Five Ways God Uses Problems

By Rick Warren

The problems you face will either defeat you or develop you - depending on how you respond to them. Unfortunately, most people fail to see how God wants to use problems for good in their lives. They react foolishly and resent their problems rather than pausing to consider what benefit they might bring.

Here are five ways God wants to use the problems in your life:

1. God uses problems to DIRECT you. Sometimes God must light a fire under you to get you moving. Problems often point us in a new direction and motivate us to change. Is God trying to get your attention?

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

2. God uses problems to INSPECT you. People are like tea bags... if you want to know what's inside them, just drop them into hot ever water! Has God tested your faith with a problem? What do problems reveal about you?

"When you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience." James 1:2-3

3. God uses problems to CORRECT you. Some lessons we learn only through pain and failure. It's likely that as a child your parents told you not to touch a hot stove. But you probably learned by being burned. Sometimes we only learn the value of something by losing it.

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes." Psalm 119:72

4. God uses problems to PROTECT you. A problem can be a blessing in disguise if it prevents you from being harmed by something more serious. Last year a friend was fired for refusing to do something unethical that his boss had asked him to do. His unemployment was a problem - but it saved him from being convicted and sent to prison a year later when management's actions were eventually discovered.

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good" Genesis 50:20

5. God uses problems to PERFECT you. Problems, when responded to correctly, are character builders. God is far more interested in your character than your comfort. Your relationship to God and your character are the only two things you're going to take with you into eternity.

"We can rejoice when we run into problems... they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady." Romans 5:3-4

Here's the point: God is at work in your life - even when you don't recognize it or understand it. But it's so much easier when you surrender to his plan for your life.


Myths About Forgiving

By Charles F. Stanley
In Touch Ministries

In my years as a minister and counselor, I’ve talked with many people who have spent years in bondage to someone because they were either unable or unwilling to forgive that person. I have also seen them gain freedom when they finally understand and appreciate the idea of forgiveness. It involves far more than simply putting time between us and the event or saying some words in a prayer.

One stumbling block to forgiving others is wrong information that has entered our theology. Some of these ideas have crept in through the repeated use of clichés. Others have been passed on from generation to generation with no biblical basis whatsoever. Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about forgiveness.

Myth #1: Justifying, understanding, or explaining away someone’s behavior is the same as forgiving him. I can certainly understand that “my brother” was under a lot of stress when he raised his voice to me in front of my customers, but does that mean I have forgiven him? Certainly not. Understanding someone’s situation is part of the forgiveness process, but only a part.

Myth #2: Time heals all wounds. This is one of the most misused (and damaging) clichés I’ve heard. How could the passage of time or the process of forgetting lead to forgiveness? How many times have we said this with good intentions?

Myth #3: Forgiving others means denying we have been hurt or pretending that the hurt was no big deal. We may try to convince ourselves (after forgiving others) that what they did really wasn’t so bad. This form of denial works against the forgiveness process. It refuses to acknowledge someone hurt us in a way that caused real physical, mental, or emotional pain. It is denying a real part of our personhood.

Myth #4: To forgive others, we must go to them personally and confess our forgiveness. To do so when the other person has not first solicited our forgiveness usually causes more problems than it solves. I will never forget the young man in our church who asked one of the women on our staff to forgive him for lusting after her. She had no idea he had a problem with lust, and his confession caused her to feel embarrassed and self-conscious around him from then on.

I rarely counsel someone to confess forgiveness if the one who caused the hurt hasn’t requested it. Once we begin to understand the nature of forgiveness, it becomes clear why this principle holds true. God forgave us long before we ever asked for it. As we have seen, He has forgiven us of sins for which we will never ask forgiveness. In the same way, we are free to forgive others of things they may never realize caused a problem.

I say rarely because there are some occasions when confession of this type is appropriate. Keep in mind that there is a difference between telling others you have forgiven them and actually forgiving them. The time to start forgiving others is when you are offended, whereas actually expressing your forgiveness may take place later. We need not wait until a person asks for forgiveness to do so. If that were true, many times we would wait forever.

Confessing our forgiveness is appropriate in two situations. First, we should do so if the one who hurt us requests it. This helps clear the other person’s conscience and offers the assurance that we are not holding a grudge.

Second, we should confess our forgiveness if we feel the Lord would have us confront others about their sin. Their wrongdoing may have been directed against us personally or against someone we love. It may be necessary in the course of conversation to assure them we have forgiven them and are coming more for their sake than our own. But when we confront others about their sin, the issue of forgiveness must first be settled in our own hearts. We must never confront in order to force someone to ask for our forgiveness.

