Imperial Britain Was a Blessing, Not a Curse

From the July 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

Slandering the British Empire is the sport of scholars and pseudo-intellectuals. But it needs to be challenged—because it is a dangerous hoax.

Take one recent and particularly outrageous example. British Prime Minister David Cameron was in Pakistan in April and was asked for his view on Britain’s role in settling the nation’s dispute with India over Kashmir. To this rather unremarkable question, Mr. Cameron gave a remarkable answer: “I don’t want to try to insert Britain in some leading role where, as with so many of the world’s problems, we are responsible for the issue in the first place.”

Talk about odd. The prime minister took a routine question from a Pakistani college student and transformed it into an assault on the former British Empire. He even expanded his answer beyond Kashmir, inferring that the British Empire was responsible for “so many of the world’s problems.”

The statement revealed a stunning ignorance, or blatant rejection, of the facts of history.

The legacy of the British Empire, like every empire and civilization, race and tribe, has its dark aspects. The story of human civilization is one of competition and conflict, subjugation and exploitation, violence and murder. Evil lies within the nature of all humans. It is this inherently selfish nature—not the British Empire—that is the ultimate cause of all of the world’s problems.

The fact that evil is endemic to human existence does not justify it; it simply means that Britain’s mistakes were entirely unexceptional; compared to other empires, its conduct was quite exemplary. Measuring the character of an empire (or nation or race or individual) by considering its mistakes alone only confirms that it was comprised of humans. The more accurate method of gauging an empire’s quality is to consider its fruits, and especially the extent and importance of its contributions to human civilization.

By this standard, the British Empire is unrivaled.

Encouraging Global Trade

Consider global trade and commerce, a phenomenon we take for granted today. No nation or empire in history has done more to promote the free flow of goods and capital around the world than Britain at the height of its empire. It was England’s prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries, thanks to the Industrial Revolution and rapid economic growth, that created its insatiable appetite for raw materials for industry and for luxury items. Overflowing with cash, English bankers went on a buying spree.

The colonized responded, often eagerly, working harder and faster—building, sowing, digging—to sell their wares and get their cut of English wealth. As England’s demand for goods grew, so did the gush of money flowing into the colonies, and trade between the colonies and England. Between 1750 and 1914, the total value of global trade increased fivefold. During the 1800s, global shipping tonnage grew from 4 million to 30 million tons, thanks primarily to Britain’s promotion of free trade. When piracy became a problem, the British Navy stopped it. When new laws and policies were needed to promote free trade, British lawyers responded.

Critics say the explosion in world trade did not benefit the poorer nations, but actually resulted in their exploitation. Not true. Consider Zambia, an example cited by Harvard historian Niall Ferguson in his book Empire. Zambia’s gross domestic product per capita is currently 1/28th of Britain’s, meaning the average Zambian is 28 times poorer than the average Briton. In 1955, at the end of colonial rule, Zambia’s gdp per capita was one seventh of Britain’s. Since the British left, Zambia has gotten four times poorer compared to Britain. “The same is true of nearly all former colonies in sub-Saharan Africa,” Ferguson writes (emphasis mine throughout).

During British imperial rule, London was the world’s central bank. Each year, tens of millions of pounds would flow from England to the rest of the world. Naturally, like any bank, the empire sought a return on its investment; hence the boatloads of merchandise that flooded in from its colonies. But the flow of goods into Britain is only half the story. The other half is the hundreds of millions of English pounds reaching foreign shores and filling the pockets of local farmers, tradesmen, shop owners and bankers, greasing the wheels of colonial economies.

In India, the jewel of the empire, agricultural production exploded under the British Raj. Between 1891 and 1938, the amount of irrigated land more than doubled. The British built 40,000 miles of railway track in India, as well as postal and telegraph systems. Millions were employed. British rule, wrote Tirthankar Roy in his book The Economic History of India, “appears to have done far more than what its predecessor regimes and contemporary Indian regimes were able to do.”

The same occurred in British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. As the empire expanded, English bankers, engineers, architects and tradesmen invested time and money constructing vital infrastructure in Britain’s colonial lands. In India, Roy notes, “the railways, the ports, major irrigation systems, the telegraph, sanitation and medical care, the universities, the postal system, the courts of law, were assets India could not believably have acquired in such extent and quality had it not developed close political links with Britain.”

