20 Oct #091 – Integriosity – Re-Align Ingredient #3 – Trust in God
ESSENCE: The world–and business as usual–teaches organizational leaders to Trust principally in two things–“impressive” people and “secure” money–but we believe that is misplaced Trust. Business a better way requires re-directing that misplaced Trust in line with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities. Leading an organization to faithfully “do right” through business a better way requires Trust in God, and Trust in God is Trust in His sovereignty and promises and Trust in His commands. Business a better way challenges “the given structures of the social order”, which in a fallen world will certainly bring resistance. Resistance is likely to lead to dilemmas–times when the challenge for a leader trying to faithfully “do right” will be prayerfully choosing one of two imperfect paths based on a balancing of God’s commands and then Trusting in those commands and God’s sovereignty and promises. When facing resistance and resolving dilemmas in line with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities, risks are necessary, but Righteousness (a component of Integrity) requires doing what’s right regardless of the personal cost–Trusting in God’s commands and God’s sovereignty and promises.
In the last five posts (#086, #087, #088, #089 and #090), we began to explain the first two of the five key ingredients for executing a Re-Imagined Purpose, Re-Imagined Values and a Re-Imagined Culture–a Flexible Approach and Intentional Leaders. This post will consider a third–Trust in God.
Re-Align Ingredient #3: The Importance of Trust in God
“In God We Trust”–it is a declaration right there on every United States bill and coin. Faithfully “doing right” through Integriosity® is about aligning the purpose, values and culture of an organization with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities, and the Bible is pretty clear about the importance of Trust in God:
“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Isaiah 26:4)
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:7)
“He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.” (2 Kings 18:5)
In order to understand what Trust in God looks like, we need look no further than the examples of Abraham and Jesus. Trust in God is Trust in His sovereignty and promises and Trust in His commands.
- Abraham: In Genesis 12:1, God told Abraham “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” And in Genesis 12:4 we are told “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him . . . .” Abraham didn’t know where he was headed, but he trusted God’s sovereignty and promises and God’s command.
- Jesus: When facing Pilate and the prospect of crucifixion, Jesus trusted God’s sovereignty when he replied “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given to you from above.” (John 19:11) And in John 14:31, Jesus explained “I do as the Father has commanded me.”
We love how Dr. Skip Moen describes Trust in God:
It’s the decision to place my well-being into the exemplified character of another without really knowing how the facts will turn out. Trust is not a function of facts. Oh, there are undoubtedly facts preceding the decision to trust, but trust entails deciding a future action without future confirmation. Trust is, “I’m going forward. Let’s see what happens”. . . . To not trust God is to reject the divine order of the universe. It’s much more than simply rejecting YHVH, the God of Israel. It’s saying that the whole creation is untrustworthy because its author can’t be trusted. Amazingly, every fact of [the Israelites] past experience shouts out that the divine order can be trusted because it is under the sovereign control of a trustworthy God.”
Re-Align Ingredient #3: The Challenge of Misplaced Trust
“In God We Trust”–it is a declaration right there on every bill and coin. But do we? Really?
To be clear, Trusting as a concept isn’t our problem. We trust a chair every time we sit down without testing its integrity. We trust pilots with our lives every time we get in a plane. We trust taxi drivers and Uber/Lyft drivers with our lives every time we get into a car.
But trust in chairs, planes, pilots and drivers does not provide the security we need to face the challenges of leading an organization, particularly in difficult times. We believe the world–and business as usual–teaches organizational leaders to trust principally in two things–“impressive” people and “secure” money.
- “Impressive” People. When you have an important transaction, hire the big-name/most-expensive advisors. When you have a problem, hire the big-name/most-expensive lawyers or consultants. Often this is driven by the anxiety of being second-guessed with 20/20 hindsight–even if things go wrong, no one can fault you for hiring the “best”. In recent years we have also witnessed what some call the “Cult” of CEO “Rock Stars”. Organizational boards pay exorbitant amounts to secure the leadership of “hot” CEO’s–usually leaders with BIG personalities. One commentator observed “They are usually the quick-fix answer for a Board motivated by anxiety to fill an important, if not critical, position at the company”. You may want to look back at post #060 (Humility–A First Thing) to recall what Jim Collins and James Hunter had to say about “big personality”, “celebrity” leaders (not good things–Collins said they lack the humility to take an organization from “good to great” and Hunter even called such leadership “artificial, unbiblical, organizationally unhealthy, inherently corrupting“).
