2020 has been a difficult year, to say the least. Nevertheless, God is faithful, and he deserves our thanks and praise!
SMI executive editor Mark Biller reflected on the Lord's faithfulness — and how we should respond to it — this week on MoneyWise Live from Moody Radio.
To listen, click the play button below. Scroll down for the transcript.
(And for more radio appearances by members of the SMI team, visit our Resources page.)
MoneyWise Live, with hosts Rob West and Steve Moore, airs daily at 4:00 p.m. ET/3:00 CT.
Steve Moore: Imagine trying to cope with the difficulties of the COVID pandemic without knowing Christ and you'll quickly see there's much to be grateful for!
Today, host Rob West talks with investing expert, Mark Biller about staying thankful. Then it's your calls at (800) 525-7000. I'm Steve Moore.
"Still a Time for Thanksgiving" — next, right here on MoneyWise Live.
Well, Rob, Mark Biller is executive editor at Sound Mind Investing — and we know they're constantly analyzing financial data over there, but what folks may not realize is that they also spend a great deal of time pouring through God's word. So Mark is here to help us today — to help us keep things in perspective as we approach Thanksgiving next week. And I'm not sure how that got here, but it did!
Rob West: It sure is upon us. It's been a tough year, no doubt. And the pandemic obviously continues to take a toll, so we could certainly use some perspective — and that's why I'm delighted that Mark is back with us.
Mark, good afternoon!
Mark Biller: Well, good afternoon. Glad to be with you again.
Rob West: We're delighted to have you as always. Mark, let's focus on that word "perspective." Where should we look first for perspective in these difficult times?
Mark Biller: Yeah, well, it's always a good idea to head right to God's word when we need perspective, isn't it? And I think that a good spot to dive in here today is in 1st Chronicles 29, where it says:
"David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying... 'Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.'"
And I think that that's just a great reminder to us that God is still in control. So yes, there's no question that 2020 has been a really tough year for a lot of people. You don't have to go into much detail — everybody knows we've had this global pandemic. There are over a million lives lost, and all the people left behind that are grieving.
The financial side of that has been pretty intense for a lot of people, with jobs lost businesses closed forever. You know, really the only comparable here in the United States on the economic side is really to look all the way back to the Great Depression.
And when we have tough times, like we've had this year, oftentimes it really kind of acts as a mirror of sorts and it shows us where our confidence really lies. It's easy to say one thing, but it kind of exposes where our confidence really is when we have these tough conditions. And who, or what, we turn to in these times can be kind of revealing. You know, if we're turning to anyone or anything other than the Lord as our hope, then we're bound to be disappointed.
Rob West: Well, there's no question about that. And perhaps identifying some of these false idols, Mark, that we may place our hope in — that can lead us astray — would be helpful. So why don't you do that? Where might we look to avoid some of these?
Mark Biller: Sure. Well, you know, a couple this year that have been easy to identify, one would be science. You know, we've had some good vaccine news over the last week, which is wonderful, but we've spent most of the year watching the experts kind of tie themselves in knots with different conflicting advice.
Politics is another one that has been a big one this year. But, you know, ultimately very unsatisfying and a very fickle basis for hope.
You know, one that hits a little close to home for us in the investment industry is personal savings. And the reason that hits a little close to home is it's really easy sometimes for folks with a lot of savings, maybe money in the bank or in investments, to feel okay during a time like this, because really they're looking at their savings as what's going to make everything okay through a period like this. And, please don't misunderstand, of course, we need savings. It's entirely biblical and prudent to save. But we've got to recognize and resist that all too common tendency to trust in the provision rather than in the Provider.
Rob West: Mmm. The good news, Mark, we can always trust God to provide for our needs.
Mark Biller: Yeah, we absolutely can. And it's so reassuring again, to turn to scripture to see the Lord's conditional promise from the Sermon on the Mount to "Seek first the kingdom of God above all else and live righteously, and [the Father] will give you everything you need." That's Matthew 6:33.
Rob West: Yeah. It's so true. And, you know, we talk about, as you said, a "conditional promise" because there's God's part and then there's our part. Let's focus in on our part for a moment. Help us have a perspective on what that looks like.
Mark Biller: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, it's no surprise for folks who've, who've heard me on here before that at SMI, we're always trying to counsel people in the protective money management principles that are found right in God's word. And we're confident that, when we follow those, that folks can survive and possibly even thrive through difficult storms that come along periodically.
That really starts with having the right motivation. And that involves seeing yourself as a steward or a caretaker of God-given wealth. We find a scriptural basis for that in 1st Chronicles — the scripture that I led off with — that "Yours, Lord, is the greatness and power and everything, and heaven and earth is yours." So, you know, that tells us that we're not in this really for ourselves. It's not about increasing our wealth but to increase our abundance so that we can make our Father happy through our generous giving and through taking care of the people in our lives, our own households and beyond.
