The Art of Problem Solving

Most problems can be overcome, even the big ones.

We lived a block from the Mississippi River in New Orleans. Our children were small then. We would take them to the levee for play time. I marveled at how wide it was and what an effort it would be to cross it.

Years lapsed and my wife and I had a challenging thrill by driving the Lemhi Pass, the trail used by Lewis and Clark to cross the Rockies. We noticed there were no tire tracks on the “road.” It dawned on us that although we were on the trail, we were off road. Right at the highest point there is a small park with a tiny spring, the water from which flows across most of America and eventually down the Mississippi River past New Orleans. Knowing this I straddled the water flowing from the spring so I could say I stood on both banks of the Father of Waters at the same time.

If you have a big problem, look upstream for its origin and begin searching for the solution there. Scripture gives pointers in problem solving.

First, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6) Do that before going further. This is not directly related to the problem, but it is conditioning you to have a clear mind.

Next, pray. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

Then read God’s Word. You might not find a text that applies directly, but it will open your mind enabling you to think creatively.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Relax, even get away from the problem for a short time if possible.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

This process can help you get to the root of the problem and find an answer.

How Can You Trust a Person?

The question is asked, “How much can you trust a person?” The answer goes back, “You can only trust someone as much as you know them.”

That explains why some people don’t trust God. They don’t know Him and therefore have a misconception of Him. Through David God explains why some don’t trust Him, “You thought I was altogether like you.” (Psalms 50:21)

Daniel revealed, “…the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)

James tells us how to know Him better and get close to Him: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) There are many ways to do that. I am going to focus on one. He said, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Solitude is the incubator in which the fertile Word of God has time to develop Christlike characteristics. Fenelon, a voice from yesteryear wrote: “How rare it is to find a soul quiet enough to hear God speak.”

Time alone with God helps us to see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly.

Designate a time and place when you are alone with Him and His word.

Several years I have been blessed to work with college students on a very large Montana ranch. One day they arise early and have a light breakfast. Each puts their cell phone in a paper bag which is stapled. They are given a bottle of water. We then spread them out on the high desert some distance apart where no one can see them, but from which they never lose sight of the ranch house. They have only their cell phone sealed in the bag to be used only for an emergency, their Bible and a bottle of water.

They are instructed to gather large stones and make a circle in which they are to remain all day except to relieve themselves. They are encouraged to spend the day reading their Bible and praying. They are told that at the end of the day they are to get a big stone to represent the sins they have confessed and leave it in the circle.

Back at the ranch in the early evening, around a much appreciated meal, they speak of their experiences. Some said it was the first time in their life they had been alone. Most spoke of what a transitional day it had been for them.

If you will provide time to systematically be alone with Him in His word you will know Him better, love Him more, and serve Him more enjoyably.

“Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength….”

Habits Good and Bad

Scripture teaches us we should love and serve the Lord with fear and trembling —- and we should. That sounds foreboding, but it is simply a reference to a reverent and healthy respect, not a reference to a nervous apprehension. It is not alarm, but awe.

Habits shape our thoughts and behavior instinctively. Really we are captive to them. Is today the day you should start breaking some old bad habits and start some good ones? You can.

Og Mandino in his book “The Greatest Salesman in the World” tells the story of a man named Hafif to whom was given some scrolls containing principles that would make him the greatest salesman in the world. Principle number one was, “I will form good habits and become their slaves.” This led him to conclude, “In truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference in their habits.”

Here is where God enters the equation. You can’t do it. That is, you can’t do it in your own power. 

A good example helps, but Mark Twain observed, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” What this means is it is taxing to try to imitate a good example. What we need is not imitation, but incarnation.

Jesus is a good example, actually the best example, but to try to imitate Him is impossible. It is Christ in you that is the hope of glory. Once you focus on His presence in you, then He begins to work in you. Our word “energy” comes from the Greek word often translated “works.” He actually energizes you, making it possible to break bad habits and form new ones. God uses three things to energize us.

First is the Bible. This is true if accepted as “the truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (I Thessalonians 2:13)

First you appreciate it, then you appropriate it, and next you apply it.

Second to the Bible is prayer. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)

The third is undesired, but meaningful. It is suffering. Philippians 3:10 speaks of being in the “fellowship of His suffering.” That brings us back to the Bible and prayer, hence to God. Our suffering, small or great, makes us mindful of our need for God who energizes us, enabling us to break old bad habits and start new positive ones.

