God's grace freed businessman to forgive others

Vancouver businessman David Bentall spoke at the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast in Edmonton.


Vancouver businessman David Bentall spoke at the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast in Edmonton.

April 28, 2014

Our beliefs have a profound impact on our lives, said David Bentall, guest speaker at the annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast.

"Just like our Olympic athletes whose belief propels them to great heights, what we believe has the power to dramatically change us," he said.

God delivered Bentall from bitterness, and enabled him to learn to forgive so he could succeed in business.

In his marriage, God helped him to abandon criticism of his wife and to become a more loving husband.

In his daily life, God showed him how to be less of a worrywart, and to grow in the habit of prayer.

"These are some of the things that God has done in my life, and surely, this is what I believe," said Bentall, a businessman and athlete.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said he's proud to lead a community that is just, tender and humble. While many cities are full of pride, Iveson said one thing he loves about Edmonton is its humility.

Iveson said spirituality is important to Edmontonians. For that reason, every city council meeting begins with a prayer.

Much of Bentall's 30-minute talk April 9 focused on the Olympics. Born and raised in Vancouver, Bentall was instrumental in the successful bid for the 2010 Olympics held there.

"Some of you may recall that in 2010, CTV's slogan for the Olympics Games was 'I Believe.' This morning I would like us to contemplate the amazing significance there is to what we believe, regardless of whether we are Olympic athletes or community leaders," he said.

From the outside looking in, Bentall looks like someone who has succeeded in everything he's tried. But he has had his share of struggles.

A graduate of UBC and Harvard Business School, he worked for 20 years in his family's businesses, focusing on real estate development. He has extensive experience in public speaking and teaching on a myriad of topics, including family business, aging parents and raising children.

He is a competitive water skier who has set numerous slalom ski records. At the Canadian National Water Ski Championships, he was champion in 2009, 2011 and 2013. In January 2012, he was ranked the number one male slalom skier in the world in his age group.


What difference does belief make in elite athletic performance? When tennis star Venus Williams believes she will win, she is virtually unbeatable. When she has doubts, she is fragile.

Of the 250-plus Canadians who participated in the Olympics and Paralympics in 2010 and 2014, medals totaled 45 in 2010 and 41 in 2014. Did those who won believe more? Did those who did not win simply not have enough belief?

"On one hand, what we believe can and does change things, just like Kathy Kreiner's and Elizabeth Manley's careers demonstrate. On the other hand, I will concede there are limits to belief."

He believes God is the author of life. Bentall explained how God has had a profound impact on his career, marriage and daily living.

A falling-out among his family ruined Bentall's chances of succeeding his uncle as president of the successful family business. A business executive close to the situation said Bentall must have a special faith because anyone else in that situation would have committed suicide.

"If not for my faith in God, I might not have made it through that period. During this horribly painful time in my career, my life, identity and self-esteem were all in tatters. I often felt despair because no matter what I did I seemed powerless to fix the situation," he said.

Like an animal caught in a trap, the more he tried to wriggle free, the more the jaws of futility tightened around him. During this difficult time, God's presence in his life made a significant difference. He trusted that God would deliver him from this pain someday.


God helped him redeem the seemingly lost years of his career. He is now president of his own firm, Next Step Advisors, helping others through succession consulting and life coaching.

God also helped him in his marriage. After seven years of marriage, he asked his wife Alison how she would rate their marriage. On a scale from one to 10, she rated it a three. She was thinking of leaving him, but decided to stay together for the sake of their children.

"I thank God that Alison stayed with me even if it was primarily for the kids because in the subsequent years we were able to gradually dig ourselves out of the pit that we had fallen into. With God's help, we were able to learn to love each other," said Bentall.


As with the pain in his career, he relied on God, asking how he needed to change. Instead of constantly criticizing his wife, he learned to appreciate her. Now, 35 years into their marriage, they are excited about their future together. They have four children and four grandchildren.

"To be honest, we still have struggles, but we thank God that he has rescued us from our own selfishness and preserved our marriage. If not for God's work in my heart, ours would undoubtedly have been just another divorce statistic," said Bentall.

While he's future oriented, he believes that God does not want us to worry. Instead, he wants us to pray. He says this concept of replacing worry with prayer and relying on God has had a dramatic effect in every area of his life.