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Faith and finance with Foster Friess: Part 1

  • Mary Naber
  • 1999 4 Nov
Faith and finance with Foster Friess: Part 1
One word might be used to best describe the fund managers of faith that I have had the incredible opportunity to meet -- joyful.

Successful might be another fitting adjective. Foster Friess is highly respected in the financial world for his impressive and consistent management skills. In addition to investing money for the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, he also manages the Brandywine Fund, one of the top three performing no load US Growth funds for 10 years ending December 31, 1997.

Over the past decade, Foster's views on investing have been featured in multitudes of financial magazines. But his views on life are perhaps best captured in the photos of smiling children and empowered minorities impacted through his Life Enrichment Foundation. Or in the laughter of evenings that he spends serving men at the Sunday Breakfast Mission shelter. In Part 1 of our exclusive interview, this financial guru shares how God first came into his life.

How did you come to know Jesus?

First of all, I can go back to my childhood. I was raised in a traditional, main line denominational church and I got a lot of gold stars in Sunday school. I had those ten commandments wired and I knew all that stuff cold. And I was forced to go more or less. But I'm glad I was forced to go.

When I got to college, I don't remember ever setting foot in a church. My understanding of the world was that each of us operated as the center of our own universes and everything revolved around us. I invented a god of my own, and it was so neat because he bought into most of my own positions [chuckle]. When you develop your own concept of god it's wonderful how that works.

What changed?

I had become bored with work. I was making a six-figure income at a young age, and it was like I had my ladder up against the wall and I had climbed rung after rung after rung after rung. I got to the top of the ladder and said, "This is all there is?" David Thoreau once said, "Some men lead their lives in quiet desperation." My family situation was also difficult, so I was open to what was about ready to happen.

A friend of mine had been struggling with some major issues. He was about to get divorced, so he was on the ropes and discouraged. After some time passed, one day he called me up and asked me to help him invest his money. When I met with him, he was so excited and joyful and enthusiastic -- it was a 180 turn. I said, "What in the world happened?", and he said, "I went to a dinner party the other night and invited Christ into my life."

And then he pulled out one of these four spiritual laws booklets. Well, I hate these religious tracts. But I knew full well that he could probably lay $3 million in my lap so I said, "Bill I'd love to see your little religious tract."

So the Lord used your weakness in the love of money to expose His strengths?

Yes, and He provided Bill who explained the whole message of Jesus to me in a way that suddenly appealed to my business instincts as a practical, logical, thinking business guy. God has a plan for our lives and Jesus came so that we could have life abundantly. The second point is that we are separated from Him because of our sin. This whole chasm exists.

One of the struggles I had was about the other religions. Why is Christianity the true religion? But then I could see over that hurdle. Every other religion is about man's works for God to breach this gap, and Christianity is the only one where that relationship is restored by what God does for man.
I simply needed to accept the fact that in some mysterious way, Christ's death on the cross paid the price. I will never from a human perspective comprehend the dynamics at work here but the opportunity to be restored was appealing to me for a number of reasons. First, there was so much confusion in my life as to what was right and wrong. It's nice to turn the decision process over to someone else. Some might call it a cop-out. But the rights and wrongs that Jesus talked about made a lot of sense.

So the cop-out would be, "I'm going to determine right and wrong for myself based on whatever is convenient for me," since faith takes discipline, humility, and submission.

That's why I'm so amused by these high profile political figures who think the macho thing is to criticize and ridicule Christianity. It wasn't easy for me to say OK, I'm going to make a decision to let Jesus be the Chairman on the board of my life. To me, it was much more of a challenge.

But then I was left with this question: Who was Jesus? One day about a week later, I had a high level meeting, and I got down on my knees in my bedroom that October in 1978 and said, I guess it's the sinner's prayer.... Now, how does that go?
    Jesus, I want to know you personally,
    I thank you for dying on the cross to save me from my sins,
    Forgive me for my sins and give me the gift of eternal life...
And then the difficult part for me:
    Take control of my life and turn me into the kind of person you want me to be.
And then as I began to get into Bible studies it was just mind boggling to begin to see the day to day applications of how this new relationship and beautiful message related to every need in my life.

Click here to read part 2 of Mary's interview, Foster Friess on giving.

Click here to read other celebrity interviews by Mary Naber, including John Templeton and David Gardner, founder of the Motley Fool.