Beyond the vast material construction, the British in many instances created vital and revolutionary political, legislative and educational infrastructure for the colonized peoples. In many colonies, the rule of law was established, aiding economic growth and political and social stability. Britain’s superior legal system was also exported to the far corners of the Earth, where it often replaced brutal tribal laws and rituals with the more civilized and fair English system of justice.

Defending the World

Finally, the British Empire played the key role in protecting the world from tyrants. It’s no coincidence that the 19th century, when much of the world dwelt under Pax Britannia, was a century of relative peace. In the early 20th century, the British Empire emerged as the savior of the free world, almost single-handedly stopping the march of tyranny. During that period, writes Niall Ferguson, the British Empire “more than justified its own existence, for the alternatives to British rule represented by the German and Japanese empires were clearly far worse. And without its empire, it is inconceivable that Britain could have withstood them” (op. cit.).

Then there’s the issue of slavery. Revisionists love to recall Britain’s participation in the global slave trade. They neglect to mention that it was Britain that made the unilateral decision to ban slavery. Slavery had been practiced for thousands of years and was a key component of the economies of the colonial powers. The decision to be the first to eliminate the slave trade was brave and risky. Once made, it began to be enforced globally by British lawyers and guns!

When we measure British imperialism by its contribution to its colonies and the rest of the world, it has no parallel. Historian Andrew Roberts summarized: “The British Empire provided good government, uncorrupt public administration, inter-tribal peace, the rule of law, free trade, the abolition of slavery, famine relief, the abolition of barbaric customs …, huge infrastructural advances such as railways, roads plus irrigation projects, and in every colony nurtured its native peoples towards running their own countries once they were ripe for independence” (Frontpage interview, Feb. 26, 2007).

Not much to apologize for there!

“The fact remains,” writes Ferguson, “that no organization in history has done more to promote the free movement of goods, capital and labor than the British Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries. And no organization has done more to impose Western norms of law, order and governance around the world” (op. cit.).

In addition to the vast material, institutional and ideological blessings bestowed on human civilization through imperial Britain, there is an inspiring dimension to this empire we need to recognize—one that helps us put its history into proper perspective.

Put simply, the British Empire came about as an act of God!

Fulfilling a Promise

It’s true! England’s (and America’s) sudden emergence onto the world scene in the 19th century occurred because God was fulfilling a promise that He had made nearly 4,000 years earlier to Abraham. You can read the original promise in Genesis 12. Here, God delivers a two-part promise to Abraham, the first part in which God promises Abraham that his descendants will acquire terrific and unprecedented material wealth and prosperity.

When you understand it, this promise is at the heart of Western civilization.

By the time the events recorded in Genesis 48 and 49 unfold, the original promise to Abraham has been conferred onto Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh, the descendants of whom are Britain and America today, respectively. In Genesis 49:22, Jacob uses a colorful analogy to describe the time when Ephraim and Manasseh would finally inherit the birthright promise.

“Joseph is a fruitful bough,” Jacob says, “a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall.” In other words, when the moment came for God to fulfill His promise, the descendants of Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh would explode into a fruitful people, a colonizing people—a people whose presence, whose trade and commerce, whose culture and government, would extend far beyond their national borders.

There isn’t a more beautiful or apt description of the former British Empire. Do you find it intriguing how England—a tiny nation planted amid the seas, with no global aspirations—suddenly in the 19th century sprouted branches that quickly grew and began to reach into every continent, at one point covering a quarter of the Earth’s surface?

If you do, then you urgently need to request and read our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. This book not only tells the truth about that empire—and why the sun has since set on it—but also why this knowledge is vitally important to your personal future.

The Philadelphia Trumpet: Goals Purposes

The Philadelphia Trumpet: Goals Purposes

The Trumpet

From the August 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

Published in the public interest, the Trumpet deals with matters of social, family and environmental concern. It includes articles on international news, politics, philosophy, religion and education, especially where these have a bearing on the quality of life.

The magazine is not a political publication and is not backed by any political party or pressure group.

The publication rights of the magazine are owned by the Philadelphia Church of God, and the purpose of the Trumpet is to inform and educate, putting world events into true perspective and creating an awareness of the seriousness of the times in which we live. Direct emphasis is placed on the values of Christian morality and the social results of the increasing rejection of these values. Space is at times given to controversial ideas, which may help clarify to readers the different aspects of essential issues.

