By Eric Vogen
Doesn’t it sometimes feel like we’re not sure if we want Jesus in the middle of our money decisions? Sometimes we like him in, but other times he’s out. Sometimes we put him in an ambiguous place, along with our spouse’s God-given financial insight, just because it seems more convenient than actual trust and surrender.
Early in my investment career, I didn’t think about having Jesus in the sentence at all. I would sometimes feel a subtle tug that Jesus wanted to help me integrate my faith with business and money. When the tug came, I would usually push it aside as a random thought in the busyness of my life. The idea was countercultural in the place I was working, and perhaps it was contrary to my own heart, as I hadn’t really decided to follow Jesus with my daily life. At the time, I think it was simply scary and confusing to consider trusting Jesus with my life choices, my financial choices, and my daily bread. Like the unfaithful servant in the parable of the talents, I thought that Jesus was a hard master, so I hid what he had given me instead of using it his way to get him a return on his investment.
I began to reconsider my position one day when potential clients, a couple who was contemplating investing in some mutual funds, responded to my proposal by saying, “We’ll pray about it.” It was the first time someone had answered me like that. It surprised me! Half of me thought it was just a way to say that they weren’t interested, and the other half of me thought that was an interesting idea to explore further. The concepts that the small amount of money I had at the time might really belong to God and that he had good ideas on how to use it began to come into my mind.
Still, I didn’t entirely buy into the idea of God specifically answering prayers or taking a personal interest in my life until one night in 1990. I had come to a crossroads, and I really needed God to specifically intervene in my life—relationally, financially, and in my business. For hours, I screamed out the loudest prayers that I had ever prayed. I kneeled down, raised my hands, punched the sky, and yelled out for Jesus to lead me, guide me, and show me the way. At about 2am, clear as day, I knew that Jesus heard me and interceded with the Father. I was given a vision, a sign, and confirmation. I saw a thousand arrows shoot up into the sky, into the atmosphere, passing the stars, and going into heaven. As the arrows disappeared from sight, I found myself crying and reverently shaking with an expectation of what may come next. I collapsed, fell fast asleep, and woke up at sunrise with more conviction than I had ever had. It had also become clear in my mind to do two things: propose to my girlfriend and to stay in the financial services business but to work in a different way—focused on working for the Kingdom of God and for the glory of God, rather than the kingdom of money and for the glory of me. That night, Jesus put me on a new path, the one which He thought best for me. A few months later I would be married and working for a financial services firm which aspired to follow Christian values.
A few years later, I found myself in positions to learn and become a leader on this path of faith and business. One mentor to me was a brand new financial advisor, who I was actually training. He was a passionate charismatic Christian. He would take every opportunity to pray during financial meetings and took every chance to ask people what they would like for him to pray about for them. And he did pray for them—usually on the spot and loudly! To me it seems like most people say things like, “I’ll be thinking of you” or “I’ll pray for you” or “Let me pray about it” or “I’m praying for you,” but few seem to jump right on it. I was inspired by my friend’s boldness.
The Lord also led my wife and me to some spiritual mentors, Herb and Delores Mirly. We would pray for hours about many things, including our finances and business. They often said that “prayer requires trusting that God wants a relationship with me, with you, with all people.” We also learned that prayer is fulfilling to people because it connects us to our God, and that prayer is fulfilling to God because it opens the door to the relationship that He desires with each of us.
One of the reasons we so enjoyed learning from the Mirlys is that they seemed to have a simple process laid out for everything spiritual. In our 10 years working with them, Mary and I came to develop five steps for praying about anything, including money decisions. They are:
1. The Discipline of Trusting
2. The Passion of Praying in the Spirit
3. The Attitude of Yielding
4. The Space and Intentionality of Listening
5. The Action of Following
I can find it helpful to select scriptures and craft questions that relate the five steps to specific areas in life. Here is a way I might apply them to business and financial decisions. Whether you have never considered to let Jesus in the middle of your money matters, or if you have done so for years, take some time to examine yourself:
1. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” - Luke 22:42In my business life, am I really asking for Jesus to lead me? Am I willing to trust that He really cares for me and that His plan will ultimately be good for me?
2. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” - Luke 6:12Have I really put some energy into my prayers? How long and hard have I prayed about a specific financial issue before moving forward? Have I spent as much time as my research time or as my worry time? Have I taken notes and made some journal entries about the prayer?
3. I am willing to yield to what Jesus might see as the best for me at the time? Am I willing to go against what I think might seem like the best for me at the time?
4. “At once the Spirit sent Him out into the wilderness, and He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended Him.” - Mark 1:12What if the Holy Spirit whispered to guide me in a very specific way in a financial decision? Could I hear Him? What if a spouse or a mentor was praying about the situation and they whispered guidance to me? Would I hear them?
5. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” - Mark 1:35How is my business activity going to be different by following Jesus rather than by following myself? Am I diligently taking the time to seek him and yield to his leading, or am I just saying, “I’ll pray about it” when things come to mind...and then forgetting to pray as I go my own way?
So, I encourage you—when thinking your business and financial goals, how about determining to live with this simple “formula in mind:”
me, Jesus, my $ = :)