Challenges To Success – Critical Factors And Decisions

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To be the best in our industry and profession,

1) We must seize opportunities and overcome challenges and dangers, and make right critical choices at major crossroads of our life and business

2) We need to know ourselves, our clients and our business environment well and construct and implement successfully effective strategies

How do we spot the opportunities?

How can we identify the dangers before they become problems?

How we do we make the right decisions in our personal, family and business life?

How do we succeed and move from mediocrity to excellence?

  1. SUCCESS ETHOS1) The secret of success is not knowing all the answer

    The secret is knowing all the questions

    INSPECTION + INTROSPECTION = EXPECTATION + EXCELLENCE
    2) Choice, not chance, determines destiny

    “Man is not the creature of circumstances; circumstances are the creatures of men.”  Benjamin Disraeli

    Goals are a preview of future events and experiences in your life.
    The difference between a dream and a goal is a plan.
    Your success can only be as big as your dream.


    A POEM

    I bargained with life for a penny
    And life would pay no more
    However, I counted my scanty store
    For life is just employer
    He gives you what you ask
    But once you have set the wages
    Why, you must bear the task
    I worked for a menial’s hire
    Only to learn, dismayed
    That any wage I had asked of life
    Life would have willingly paid


    3) 
    Daily Targets and Activities

    When you know clearly what you want, you will wake up every morning excited about life.

    “It is not what you do each year, each month or each week, but rather it is what you do each DAY that determines your  level of success.”   Tony Gordon

    4) Winners Find Ways

    “We will either find a way or make one.”   Hannibal

    Faced with a wall, you can climb over it, break through it, tunnel under it, find a door.


    5) 
    Winners Overcome Disappointments

    “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”   Winston Churchill

    6) Winners Never Quit – and quitters never win     (see Appendix I)
    7) Action

    Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge
    Let your learning lead to action
    8)      Conviction

    “One person with BELIEF is equal to a force of 99 who have only interest.” J S Mill

    9) Courage

    There are people who fear big waves and there are those who love surfing them
    10) Par Excellence

    “Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish”.  Michelangelo

    The greatest enemy of tomorrow’s success is today’s success
    Focus on self-development, not self-fulfillment

  2. OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOU

    1) Singapore will be leading wealth management centre in the world
    2) Singapor ehas world’s fastest growth of millionaires
    3) Singapore has all the world’s leading firms based here
    4) IFAs have advantages over other channels
    5) Singaporeans still under insured and unit trust investment is still small
    6) Financial planning for fees is increasingly emerging as a viable business due to educated population and increasing wealth
    7) Inflow of HNWI expatriates in Singapore, e.g. British and European, QROPS
    8) Business-to-Business Agreements
    9) Corporate Business – ASME, SHRI, SICCC
    10) Social Media

  3. DANGERS

    1) Move towards fees only or fee-based.  Both dangers and opportunities.
    2) Increase in regulation and compliance, CKA, exams
    3) Rising business cost – rental, transport, staff support
    4) Commoditisation and disintermediation – clients going direct
    5) Increasing complexity of products and need for professional indemnity, e.g. accredited investors
    6) Increasing volatility of markets and uncertainty
    7) Personal pitfalls
    - Health (stress)
    - Addictions
    - Family8) Loss of motivation – age, overcrowdedness, health
    9) Loss of confidence – information explosion, clients’ knowledge
    10) Lack of structure and priorities

MAKING RIGHT DECISIONS

1) Values and Principles
2) Relationships
3) Making Right Decision at Work
4) Practical Wisdom1) Values

Ken Blanchard
The no. 1 ranked value is Ethical Behaviour
The no. 2 ranked value is Relationship
The no. 3 ranked value is Success
The no. 4 ranked value is Learning

Principles

a) Think Well

  • Proactive
  • Purposeful
  • Future-oriented
  • Analytical
  • Logical
  • Intuitive
  • Creative
  • Relational
  • Sequential

b) Focus, Specialise, Prioritise

  • Concentration is learned through practice
  • Focus comes from clearer vision
  • Specialisation comes from clear mission
  • Priorities come from clear strategies and actions

c) Powerful Motivation

  • Doing what you enjoy – mental
  • Support by family – emotional
  • Happy and healthy you – physical
  • Spiritual dimension of our lives can have a big impact on our emotional being
  • Get rid of
    - Excess weight
    - Anger
    - Cynicism
    - Prejudices
    - Grudges
    - Arguments
    - Pet peeves
    - Selfishness

d) Know your level (water finds its own level)

  • Beware of
    - Overambition
    - Pride
    - Egotism
  • Just because you are an expert at one thing does not make you an expert on anything
  • No one can be a specialist in more than one or two areas
  • Know yourself and do not envy
  • When presented with options, we should work with what we do well and not be side-tracked
e) Read to feed your mind on
  • Your business
  • Your values
  • Self-improvement