The Trumpet carries no subscription price. It is supported entirely by voluntary contributions from readers. The financial support of the magazine comes from readers who have become convinced of its value and want to ensure that the Trumpet be made available free of charge to an increasing number of readers. Your contributions are welcomed and gratefully received.

In a world continually confronted by problems and crises, the Trumpet strives to give reasons for the bad news and answers to life’s dilemmas that, if applied, could bring good news and right results. This magazine also seeks to make plain the only option left to mankind if we are to survive. We announce that when mankind fails to avert the ultimate disaster, it will take a divine plan to save this Earth and establish a new order where all living will be able to enjoy lasting peace, happiness, security and prosperity.

Teach Your Children How to Handle Money

Teach Your Children How to Handle Money

©iStock.com

It’s pretty clear: Most parents aren’t passing on this vital skill!
From the August 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

The average college freshman will receive eight credit card offers during just his first week of school. Across the national student body, 76 percent of enrollees carry at least one credit card and on average owe a balance of $2,200.

Last year, 1.6 million students graduated from college—and 1.55 million people filed for personal bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, the percentage of “very happy” Americans peaked in 1957. Since then the figure has steadily declined despite most people consuming twice as much.

Here are two more startling facts. Fifty-two percent of teens say that when they want or need something, they simply ask for money from their parents or guardians. And 41 percent of teens get an allowance regardless of whether they do any chores.

Can we connect the dots? An alarming number of “highly educated” adults struggle to manage their money—simply because, when they were young, no one taught them how.

Proverbs says to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Teaching youths how to handle money is not the school’s or the government’s responsibility—it is yours. The Bible commands parents to educate their children. It should be an everyday routine (Deuteronomy 11:19).

We can help our children learn important personal finance concepts that will pay dividends for the rest of their lives.

What to Teach?

First, teach them to give.

This may seem counterintuitive, but the way of give is the foundation of God’s way of life that leads to physical and spiritual prosperity.

One of the best ways to teach your children about this way of life is through tithing and giving offerings. Don’t just show up to church and hand your child a couple of bucks to give as you are walking in. He must know how important giving and paying tithes is to you. If we don’t spend time and effort planning our offerings and calculating our tithes, how can we expect our children to value these biblical commands?

Teach your child to budget and plan ahead for these opportunities to give. The skills they will learn from this effort alone—working hard, saving, sacrificing, contributing to something bigger than themselves—will help them for life. Plus, the same scripture that commands tithing promises blessings when we obey. God loves a cheerful giver (Malachi 3:10; 2 Corinthians 9:7).

It is never too early to establish good financial habits.

I was startled a couple of months ago when my son—not quite 3 years old—began asking me about money. My wife and I had been teaching him the Ten Commandments and were explaining what stealing meant. We told him that if you want something you need to save up money and pay for it.

A couple weeks later, the money questions came. I explained that I earn money because I go to work. And that people at stores need money too, so they trade things like food and clothes for money. I tried to show him the difference between nickels, dimes and pennies and how it takes different amounts of each to add up.

His excited response? “I want to buy something.”

On Mom’s next trip to the grocery store, she let him buy something, and helped him count out the quarters. He was thrilled to be such a “big boy.”

There’s something addictive about buying things with other people’s money. He naturally wanted to do it again. But the next time we went shopping, he got a different response: “No.” Disappointed, he said something along the lines of, “But I want it!” and “Dad, couldn’t you just buy it?”

Time to teach him “delayed gratification.”

Too many people have never learned self-control. The “I want it now” mentality has caused untold financial problems. Plus, saying “no” to your children’s wants can be a good way to teach the value of money. It is a truth that people don’t value things that come easily. If you give your children whatever they want, not only will they become spoiled, but they will fail to make the connection between earning money and being able to have things.

This is why giving allowances has been harmful to so many children. Children don’t understand how much hard work is required in the real world to earn those green pieces of paper. Money expert Dave Ramsey says that the concept of paying commissions for specific work is better than giving allowances. But this too can be dangerous if your children begin to believe they should be paid to do jobs that are just a part of being a family.

The point is that at a young age, children need to learn to appreciate money, as well as the hard work associated with earning it.