Forgiveness is something that each of us deals with in one way or another. But each situation is unique—what might take you a short time to work through might be a process that takes someone else time, prayer, and godly counsel. Whatever the circumstance, forgiveness is a process we cannot ignore if we want to become the person God created us to be. Refusing to deal with the resentment that put us in bondage can make us miss out on the fellowship that we are supposed to have with our Father. Determine today to find the freedom of forgiving, no matter what the cost.

Adapted from “The Gift of Forgiveness” by Charles F. Stanley, 1991, p. 105-107.


Attitude Results in Performance

Columns - In and Out of Season
CBCP News Online

One of the important gadgets an airplane has is called “attitude indicator.” What is it? It is a unit that indicates or tells the pilot the position of the aircraft in relation to the horizon. When the nose or the front of the airplane is pointed above the horizon, it has a “nose-high attitude” and the airplane is said to be climbing up. When the front of the aircraft is ointed down, the aircraft has a “nose-down attitude” and it is said to be diving or going down. Pilots are oncerned about the “attitude” of the airplane because it indicates the performance of the airplane: going up or going down. And so we can say of the airplane: attitude results in performance. The attitude of the airplane determines the performance. Since performance depends on attitude, it is necessary to change attitude in order to change performance.

A basketball team can lose the game because while the players’ abilities say “win,” their attitude say “lose.” A student’s aptitude tests may show that he is intellectually capable, but because he has a bad attitude, he fails the test. A person’s attitude, like that of an airplane, determines his performance. It could mean the difference between success or failure, win or lose, promotion or demotion. A positive attitude leads to positive performance; a negative attitude leads to negative performance.

The shepherd boy David knows how to play the harp (guitar!) and to sing joyful songs. His music comes from within his joyful spirit. When King Saul is in bad mood or under some evil spirit, David is called in to play the harp and sing happy songs. David’s music and presence, his dancing or body language refresh Saul’s feelings and the evil spirit departs from him (1 Sam. 16 14, 21-23). In this way David has found favor before King Saul. The happy attitude of David expressed by his body language and surely by the happy look on his face, is contagious. The inner feeling of David determines David’s performance before King Saul, and they in turn change the attitude of King Saul and his performance. Attitude is an inward feeling expressed by behavior. It can be seen, it can be felt without a word being said. Attitude may be hidden, but body language shows it.

“God sees not as man sees, because man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16/7). The heart or the mind which God directly sees cannot hide from God man’s true intentions or plans. On the 0ther hand, man who looks at the outward appearance can sometimes be deceived or misled. While it is true that we should not all the time judge people by their appearance, yet oftentimes a man’s actions betray his real attitude. His actions become the “window of the soul” through which we see the inner feeling expressed by his behavior.

An attitude can sometimes be masked outwardly. A person an live a “masked life” putting on different masks to it the occasion, to hide his real self. People who see his outward appearance are deceived. But usually cover ups do not last long. The performance, the deceit, the lie or dishonesty will soon betray the attitude. And the real attitude, which has a way of struggling its way out,will explain the performance

“An attitude,” writes John C. Maxwell in his book “The Winning Attitude,” is “the advance-man of our true elves; it is our best friend or our worst enemies; … an outward look based on past experience … it draws people to us or repels them from us … an attitude is never content until it is expressed … an attitude is the librarian of the past, the speaker of the present, the
prophet of the future.”

John C. Maxwell also writes, “Do you feel the world is treating you well? If your attitude towards the world is excellent, you will receive excellent results. If you feel soso about the world, your response from the world will be average. Feel badly about your world and you will seem to have only negative feedback from life.”

We are each responsible for our view of life. Our attitude and action towards life help determine what happens to us. As St. Paul writes: “A man will reap only what he sows” (Gal. 6/7). Two salesmen of shoes were sent to an island to sell shoes. The first salesman was shocked to find that no one in the island wore shoes. So he called the home-office: “I will return home tomorrow. No one here wears shoes.” The second salesman however was excited by the same situation. And so he wired the home office: “Please send me 10,000 pairs of shoes. Everyone here needs shoes.” A person’s attitude, his view of the situation, determines his performance.

[Recommended reading: John C. Maxwell, The Winning Attitude. Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1993]


Overcome Confusion to Find True Belief

By Whitney Hopler
Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer

So many contradictory worldviews swirl around you in our culture today that it’s easy to become confused. Yet you continue to search for truth, because you want to believe – in something or someone.

