Problems and How To Contend With Them Biblically-1
Chapters 1 and 2
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Chapter 1: Axioms For Contending With Problems
Chapter 1 Axioms For Contending With Problems Biblically
Where should we start? Perhaps the best place to start would be by defining the word "axiom." According to the American Heritage Dictionary an axiom is an established rule, principle, or law.
With this definition in mind, we are going to be studying established biblical rules, principles or laws of problem solving. Hence Axioms for Contending With Problems Biblically.
Now, before we consider biblical problem solving, you need to know that there are a number of other approaches to problem solving being promoted in our day. In fact there is an entire area of study called the psychology of problem solving. One of the most popular technique for dealing with problems is called Creative Problem Solving (CPS). It takes a humanistic approach to problem solving. It was popularized in values clarification classes. Here's a rough outline of how CPS worked.
1) It began with the teacher guiding the students on developing a set of rules to reason by.
2) Next, the teacher presented a hypothetical situation to the students. One scenario I remember was the lifeboat "game." The setting was a ship wreck. The focus was one particular life boat that carried food and water for just six people, but there were ten people in the boat. Four would have to go or the boat would be swamped and they would all drown. This is a passenger list -- a sailor; an engineer; a badly injured black man; a pregnant woman, an elderly man, a fashion model, a blind man, a mean spirited man, a doctor and a preacher. The students were to choose which people should be allowed to stay in the life boat and which ones should be thrown out according to their preset guidelines.
Obviously there is a problem with hypothetical "games" like this especially when biblical values are not in focus. As believers we must solve the problems of life based on Biblical principles.
The natural question is, are there verses that give us biblical guidelines for solving the problems of life? If you were to take your concordance and look up all the occurrences of the words "problem" or "problems" in the King James Version of the Bible you would not find one occurrence. I also have a NIV concordance. Even in this loose translation there are only three occurrences of those words (Deut. 1:12; Dan. 5:12 & 16). Yet, it would be a mistake to conclude that the Bible does not give us any insight into how to solve the problems of life Biblically. Words like trouble(s) (122 times), tribulation(s) (26 times), temptation(s) (24 times), and trial (6 times) are words that encompass our English word "problem."
Let's begin by focusing on the first axiom for contending with problems biblically
RECOGNIZE THAT PROBLEMS ARE A PART OF LIFE
1 Corinthians 10:13a "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man..."
Zero in on the word temptation (3986) for a moment. It means a trying circumstance, an adverse situation or problems. When God is the agent, it means to put to the test for the purpose of making that person more Christ-like, never for the purpose of causing an individual to fall. When Satan is the agent, it is a solicitation to evil.
Now look at the phrase common to man. This is but one Greek word -- (442) anthropinos (anth-ro'-pee-nos). It means belonging to man or the condition of man.
When you put the two words together you have AXIOM #1 -- Trying circumstances (problems) are a part of human life! Problems are the lot of all human beings.
Biblical Support For This Axiom --
Jesus Said -- These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33. The Greek word translated tribulation is thlipsis (thlip'-sis 2347) which means pressure, or trouble.
Job said -- Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward. Job 5:7
Peter said -- Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 1 Peter 4:12
Let's move on to Axiom #2
1 Corinthians 10:13b There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Look at the word faithful. It means that God trustworthy. He can be trusted to do what He has promised. So, according to this verse, what has he promised?
"...who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able..."
This is a great promise to believers! God will not allow anything into a believers life that he cannot handle. Jay Adams puts it this way, "Given the grace of God, given your knowledge of God's Word...given the resources of the Holy Spirit within, there is no trial into which God calls you that is beyond your ability to withstand. Instead of saying 'can't' you should say, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." That moves us into the next section of the verse that unfolds God's second promise...
"...but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
When I think of "a way to escape" the first thing that comes to my mind is being removed from the difficulty. But the elimination of difficulty is not what is in focus here. There are two reasons why I say that.