Practical Pointers

With small children (younger than 5), teach about saving money using clear jars or a piggy bank. Let them see their money grow as they add coins to the jar. Visual reinforcement can be a powerful tool. Be excited for them when they add the quarter they found on the street, or the dollar or two that Grandpa gave them.

When they are older (perhaps 5 to 12), consider the envelope system to teach them about giving, saving and spending. Have four envelopes labeled “tithes,” “offerings,” “savings” and “spending.” When they receive a gift of money for exceptional grades, or they shovel the neighbor’s driveway, teach them to divide their money up into the proper categories.

And remember, there must be some spending to keep it fun and fulfill short-term goal setting. But when the spending envelope is dry—and depending on the child, that might not take long—there should be no pilfering from the savings envelope. That is for long-term goals, and for teaching the value of having an emergency savings that you never touch.

If you have teenagers, help them open a savings and checking account. Teach them how money in a savings account earns a return, and how interest compounds and grows your savings over time. Also teach about the dangers of debt and having to pay interest on borrowed money. Make sure they know how credit cards work and how they can get hit with fees, penalties and high interest rates. If you don’t understand all these concepts yourself, the Internet contains valuable resources to help (and write for our free booklet Solve Your Money Troubles!). Show why a debit card is different from a credit card. Another good exercise is to teach your children how to balance a checkbook and to keep tabs on their account.

With older teens, especially those with jobs, make them pay for some things themselves. Help them set long-term savings goals. Teach them that not all expenses are things you look forward to, and show them that paying for others can be rewarding.

I remember the students in high school whose parents bought them a car when they turned 16. Inevitably, they became the ones who had to buy the bigger, fancier-than-they-could-afford cars or trucks later—on credit.

As a parent, it is our job to help our children avoid the pitfalls of life.

At Imperial Academy—a grade school and secondary school run by the Philadelphia Church of God, which publishes the Trumpet magazine—grade 11 and 12 students take a personal finance class. One of the assignments they receive is to interview someone from a previous generation about their money habits. How did Grandpa or Great-grandma handle money? What was it like back then? What money advice would they offer? What do they think about credit cards and borrowing money? How much money did they get paid? Did they ever receive an allowance? What did they spend it on?

You might be shocked at how much America has changed over the past few generations. It is obvious that many Americans have not taught their children to manage their finances. With each generation, we seem to be departing further from basic, sensible financial principles.

Whether you realize it or not, your children are learning from you. So make sure to set a good example, which is the most important teaching tool of all. Lead by example—and teach them!

China Invests Billions More in Europe

China Invests Billions More in Europe

Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

China backs Europe over America.

Germany and China agreed on an estimated €10.6 billion (us$15 billion) worth of trade deals as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao toured Europe this week.

Germany and China held their first joint cabinet meeting as well as a meeting of over 300 business leaders as Wen visited Germany on June 27 and 28.

On his tour, Wen also visited Britain and Hungary, concluding just €2.3 billion in trade agreements in the former.

Trade between China and Germany will increase to €200 billion a year over the next five years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Wen agreed. In 2010, their bilateral trade was worth €130 billion. China is currently Germany’s third-largest trading partner.

Germany is “a very important strategic partner,” said Wen.

The most valuable trade agreement was a contract for the purchase of 62 A320 planes from Europe’s Airbus, worth $7.5 billion. Daimler AG and the Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation agreed to jointly invest €2 billion (us$2.8 billion) in production in China. They will build a factory for premium compact cars, a new engine plant and a new center for research and development. Beijing approved Volkswagen’s plans to build two factories in China, each with a capacity to produce 300,000 vehicles a year.

Wen also told bbc that China would keep buying EU nations’ debt. While in Hungary on June 25, he finalized an agreement to buy more Hungarian debt. China is expanding its store of euros, but has stopped buying dollars.

“China has expressed support for Europe at various times. In other words, when Europe is in difficulty we will extend a helping hand from afar,” Wen said during a news conference with Merkel.

All this points to direct fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Isaiah 23 warns of a “mart of nations” that will include China as well as the European Union. Wen’s visit helped advance this economic cooperation. For more information on this significant trend, see Robert Morley’s article “The Silk Superhighway.”