Here’s how you can overcome confusion to find true belief:

Recognize that God wants you to believe. God has created you with an inherent desire to believe. He did so out of love, because He enjoys you and wants to have an eternal relationship with you. God cares deeply about you as part of His creation. He sees the potential in your life when you’re in a close relationship with Him. Believing is the only way for you to become what you were created to be – the image and likeness of God. God cares about your pain and wants to help you in the midst of it. See your desire to believe as the good gift that it is, and let it lead you to pursue faith. Rest assured that, if you can’t honestly say “I do believe,” God is pleased if you tell Him “I want to believe” and then take whatever steps of faith you can toward Him. He will meet you where you are.

Go beyond wishful thinking. The desire to believe is a real and powerful drive that can carry you either into a genuine relationship with God or dangerous fantasies and delusions that you invent. Instead of just believing whatever you want to believe, get serious about discovering the truth of who God is and how to best relate to Him. Pray for the discernment you need to explore faith, trusting that God will reveal Himself to you if you’re truly seeking Him.

See the spiritual working with the physical. God has set eternity in your heart, giving you the ability to connect with the spiritual realm while living in the physical one. Live with your eyes wide open to the ways these two realities work together in your everyday life. Make a point of looking for God at work, and you’ll notice Him all around you.

Deal with uncertainty. Expect to encounter uncertainty as you search for real faith. Instead of ignoring the uncertainty you feel, let it motivate you to explore faith in fresh ways. Be honest about your struggles and humble about what you already know so you can move toward an authentic faith. Invite God to meet you in the midst of your uncertainty and help you learn more and more.

Deal with doubts. Don’t be afraid to honestly face your doubts. If you let your doubts motivate you to ask questions, they will ultimately lead you closer to God. God isn’t offended by sincere questioning; in fact, He welcomes it. Remember that you don’t have to have all of life’s questions figured out today. You just need to take whatever steps of faith you can take, and as you do, you’ll discover more faith. God will give you everything you need, whenever you need it.

Recognize that there’s only one right way to God. As politically correct as it may be to think of all religions leading to God in their own ways, the truth remains that there’s only one way that actually connects to Him – through Christ. Get to know the tenets of other religions like Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and pagan and new age beliefs. But be sure to note that, while some principles overlap with biblical ones, each religion is significantly different. It makes no sense to try to blend different religions because they ultimately contradict each other. Trust in Jesus’ revelation that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. Discover and study the abundant evidence for His divinity. Then give your allegiance wholeheartedly to Him. It’s not arrogant to say you’re certain about what you believe, as long as you’re motivated by a search for truth rather than a desire to gain power over others.

Look beyond yourself. Atheism says that the self is the highest and holiest reality, but if you ask God to you the perspective you need to see beyond your own life into the bigger reality of which you’re a part, you’ll start to notice Him at work all around you.

Move from changed behavior to inner transformation. God wants to do much more in your life than just get you to conform to good moral behavior. He wants to transform your whole soul from the inside out so you’ll grow to become more like Jesus.

Move from religion to relationship. Faith isn’t just a matter of believing the right doctrines or performing the right rituals or service. Faith is about connecting to the living God in a dynamic relationship, which is only possible through Jesus. Real faith flows across the boundaries of time and space, uniting people to God from every generation and every culture on earth. Focus on what matters most in developing a relationship with God: the question of who Jesus really is.

Discover the truth about Jesus. Face the reality that you (like every other human being) will have to decide who you believe Jesus is. Realize that He can’t possibly be just a great moral teacher who once lived, because – unlike other major religious figures like Muhammad and Buddha – He claimed to be God. So only three possibilities exist for who He is: Either He’s an evil spirit who lied, He’s a dead man who was crazy while He was alive, or He really is God incarnate.

Consider the creed. Think and pray about the Christian faith’s core beliefs as expressed in the Apostle’s Creed: God is our Father. He made heaven and earth. Jesus Christ is His only Son and our Lord. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered, died on the cross, was buried, descended into hell, and rose to life again. Now He lives in heaven with God, ready to judge humanity. The faithful believe in the Holy Spirit, the universal church, the eternal bond between saints both living and dead, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of believer’s bodies, and everlasting life. Considering the creed shifts your focus from yourself to God and helps you sharpen your beliefs.

Get rid of excuses. Whatever excuses are keeping you from committing to true faith, admit them to God and pray for His help to overcome them. Don’t hold back from God any longer. Be willing to act on your desire to believe, even if you still have doubt or unanswered questions. Trust God enough to move toward Him as much as you can, and expect Him to meet you there.

Keep growing. As your faith increases and deepens, keep your eyes open, your mind calculating, your conscience soft, and your spirit alert for all the new things God wants to teach you every day.