First, the phrase "to bear it" comes from the Greek word hupophero, (hoop-of-er'-o -- 5297) which means to bear from underneath, implying to undergo hardship. This is not implying the removal of the difficulty.
The second reason I am sure the elimination of difficulty is not in focus in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is because "the word translated way of escape was used of sailors lightening their ships in a storm by throwing overboard heavy cargo (Acts 27:18-38). The way of escape for the believer can involve the idea of being shown by God what his life style or reaction pattern needs to be discarded and replaced with God-honoring behavior or response."
Many times God uses the trials of life to draw us closer to Himself. He wants us to get rid of the excess baggage that is hindering our fellowship with Him. This is what happened to the Apostle Paul. Paul had a problem and he wanted the unpleasantness removed. He wanted God to get rid of it for him. God did take care of the problem, but in His own way. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in neces-sities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
What I am saying is simply this -- When God promises a way of escape that does not obligate Him to fix the problem our way. What he will do is provide the resources you need to get you through the difficulty, if you will rely on Him.
Let's look at one further axiom for today's study. Axiom #3
2 Peter 1:3 tells us God has given us all we need to live a balanced Christian life -- According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
In fact, Paul told Timothy All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
When problems are handled based on the instructions and commands of the Bible, people
When problems are handled on the basis of natural inclinations and feelings, people
Let's review the Three Biblical Axioms of Problem Solving we have considered so far --
For Problem Solving
|The Biblical Approach||The Humanist Approach|
Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
(God watches out for His children-1 Pet. 3:12)
Proverbs 6:25 There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
(Man is the measure of all things; Look out for number one)
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
(God has the answer)
Proverbs 28:26 He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
(I have the answer within myself -- Gen. 3:4-5)
|BASIS OF CHOICES MADE||Commands & Principles of God
2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
(He knows what is best for me)
|Personal Feelings & Desires
Making decisions based on emotions and or natural desires can be dangerous.
Numbers 11:5 We remember the fish...
Proverbs 23:2 And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
(I know what is best for me)
|GOAL||The Will of God & Eternal Joy
Psalms 143:10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
Matthew 25:21 "His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant...enter thou into the joy of thy lord."
|Personal Comfort & Temporal Pleasure
Luke 12:16-21 The Parable of The Rich Fool
|RESULT||Inner Peace & Freedom
Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
2 Corinthians 3:17 "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
|Chaos & Bondage
1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
Proverbs 5:22 His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.
Before any problem can be solved there first must be an admission that there is a problem. For example, mans BIGGEST problem is the problem of sin. But, before the sin problem can be solved and before anyone can be saved, they must first admit that they are lost sinners in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The same holds true in any problem. Admitting that there is a problem is the first step to solving that problem.
There are two enemies that keep people from facing their problems realistically -- rationalization & covering the problem.
Rationalization is an enemy of biblical problem solving. Let me give you a dictionary definition of the word. According to the Webster's New World Dictionary -
rationalize means -- to devise superficially rational, or plausible, explanations or excuses for (one's acts, beliefs, desires, etc.), usually without being aware that these are not the real motives.
To put it simply, rationalization is thinking up a "good" reason or excuse why it is OK to think, act or believe in a way that you should not.
An enlightening Biblical illustration of rationalization is the story of King Sauls handling of the Amalekite siege (1 Sam. 15:1-26). Verse 3 gives specific instructions on how God wanted the siege handled -- Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. But Saul and the people had other plans that seemed reasonable to them
1 Samuel 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
As you might imagine, Sauls disobedience was not acceptable to God and he tells Samuel so in verses 10-11. The next morning Samuel meets with Saul and the King asserts, 13 ...I have performed the commandment of the LORD. But Samuel knows better. He says, 14 ...What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
That brings us to Sauls rationalization for his sin -- In verse 15 he excuses his disobedience by claiming that they saved the best animals to sacrifice to the Lord. In verse 21 Saul blames the sin on the people. Samuel responds with these familiar piercing words recorded in 1 Samuel 15:22-23 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
Friends remember. Our hearts are deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9) and a rationalization can be developed within our fallen minds to justify any sin. Rationalization is one enemy to facing your problems realistically.
