There Are Different Kinds Of Service, But The Same Lord
June 5, 2015
When God first brought me the idea to build a Christian Investing website and newsletter, I set out studying what the Bible had to say about investing. I also attempted to apply broader scriptural teachings and principles to the practice of investment management. Most of the study was done in Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. One product of that study was a free 13 page report entitled What Every Christian Investor Needs To Know.
However, I also came up with a fairly conservative, but wise, sound, and prudent investing style which involved investing in companies with a solid, long term track record of increasing dividends. Truthfully, most of that approach was driven by what I had already come to believe was wise and prudent back when I was in the midst of my investment management career (a time in which I was not at all following God). Still, it seemed to me to fit with what I thought the Bible taught regarding wisdom, prudence, and sound financial management.
But it wasn't long before God began telling me to get out of my comfort zone, and take on more risk (i.e. stocks/positions with greater "uncertainty"). I hesitate to use that word, risk, because what is the true risk of following where God leads? There really isn't any. There is uncertainty in the sense that God doesn't normally tell me exactly how things are going to play out. In other words, he often says "Go" without telling us the when, the why, and the how of his full plan and purpose. He tells us to go, but he doesn't always tell us exactly what's going to happen when we get there. So in that sense, there is uncertainty. But there is no risk that God will forget about me. There is no risk that he won't deliver the things he promises in his word to deliver. So in my view, there is no risk of loss when following where God leads. Besides, even when we "lose" things for God's sake, the Bible tells us to count it as gain. So, risk is a tricky topic for the Christian investor, at least in my view. But I'm getting a little off topic. The point is that God doesn't limit himself to a singular style or approach to investing and trading. God may lead me back to a more conservative style at some point in the future, but for now, he has led me to pursue various value, deep value, and contrarian strategies and opportunities. So in my view, God may use more than one style for a single believer. But his boundless creativity and limitless power doesn't stop there!
Over the last couple of years, I've come across quite a few different believers who operate in financial markets as investors, investment managers, researchers, analysts, traders, etc. What I found really kind of blew me away. None of them are the same! They all seem to have a unique style, approach, and thought process. Some of the approaches seem to be totally opposed to each other, yet God is working through all of them! For example, I know a Christian hedge fund manager who practices strict value investing principles. His view is that technical analysis, investor sentiment, short term trends, etc. should be totally ignored. On the other hand, I've met another Christian who only trades various securities, with his trades being based on a model that incorporates technical analysis, investor sentiment, and short term trends. He thinks it's crazy to focus on fundamentals, invest for the long term, etc. As far as I know and can tell, God is producing excellent results through both of them. Here's another crazy aspect of these two guys, at least for me. Neither of them believes in, nor practices diversification!*
Anyone who has spent any time on my site knows that I personally have taken Ecclesiastes 11:2 to be quite literal, and have implemented it as probably the most crucial risk management tool in my investment approach. I suppose there may come a time when God tells me to put all of my eggs into one or two baskets, but so far, that has definitely not been the case. The point of all of this is to say, God is not limited in regard to how he chooses to work through his children!
Dave Ramsey recommends actively managed mutual funds, and says he has always beat the market by investing in them. Obviously, that is not at all the approach that makes sense to me, or that I believe God has led me to take. But does that mean God can't use that approach for Dave Ramsey (and others)? Does that mean God can't produce good results through that approach, if he so chooses? Of course not! Sound Mind Investing is another good example. Their investing approach is way different from the approach God has led me to take. In fact, their approach doesn't make sense to me from a philosophical perspective. Yet, God has been demonstrating his power through them for many years now! There are still other examples.
Now, as a quick aside, if God tells me or leads me to invest using a particular method or approach, and I try instead to use a different one that another believer seems to use successfully, will it work for me? I can say emphatically, no. It may seem logical that if I were to (try to) do the exact same thing another believer did, and they were getting good results, that I would get good results as well. However, God is sovereign. He cannot be manipulated or tricked, and he will not ignore disobedience. Going against what he told me personally to do would never work. I suppose it could seem to be working for a time, but it would not end well for me. Something would happen to bring discipline and correction to me, even as the other believer enjoys the blessings of obedience.
But getting back to the main point, I think it's clear that God works through his children in many different ways. I recognized that possibility early on, but it has been thoroughly confirmed to me over the last couple of years.
We can see this principle described clearly in 1 Corinthians 12, especially verses 4-6: "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work."
I have been able to observe this same principle in regard to believers who participate in financial markets in various ways. That's why I'm so excited to announce that Wisdom's Reward will soon begin publishing guest posts from various Christian investors, investment managers, analysts, and traders! I am grateful for the opportunity to use Wisdom's Reward to highlight the various ways in which God works through his children via financial markets!
Please check back soon to enjoy a series of guest posts from other believers!
* NOTE 6/8/2015 - I came back and added a note here because there is an important point that needs to be clarified. While neither of these individuals practices a high degree of diversification (and the short term trader even explicitly states that diversification should be avoided under his approach), they both have very strict risk management disciplines. There are other forms of financial/investment risk management besides just diversification. More on that in future posts!