Out of Thin Air

Do you realize how dangerously fragile America’s economy has become?
From the July 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

One day everything can be fine. Sun shining, cash registers ringing, birds singing in the trees. The next day, you’re in a horror story—and no one knows where it came from.

That’s what happened in the 1952 novella The Birds. You might recall a Cornish farm worker waking up in the middle of the night. Incessant tapping on the window; him opening it. Feeling something cut his hand. Seeing a bird fly away. The sound returning, worse this time. Birds smashing through the windows in his children’s room, clawing and biting them before he can drive them away.

The next day, everything seems normal. Claims of bird attacks seem far-fetched. But flocks of gulls begin amassing on the waves, then rising silently over the Cornish coast. The family barricades itself in its home, learning from the wireless that avian violence is happening all across England. The birds attack, diving, hurling, clawing, pecking, destroying and killing.

An analogy might be drawn between the fiction of Daphne du Maurier and the reality of the American economy. Everything seems fairly normal. We’ve had a scare or two, but most of us still have jobs, commerce is still taking place, politicians are still arguing on Capitol Hill. The world is still going round. But something wicked this way is coming.

And even though many people see the birds on the horizon, we are not preparing at all for them.

Bad Signs

Have we forgotten Lehman Brothers? When Lehman collapsed and shattered the financial world in 2008, many analysts labeled it a “black swan.” Black swans are dramatic upheavals that were never even imagined to be possible; anciently, black swans were thought not to exist. Yet in hindsight, their existence was clear.

Before 2008, who would have thought a revered 158-year-old banking icon would not only collapse overnight, but trigger a meltdown threatening virtually every major bank on the planet? With modern finance, those things just weren’t supposed to happen. Surely it was a once-in-a-millennium accident.

In fact, we made this black swan. Looking back, we can see how our irresponsibility created this monster. And we should have seen it coming. But in its wake, we sadly—yet predictably—absolved ourselves of the need to make real changes.

Instead of getting to the root of the financial crisis, America doubled down on the very things that caused the crisis in the first place. The Federal Reserve had encouraged banks to increase lending. Now, led by Congress, it actually went out and gave the banks money at zero percent interest so they could lend it directly to homeowners—and even to the U.S. government—at 4 to 5 percent or higher. When that didn’t prove “stimulative” enough, the Fed actually began printing up money out of thin air to keep the government running.

“The day after,” it appears to have worked. The stock market is recovering, the economy is adding jobs again, and fewer banks are failing. While these are good signs, this is exactly what should be expected from a multitrillion-dollar effort to prop up the economy. Debt always feels good at first. But eventually, it catches up with you.

Just as Nat Hocken noticed that the birds were strangely agitated the day before he was attacked, we should have already picked up on the warning signs, like the political budget battles. Republicans and Democrats claim they want to take a chainsaw to the trunk of America’s enormous debt. But all they are actually doing is clipping a few twigs off, and ignoring the new $14.6 trillion debt tree we have planted.

America has staved off debt collapse—but in the process, it has made itself far more vulnerable to unexpected shocks. The economy is now so unstable, there is a growing fear that in the future, even turkeys are going to become black-swan catastrophes. And because America’s debt levels are now so big, the next crisis could be deadly.

Millions of homeowners across America can attest to what happens then. When the interest payments catch up with you, and/or an unexpected event causes you to miss a payment, the skies get dark pretty quickly. The same thing is true nationally. Once America’s lenders suspect the nation can no longer handle its multiplying debt, they will call in their loans. Then our debt problems will come home to roost.

What will that mean for you? Massive tax increases, social services cut to pre-Great Society levels. For most people, retirement will be a dream as unrealistic as finding a job. And the rioting won’t be limited to Wisconsin.

Black Swans Are Gathering

Following the 2008 economic meltdown, the world as we knew it ended. “Never in anyone’s career have there been so many problems in the world,” said Jean-Francois Tardif, former manager of the Sprott Opportunities Hedge Fund. “I think you have to change your belief system—we’re in a different world.”

Things have changed. America has long enjoyed its position as the world’s financial cornerstone. Dollars symbolized wealth, security, power, even happiness. But with America printing billions of them out of thin air, they are in danger of becoming lethal to the balance sheets of those who continue to hold them. Investors are concerned about the risks of America’s debt load—and the sustainability of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

On April 18, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service downgraded its outlook on America’s ability to pay its debt from “stable” to “negative.” It was the first-ever downgrade for America. Just a few years ago, it would have been virtually unthinkable from an establishment organization.