    If you can read yet choose not to, you are really no better off than someone who is illiterate

    Every leader is a reader

f) Write
  • Your thoughts, plans, to-do lists, reflections
  • Write your pros and cons before deciding
  • Writing forces you to think more clearly
g) Evaluate
  • Remember your past success and failures
  • Gain understanding and learn what formed your personality, your drive, your skills, your intelligence, your emotions
  • Beware of praise, prejudices, envy
h) Have long-term vision
  • Think and act long-term.  You must have long range to help you from being frustrated by short-term failure
  • Marriage – avoid demanding but giving
  • Children – avoid absence
  • Health – avoid addictions
  • Money – avoid debts
i) Have quiet time alone
  • Relax
  • Refresh
  • De-stress
  • Creative

    “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”   Blaise Pascal


j) Beware of anger

  • Anger

    Anyone can become angry – that is easy.  But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time for the right purpose, and in the right way, this is not easy.”  Aristotle

    Don’t get mad at the little thing

  • Cost
    - Broken relationship
    - Crushed spirits
    - Stress on our hearts
    - Hours spent on repair and reconciliation

    Anger is one of the most destructive forces in life

  • Triggers
    - An event
    - Internal response
    - External expression
  • Cause
    - We do not get our way
    - Someone offends us or puts us down
    - Disappointments
    - Confronted with need to change or improve something in our lives
  • Remedy
    - Identify your “hot spots”
    - Recognise your inner responses and emotions
    - Curb the external explosions
    - Strike at the roots
    - Why am I reacting?
    - Is it reasonable?
    - Is the incident worth the stress?

k) Be generous

  • Giving – it is God who gives you the ability to produce wealth

    Towards the poor, homeless, orphans, widows, down-trodden:

    “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.  The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”   Solomon

  • Give time

- Spouse, children, friends, co-workers, others
- Funerals, baptism, birthdays, children’s games, concerts
- Award presentations, graduations
- Visiting ill and aged

    • Give yourself
      “To overcome discouragement, do not focus on yourself; get involved in the lives of other people.”

Karl A Menninger, psychologist

        Get involved and start helping others.  There is no better exercise for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.

      l) Watch out for icebergs

      • Moral temptations
      • Craving wealth
      • Busyness

        “Cultivate our spiritual garden.  When this garden is in proper order, it is a great place and there is an abundance of busyness of defiling noise.  The inner garden is a delicate place and, if not properly maintained, it will be quickly overrun by intrusive undergrowth.”   Gordon MacDonald

      • What not to do – Don’ts
        - Don’t be an egotist
        - Don’t give up when life is hard
        - Don’t get into debt
        - Don’t spend more than you can make
        - Don’t give up on your marriage
        - Don’t cheat on your spouse
        - Don’t cheat on your employer
        - Don’t neglect your children
        - Don’t neglect your parents
        - Don’t abandon your friends
        - Don’t drink alcohol excessively
        - Don’t do drugs.  Ever
        - Don’t smoke
        - Don’t use profanity; there are other ways to communicate
        - Don’t put other people down or speak badly of them
        - Don’t be dishonest in business, finance or speech
        - Don’t betray confidences
        - Don’t give up on God and religion

      2) Relationships

      Relationship Do’s (see Appendix II)

      a) Treat people well

      • Honour – who they are, not what they do
      • Respect – regardless of their gifting, position, status
      • Love – acceptance of their personhood

        Golden Rule:
        Do unto others as you would have them to do to you.

        Love your neighbour as yourself.   Jesus

      b) Compliment people (see Appendix III)

      • Why criticise when you can compliment
      • Be sincere.  Don’t use empty flattery.
      • Be truthful
      • Don’t make a big deal out of it – just do it
      • Be an equal complimenter.  Don’t play favourites.

        “Catch someone doing something good and tell him.”   Ken Blanchard & Spencer Johnson, “The One Minute Manager”

      c) Be real

      • Don’t pretend to be something other than what you really are
      • Be self-aware, be consistent
      • Be truly focused on other people, listen to them
      • Be genuinely caring and concerned
      • Get feedback from friends and family

      d) Be available

      “God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability; and if we then prove our dependability, He will increase our capability.”

      Open door policy
      e) Disagree agreeably

      • Help me understand a little more of your thinking
      • You may well be right.  I need to think about it a bit more
      • I’ve thought that, too.  Here are some ideas I’ve wondered about.
      • Not:  Your idea is really stupid.  Let me straighten you out.