Do you have any habits that need breaking or new ones needing to be started? In prayer, start the process now.

Joy, Peace, Hope

“The reproach of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Reading in the New King James version of the Bible one might gloss over it. A modern translation like the NIV might awaken us: “The insults of those who insulted you, O God, have fallen on me.” (Romans 15:3)

Now it becomes relevant as applied to the treatment given Christianity in today’s hostile environment. How then are we to respond? Romans 15:13 reads: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Three traits are to identify us: JOY, PEACE, and HOPE.

The first part of the verse coupled with the concluding part explains how this is possible. “May the God of hope … by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Notice you are to be “filled.” Pleroo is the Greek word translated “filled.” It means to fill to the brim. Joy is the holy optimism that keeps us going in spite of circumstance. May that result in you being filled with joy. 

Remember: THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH. Flex your joy muscle!

This joy is not the absence of problems, it is the presence of the Lord.

The Greek word for joy is chara meaning “gladness” or “delight.”

Our second dispositional trait is peace. When most folks think of peace they think of serenity. Today as in the era of the Bible, there are two primary challenges to peace. One is inner tensions. They are caused by distractions. The word “distract” means to “pull apart.” We are pulled apart when the worldly spirit engages us in a civil war with the spirit of the Lord. May the spirit of the Lord enable you to overcome the spirit of the world. 

The second threat to peace is external worries. Worry is said to be the official emotion of our generation. Christ only can enable us to respond positively to those things that wound our hearts and baffle our minds. The more you fill your mind with the knowledge of the Lord the more likely you are to overcome today’s attitude. 

A moment of reality! This is talking about our response to our hostility.

Joy and peace are yours “…that you may abound in hope.” That means we are to be bubbling over with hope. Why? Because “a merry heart does good like a medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)

Hope defined as a verb means to desire with expectation of obtaining, or to expect with optimism. Our English word hope means to desire with expectation.

David asks and answers for us: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” (Psalm 42:5) Get in the Scripture “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of Scripture might have hope.”

Whenever a person with the spirit of the world starts complaining they are opening the door for you to witness by expressing these traits: JOY, PEACE, and HOPE.

Spiritual Bankruptcy

The last word in the Old Testament is “curse.” It is fitting that the New Testament should begin with “Blessed.”

Moses, on a mountain some years before, accompanied by lightning and thunder left humankind under a terrifying condemnation. Now Jesus Christ on a mountainside speaks from one of the most effective natural altars on earth so all can hear truths that thrill – – – –


His message is called the Sermon on the Mount. He spoke of eight qualities leading to happiness. The first was “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (Matthew 5:3)

I rejoice with those who know and experience the truth of which Christ spoke and who are truly poor in spirit, but rich in the faith. To be poor in spirit means to bring ego under control and enthrone a spirit filled temperament. “Blessed,” “Congratulations,” “Joyous,” “Fulfilled,” “Well-being” is the person in whose heart God dwells.

There has never been a supremely happy egotist. The cavernous capacity of a narcissist for recognition is like a bottomless pit. The consuming lust for self-elevating flattery depletes one’s friends.

Jesus said true happiness is not dependent on externals, but internal values. Faith is superior to circumstances. The rewards for faith are promised to those who are financially rich or poor.

We have our values confused. The world is like a storefront window in which some prankster has changed price tags and put the cheap prices on the wrong things.

We are all poor in spirit whether we acknowledge it and deal with it or not. One must be poor in spirit to be happy, regardless of finances. Those who readily admit it and become reliant on the Lord for spiritual riches are those blessed. To be candid, if you get too big for your britches, you will be exposed in the end.

The poor (PTOCHOS) are beggars of God who can make them blessed (MACARIA). He can give to the poor in spirit all that they require and desire. That is true happiness.

Acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy is the beginning of spiritual nobility. This poverty of spirit results in reliance on Christ.

The poor in spirit realize themselves to be conductors of praise on its way to the supreme source — Christ.

In unconditional surrender the assets of the victor, Jesus, become those of the one surrendering, you. 

This is an opportune moment for you to acknowledge your spiritual poverty by humbling yourself before the Lord, begging His forgiveness, and asking His enrichment.