Adapted from I Want to Believe: Finding Your Way in an Age of Many Faiths, copyright 2007 by Mel Lawrenz. Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com.

Mel Lawrenz (M. Div., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Ph.D., historical theology, Marquette University) has been a pastor at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin for the past 25 years and is currently the senior pastor. Mel has a passion for the ministry of the Word in writing for effective outreach both nationally and internationally, is author or coauthor of seven books and has been developing a multidimensional media ministry network, which includes his radio interview program, Faith Conversations.


The Landmine of Compromise

InTouch Ministries

Most of the time, compromise is acceptable. When it comes to our spiritual principles, however, such flexibility becomes sin. Dictionary.com defines this sort of compromise as “a dishonorable or shameful concession.”

King Saul made a seemingly minor adjustment to one of God’s commands and ended up forfeiting his divine right to be ruler. His story can teach us several truths about this kind of disobedience. Begin by reading 1 Samuel 15.

A. Compromise starts when we think we know better than God does.

God commanded the Israelites to completely destroy the Amalekites — men, women, children and livestock (v. 2-3).

  • What had the Amalekites done that deserved punishment? (Deut. 25:17-19)
  • Dr. Stanley often says, “Partial obedience is disobedience.” Why do you think Saul compromised God’s instructions?
B. Compromise goes hand-in-hand with a refusal to take responsibility.

  • What does Saul do when Samuel asks him about the sounds of sheep and oxen? (v. 13-15, 21)
  • Are you currently blaming a compromise or shortcoming of yours on another person? If so, what is it?
  • In order for you to find freedom, you must first admit that the root of the problem has to do with you. Take a moment to do that in prayer.
C. Compromise can masquerade as righteousness.

Read verses 17-19. Samuel says it is God who made Saul great.

  • What do you think is Samuel’s point?
  • Saul says he saved the choicest sheep and oxen to sacrifice to God (v. 21). What’s wrong with his reasoning?
Notice that Saul’s disobedience must have looked religious to his people. Modern believers in God have the same temptation. For instance, a man might agree to take on a leadership role at church, even though he senses that God wants him to focus on his family for a season instead. Or, a woman might listen sympathetically — time after time — to a friend who is making bad choices, rather than confronting her in love.

  • Have you ever done something that appeared spiritual but was, in reality, disobeying what you sensed God wanted you to do? If so, describe it. Why do you think you compromised your principles?
D. Compromise is as serious as the sin of witchcraft.

"To obey is better than sacrifice" (v. 22). The Ryrie Study Bible states that the ritual sacrifices were an essential part of a righteous Israelite’s life, but Samuel told Saul that this religious practice was meaningless unless it was accompanied by an obedient heart.

  • Why do you think Christians have a difficult time accepting that wholehearted obedience to God is more important than following conventional religious practices?
Samuel makes the startling statement that rebellion is similar to divination (v. 23), something the Israelites were forbidden to practice (Deut. 18:10-12). According to dictionary.com, divination means “the practice of attempting to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge by occult or supernatural means.”

  • What similarity do you see between disobedience to God and divination?
  • Why is insubordination to the Lord similar to the sin of idolatry (v. 23)?
  • Think of a time when you were openly or secretly rebellious against God or against human authority. How was 1 Samuel 15:23 true in your situation?
E. Compromise blocks our spiritual potential.

David, Saul’s successor, also sinned against God.

  • Describe how David responded when the prophet Nathan confronted him (Psalm 51).
  • Contrast that with Saul’s reaction when he’s confronted (1 Sam. 15: 24-25). Do you think his repentance and sorrow were sincere?
The Ryrie Study Bible says that though Saul had many attributes of a capable leader, his strong self-will prevented the fulfillment of his potential, and God rejected him as king (v. 26). God refused to tolerate disobedience in a leader.

As Christians, we always have the chance to repent and return to serving God. However, the Lord limits our usefulness when we refuse to cleanse ourselves from sin (2 Tim. 2:19-21).

  • How does compromise hinder you from becoming all God wants you to be?
When it was clear to Saul that God wasn’t going to change His mind, the king asked Samuel to honor him in front of the people by staying for the sacrifice (v. 30).

  • What do you think motivated Saul’s request?
  • Why is it appropriate that Samuel was the one to execute Agag (v. 32-33)?
Closing: Saul’s compromise cost him and his descendants the throne of Israel. Our disobedience is no less dangerous, preventing us from reaching our full potential in God’s kingdom.

Prayer: Dear Lord, forgive me for thinking I can improve Your commands or instructions. I repent of my disobedience. Give me the grace to make choices that honor You and are true to Your Word. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.