Yet, when asked about the warning from s&p, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said there was “no risk” that the United States would ever lose its aaa credit rating. He said Congress would exercise discipline and raise the debt ceiling. He then went on to say that if it were up to him, he would raise the debt ceiling as high as possible so investors would not worry about not getting paid back.

Raise the debt ceiling as much as possible? Take on even more debt? Does this sound like someone who is facing grim reality?

With each extra dollar of debt, the economy becomes more susceptible to the types of shock that could prevent payment.

By the end of fiscal year 2011, the federal government is projected to have spent more than $420 billion on debt interest payments. All told, America is expected to borrow around $1.6 trillion to pay its budget bills this year. That means one out of every four dollars America is borrowing is going to pay theintereston its borrowed money.

I repeat: America is borrowing money—at interest—to pay the interest! Try doing that with your credit cards and see how long you last.

Making the situation all the more dangerous is the fact that the $215 billion spent on interest in the first half of fiscal year 2011 was incurred with the lowest interest rates in U.S. history! The Federal Reserve has artificially manipulated interest rates down to almost zero, but it will not be able to hold them there indefinitely. And as interest rates rise, interest payments will skyrocket. If rates bump up just 1 percent, America’s interest payments will soar by $125 billion per year! If interest rates rise to 5 percent (where they were as recently as 2007), America will be forced to pay over $1 trillion per year in interest! And if rates are forced back to where they were in the 1970s and ’80s, interest payments will consume $2 trillion per year.

With projected tax revenues of only $2.1 trillion this year, the debt may soon consume most of the government’s money.

As long as the debt grows, the debt payments will multiply and multiply and multiply, pecking away at America’s financial system. Eventually, something will have to give. Will the government default on its debt? Will it try to cheat creditors through inflation? Will taxes go sky high? Will Medicare and Medicaid be slashed? Each choice comes with serious social and economic consequences.

America’s debt has become a massive economic albatross.

Trumpeting in the Night

In March, one of the world’s largest private bond investors revealed that it would no longer lend money to America. Bill Gross, manager and co-founder of the $1.2 trillion Pimco bond funds, revealed that his premier Total Return Fund sold all of its U.S. government treasuries—a couple hundred billion dollars’ worth. It was a shocking announcement. Then it was revealed that Gross had gone even further and was actively short selling American bonds.

Gross isn’t alone. Others also believe that the world’s largest debt market is a giant bubble ready to burst.

On April 18, the People’s Bank of China again warned that China would eventually diversify its monetary reserves away from U.S. treasuries. This diversification may involve selling more than a trillion dollars’ worth of U.S. dollar assets. China lent it—now it wants it back.

According to Gross, America is conducting a Ponzi scheme. Its “quantitative easing” program is simply creating money out of thin air to pay debts. As that program ends in June, Gross says it will be D-Day for government bonds—which means, watch out.

That is why Gross, the Chinese and other insiders are so pessimistic. America’s borrowing needs are the biggest in history, yet its ability to pay its debts relies on more borrowing—or printing money Zimbabwe-style. Once the Fed is done juicing the market, interest rates will jump, and treasuries will plummet in value.

Everything in debt-addicted America will become costlier. Jobs will be lost. Taxes will rise. Funding will disappear. Government debt payments will soar, the economy will grind to a halt and tax revenues will fall. Remember: The government’s only source of income is you. That means you will ultimately pay the price.

The New White Swans

But a debt collapse isn’t the only black swan on the horizon. There are many more ominous birds in plain sight: terrorism, $100-per-barrel oil, $5-a-gallon gasoline, home values still dropping, banks leveraged on depreciating houses, revolutions in the Middle East. Greece, Portugal and Ireland facing bankruptcy, the eurozone on the precipice, Japan’s earthquake aftermath, China’s growing military (ultimately funded by U.S. taxpayers). These are only the swans we can see. What about unexpected disasters? Are we immune from those?

America’s economy is now so weak that it won’t take much to trigger the next crisis. In America the Precarious, so-called black swans may soon become as ordinary as white swans.

