Overcoming Hardship #5: 7 PRINCIPLES FOR THRIVING ECONOMICALLY
In 2017, in the heat of the Ponzi madness that hit Nigeria as a result of hard times, I did some posts entitled Overcoming Hardship Series, essentially discouraging my readers from doing anything illegal to survive. I moved on to other topics after the fourth title in the series. However, there was one more which I deferred and which I’m delighted to present today. But first, check out the previous titles, if you may.
I share today’s post because I believe it is God’s desire that we not only survive but thrive in spite of hard times. Although I referred to Nigeria a lot in this post, the strategies shared are universal and they work just as well in easy times as in tough times.
7 Principles for Thriving Economically
1. Constantly spend time in prayer for business insights: Don’t do a business simply because it’s prestigious or it seems lucrative to many. I see a trend in Nigeria where one person ventures into an area and becomes successful, the next thing you know lots of folks are jumping into the same area. Many of the later entrants are ill-prepared and flood the market with substandard products and services. Sooner than later, these copycat businesses collapse. We’ve seen it in the manufacture of toilet paper, pure water and food products like soya beans extracts.
You don’t have to do what others are doing to get rich. You just need to discover what God wants you to do. In a guest article for entrepreneur.com titled, “7 Audacious Startup Ideas That Eventually Became Wildly Successful”, Jayson DeMers’s examples included PayPal and Amazon. On PayPal, he recalled that, back when it was “launched in 1998, it was pushing into a bold new frontier. The internet was still new and commanded little public trust, yet PayPal’s co-founders expected you to hand over your bank account information, along with other personal info, and trust that they could handle your financial transactions online.” But today, he added, “millions of people rely on PayPal to handle their financial transactions, trusting it as much as any bank (if not more so).”
Similarly, the success of Amazon started with the daring idea of selling books online. DeMers explained that “back in 1994,” when Amazon launched, “buying books online was considered risky; how could you guarantee that you’d get what you paid for? And, besides, there were bookstores in every major city. Why not simply buy a book from them? The idea, however, was sound; books were in high demand, they were inexpensive and they were easy to ship. What seemed nonsensical was actually brilliant. In a matter of years, Amazon became one of the most popular sites on the internet and started expanding to offer products that went way beyond mere books.”
I have no idea whether the founders of PayPal and Amazon prayed before getting these ideas but as a Christian, you have access to limitless wisdom in God through the Spirit of Christ Jesus in “whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” – Colossians 2:3 (KJV). God did it for Jacob when Laban tried to cheat him. Remember the idea to peel stripes on the bark of tree stems and place them before mating animals in order to get spotted and speckled young which were supposed to be his pay (Genesis 30:25 – 39). That strategy paid off and he became quite rich.
2. Acquire new skills and update existing ones: The world is dynamic and those who don’t retrain to embrace new innovative trends or update the skills they already have get left behind. For example, there’s hardly any business you can do now without being digital technology-savvy. Computer literacy and ability to use the Internet are almost compulsory. Most communication is done on the Internet via emails, social media, etc. Some business associates may prefer FaceTime or Skype video calls to regular telephone calls, especially for first contact with potential partners far away. You would need the right digital device and software plus the required Internet speed to make this happen.
Furthermore, business proposals are no longer presented with tons and tons of paper alone. In fact, to engage potential investors better (with more visually stimulating, co-ordinated and even animated presentations), folks with business ideas have gone beyond PowerPoint and Google Slides to Visme, Pitcherific, Powtoon, Prezi and many other tools that incorporate more features.
If you are unwilling to adapt or spend to be on top of the trends in your business area, you will limit your appeal and competitive edge.
3. Study successful godly people to know their secrets: There are a lot of examples of godly people who are very successful that you can study their lives. Billionaires like Nigeria’s Cosmas Maduka, the President and Chairman of the Coscharis Group of companies; Zimbabwe’s Strive Masiyiwa, founder of Econet Wireless which is part of the Econet Group and Singapore’s Philip Ng, who with his his brother, Robert, are worth $12.1 billion and control the Far East Organization, their country’s largest private landlord and property developer. By researching their lives and faith, you can see what spurred such brethren to success, how they overcame challenges and how they have balanced their business pursuits with service to God and humanity.
4. Move promptly when God says to in spite of your limitations, like fear, scarce resources and lack of connections: In his book, The Happiest People on Earth, Demos Shakarian, the founder of the Businessmen’s Full Gospel Fellowship International, described how his family of Armenian immigrants made the perilous sea journey from their home to America’s East Coast, then traversed the continental US and eventually settled in California on the West Coast. That move, in obedience to an urgent prophetic word, not only saved the family from perishing in the Turkish massacre of Armenia during the early 20th Century, it helped them prosper in time as God promised.