        Clarifying questions

      • Use equivocal and affirming expressions
      • I appreciate knowing how you think
      • That’s a good observation.  I’d like to weigh it more carefully.
      • I see you have given that a lot of thought
      • Have you considered …..
      • Never attack the person.  Let him know that your acceptance of him is not altered.

      f) Speak gently and be kind

      “A gentle response defuses anger
      But a sharp tongue kindles a forest fire
      Kind words heal and help
      Cutting words, wound and pain”   Solomon

      g) Say “thank you”

      Appreciation and affirmation motivate people more than money and rewards
      h) Call back

      He who is faithful in very little things is faithful also in much
      i) Don’t carry a grudge

      As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone
      j) Make and keep close friends

      “Not just acquaintances or colleagues
      There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”   Solomon

      k) Meet with a small group

      Choose to meet and share openly on marriage, children, work, personal strengths, career issues
      l) Make love

      • People who truly love others leave an incredibly valuable legacy
      • Learn to love and make love permeate your love and relationships
      • Love your family, your employer, your employees, co-workers, neighbours
      • Love never gives up

      3) Making Right Decisions At Work

      • Work hard
        “All hard work brings a profit but more talk leads only to poverty.”   Solomon
        “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”   Theodore Roosevelt
        Give a full day’s work for a full day’s pay
        Do more than just enough to get by
        Don’t give up when the task is difficult
        Help others in their work
        Keep learning how to do your work better
        Hard work reveals your character

        Some turn up their sleeves
        Some turn up their noses
        Some don’t turn up at all

      • Leave some things undone – WORK SMART
        - Not everything that can be done should be done
        - Not everything that can do should you do
        - Deliberate choices not to get immersed in businesses that consume time with little results
      • Focus on contribution, not position
        Whoever wants to become great among you
        must be your servant, and whoever wants
        to be first must be your slave      Jesus
      • Learn to write well and speak well
        - People judge you by your communication
        - Writing is a learned skill
        - Keep a brief journal and write something everyday
        - Join Toastmasters Club
        - Teach a class
      • Make lists
        - Help you organise your day or week
        - Offload your memory and free your mind
        - Help keep you from forgetting things you need to do
        - Help you hold on to information that otherwise might be irretrievably lost
        - Relieve anxiety
      • Compete but don’t be competitive

        Good leaders will always seek out people who are more gifted and skilled than they are to better the team or company

        We develop our God-given gifts by education, practice, focus and training. We are stewards, not owners, of our gifts and capabilities.

      • Do what you say you will do
        - It makes you as a person of your word
        - It makes you a load lifter on your team
        - It makes you a more valuable employee
        - It honours your co-workers
        - It is the right thing to do

        Otherwise, undependable, unfaithful, a slacker, poor worker

        “Reliable friends who do what they say are like cool drinks in sweltering heat – refreshing.”   Solomon

      • Expect your leaders to disappoint you
        Nobody is perfect.  The best of men are but men of God.
        We expect leaders to be perfect
        We expect visionaries, pioneers, innovators, good managers to be positive role models
        To have razor-sharp judgement, unlimited energy and patience, exemplary families, faultless morals, available 24/7
        Sometimes they disappoint
      • Learn in-depth – don’t be shallow

      • Seek a tried and true expert who really knows his or her profession
      • Don’t be a mile wide and an inch deep
      • Finish

      • If you have been entrusted with a task, see it through to the end
      • People don’t get kudos for what they start, only for what they finish

      4) Practical Wisdom

      “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”   Robert Burns

      The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.”   Thomas Carlyle
      So many houses, so few homes
      So many people, so few friends
      So much rhetoric, so few words
      So many listeners, so few heard
      So many believers, so little faith
      So many wishes, so little hope
      So much passion, so little love
      So much laughter, so little joy
      So much sympathy, so few care
      So much courage, so few dare
      So many lessons, so few learn
      So much effort, so little done
      So many changes, so little difference
      So many partners, so few agree
      So much time, so few free

      V.     MOVING FROM MEDIOCRISY TO EXCELLENCE

      Ideas from Dan Sullivan “How To Do Better”

      1) Break through present ceiling

      • Forget the past successes and repetition and stagnation
      • Think about the future prospects
      • Act in the present for the future through innovation and growth

      2) Break away from rugged individualism and discover unique ability teamwork

      3) Expect rewards only after creating value to others

      4) Set BIG goals or targets

      • Be prepared to impact relationships, organisational abilities and habits

      5) Be clear about what you want to have changed in your life professionally and personally

      6) Learn to get referral

      7) Delegate everything except genius

      8) Escape the causes of complexity

      • Too much happening, not enough time to think and learn
      • Too little security, not enough opportunity
      • Too few resources, not enough leverage

      9) Create a monopoly in the marketplace around an experience that only you can create for your clients

      • Make yourself crucial to the future success of your clients
      • Build structures, process and thinking patterns that allow you to create unique values
      • Always focus on creating increasing value for your clients, customers and prospects

        For example, provide leadership, relationship and creativity

        - Leadership provides directions to others in order to help them deal with feelings of confusion that arise out of living in an increasingly complex world

        - Relationship is providing a new sense of confidence when people feel isolated by change

        - Creativity is providing new capabilities when people are feeling powerless as a result of change

      10) Help others succeed

      • Help others ask the right questions and make the right decisions
      • Help others plan for the future
      • Help others seize opportunities

        “It is not the products that keep customers coming back, but the value those customers receive that they feel unable to get elsewhere.”

