This is a guest post from Bill Provenzano who is a 20‐year veteran commodity trader of the CME. He is also the founder of Upside Breakout, a biblically based coaching and mentoring program for Christian stock and commodity traders. Find out more at ChristianTradingCoach.com.
I used to love going to the underground parking garage of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, or the Merc, when I began trading there in 1991. Four floors of underground parking held some of the most expensive and sexy automobiles I had ever seen. Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari, they were all there in abundance. Those visits to the CME parking garage were my inspiration for success. It was one thing to see those cars on car lots dotted throughout the suburbs. But to know that I traded next to and with the owners of those fine automobiles made it more tangible, more attainable.
I used to dream of the day when I would drive my some‐day‐I’ll‐own‐it‐ two‐seater convertible Mercedes from the suburbs into the city, stealthily dodging the early morning traffic. And when the market closed at 2pm, I could just see myself taking the elevator down to “P3” where my freshly washed red chariot awaited the comfortable drive home in the summer air, top down of course.
But something funny happened on the road to wealth. My early struggles as a trader were not just about making enough money to survive on. I overcame that hurdle after the first couple of years. My struggle revolved more around how not to compartmentalize my faith and my career. I wanted to be not just successful, but wildly successful. That was certain. But my focus on material wealth continued to cause me inner static that I could not ignore.
Various and specific Biblical principles began to shape my mind and change my heart about material possessions at the time that my trading success began to escalate. In my study time, I formed what I call Scripture Links between very specific Biblical principles and precepts that, when taken as a whole, create a wonderful tapestry of God’s instructions and promises.
Breaking the grips of materialism
One specific Scripture Link was instrumental in breaking the stronghold that materialism had on me…
In John 15:7, Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” “AMEN!” I shouted when I first read that. Who wouldn’t? Just spend time with God, “remain in Him”, and we get whatever we want? I know what I wanted – a red convertible two‐seater Mercedes. Bring it on, God! But hold on a minute. There is a bit more to the promise that cannot be ignored. Let’s take a peek at the next verse, verse 8: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples”. “Okay, I can live with that”, I thought. What I ask for should enable me to bear much fruit. Well, a convertible could take me to church, that’s a good thing, right? And maybe I could use the car to pick up a visiting missionary form the airport. That’s got to be a good thing.
Further Bible study brought me to a Scripture Link that opened my eyes in a new kind of way. The Scripture Link is found in Romans 14:26‐28. Here, Paul describes that he is on his way from Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem where he will bring the contributions for the poor given by the Macedonians and the Achaeans. Paul says that the Macedonians and the Achaeans were “pleased to make a contribution to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” (Romans 14:26). And again, “They were pleased to do it” (Romans 14:27). They were pleased “to share with them their material blessings” (Romans 14:27). But here is the part that struck me hard. This was my “Aha!”’ moment: “So after I (Paul) completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit (emphasis added), I will go to Spain and visit you on the way” (Romans 14:28). Did you catch that? Sharing material blessings, (yes, money) joyfully, counting it as a privilege; this is truly bearing fruit!
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples”. God’s desire is for us to remain in Him, to have our hearts connected with His. When we get there, God can confidently say that He will give us whatever we ask because our heart’s desire is wrapped up in His. It is at this place in the relationship that God can trust us with that promise. It is at this place in the relationship that we will bear much fruit. After the discovery of this Scripture Link between John 15:7 and Romans 14: 26‐28, my heart began to slowly change.
My visits to the underground parking garage at the CME became less frequent. Instead, my eyes become ever more opened to the needs of the poor and hungry around the world. Over time, I came to understand the joy of giving material blessings, (yes, money), and God was faithful. My prayers, my “asking whatever I wished”, focused less and less on what I could spend on me. In fact, it was around this time that Trading Account Giving Goals, TAGGs I call them, were born. TAGGs are goal‐setting mechanisms that specifically revolve around giving away increasingly larger portions of my income while challenging me to maximize my trading results.
I never did buy that Mercedes, even though I could have. Rather, I continued to drive a rusty 1991 Honda Accord with over 150,000 miles on it. I used to joke that I was afraid to wash it because the dirt was all that held it together. The guys at work used to have a field day when they saw me in that car.
Certainly God is not against any of us driving a luxury car, as long as we can afford it. God is the giver of all good things. If a Mercedes is in your driveway, I say, “God’s blessings to you!” But for me, God knew a severe change of heart was needed. The focus of my desires needed to change. As my trading success flourished, so too did the focus of my desires. God showed me a way to harness my desire to set goals and achieve higher profits for a higher purpose.