Our financial system is addicted to selfishness, impatience and greed, manifested in debt. Our dollars are made out of nothing more than paper, and backed with nothing but shaky confidence. They are as ubiquitous as birds, and we are completely exposed to them. When the next swan event hits, our economy could be devastated. And we will be looking at the worthless digits in our bank account in a whole new way. We should be able to see it coming, but for some it will seem as though it came out of thin air.

The Secret to Success

The Secret to Success

Dreamstime

Why are there so few who find it?

Whenever I write about life at Herbert W. Armstrong College, some readers respond by saying, I wish I would have had an opportunity like that when I was younger. I often repeat these sentiments to our students in hopes of helping them better appreciate the opportunity God has given them—and to encourage them to make the very most of it.

It’s so easy to waste away a good opportunity.

Malcolm Gladwell has a lot to say about opportunities in his popular book Outliers. “To build a better world,” he writes, “we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success—the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history—with a society that provides opportunities for all.”

Though making a sensible argument for a more level playing field when it comes to available opportunities, Gladwell does acknowledge the critical importance of hard work when it comes to individual achievement. The closer psychologists look at the lives of gifted individuals, he writes, “the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play” (emphasis added throughout).

According to Gladwell, experts are who they are because they abide by the 10,000-hour rule. To achieve mastery in any field of expertise, he explains, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice over the course of about 10 years. “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good,” Gladwell writes. “It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

At a dinner club once, I reminded our students that they were in training to become experts in the field of balanced living. Everything offered to our students—the Bible-based liberal arts curriculum, the hands-on work-study program, the numerous fine arts engagements, the annual formal events, opportunities for travel, intramural sports activities, the active and wholesome dating life and the uplifting family atmosphere, where regular fellowship with faculty members is not only encouraged, but the low student-to-faculty ratio actually makes it possible—helps to develop the whole man, as Solomon wrote.

To that end, over the course of eight semesters, AC students receive approximately 4,500 hours of on-the-job training—maintaining and beautifying the grounds, processing and mailing millions of pieces of literature, receiving tens of thousands of calls in the call center, assisting teachers and administrators, creating Web-based and print-edition publications, writing, fact-checking and editing articles, photographing and drawing images for periodicals, building websites, writing computer programs, assisting with television production, answering correspondence, etc.

With full-time students completing about 125 course hours before graduation, that amounts to approximately 1,800 hours in the classroom over the course of their college career. If at least half that amount of time is invested in studying outside the classroom, the total amount of classroom activity would be around 2,700 hours.

Tack on another 1,200 hours for forums, Bible studies and church services over the course of four years. Added to that, there are the numerous intramural activities, campouts, dating excursions, community outreach events, formal occasions, recitals and concerts—let’s conservatively estimate that at 800 hours.

That’s over 9,000 hours so far—and we haven’t even gotten to the most important regular activity: their personal relationship with God. Following the superb examples of many great patriarchs of the Bible, we encourage students to rightly prioritize their schedules by setting aside one hour per day for earnest, heartrending prayers to their Creator God.

Most freshmen do not arrive here with this kind of consistency in their prayer lives. But all are encouraged to set that as the optimum goal. As hard as it might be to believe, some of our students graduate with a daily routine that includes one hour of prayer.

As I told them, if that routine was maintained over the course of eight semesters and three summers, it would amount to 1,300 hours of contact with God!

Of course, a healthy and productive line of communication does not work like a one-way street. We speak to God in prayer and He responds back through His inspired Word—the Holy Bible. Since Bible study is already part of their classroom instruction, we encourage students to set aside an additional 30 minutes per day for their own personal Bible study.

“Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness,” Gladwell wrote. Indeed, if AC students are committed to working on their relationship with God, work hard in class, apply themselves on the job and round out their training with numerous extra-curricular activities, they can get in their 10,000 hours.

Granted, those many hours will not be invested in one highly specialized field of expertise. They will be spread across many fields and endeavors, most of which involve God and His Family and all with a view toward ultimately sharing God’s way of life with all of mankind.

In the very beginning of God’s inspired Word, we learn that God’s purpose and plan for mankind is to reproduce His character in us (Genesis 1:26). Because of this divine purpose, Armstrong College was established as a character-building institution. It is, as we’ve said before, a modest foretaste of what educational institutions will be like in the World Tomorrow, when Jesus Christ sets up God’s government on this Earth.

