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The Word For Today

How to solve problems 6



'I told you... (these things) so you can have peace.' John 16:33 NCV

Sixth, you must try to keep your problems in perspective. You've probably heard the saying: 'I grumbled because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet.' In a Peanuts cartoon, Snoopy looks in and sees the family sitting around the table enjoying Thanksgiving dinner while he's outside eating dog food. 'How about that?' he thinks. 'Everybody's eating turkey today, but because I'm just a dog I get dog food.' Then he suddenly regains his perspective. 'Of course, things could be worse - I could have been born a turkey!' How big or how difficult our problem appears to be is often a matter of perspective.

Most difficulties we face are pretty insignificant in the larger scheme of things. When a friend gets cancer or loses a loved one, we're reminded of just how petty our issues are. Author James Agee recalled how he once struck up a conversation with an impoverished elderly woman in the heart of Appalachia during the Great Depression. She lived in a tiny shack with dirt floors, no heat and no indoor plumbing. 'What would you do,' he asked, 'if someone gave you some money to help you out?' The woman thought for a moment and answered, 'I guess I'd give it to the poor.'

Realising there are people around you who have much bigger problems than yours brings gratitude and perspective. Jesus told his disciples, 'These things have I spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world' (John 16:33 NKJV).

Soulfood: Lam 1:1-22 Lam 2 Lam 3:1-39 Matt 19:15-30 Ps 119:121-128 Pro 18:13-20,

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How to solve problems 5



'A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.' Proverbs 16:9 NKJV

Fifth, don't just see the problem, look for the opportunity. When President John Kennedy was asked how he became a war hero, he smiled and quipped, 'It was easy. Somebody sunk my boat!' While it's true that certain individuals have a vision and pursue it, many times adversity paves the way to success. This was the case for a man whose small business was failing: 'I was paying a sheriff five dollars a day to postpone a judgement on my small factory. Then came the gas man, and because I couldn't pay his bill he promptly cut off my gas. I was in the midst of certain very important experiments, and to have the gas people plunge me into darkness made me so mad I at once began to read up on gas technique and economics, and resolved I would try to see if electricity couldn't be made to replace gas and give those gas people a run for their money.' That man was Thomas Edison, founder of General Electric.

Problems are wake-up calls for creativity. If you choose to wake up, and get up, problems will prompt you to use your God-given abilities, rally your resources and move forward. The truth is, without certain problems we would end up in the wrong place, with the wrong people, doing the wrong thing. 'A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps' (Proverbs 16:9 NKJV). Out of pain comes purpose, and out of devastation comes direction.

So talk to God about your problem; let him show you the potential it holds and what he has in mind for you.

Soulfood: Gal 4-6 Matt 19:1-14 Ps 119:113-120 Pro 18:10-12,

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How to solve problems 4



'The prudent give thought to their steps.' Proverbs 14:15 NIV

Fourth, evaluate the problem carefully and prayerfully. Here's what King Solomon said about reacting impulsively instead of taking time to get all the facts. 'The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps' (Proverbs 14:15 NIV); 'To answer before listening - that is folly and shame' (Proverbs 18:13 NIV ).

When patients are in pain they want quick relief. But the doctor knows that the pain must be diagnosed correctly in order to prescribe the right medication and make the patient whole. For you that means asking yourself, 'Who or what caused this problem? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Has it the potential to do real damage, or will I have forgotten about it this time next week?' If you don't diagnose the problem correctly you'll have to go back and start over again, at which point the solution will probably be more painful and costly.

Mike Leavitt, former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, said, 'There is a time in the life of every problem when it is big enough to see, yet small enough to solve.' The key is to find the right time and be patient when implementing the solution. Inexperienced people expect problems to be settled instantly. But experienced people are like the master sculptor who keeps striking the marble block with steady blows of the hammer. Unlike the rookie who expects to split the stone with one blow, he knows if he just keeps working at it he will eventually succeed.

Soulfood: Gen 6:9-22 Gen 7 Gen 8:1-4 Matt 24:37-51,

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How to solve problems 3



'But I said, "Should a man like me run away?...I will not go!"' Nehemiah 6:11 NIV

Third, you must face the problem. When Nehemiah was threatened by his enemies, some of his friends told him to hide in the temple. But he replied, 'Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go' (Nehemiah 6:11 NIV)! As a result Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in two months - an amazing feat.