      VI.   THE FUTURE OF FINANCIAL ADVISORY BUSINESS IN SINGAPORE

      1) Increasing demand for risk protection and wealth advisory

      2) Movements towards financial planning approach and fee-based compensation

      3) Big potential for IFAs if they achieve sufficient differentiation from the other channels and have sufficient resources

      4) Increasing costs and likely fee-based compensation will mean need to go upmarket and move to accredited investor clients

      5) IFAs will consolidate to keep up with higher paid-up capital and increasing compliance and operating expense

      6) Greater reliance on technology and social media

      7) Need to specialise and work in teams within company’s multi-platforms and multi-services

      8) Need to upgrade professionalism of both company staff and representatives

      9) Need to access regional markets and expatriate markets

      10) Need for business partnerships at representatives and company level

      Winners Never Quit

      Failed in business 1831
      Ran for the local elections and lost 1832
      Failed in business 1834
      Sweetheart died 1835
      Had a nervous breakdown 1836
      Lost a second election 1838
      Defeated for Congress 1843
      Defeated for election 1846
      Defeated for Congress 1846
      Defeated for Senate 1855
      Defeated for Vice President 1856
      Defeated for Congress 1856
      Elected President 1870


      A Short Course In Human Relations

      The six most important words
      “I admit I made a mistake”

      The five most important words
      “You did a good job”

      The four most important words
      “What is your opinion?”

      The three most important words
      “If you please”

      The two most important words
      “Thank you” or “Forgive me”

      The one most important word
      WE

      The least most important word
      “I”

      Compliment

      After being married for 30 years, a wife asked her husband to describe her.

      He looked at her slowly, then said,
      “You are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K”.

      She asked what does that mean.

      He said, “Adorable, Beautiful, Cute, Delightful, Elegant, Foxy, Gorgeous, Hot”.

      She smiled happily and said,
      “Oh, that’s lovely.  What about I, J, K?”

      He said, “I’m just kidding”.
      His eye is still swollen but it will get better.

      Purposeful
      - Future-oriented
      - Analytical
      - Logical
      - Intuitive
      - Creative
      - Relational
      - Sequential

      Business As Mission

      Filed in General Comments Leave a comment

      For many years, I thought it was more holy and glorifying to God to be a full-time elder or pastor than to run a business or be a paid professional manager.

      To be sure, you can do much good as a full-time elder and pastor and we support our church’s full-time staff who can devote their attention and time to the matters of the church.  But those in business and employment, if it is God’s will for them, are able to glorify God just as much.

      In his book “Business as Mission”, Michael R Baer presented his thesis that business is not something which you can use for mission but it is a mission itself.

      His mission statement states that his business exists to further the expansion of theKingdomofGodamong the unreached through the “seamless integration of business as mission”.

      Michael traced the four phases through which a business may pass on its journey:

      1. Separation

        Christians with such a mindset attend church on Sunday and may serve on other days of the week in church-related activities.  But the thought of bringing their faith into their professional lives never crossed their minds.  These Christians are genuine believers but they simply do not see any connection between their Christianity and their business lives.  Their businesses or jobs exist to provide them a living and enable them to give to the Lord’s work but their view of the Lord’s work is centred on the church.

      2. Invasion

        These Christians view the business world as “of the world” and, therefore, basically evil.  They realise they are in it and are committed to bring Christ into the “darkness of business”.  These are the men and women who view the church as the centre of light and the business is the centre of darkness.  Their mission is to foray from the church into business as a kind of evangelical raiding party.  It is a kind of contest they must endure because they are in business and not “in the ministry”.

      3. Overlay

        The word “overlay” is used figuratively as in wood being overlaid with gold or silver.  The Christian who is an overlayer gilds the company with Christianity and considers it more attractive or beautiful.

        Overlayers use Christian words, give generously from their profits, seek to treat employees well and offer Bible studies and prayer meetings for workers.  They sincerely seek to bring Christ into their businesses.  But the business is still considered wood, not considered truly good in and of itself.

      4. Seamless Integration

        Seamless integration means that multiple substances are joined together so that no future separation is possible.

