You're almost giddy as you inhale the heady aroma of money -- big money. It's everywhere around you, from the skyscrapers to the limos, to the Armani business suits and expensive leather attaches.
You're a dot-com entrepreneur, founder and CEO of an Internet-based start-up company that's really turning heads. Everyone wants a piece of the action, to get in on the "ground floor" as the days tick down to your initial public offering when it all becomes real. You're worth $1.7 million -- on paper. It's so close you can almost touch it. Just a few more weeks, and all those years of struggling to make the big time will pay off.
And then -- POOF! -- it's gone. The dot-com bubble bursts. Investors run for the tall grass, your stock value plummets, and it's all over but the crying. Except there was no crying.
I know, because that dot-com entrepreneur was me. The "riches-to-rags" part of the story is certainly not unique -- many dot-com millionaires lost everything in 2000. What makes my story different is that a mysterious change had come over me in the months leading up to that fateful moment when the NASDAQ crashed. Instead of being devastated, I was relieved.
Don't misunderstand: I certainly felt bad for the other investors who also lost everything. Maybe that was the first inkling that something had changed in me. I was more upset about their losses than mine. I didn't know it at the time, but God had laid the groundwork for a powerful transformation that actually enabled me to acquire riches -- just not the kind I had sought all those years.
For me, "defeat" was a long time coming. I went from a gawky teenager trying to win stuffed animals on a Carnival Midway to an obsessed adult reading every get-rich-quick book I could find. Along the way, I suffered numerous losses in business, but I counted every small gain as a sign that bigger things lay ahead -- always just ahead.
They say that behind every successful man there's a woman, and thank God that was the case with me. My wife, Ann, played a pivotal role in the days leading up to my dot-com debacle by gently nudging me into a Crown Financial Ministries small group study that became my portal into a new dimension of thinking about riches. Had I not learned God's perspective of money first, I may not have survived the dot-com implosion.
Did you know that our roots determine the type of fruit we bear in this world? Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff are prime examples of how corrupt roots yield bad fruit. Godly men like Oswald Chambers and the wealthy missionary William Borden are models for how roots nourished on God's truth yield good fruit.
But don't take my word for it. The Bible contains scores of verses to show that even believers are easily led astray unless our roots are nourished on God's financial principles instead of the lies the world tells us.
Those principles are vitally relevant to everyone at every stage of life -- whether you're a teenager looking for a summer job or a retiree; whether you're worried about your next paycheck or lunching in the Hamptons.
If 12 years at Crown Financial Ministries has taught me anything, it's that believers desperately need to move away from man's delusional view of wealth and possessions and toward the profound contentment of true riches found only through the practical application of God's Word.
It is my fervent prayer that, with God's help, you begin that process right away.
This is adapted from Bentley's new book, "The Root of Riches: What if Everything You Think about Money Is Wrong." Baptist Press will run excerpts from the book over the next few months. Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries and host of Crown's MoneyLife podcast (Crown.org/media/MoneyLife). To learn more about Crown's resources, including Bentley's new book, "The Root of Riches", visit Crown.org or call 1-800-722-1976. Cofounded by Howard Dayton and the late Larry Burkett, Crown Financial Ministries (Crown.org), Crown Financial Ministries (Crown.org) is an interdenominational ministry dedicated to equipping people with biblically based financial tools and resources through radio, film, seminars, small groups and individual coaching. Based in Georgia, the ministry has offices in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Africa, Europe, India, Asia, and Australia.
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