By 1943, the Shakarian family business in Downey, California (Reliance Farms), had become the largest privately-owned dairy in the world with 3,000 cows although Demos’ father, Isaac, had started the venture with only three cows in 1913. According to The Downey Patriot newspaper, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, “(Isaac) Shakarian established the Great Western Milk Transport Company, which featured 400 milk tankers used to help transport Shakarian dairy products throughout the state. Shakarian also helped open a meat packing plant … called the Great Western Packing Company, which slaughtered 700-800 cattle daily.” These businesses along with “an asbestos company started by E.M. Smith,” were the only ones “in Downey that kept a significant amount of people working during the 1930s.” Remember that none of this would have happened if the family hadn’t fled as directed by God.
Our God operates by times and seasons. There are times He calls us to wait, like when Moses was in Midian, but there are times He asks us to move, like when Moses confronted Pharoah in Egypt. Our duty is to discern what He’s saying and carry it out promptly to tap into the supernatural releases He has prepared for us.
5. Apply wisdom and fairness in your business dealings: Hire the right staff (qualified, honest, etc.). Be careful about hiring friends and relatives who might feel entitled. Such folks may only be interested in being on the payroll without actually doing the work. They may also be insurbodinate, seeing you as friend or relative rather than as boss. Their attitude could eventually affect discipline in the work place because other staff may take a cue from them to be lax and defiant.
Also, work out a just system of rewards for your workers. It’s not only important to pay them what is fair but to do so promptly. The Bible lays a curse on those who do otherwise:
“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages” – Jeremiah 22:13 (ESV).
“Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” – James 5:4 (ESV)
Beyond that, try to be compassionate and take an interest in their welfare and that of their families. While you should not allow them to neglect their jobs for personal matters, let the Spirit of God guide you in knowing when to cut them some slack.
Acting in the foregoing ways better ensures a healthy bottom line because the workers know you care and that if your business prospers, they too will prosper.
6. Live within your means: Rushing to live like the Joneses (or the Kardashians 😄) will cripple your business. You cannot be making thousands and living like a millionaire. That is unsustainable. It will throw you into penury.
“He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.” – Proverbs 21:17 (KJV)
“… whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.” – Proverbs 13:11 (NIV)
Businesses grow by watching the bottom line and ploughing back some of the profits. Your first concern should not be to get an expensive house and ride to show people you’ve made it.
“Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” – Proverbs 24:27 (ESV)
The outside work or field refers to your business. Make that your priority, not living in affluence. And even when you’ve made millions, go for comfort, not obscene display of wealth which will offend God, attact envy and make you a target for criminals.
Igbo traders are very good at this. When I was growing up, I noticed that when they buy a motorcycle, they’ve probably built a property for rent. Before they buy a private car, they are already millionaires. What they buy first is a pickup truck for transporting their goods or a commercial commuter bus to create an additional income stream if they are not transporters. This is how the Bible puts it:
“One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.” – Proverbs 13:7 (ESV)
You know who is the wise one of the two.
7. Share your blessings with others and support the work of the gospel: This is a sine qua non for prosperity in Christ.
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” – Luke 6:38 (KJV)
“24. There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. 25. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” – Proverbs 11:24-25 (KJV)
See what God promised the Israelites through Haggai after they began to rebuild the temple:
“18. Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider it. 19. Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.” – Haggai 2:18-19 (KJV) [emphasis, mine]
And this is what Paul wrote to the Philippians who constantly sent him material aid:
“16. … even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. 19. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:16-19 (KJV)
While it is God’s desire that we prosper (2 Corinthians 8:9, 3 John 2), we must be wary of the love of money.
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” – 1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV)
We must see money as a means to an end, not an end in itself. It is merely a tool to help us serve God and our fellow human being in diverse ways, to reach out and make a positive contribution to society, not to be immersed in self-indulgent living (part of the reason Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed).
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” – Ezekiel 16:49 (ESV)
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? …” – Matthew 16:26 (ESV)
Loving God and pleasing Him should remain our first priority for that is why we were created (Revelation 4:11).
Almighty God, the silver and the gold belong to you. Guide me in the path to prosperity and keep me faithful to you even when I get there in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Many thanks to my brother and friend, Chikezie Uzuegbunam (PhD) for permitting me to use his picture in the feature graphic.
King James Version of the Holy Bible.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
New International Reader’s Version (NIRV) Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Jayson DeMers. 7 Audacious Startup Ideas That Eventually Became Wildly Successful
Matt D’Angelo. Beyond PowerPoint: Presentation Tools for Small Businesses
Cosmas Maduka biography
Strive Masiyiwa bio
Philip Ng bio
Philip Ng devotion to Christ confession
Demos Shakarian. The Happiest People on Earth: (The Long-Awaited Personal Story of Demos Shakarian as told to John & Elizabeth Sherrill)
Fleming H Revell Co, 1979
Looking back on… The Shakarian Family