Rob West: That's right. We want to be a conduit of God's resources into God's activity. And what you're describing is really the attitude, the heart attitude, that we need to begin with. But then we build on that going again, back to God's word, as we put this foundation in place.
Mark Biller: Yeah, that's right. You know, Psalm 119 tells us that "Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light to my path." And specifically, as it pertains to building a financial foundation, that means that we're living within our means, spending less than we earn, using our monthly surplus to pay off debt, and build a savings reserve exactly for times like we've been through here lately. And all of these are solid biblical principles and a real good illustration of that "light to our path."
Steve Moore: So even though you talk about stocks and bonds and Wall Street and maximizing your investments and increasing your savings — again, all of that because, first and foremost, you, Mark, and everyone else there at Sound Mind Investing are born-again followers of Jesus Christ. And is it okay — I mean, do you guys see yourselves as ministers of the gospel?
Mark Biller: Yeah, absolutely we do. And you know, just this morning, we, we gathered as a staff as we do every Monday morning and prayed for each other, but also we prayed that as we go about the Lord's business this week, that he would help us and help us in our ability to help the people that he's entrusted to us. And that's really how we view it, that, you know, if we do marketing or something like that, we pray that the Lord will bring us the people that we can help. And then we pray, regularly, that the Lord will help us to help them. So that's what it's all about for us. Absolutely.
Steve Moore: So as Christians, Mark, do you say, "God, what stocks should I buy this week?"
Mark Biller: You know, I don't, but I do absolutely pray all the time that the Lord would lead me. You know, if I'm doing research that he'll open my eyes, that he'll show me the things that I need to know. And I absolutely believe that part of his provision to me, to our company, and the people that he's entrusted to us, is that he is answering those prayers and leading us in the paths and directions that we need to go to see the things we need to see to be able to do this job well.
Rob West: Well, that's a great word, and, you know, that's what it's all about — going back to God's word to pull out these principles that we can then apply to every facet of our lives, and that certainly includes our money.
A moment ago, Mark, you were talking about some of those foundational pieces that we mentioned here often on the program: spending less than you earn and using your monthly surplus to pay off debt and build savings for difficult times. But if you're on a path, you just referred to it again, that means you probably need a plan as well for where you going.
Mark Biller: Yeah, absolutely. And that personalized investing plan is central to everything that we do at SMI. You know, that comes right from Proverbs 21:5 — "The plans of the diligent lead to profit, as surely as haste leads to poverty."
And so often people are so eager to jump right into invest, get their money working for them. But really spending that time to put together a personalized plan that reflects your kind of what we call "inside-out thinking" instead of being influenced by all of the outside invoices — the CNBC programs and headlines from magazines and newspapers and things. We want our folks to be initiators rather than responders and to have their investing driven from their own internal needs that they've kind of fleshed out in that investing plan, rather than being blown around by whatever the market happens to be doing at the time
Rob West: Mark, you were talking about that we can't take our cues necessarily from CNBC. They might have some great financial information, but if we find ourselves glued to that 24-hour news cycle, especially as it relates to our money it can really lead to some irrational thinking, perhaps emotional decision-making. Talk about the importance of really guarding ourselves against getting caught up in that
Mark Biller: It's a big deal. And I think that it's so important that we, as the consumers of that information, understand the dynamic around financial television and financial media in general. The reality is those stations have to fill a certain amount of time — and these days it's really 24/7, you know, 24 hours a day, seven days a week — with some kind of material. And just like any other kind of news show, they know what attracts attention, what will grab your attention and hold it. So it's always sensational. It's always very, short-term —what's impacting you today.
Well, investing really shouldn't be a "what's impacting you today" kind of endeavor. We really want to strive to cultivate a long-term perspective and these programs really are completely at odds with that. They're really cultivating a very short-term perspective typically.
So we just need to be very careful. It's not to say that those shows are all bad or that they're lying to you. I'm not saying any of those things. I'm just saying it tends to give you the wrong perspective on time, and you need to be very careful.
Rob West: That's exactly right. Mark, we so appreciate you stopping by today. Thank you for re-centering us in the midst of uncertainty on the truth of God's word — that he didn't give us "a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind." And we're grateful for Sound Mind Investing and the wonderful resource you are to us.
Thanks for stopping by today.
Mark Biller: Absolutely. Always my pleasure.
Steve Moore: And please, Mark, give our Thanksgiving best to the rest of the staff. We appreciate all of you.
We'll be right back with more after this.