        Every aspect of the Christian’s life – home, church, leisure and business – is under the rule of God.  Everything is part of God’s Kingdom and subject to God’s reign.  These Christians walk with God from the prayer closet to the breakfast table, to the office, sales call, or factory.  Life is a whole and is holistically submitted to God.  There is no sacred and secular dichotomy.  There is no business and ministry dichotomy.  Business is a venue for service, just as family, church and community are.

      Church members may presently see themselves in one of these four phases – separation, invasion, overlay and seamless integration.

      As we seek to be more effective witnesses, let us do the following:

      1. Seek to work for our clients and staff wholeheartedly as for the Lord (Ephesians 6:5-7)
      2. Spend much time in prayer for our clients and staff and our Kingdom impact on them.
      3. Encourage one another to live lives that invite inquiry (1 Peter 3:15)
      4. Provide ministry to everyone with whom we work.

      The best form of personal witnessing is through your life and sharing in the context of your employment.  It starts with the belief that you are God’s appointed witness in your firm and your position.

      We have to obey the Great Commission which emphasises the role of each and every Christian as the sent ones.

      Has Insurance Replaced God’s Assurance

      Filed in General Comments | Investment | Life Insurance Leave a comment

      The following was presented at the GCF FINANCE SECTION – 18 MARCH 2011:

      INTRODUCTION

      A US Christian website poses these questions:

      • Would you fly a single-engine plane without a parachute?
      • Would you go white water rafting without a life preserver?
      • Would you travel the desert without a canteen?
      • If so, would that show a lack of faith in God?

      Its closing message:

      “You may say that is absurd, but many people consider insurance a lack of faith.”

      Another website takes another tack as it seeks to promote a book entitled “Not by Chance: Devastating Times Are A Test Of The Faith”.  The book tells of how God revealed Himself in Lynn Cochrane’s darkest times and brought her through her most trying circumstances and severest illnesses – polio, devastating accidents, major depression, unemployment and multiple sclerosis.  I have not read this book but guess that the author must have overcame all these setbacks in her stride, probably with help, care and concern of others.

      Another website starts with an arresting line:

      “Just trust God and it will be alright.  Has anyone ever given you this empty advice?”

      It identifies the so-called competitiveness to faith – job security, financial stability, medical insurance, disaster preparedness, retirement planning and asks:

      “Are you saying it is wrong to seek a secure job and stable income, to prepare for the future?”

      And his answer:

      “No, not at all, but it is wrong to trust in these things.”

      And he cited the example of the rich farmer who was called a fool by God in Luke 12:18-21 because he trusted in his material wealth.
      I have just given a few examples of the wide range of views on the subject.

      This serves as a warning that we should not take this subject lightly or flippantly.  Individuals and families and churches will be affected greatly by their attitude towards insurance.

      I just read this heading:  “Mothers prefer changing diapers to looking at life insurance”

      Two-thirds of the surveyed mums by a Sydney-based researcher admitted this, thus, leaving a lot of families uninsured.

      If we were to ask for opinions here, we would likely also get a range and we may all end up more confused.  My approach is to look at what the Bible says and see whether we can construct a Biblical viewpoint.

      WHAT THE WISE PREACHER SAYS

      Let me start with the reputed wisest man only surpassed by Jesus – King Solomon.  He observed a few grievous evils under the sun.

      1. Wealth lost through some misfortune 

        Ecclesiastes 5:13-14 

        13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:
        wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner,
        14 or wealth lost through some misfortune,
        so that when he has a son
        there is nothing left for him.Christians generally agree that hoarding is a moral wrong, but here we have another grievous evil of a man who loses wealth through some misfortune and cannot pass it on.  The misfortune is not stated but does not refer to early death here, perhaps, seizure of the wealth by enemies or king, famine, etc.

      2. A stranger enjoys your wealth 

        Ecclesiastes 6:1-2 

        1 I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men: 2God gives a man wealth, possessions and honour, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.Here, we see that God is directly behind the scene.  So, would preventing the things from happening thwart God’s purpose or, in any way, limit God’s power or freedom?

        But if God is almighty and has sovereign power over all of creation, is there anything man can do to deny His purpose and will?

      3. Time and Chance 

        Ecclesiastes 9:11 

        11 I have seen something else under the sun:
        The race is not to the swift
        or the battle to the strong,
        nor does food come to the wise
        or wealth to the brilliant
        or favour to the learned;
        but time and chance happen to them all.The general rule is that the race is won by the swift and the battle won by the strong, but time and chance can cause a different result.

        The word “fortuitous” is used as an important principle of insurance.  It means happening by chance, accidental.  It excludes anything that can be caused or orchestrated by oneself, e.g., self-inflicted injury which is a frequent exclusion in insurance.  Suicide is not fortuitous but allowed in life insurance as a concession if it takes place more than a year or two years after taking the life insurance policy.

        When we believe that time and chance can take place irrespective of the moral condition of the people, we have to ask, “What is the best way not to leave things to chance?”