That brings me to the second enemy of biblical problem solving, covering the problem. Our natural inclination when we come up against a problem is to ignore it, hoping it will go away. But, problems are like boils. Under the surface they fester. They do not go away but get worse. There is a scripture that comes to mind, Proverbs 28:13 which says, He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. The word covereth implies secrecy and means to conceal, cover, or hide. The classic Biblical example of concealing a sin problem is King Davids adultery with Bathsheba (see 2 Sam. 11). David tried to cover the problem which took him deeper into sin. He describes what it was doing to him in Psalms 32:3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. But when he faced his sin honestly things changed -- Psalms 32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
Summary -- The first step in Biblical Problem Solving is Facing Problems Realistically. You do that by Admitting That There Is A Problem. Two enemies that will keep you from facing your problem realistically are 1) rationalization (thinking up a "good" reason not to face up to the problem) 2) covering the problem (hiding it or denying that it exists).
That brings me to the next step in Biblical problem solving...
The Bible Holds The Key That Can Unlock You From The Shackles Of Your Problem
Perhaps the greatest hindrance to asking for help is pride. Americans particularly are very independent and self-sufficient. The fact is, pride is a problem (let's call it what it really is -- sin). An interesting study that can be very enlightening is to trace "pride" and the related words in the Bible. Just word pride occurs in 49 times in 46 verses in the Bible (there are other words like proud, prideful, etc.). I read all 46 verses and not one of those verses cast pride in a positive light! I found that God hates pride; pride is shameful; pride stirs up contention; pride deceives; pride sets you up for a fall; pride brings you low; pride is the precursor of destruction; etc. In fact, when God see pride in His children He cries.
Jeremiah 13:15-17 Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken. 16 Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. 17 But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock is carried away captive.
The point is that God had an answer for the problem of His people if they would have listened. But they did not. They turned a deaf ear to his counsel. They rejected His help.
James 4:2-3 another good passage that address the issue of asking God for help. It says, Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
That fact is that the root of many of the problems we face is pride & selfishness. We want our own way and are not really open to God's will in the matter. We want, what we want, when we want it! But, In Biblical problem solving the focus is God's will not our will. Our prayer needs to be the words of Psalms 27:11 -- Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path... This gives God the invitation to work. James 1:5 is another important verse -- If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
An excellent illustration of how this principle is practiced come from the life of Daniel in chapter 2. King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that he cannot remember. He calls his occult entourage and demands that they tell him his dream and interpret it or "if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill." (vs. 5).
These sorcerers answer the King by contending --(vs.10) "There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean."
Well, the king decides to kill all the "wise men" in the kingdom. The problem is that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, the Hebrew captives are number in this group (though they do NOT practice the occult). So how does Daniel handle this problem? Let's pick up the account in verse 14.
Daniel 2:14-18 "Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king's guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: 15 He answered and said to Arioch the king's captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. 16 Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would show the king the interpretation. 17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon."
As you can see, Daniel and his friends prayed and asked God to help them resolve their
problem. And what is the outcome? For the answer we must look to...
Daniel 2:19 & 23 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 23 I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter. Daniel comes before the King and reveals the King's dream and its interpret-ation and gives God the credit for solving the problem (see vs 26-28).
Daniel sought the Lord's help and gave God the glory when He did help. We need to follow his example when seeking to solve our problems Biblically.
Summary -- The second step in Biblical problem solving is to invite the Lord's help. There's nothing too hard for Him. Jeremiah 32:17 tells us, Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:
Jeremiah 32:27 the Lord asks this rhetorical question -- Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? The answer is -- Nothing is too hard for you Lord!