I can see why some readers might wish they had the opportunity to attend AC when they were younger. I wish I had that opportunity. But as much of a blessing as AC is for our young people, God’s way of living breeds successful abundance wherever you might be in life—but only if you are willing to work really hard at it.

That’s what distinguishes top performers from the middle of the pack, Gladwell points out. “[P]eople at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else,” he writes. “They work much, much harder.”

Our college’s namesake, Herbert W. Armstrong, learned more than 60 years ago that true success is not reserved for those with superior ability, but for individuals—any individuals—willing to abide by a definite set of laws God set in motion that will guarantee successful results.

These laws were outlined in Mr. Armstrong’s most popular booklet, The Seven Laws of Success—requested by more than 3 million people during the 20th century. I re-read the booklet again after reading Gladwell’s Outliers and found it to be right up to date—packed with wise instruction that will, if applied, lead readers along a path toward success!

The very first law of success is to fix the right goal. To make sure it’s the right goal, one must first be able to define true success. Gladwell’s book, as thought-provoking as it might be, offers no specific definition of success. But judging by the case studies throughout the book, successful people are described as those who work hard to develop exceptional talent and who happen to be in the right place at the right time when opportunity knocks. For their hard work and lucky breaks, they are rewarded handsomely in the form of money or fame—or both.

God’s definition of success is totally different. While physical blessings and prosperity might be enjoyed along with success, material things alone do not bring success. Oftentimes, the more one acquires in the physical realm, the less happy he tends to be. J. Paul Getty, for example, is identified in Outliers as the 43rd richest man in human history. Yet, for all of his fabulous wealth, Getty is reputed to have said he would have given it up for one happy marriage.

God defines true success as a way of life. Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). God’s way of life—His righteousness—is the cause of all that is good and successful. But He won’t cram it down our throats. God inspired the Prophet Moses to write, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). We have to choose this way of life and then diligently seek after it, expending every ounce of determined effort, working together with God’s power, to overcome sin and to develop holy, righteous character.

This is why, in addition to all that is expected of our students, we constantly remind them of their very first priority in life: drawing near to their Creator through consistent prayer, Bible study, meditation and even occasional fasting.

Perhaps the opportunity to attend Armstrong College as a full-time student has passed you by. But your personal relationship with God is an entirely different matter. As the Apostle Paul told the Athenian philosophers, God is “not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27). But because most are unwilling to diligently seek after Him—which does take hard work—only a minuscule few ever find Him.

In 2004, after fighting to obtain a wealth of printed material during six years of litigation, we began distributing the completely updated Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course. This 36-lesson study, which forms the bedrock biblical instruction our students receive at AC, is distributed freely to all who wish to enroll. After every four lessons, our distance learning students are then asked to complete a short, relatively easy test before they can receive the next set of four lessons.

Over a span of 6½ years, over 75,000 people have signed up for the course. As of today, about 7,500 are enrolled. True, some have completed the course—but over 50,000 have dropped out. On average, 74 percent drop out after the very first test.

To date, only 3,898 people—just 5 percent of those who’ve signed up—have completed the study.

In the case of this scientific study, it’s not the extraordinary opportunities that are lacking, but rather the persistent, dogged and determined willingness to finish a course that could permanently change one’s life for the better.

Mr. Armstrong observed in The Seven Laws of Success that most people are rather content to be victimized by the circumstances around them. In the parable of the sower, Jesus described four kinds of individuals, all given the opportunity to receive God’s message. One never really got started. Two others enthusiastically began the process of learning God’s way of life. But one became distracted along the way by the cares of this world. The other lacked the strength of character to stay with it.

One of those seeds, however, took root and continued to grow, eventually producing abundant fruit. Those few who do remain diligent in seeking after God’s way of life will soon learn that an intimate relationship with God not only prepares one to take advantage of opportunities—it creates them!

To understand more about the secret to eternity-oriented success, study Mr. Armstrong’s classic work The Seven Laws of Success. Also, make sure you enroll in the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course. Force yourself to set aside time each day to work on this course—and stay with it. Then supplement this practical, Bible-based study with regular, heartfelt prayers to God.

Over time, the hours will add up and you’ll be well on your way to accumulating advanced training in the one area of expertise that matters most: how to live. Life will take on new meaning.

And opportunities will abound!