        An example of an accident is the collapse of the towerof Siloamwhich killed 18.  (Luke 13:4)  Jesus said it is not because these were sinners more guilty than all the others living inJerusalem and were judged for their sins.  The earthquake atChristchurch would have affected thousands of Christians who could be in no worse spiritual or moral condition than the New Zealanders inAuckland.

        Under the overarching doctrine of God’s sovereignty, we must view chance as still within His knowledge and control and, if something does happen, it must be either directly caused by God or permitted to happen by God.

        The question for us is: “Knowing that there are fortuitous events, should not we adopt the right risks management which involves risks avoidance, risk minimization, risk transference and risk absorption?”  Insurance is under risk transference as we basically transfer the financial impact of risks to the insurer.

        If we accept that bad things do happen to good people, we have to ask whether God intends us to suffer our consequences or whether we should exercise God-given wisdom and prudence to avoid, reduce or mitigate the consequences.

      4. Evil Times 

        Ecclesiastes 9:12
        12 Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come:
        As fish are caught in a cruel net,
        or birds are taken in a snare,
        so men are trapped by evil times
        that fall unexpectedly upon them.Here, the Preacher speaks of death and tragic events which happen unexpectedly.

        The seven years of famine which came during the reign of Joseph as Prime Minister of Egypt and devastated a vast region, including Jacob’s area, would certainly qualify as evil times.  Joseph was given the interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dream in order to save the people in general and Jacob’s clan in particular.

        When we are blessed with plenty, should not we save some for the future which is anything but certain?

      5. Death 

        Ecclesiastes 7:2
        It is better to go to a house of mourning
        than to go to a house of feasting,
        for death is the destiny of every man;
        the living should take this to heart.Is this advice only for us to live with eternity in view?  Surely so, but should not parents knowing the certainty of death but the uncertainty of its timing, provide for their children in case of their sudden demise?

        Ecclesiastes 8:8 says
        8 No man has power over the wind to contain it[
        so no one has power over the day of his death.

        I find Proverbs 13:22 heartwarming now that I am a grandfather.

        22 A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children,
        but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

        It is a blessing of God when He enables us to provide not only for our family but to lay a good foundation for future generations, not only a good spiritual legacy, but financial inheritance as well, serving like the wells dug by Isaac or Jacob which continue to bless generations to come.

      Knowing that there are at least five grievous evils that assail man under heaven, what should we do?  Would a modern-day wise Preacher addressing these evils give advice on how to handle them?

      The wise Preacher concluded that the wise thing to do is to fear God and keep His Commandments for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

      The wisdom of this advice rests on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.  God has power over every aspect of our life.  Even the king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord; He directs it like a water-course wherever He pleases.  Proverbs 21:1

      There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.  Proverbs 21:30

      The Lord works out everything for His own ends, even the wicked for a day of disaster.

      The point is that no man can protect himself entirely from God, whether by his billions in savings, insurance or bodyguards. Israelsought protection from making unholy political alliances but God still has His way.

      So, even if the motive of taking insurance is to protect oneself for one who does not believe in God, God still has full power to work out His judgements.

      My point is that no on can protect himself against God’s power and insurance should not be taken for that reason.

      There are two fundamental questions to ask:

      1. What does it really mean to trust God and to live by faith?
      2. Is it pleasing to God for us to do well, not only spiritually but also materially?

      Specifically, given that we fear God, is prosperity one of the blessings of God?

      1. TRUSTING GOD AND LIVING BY FAITH 

        Trusting God means to know deep in our heart that our life is from God, our times are in God’s hand; without Him we are nothing and can do nothing, and without Him whatever we do will be in vain.Psalm 127:1-2
        1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
        its builders labor in vain.
        Unless the LORD watches over the city,
        the watchmen stand guard in vain.
        2 In vain you rise early
        and stay up late,
        toiling for food to eat—
        for he grants sleep to those he loves.

        Trusting God as our provider, we do not need to be anxious about food, clothing or shelter.  (Matthew 6:31)  We learn to live in dependence on God in humility and prayerful dependence treating what we have as stewards, not owners.  We learn not to trust in men, in horses, or swift escape, or chariots (power).  We know we are powerless against our enemies unless God guards us.

        But trusting in God does not mean not having to work or plan or prepare or do training.  It means to enquire of the Lord and to have faith but David still fights Goliath. Israelstill has to enter the Promiseland to fight the enemies.  Paul said that he who does not work should not be allowed to eat.

        You still have to prepare the ground, sow, water and God gives the crops.

        Proverbs teaches the value of hard work, prudence, thrift, diversifications, being skilled, seeking counsel and guidance.

