishes in an instant.
We have favor irrespective of circumstances. Graham Cooke, a USA based author and minister, once defined life as: “Life = the Trinity & me”.When our life is in a valley or global lockdown, it is still “the Trinity & me”.Nothing has changed; it is still me operating in partnership with someone bigger than me. I have the same level of favor unless I switched it off by denying its ability to operate. Doing that is daft, as how do you think you got out of the last valley, recession or wilderness?
Because we all have favor, growing it is the challenge. In Luke 2:52, Jesus went home with Mary and Joseph and grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. To grow favor takes faith and trust. “Will God do it?” is a trust issue. Getting out of a perfectly sound boat to walk on unfrozen water is a trust issue. Favor, Faith & Trust are intertwined life decisions.
Our faith has to grow to perfectly match (or exceed) the level we are presently operating at. When promotion comes or a greater opportunity arises,we need greater faith and trust in order to go “all in” and not look back or doubt. What does God expect of me and what do I expect of Him at this level?My prayer for years has been for: wisdom, strategy and timing, whilst at the same time being prepared to take leaps of faith (even if calculated leaps)without all the answers or a clear way forward. That’s where faith and trust come in!
What I learnt is that the more adjusted I am to being like Christ, the more favor, faith and trust operate. I have also learned that the more favor I want to be operating in my life, the less worrying I need to be doing. It took far too many years to get to this place (at least seven to take down all the strong holds of fear, insecurity and intimidation) and then more years to allow trust and blind faith in God to grow. To an outsider,who does not understand my journey of the past sixteen years to get to the place I am in now, the leaps of faith I take today (like renting an office 450m/650km from home in the middle of a pandemic) look unbelievable.
As a business leader, when I allow the favor I carry in me to operate around me, it directly brings favor to the team I lead, the customers I serve, my suppliers and the community I am a part of. Indirectly, that favor impacts the families and people in all four of these groups. Through me, nations should be blessed. (Genesis 22:18).
Favor looks different for different people, and at different times it may change for the same person. Life has highs and lows, quiet times and extremely busy times. God often fills the lows in a different way to the times when life is going great. To say favor has to look a certain way restricts a multifaceted God from operating in and though us. It took me a while to realize that fallow times, quiet times and play times were all gifts, especially when they were not what I wanted! Enjoy these quiet seasons, learn to “be” and not“do”. Yep, I know, easier said than done!
When God calls us, provides opportunities for us, or doors open for us,the provision we need is there. For the children of Israel in the wilderness there was water in rock, there was fire on a cold desert night, there was manna everyday and quail flying in as meat. None of this had ever happened before and yet, decade after decade, their needs were met, their teeth and clothes never wore out; much like my office printer still going nine months after a part was supposed to be replaced!
I have recently been working for three weeks on a tender for a massive volume of work. It has given me literal headaches by the end of days analyzing spreadsheets and reports to gather the information needed to make an informed bid. The smallest amount of work was 75 times bigger than the current company turnover and the larger part was 224 times bigger!
Having done it all, and decided to bid for both; having submitted the paperwork, there remained the “minor” point of having zero idea how to fund one of these operations, never mind both of them, should we win. We would need hundreds of thousands of Pounds/Dollars and millions of South African Rand just to pay suppliers. And then there would be the couriers and staff on top of that!
For me it was a question of faith and trust. Faith that “His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10). And one of trust that: my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ. (Philippians 4:19). Only after filing the papers, could I quieten my mind and have time to ask “what was I missing and where was the answer?” Four hours later, the answer came, via a “random” thought! It was much simpler than trying to borrow money against orders or wait for customers to pay sixty days later. It would mean when we approached suppliers, there would be a far stronger case to show them our ability to pay on time.
I have realized that I need to ask “What lessons do I need to learn?” or“What am I missing?” far more often when there seems to be a challenge.Lessons about funding business growth on a scale like this or lessons on how to
manage a team to handle that level of operation? How do we structure, where do we locate, what am I missing?
WHERE IS FAVOR IN CRISES AND FAILURE?
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
That question is one I faced twenty-five years ago (October 1995) when a business I owned went through outstanding growth and collapsed because of it. I wish I has asked questions about what am was missing before corporate and personal bankruptcy and not afterwards! Whilst unemployed for two years following the collapse, I was to find the answers and grow through the process.And for those two years, He provided for all our needs.