Years ago a popular American television commercial about addiction and abuse showed a typical family at home. The children were playing, the mother was vacuuming and the father was reading the newspaper. They could have been a conventional family anywhere, except for one problem: there was a huge elephant in the room with them. Even though they could see it was making life difficult and they had to work around it, they seemed to be ignoring it and pretending it didn't exist. That ad gave rise to the slogan: 'The elephant in the room.' It applies to problems we don't want to address, so we pretend that everything is fine.

We typically react to a problem in four ways: (1) Flee it: we try to escape, but the problem always follows us. (2) Forget it: we hope it will go away if we don't think about it. But left alone, problems tend to get worse. (3) Fight it: what we resist persists. And problems are no exception. (4) Face it: we look at the issue realistically and deal with it. If we're wise we reach for God's assistance and 'boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear"' (Hebrews 13:6 NKJV).

Soulfood: Gal 1-3 Matt 18:21-35 Ps 119:105-112 Pro 18:9,

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How to solve problems 2



'The Lord is my strength and my shield.' Psalm 28:7 NKJV

Second, you must identify the real problem. Sometimes a doctor can cure you, other times he or she prescribes medication that enables you to live more comfortably with your problem. But first they have to diagnose it.

Philosopher Abraham Kaplan makes this distinction between problems and predicaments: 'A problem is something you can do something about. If you can't do something about it, then it's not a problem, it's a predicament. That means it's something that must be coped with; something that must be endured. When you treat a predicament as a problem you can become frustrated, angry and depressed. You waste energy and make bad decisions. Then when all your attempts fail, you give up and see yourself as a victim.' Here's an example: if you're married, perhaps you are a 'morning person' and your spouse is a 'night person', or vice versa. That's a predicament. You can't change it. You can't change the way people are wired internally. And if you try, you and your spouse will experience lots of conflict and there'll be no resolution. However, your difficulty in finding ways to spend time together because of your different bents is a problem, and that can be solved.

And here's another thought: sometimes God will deliver you from a bad situation and other times he will use it to develop your character and make you more like Christ. Yes, he can turn your sigh into a song! David said, 'The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise him' (Psalm 28:7 NKJV).

Soulfood: Judg 19:16-30 Judg 20 Judg 21:1-25 Matt 18:10-20 Ps 119:97-104 Pro 18:6-8,

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How to solve problems 1



'The people became very discouraged on the way.' Numbers 21:4 NKJV

To reach the Promised Land the Israelites had to 'go around the land of Edom' (Numbers 21:4 NKJV). The journey was longer, and 'the people became very discouraged'. There's a lesson here. The best way to escape a problem is to solve it. Between you and your 'promised land' you'll face issues that have to be resolved. Recognising obstacles for what they are - temporary tests of your resolve, ability and faith in God - won't do you much good if you don't know how to handle them.

So let's discuss problem solving. First, recognise that you'll always have problems. A university student sent this email to his mum: 'Dropped out of uni, coming home tomorrow. Prepare Dad.' The email he got back said, 'Dad prepared. Prepare yourself!' Al Davis, who owned the Oakland Raiders American football team, said: 'A great leader doesn't treat problems as special. He treats them as normal. If you're working, expect problems. If you're dealing with family, expect problems. If you're just minding your own business and trying to relax, expect problems. If everything goes according to plan, then be pleasantly surprised. If it doesn't, and you've planned accordingly, you won't get so frustrated. A problem not anticipated is a problem. A problem anticipated is an opportunity.'

Paul said, 'To him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us...be glory...forever' (Ephesians 3:20-21 NKJV). The problem you're facing today is just an opportunity for God to do for you or through you what you can't do by yourself.

Soulfood: Judg 16:1-31 Judg 17 Judg 18 Judg 19:1-15 Matt 18:1-9 Ps 119:89-96 Pro 18:1-5,

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When the family shatters



'Forgive anyone who does you wrong.' Colossians 3:13 CEV

When divorce shatters your family, how can you help your children? First, stop talking about who doesn't accept them, and surround them with people who do. As a parent your love can go a long way towards compensating for another's neglect. Explain that sometimes people grow together, other times they grow apart. Remind them that 'Ken' and 'Barbie' are just dolls, and prepare them to live in the real world. Encourage them to be strong, not self-pitying. As they get older teach them that if they meet someone they have to 'change' in order to 'love', they haven't met the right one.