        It appears to me there are some Christians who are more Psalm Christians and some who are more Proverbs Christians.  Psalm Christians pay more attention to their walk and talk with God and like to meditate and pray.  Proverbs Christians like to concentrate on employment, business, financial matters, politics and seeking success and prosperity.

        The truth is that one needs to be both Psalm Christian and Proverbs Christian.

        Proverbs Christians would have no problem to take insurance to minimise the financial impact of risks like fire, disability, professional negligence or error and omission or personal and public liabilities.

        But what is the real intention of insurance?  It is to prevent losses of income, property, legal suits, and death of breadwinners.  So, the real motive is to remain in the financial position that you are presently at.

        It is not the purpose of insurance to make one rich, but to protect your present wealth or status.  This principle of reimbursement applies to most insurance.  The only exception is life insurance which seeks to protect you against the loss of your economic value, not your present value only.  For example, you have graduated and plan to work up to age 65 to provide an income to raise a family.  The total salary which you hope to earn is a measurement of your economic value.  If nothing adverse happens to you, the sum of money will be earned and goes to supporting your family.

        So, we ask the second fundamental question:

      2. Is wealth or prosperity a blessing of the Lord? 

        This subject requires a book, but for today, let me state that prosperity is one of the blessings of God but it can also be a cause of a man’s fall because the love of money is a root of all evil.Let me focus on wealth which is a blessing of the Lord and not from exploitation of others.  It is not ill-gotten gains or at the expense of your physical health and your spiritual health.

        Proverbs 10:22
        22 The blessing of the LORD brings wealth,
        and he adds no trouble to it.

        Proverbs 13:21
        21 Misfortune pursues the sinner,
        but prosperity is the reward of the righteous.

        Proverbs 28:20
        20 A faithful man will be richly blessed,
        but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.

        But there is one important caveat for wealth to be a blessings – it must be used wisely.  Examples:

        a)   Proverbs 3:9-10
        Honour your Lord with your wealth

        b)   Proverbs 3:27
        27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,
        when it is in your power to act.

        Hoarding wealth is a sin.  There are also warnings against self-indulgence to the neglect of the needy – the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

        My belief is that the super wealthy will not be concerned about insurance and the poor do not have the money to even think of insurance.  It is those in the middle who need to address the matter.

        How should a person above poverty line but not rich enough to self-insure treat the subject of insurance?

        Treat insurance as a relatively modern invention to meet certain needs just the way you treat other modern inventions like computers, cars, washing machines.  Perhaps, if we look at how insurance started, we would see what it is meant to do.

      One American textbook claimed that the idea of life insurance came about when the church sought ways to provide for the full-time workers’ medical needs and retirement.  Funds were set aside and slowly the idea became applied to others.  Funeral societies were cited as the beginning of insurance in other societies.

      The term underwriter has an interesting origin.  WhenEnglandsought products from abroad, ship owners looked for investors who were willing to share the cost and risks of the overseas venture.  Those who were willing to do so were asked to write their names below the named venture.  Hence, the term “underwriters”.

      Insurance is built on a few principles.

      1. The pooling of resources and risks
      2. The law of probability or large numbers
      3. The contract between the insurer and the client

      There were ways to take care of bereaved families in the past – the family, the clan, the church, but insurance is the modern equivalent partly because past ways had no pooling of resources, insufficient numbers and no certainty of contract.

      The examples of events a person can insure against are:

      For individuals

      • Death (premature death)
      • Disability
      • Sickness
      • Legal suits (professional indemnity, personal liability)

      For Property

      • Fire and other perils
      • Theft or burglary

      Motorcars

      • Fire, theft
      • Third party – injury to persons, damage to property

      There are certain covers which are required by law, e.g. motor policy and workmen injury insurance.

      For voluntary policies, why would a Christian want to insure even though he trusts in God who is sovereign and good?

      1. No matter how spiritual or moral he is, “bad” things still happen to good people.  He cannot prevent many things from happening but can mitigate the financial consequences.  For example, a person who is the breadwinner is run down by a car.  What will happen to the family?  There will be financial consequences and the family must provide for themselves or depend on charity.
      2. The early church gave instructions on the support of widows who did not have family members to support them and depended on the church to support them.  1 Timothy 5;

      Churches should stand ready to do this.  The other way is to advise their church members to insure themselves so that the financial outlay can be defrayed by the insurance companies.

      The basic building block of society and the church is the family.  If every family exercises financial responsibility, there will be less needy saints.  The church budget can then be spent on mission and evangelism.  Rarely will insurance be sufficient to cover all of the financial needs, so church members will still be able to exercise love and contribute to the care and concern for the bereaved family.

      Will a person who is insured live in lesser dependence on God?  Food and clothing are basic necessities and we are commanded not to be anxious about such things.  So, having insurance to replace income is no different.

