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The role of faith in your life (as I see it… humbly)

Now we are starting to get to the meat of this book. Most people, when they talk about the role of faith in their lives, they focus on the comfort that it can provide them as they face their challenges.There is nothing wrong with that focus. Faith can, in fact, be very comforting. We live in a scary world. Even people like me who live relatively mundane lives living in suburbia and going to work in an office every day have fears that keep us up at night. Being able to turn to God for support in such times is truly a comfort.

Most discussions of faith stop there. In my opinion, however, that is less than half the story. To me, the most important aspect of faith is the potential your connection with the Almighty can provide you for guidance in your life. I am in favor of people living active, exciting lives. This is the kind of life where you will find the opportunities for growth and learning that will lead to deeper faith. And the benefits multiply. As you gain more faith and your connection gets stronger with the Almighty, you are more open to the guidance you are receiving. Your success in receiving that guidance and following then leads to deeper faith. And so on and so on.

There are several ways we can approach faith in an effort to understand how and why we receive guidance. The first is the most pedestrian. A recent trend in business is what is called “crowd-sourcing.” Essentially, businesses work with groups of people to help design new products. Technology has been especially helpful in making this approach effective. By having people log onto a website and directly comment on or make changes to the ideas of others, designers have been able to get all the best input for their products.

This approach makes sense. Ultimately, marketing is all about developing a product that meets the needs of a group of potential customers, and then getting those potential customers to be aware of the product. If the potential customers are involved in the design of the product right from the beginning, you know that what you are creating will meet their needs. So the goal is to get as much input from as many customers as possible so that you give them something they will want to buy right from the beginning.

This approach is not particularly new, it has just accelerated through technology. Remember when Henry Ford said that his customers could buy any color of the Model T they wanted as long as it was black? We’ve come a long way since then. In fact, the way GM ultimately overtook Ford was by offering customers more flexibility in its products. Essentially, GM was trying to respond to customers’ tastes. Ford responded to the market too late, and, as a result, it has never caught up with GM.

Ultimately, the marketplace is the ultimate crowd-source. Adam Smith identified that the marketplace, in rewarding products and services that customers wanted and in punishing products and services that could not find customers would encourage the production of more products and services that people want. At the time, Adam Smith called it an “invisible hand” that guided the market, but that guidance really comes from the aggregate of millions of people, each with their own likes and dislikes, creating a critical mass around certain products and services that find favor. These efforts at crowd-sourcing are really efforts to gauge which products and services will find favor with the “invisible hand” of the marketplace before the producer invests too much in its development.

Indeed, you can view your connection to the Almighty like the connection a company has with the marketplace. You are connected to every other person through God. Thus, as you develop your skills to listen to and understand the guidance you are receiving from the Almighty, you are much like the business doing market research and “crowd-sourcing” to understand the guidance of the marketplace. That old saying of “two heads are better than one” is true, and it can be seen in a successful marriage. But if we can learn to access the guidance of God, we are essentially plugging ourselves into the wisdom of billions of living beings. That is the first basis for our receiving guidance through faith.

But we can get even more esoteric than that. Where did we come from? Likely, our being originally came from the Almighty before we were born into our human form. Where are we going? Likely, we are going back to God once our life is over. As a result, we have been given this limited time on earth in human form to learn our lessons — the lesson about our connection to God. The only way we can learn these lessons is through the experiences we have as human beings during our lifetimes, unpleasant as some of those experiences may be. Therefore, the purpose of our short lives here on earth is to have those experiences. If that is so, then it is in the interest of God to present us with those experiences, because if we don’t have those experiences, we won’t accomplish our the goals of our life. So learning to listen to the guidance we receive from the Almighty is what will enable us to experience the challenges that are necessary for us to complete the purpose of our lives. An active effort to listen to and follow that guidance is my goal, because it is through that effort that faith can help us accomplish the real goals of our life.

Mike is an Assistant Professor of Management for Legal and Ethical Studies at Oakland U. Mike combines his scholarship with practical experience in politics.

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