As part of the 2016 Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast, Henry Kaestner, co-founder and chairman of Bandwidth.com and managing principal at Sovereign's Capital, encouraged listeners to find happiness not in earthly success, but in fulfilling God's will for them.
The 22nd annual event, which was held in Santa Clara, CA on April 1st, was themed "Finding Your Why." According to the Prayer Breakfast chairman, Skip Vaccarello, the event offers an opportunity to see how God has worked in the lives of the speakers and how He affects the way they live.
"The event is perfect for anyone who is curious about faith and wants to find out more," he said. "No one is put on the spot to pray. Instead, the event is simply an opportunity to observe how God transforms lives."
Kaestner, the event's keynote speaker, shared how he first discovered his entrepreneurial ability while in college, when he began selling t-shirts. After he had graduated, the Baltimore, Maryland native moved to New York City to begin his career on Wall Street.
"My pursuit of happiness continued," he recalled. "I first wanted to find happiness in financial success and working hard and getting rewarded for it...in retrospect, yeah, I did have a lot of success..and there were times I'd feel on top of the world. Yet, there was still a hollowness to it."
Although raised in a Christian home, Kaestner revealed he began to attempt to fill that void by dating different women.
"I was much too focused on trying to find happiness in dating women," he said, referring to that period as the start of the "darkest time" of his life. Although he eventually fell in love with a woman, Kimberley, he realized his life was completely incompatible with a monogamous lifestyle.
He then developed debilitating anxiety, which forced him to take weeks off of work: "I couldn't reconcile the fact that I had met this amazing woman who loved me, seemingly unconditionally, and yet realizing that I had major, major commitment issues."
Even though he knew in his heart that God was there the entire time, his pride prevented him from crying out for help.
"I can overcome this, I can work through this," he told himself.
Kaestner revealed that the first couple years of serious dating and marriage were filled with "serious issues." However, he and his wife nevertheless moved to North Carolina to set up a new company and decided to join a church - "because that's what good people do," Kaestner thought.
Eventually, they couple began attending a Presbyterian Church, and Kaestner decided to read the New Testament for the first time. However, doing so initially turned him away from Christianity.
"Jesus talked about things like 'I am the way, the truth and the life,' and other places he says 'I am'..I was like, 'Who is this guy?' I had a real issue with it. The Jesus in the New Testament has a God complex - it turns out, with very good reason," Kaestner recalled.
After praying over the passages and going through the New Testament a second time, Kaestner realized that Jesus' life and death spawned the "greatest movement of all time."
"It occurred to me that this must be true," he said. "And if it was true...it changes everything."
Kaestner and his wife embraced Christianity after understanding the truth of the Gospel. A short time later, he started Bandwidth.com, a communications technology company based on the Biblical principles of faith, family, work and fitness
"We wanted to have faith first, we wanted to glorify God," he said of the company.
As the company became more successful, Kaestner found that he was still trying to find happiness in earthly treasures. He bought a home for his family, and then a beach house, but still wasn't satisfied.
"I had been, from an early age, really looking for happiness, trying to find it in athletics, in financial success, in women, and I was still trying to earn something. Even as a Christ-follower, I was still looking to fill a gap...God taught me that I couldn't find success and happiness in things."
He added, "I was hungry. There was something I felt was missing from my life. And there were all kinds of things I tried to use to fill it. If I'm completely honest, it didn't end with the beach house. It continues to this day to some level, to some form, of me feeling like I need to earn my salvation, that what God did wasn't enough."
He admitted, "Too often, I'm motivated by needing to earn something, and I haven't completely basked in the fact that there's a God who loves me and loves you completely, that no matter what we do, he loves us - he loves us as an unconditional father...too often, in my spiritual walk, even after I became a Christian, I didn't look at God as 'Daddy'. I thought of him as a demanding God, somebody who I needed to earn his pleasure from."
Kaestner, who today serves as Chairman of Sovereign Capital, an investment firm that focuses on early growth-stage companies, revealed that only recently has he began to realize that he cannot earn God's love - "Ironically, I actually do better work when I'm free to work out of gratitude for the gift given me. I find that hole that I had before is filled."
He quoted Matthew 6:33 in concluding, "If I try to get my pleasure and my happiness - which is what my life has been about - in success, the things that money can buy, or my family, I won't find it. But if I aim for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, then I'll find God and his righteousness, and I'll be able to find happiness in other things as well."
He also encouraged listeners to take heart during difficult seasons: "If you planted your tree by streams of living water, your leaves never wither...My hope and my prayer is that God will use us, together, to transform this amazing place that we've found ourselves working and raising our families in."