- “Secure” Money. Business consultants, particularly those advising organizations in difficult times, sum it up in the phrase “Cash is King” (and who can forget Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey in Cabaret assuring us that “Money makes the world go around“–if you aren’t sure of the reference, watch the video at the end of this post). It is much easier to Trust in God, personally or organizationally, when you have large cash reserves (just in case God isn’t trustworthy and shows up late, shows up the wrong way, or doesn’t show up at all). It is ironic that the declaration “In God We Trust” appears on the very money we trust in lieu of God. (Perhaps our currency should be re-minted with a question mark.) Of course, Trusting in “secure” money is a misplaced Trust, because no worldly asset is truly “secure”–just ask investors in businesses that were “too big to fail” (think Enron, General Motors, Chrysler, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Long-Term Capital, Continental Illinois) or start-ups “too hot to fail” (think Theranos or WeWork), customers of “Ponzi-schemes” “too good to pass-up” (think Madoff or Stanford Financial) and people living through hyperinflation (think Venezuela, Argentina or Zimbabwe).
Is it any surprise that even faith-driven leaders can turn to these substitutes for Trust in God? Just look at the example set for them in many of today’s churches: a penchant for “big personality”/”celebrity” pastors who can draw crowds of thousands (often with “feel good” messages that avoid potentially controversial Biblical messages) and annual November/December stewardship campaigns that suggest Trust in God may be appropriate for sermons and homilies on personal finance and generosity but “Pledges in Hand” is what the church needs to budget for the coming year. As we exposed in post #024 (Faith As Usual–Placebos and Side Roads), faith as usual can actually impede progress toward business a better way.
In posts #039 (Keep First Things First), #065 (Four Principles and Eight Keys) and #072 (Crossing from RENEW to RE-IMAGINE) we discussed the importance of re-ordering disordered priorities. Trust in People and Money rather than God is similar–it is misplaced Trust. This is also pretty clear in the Bible:
Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:5)
Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. (Proverbs 11:28)
Oswald Chambers beautifully expresses what God expects and how we often turn to other things (like “impressive” people and “secure” money) out of anxiety, particularly in difficult times:
God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are the reliable ones. Our trust is in God up to a certain point, then we go back to the elementary panic prayers of those who do not know God. We get to our wits’ end, showing that we have not the slightest confidence in Him and His government of the world; He seems to be asleep, and we see nothing but breakers ahead. . . . There are stages in life when there is no storm, no crisis, when we do our human best; it is when a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to trust Him, the crisis will reveal that we will go to the breaking point and not break in our confidence in Him.
To enact a vision of human flourishing based in the qualities of life that Jesus modeled will invariably challenge the given structures of the social order. In this light, there is no true leadership without putting at risk one's time, wealth, reputation, and position. (James Hunter).
Re-Align Ingredient #3: Trusting God in Faithfully “Doing Right”
Business as usual teaches to Trust in people and money, but business a better way requires re-directing that misplaced Trust in line with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities. A leader of an organization committed to faithfully “doing right” through business a better way will face challenges that require the utmost Trust in God’s sovereignty and promises and Trust in God’s commands. James Hunter warns: “To enact a vision of human flourishing based in the qualities of life that Jesus modeled will invariably challenge the given structures of the social order. In this light, there is no true leadership without putting at risk one’s time, wealth, reputation, and position.”
- Resistance is certain when challenging “the given structures of the social order” in a fallen world. The Bible warns that those following God’s commands will have trouble (John 16:33), be persecuted (Romans 12:14), suffer affliction (Romans 12:12), be accused of wrongdoing (1 Peter 2:12) and suffer unjustly (1 Peter 2:19). Resistance may come from employees, customers, vendors, owners, regulators and communities.