      We still need to depend on God and pray earnestly for God’s blessings in many other areas – our health, our service, our teaching and preaching of God’s word, our witnessing, our relationships in families and in church, employment.

      God can still shake the nation, and individuals, and families in so many ways.

      The wealthy are commanded not to be arrogant and trust in their uncertain riches. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

      God can still take away the source of our income.  God can allow us to go through many other kinds of hardships.

      War is the ultimate that can happen to Christians besides persecution and Christians are thus placed on their spiritual tiptoes to look to God in dependence.

      In what ways is insurance a better way than for the church to take care of her members?

      1. Teach members financial responsibility 

        For a church where everyone is just eking out a living, the church body can rally together to help the one who is in even more dire need.Where the majority of members are financially alright, it is good to teach them financial responsibility, or else they may spend too freely and the church ends up supporting their families in the event of a calamity.  Christians generally do not mind helping those who are truly indigent but will not be happy to help those who are freeloaders, or spendthrifts, or wastrels.

      2. Insurance is cost efficient 

        With proper advice, you can obtain the appropriate and suitable products which can cover the risks faced by individuals and families.Much time can be saved to raise funds for emergencies and valid questions can be avoided like rightness, fairness, and adequacy of the help extended.

        Not making use of insurance is like not making use of modern inventions like multimedia, social media, modern banking like GIRO.

        You can still wash your dishes or clothes manually or send letters by post but you will lose time and energy, and patience as well.

      3. Having sufficient financial resources at the time you need them enables you to free up your current resources.  Instead of relying just on your savings, you can use insurance as a safety net and use your savings for causes you believe in, e.g., giving to missions, giving to the needy.
      4. The law of large numbers, commonly called the law of average, is fundamental to insurance.  For a group of 200 people to bear the financial loss due to a premature death of one of its members is heavier than for a group of 200,000.  The spreading of risk is achieved more efficiently through insurance.
      5. There is more certainty in depending on insurance for long-term care and long-term financial needs.  Friendly giving is okay for immediate and short-term needs during the funeral and, perhaps, for a few months after.  It is not easy for friends and fellow Christians to give financial support long-term as it requires regular contacts.
      6. Insurance is a contract and can be enforced, whereas charity cannot be enforced.  Charity is not easy for the person of integrity to receive.  The recipient can lose self-respect, if he has to depend on charity, especially for the long-term.

      State welfarism is not sufficient inSingaporeand will never be under the present government which promotes self-reliance.

      Someone has to pay for inevitable expenses which result from life’s tragedies, emergencies and disasters.

      God sees everything and oversees everything but He looks at how we use His resources to provide for ourselves and our families and others.

      Our government established the Central Provident Fund and has implemented many useful schemes to help us provide for our medical expenses, our property ownership, and retirement.  The government does not think it is good to be a welfare state and we are exhorted to take care of ourselves.

      APPLICATION AND CONCLUSION

      How should individuals and families view events which can drain them financially, like surgery, long-term illness, death of a breadwinner, fire, legal suits, etc.?

      Christians are exhorted to trust in God and acknowledge God and to honour God.

      Proverbs 3:5-6
      5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
      and lean not on your own understanding;
      6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
      and he will make your paths straight.

      Proverbs 3:9
      9 Honor the LORD with your wealth,

      Proverbs 3:27
      Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,

      Proverbs 3:34
      He mocks proud mockers
      but gives grace to the humble.

      Trust in God, however, does not exempt us from hardship, struggles, and sickness.  We learn this from Scriptures and experience.

      Wisdom and knowledge and prudence teach us to walk with God and do good works for God and to love God and our neighbour.

      It is said that insurance is an act motivated by love and responsibility to protect ourselves and loved ones from the financial consequences of events mostly beyond our control.

      Good health and long life are blessings of God.  But we have to say with Job, “The Lord gives and He takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord”.

      We are commanded to fear God and to keep His commandments to avoid spiritual and moral pitfalls and to do good works.

      We are also taught to acquire wisdom, understanding, knowledge and counsel to be good stewards of God-given resources and to use them well, and to avoid financial pitfalls as well.  We should not be driven by fear and greed like unregenerate people, but by trust in God and godly contentment.

      We should be both Psalm and Proverbs Christians.  Insurance is a neutral invention, much like other modern inventions, and the attitude and motive of the individual will decide whether it replaces trust and belief in God’s providence, or it is a means to prepare for possible eventualities and, in fact, enables you to use your financial resources better for God’s kingdom.

      Families and churches should still rally round their members in times of need because the fact is that most people are underinsured.  Our love, care and concern for those who fall into bad or evil times is needed, whether the person concerned is insured or not insured.

      On the other hand, we should not go to the extreme of insuring ourselves to the hilt out of anxiety and fear of the future.

      We should also beware of storing up treasures on earth, which is tantamount to hoarding and self-insurance.

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