When love is right it can live with strengths and weaknesses under the same roof, because 'love covers over a multitude of sins' (1 Peter 4:8 NIV ). Real love covers a mistake like an insurance policy covers a driver in an accident. Don't use your child as a weapon to get back at one another. Be sure they understand that you are the one who got divorced, not them. Explain that someone can be unsuited as a companion but still be a good parent. When you take away the blame, you take away the shame and everybody can move forward. Bitterness is a thief, but you don't have to let it steal your peace, your creativity, your song or your hope for a better future.

Remember, that was then - this is now. There must be a 'now' for you and your children, so let it begin today. God's promise is: 'I am about to do something new' (Isaiah 43:19 NLT). So you can start over and rebuild.

Soulfood: Judg 12-15 Matt 17:14-27 Ps 119:81-88 Pro 17:27-28,

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Always be honest



'Don't lie to each other.' Colossians 3:9 NLT

Try to answer the following questions honestly. Would you lie in order to get yourself out of a jam? Impress someone? Avoid dealing with the consequences of your actions? Well, how did you do? In a major survey in the USA people were asked, 'What would you be willing to do for $10 million?' (Are you sitting down?) Twenty-five per cent said they'd be willing to abandon their families. Twenty-three per cent said they'd be willing to become a prostitute for a week. And seven per cent said they'd be willing to murder a stranger. Are you shocked?

Maybe you're thinking that you'd never do that. Well, don't be so quick - the survey showed that Christians were 'almost as likely as non-Christians' to falsify their tax returns, call in sick when they weren't, cheat on their mates, and tear down someone else's character to make themselves look better. Think about it - have you done any of those things lately? If you have, read these words carefully and prayerfully: 'Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him' (Colossians 3:9-10 NLT).

Pay particular attention to the words 'put on your new nature'. Honesty is a garment you have to put on every day. So start modelling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God. Think the truth. Face the truth. Love the truth. Pursue the truth. Walk in the truth. From today on make up your mind that you'll always be honest.

Soulfood: Judg 9:34-57 Judg 10 Judg 11:1-40 Matt 17:1-13 Ps 119:73-80 Pro 20:25 Ecc 5:4-6,

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Get some rest



'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.' Mark 6:31 NIV

Why did Jesus take time out to rest? So that when he worked, he'd be at his best. And today he wants you to know that if you don't take a break, you won't get one. He wants you to survive the long haul, not just the short sprint. And the first obstacle you need to overcome is guilt. That's what makes us workaholics. We feel guilty and tell ourselves, 'There's just so much to do.'

Jesus handled life differently: 'Because so many people were coming and going that [he and his disciples] did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me...to a quiet place and get some rest." So they went away by themselves...to a solitary place' (Mark 6:31-32 NIV). No time to eat, too many people coming and going, no time to take care of yourself - does that describe your life right now? Some people say, 'It's better to burn out than rust out.' That's poor advice, plus it's not scriptural. You don't burn out when you're in the will of God! Jesus said, 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light' (Matthew 11:30 NIV). And the reason he could say that was because people didn't set his agenda, his heavenly Father did.

The psalmist said, 'He makes me to lie down' (Psalm 23:2 NKJV). Wouldn't you rather go to the park by choice than to the hospital by force? The fact is God won't send you there, but your own lack of wisdom can. Today Jesus is saying to you, 'Get some rest,' and if you're wise you will do it!

Soulfood: Judg 7:1-25 Judg 8 Judg 9:1-33 Matt 16:13-28 Ps 119:65-72 Pro 17:23-26,

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Let Jesus tell you who you are



'You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.' Matthew 16:17 NIV

Peter the apostle started out as Peter the fisherman. His father owned a fleet of fishing boats, and Peter probably thought that one day he'd end up running the family business when his dad was gone. But when the Lord has a plan for your life, he will come looking for you! Think about this fascinating interaction between Jesus and Peter: 'But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in Heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church"' (Matthew 16:15-18 NIV).

There's an important lesson here. When you discover who Jesus is and what he has done for you, you discover who you are and what he has called you to do for him. There's a lot more to life than working forty hours a week for forty years, retiring with a gold watch, drawing a pension, and playing with your grandchildren.

Just as surely as your DNA differs from every other person's on the planet, so does your individual destiny. But to understand and fulfil it, 'you must be born again' (John 3:7 NKJV). Jesus said at the grave of Lazarus, 'He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live' (John 11:25 NKJV). And the one who raised Lazarus from the dead can bring you to life spiritually, too. Seek him and he will also tell you who you really are.

Soulfood: Josh 2:1-24 Acts 9:20-30,

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