- “Dilemmas” are likely. Because an organization is operating in a fallen world, there may not be “easy answers” to organizational challenges–leaders are likely to be faced with choices that involve two imperfect alternatives. There may be times when the best stewardship will require difficult decisions that seem at odds with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities. For example, in a perfect world, an organization would never have to lay-off good workers, but it may be necessary. In that case, the challenge will be taking the time to ensure that the decision is coming from prayerful discernment rather than fear and anxiety and, if necessary, carrying out those lay-offs in a manner that aligns with the purpose, values and culture of the organization–prayerfully choosing a path based on a balancing of God’s commands and then Trusting in those commands and God’s sovereignty and promises.
- Risks are necessary when facing resistance and resolving dilemmas in line with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities. As Hunter observes, “there is no true leadership without putting at risk one’s time, wealth, reputation, and position.” The first principle of Righteousness (a component of Integrity) includes not only doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, but doing doing what’s right regardless of the personal cost–Trusting in God’s commands and God’s sovereignty and promises.
Leading an organization to faithfully “do right” through business a better way in the face of resistance, dilemmas and risks requires faith, and faith requires Trust in God. Again turning to the writing of Dr. Skip Moen:
Faith is my active attitude of total reliance on God’s absolute trustworthiness. That means that my “faith” is demonstrated in the action of putting myself in His care, no matter what the circumstances! Until and unless I act on His reliability, I just don’t have faith. I might have a set of written beliefs that I can recite, but I won’t have any active relationship. Faith is only found in the action, not the declaration. . . . If faith is the action of trusting Him, then I either act or I don’t act. I either trust Him, or I try my own way. There is no half-full measure here.
We believe it is time to begin executing business a better way in alignment with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities–it is time to begin Trusting in God by faithfully “doing right” through Integriosity®.
SPOILER ALERT: Central to our discussion of Trust is the need for prayer. Our next post will explore the fourth key ingredient to the RE-ALIGN step of Integriosity–Prayer.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): By their very nature, “dilemmas” have no easy answer. One dictionary definition (Cambridge English Dictionary) is “a situation in which a choice has to be made between possibilities that will all have results you do not want”. I recall a dilemma faced by my young niece: “Pigs are so cute, but bacon is so yummy.” (She ate the bacon.) Faith as usual might see an easy answer and leap to a seemingly “obvious Biblical choice”. But I believe faithfully “doing right” requires more–more thought and more prayer than what may be a legalistic “knee-jerk” choice.
My favorite story of Trust and prayerful discernment in a “real-world” business dilemma involves a friend who worked as a young associate at a large investment bank. Before starting his job, a mentor wisely suggested that he prayerfully set “boundaries”–things he saw as contrary to his faith values. One of the things he identified was working for a client in the gambling industry. One Friday, his managing director asked him to step in on a time-sensitive project (needed to be done over the weekend) for a client in the gambling industry because someone had gone on vacation. He had three choices (1) jettison his faith-based “boundary” out of anxiety that it could lead to jeopardizing his career, (2) make the “obvious Biblical choice” of refusing to work on the project (making it difficult for his supervisor and the firm to meet their commitment to the client) or (3) recognize the “dilemma” that existed between a choice that challenged his faith-boundary and a choice that challenged the commitment he had made to his employer and prayerfully seek a creative “third way” that honored both.
He chose path #3 by explaining his faith-boundary to his managing director, expressing his willingness to help meet the client’s need until his colleague returned from vacation, and requesting that he be taken off the deal after the weekend project. He recognized and Trusted God’s command to honor our commitments (even if contrary to God’s ideal desire–remember Joshua and the Gibeonites?) and he Trusted God’s sovereignty and promises by courageously taking a path that risked tarnishing his reputation at his firm and limiting his prospects there. That Trust paid off. Several months later, his managing director shared that my friend’s commitment to his boundaries had led the managing director to revisit boundaries he had once set years before (and then abandoned in pursuit of success).
"Money" from "Cabaret"
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Photo Credit: Original photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels (photo cropped).