My uncle once told me that there was the same amount of money in a nation’s economy during a recession as there was in the boom years; it was just in a different place. Profound. We do not lose our favor in a crisis, it just looks different. It is favor that brings resolution.All things work together for good…. applies in a crisis or global pandemic,as well as in great days. It applies when we are in the valley seasons as well as on the mountain top; in the desert as well as at an oasis. It just looks different. Understanding this brings a level of peace that He has never left us or forsaken us. (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV).
Here are some common questions to ask during any time of crisis or failure:
(a) Why is the crisis and failure occurring?
In my case the business expanded too quickly. My natural ability to grow and rescue businesses and projects made me one-dimensional. The other aspects that needed to be successful were all weaknesses and fault lines that in the end gave out. The flaws in me needed resolving and a “time out” was the only way to deal with them. The first year was spent dealing with foundational and motivational issues, like why I set up the business in the first place. The second year was about changing mindsets, though truthfully, we work on this area all our lives. Every time there is a promotion or expansion or even contraction, we are stretched and our thoughts, beliefs, words have to change.We can easily stay too long in a place, a project or a business/church model. One contact set up computer software company and won a profitable contract from a client. Over time that client kept giving them more lucrative contracts which allowed them to expand. The business was very successful but totally dependent on that one client. The day arrived that the client was taken over; the contracts were stopped and laziness in business development caused my contact to lose his income and business.Fear and/or resistance to change restrict our favor and can ultimately stop our forward progress. This was THE key area to deal with in my journey from failure back to success.
(b) What did I miss or what am I missing?
Sometimes nothing is wrong, we are just missing a “key”. As leaders, one of the biggest of these is making the time and space to step back, to be still, to look at the present out from under the detail, and to look at the future dreams and aspirations. It one of the perks of so much long distance travelling I do; time away from the detail, to be still; to think and listen. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105).We all need a lamp to our feet now, and a light to our future. In the busyness of life, we can often stop listening. We can miss hearing God or seeing the signs of the times, like the sons of Issachar had the ability to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). Part of the benefit of stepping back is to look at the future, to spot both present trends and possible future ones. Recognizing when to hold cash reserves and when are the best times to spend; when to expand into new areas, acquire other businesses or start new services.
Many have failed though an inability to change. The case of IBM not being willing to embrace what became Microsoft Windows is legendary, but hardly unique in the business world. A friend, who had lost their business, told me once to always stay small and nibble in order to tack (sailing term) when needed. It is why, although one company, each part is run as its own standalone business. But each of us personally dies without the ability to change. The victories I have today, are ONLY as a result of me dealing with the flaws, pain, and baggage of the past, including cultural mindsets.
We are often way too familiar with Jesus as redeemer than with the Father as creator. When we mess up we definitely need redemption! But when we want to move into new areas or new directions we need the creative power to make that happens. If we are honest, our relationship with the Trinity is often based on need. When I need forgiveness for messing up, Jesus is the go-to person. When we need more power, “hello Holy Spirit”; and the Father is there for when we need “HELP!” Maybe it is time to nurture a relationship with all three before having a need?
(c) What are the lessons I need to learn?
This should be a continuous question, a daily one, and not just for times of crisis or a complicated/detailed business decision. This large tender has made me start this in my life on a daily basis. I will see how it works out and will be fun to learn and grow. Step one is to deal with all fear and trust issues. From personal experience it is impossible to flourish without the roots of fear being removed. I will do a future post on the stronghold of fear in the Trauma section of this blog,but this area covers: fear, insecurity, inferiority and intimidation. All four areas are unhealthy threads in any business leader, church leader or individual’s life. If we convert external pressure into internal stress, then stress always, always,triggers fear to rise up. In my experience, without fear there is little to no stress and we handle external pressures much more easily.
We can all be too problem focused rather than possibility focused; too detail focused rather than opportunity focused. In the story of the disciples and feeding the 5000, they came to Jesus only seeing problems: no food to feed the masses apart from a few tiny loaves and fishes, so send them home. (Luke 9:12). Because there was no solution, send the people (problem) away. Like us,they could have asked what the solution was or what they could learn. In the end, they got their lesson, they worked the problem, they did the impossible.
Our ability to store favor is directly linked to our level of humility and healing. Jesus admitted that: the words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. (John 14:10) and
that: the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19). That implies He did not have a ministry of his own,He simply copied his Father. Total humility.“
I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health,just as your soul prospers. (3 John 12).May you, like Jesus, over the coming months and years, grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.
© David Powell, 2020