Problem … or Promise

We can lead Problem oriented lives, or

we can lead Promise oriented lives.

Jim Morris

We are born with individual temperaments which vary from person to person.  These are additionally influenced by the environment in which we live.  Some people see the glass as half-full.  Others see it as half-empty.  We call these individuals optimists and pessimists.  Although these natural tendencies may influence the spiritual realm, we all have three enemies which, regardless of our temperament, tend to direct us toward a problem oriented life.  These three are the world, the flesh and the devil.  The world presents a myriad of problems to us, as Job states “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”  The flesh is assailed by the “worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things.” (Mark 4:19)  The devil works to create doubt, discouragement and even depression.

The scriptures are full of references to those who led problem oriented lives.  The first group that comes to mind is the children of Israel as they camped in the desert.  A marvelous revelation of the Lord was given to them in the crossing of the Red sea.  The sea parted and they passed through on dry land.  When the Egyptians followed them, they were drowned.  They were given the testimony of the pillar of fire at night and the cloud by day, testifying to God’s presence among them.  Yet within three days they grumbled against Moses saying “What are we to drink?” (Exodus 15:24)  Within a few weeks they grumbled again against Moses “you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3)  Multiple examples are present of their failure to live by the promises and determination to focus on the problems.  The most glaring of these was their reluctance to enter the promised land.  They saw it not as the land of promise, but as the land of problems and refused to enter.  The Lord stated “How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?” (Numbers 14:11)

We look back on the Israelites and with 20-20 hindsight we cannot believe they would be so blind.  If we were to fast forward to our lives today, however, how would we describe ourselves?  Are we characterized predominantly by praise and thankfulness-or do our lives consist of recurrent complaints, grumbling and dissatisfaction?  I have met some Christians whose lives seem to parallel those of the children of Israel in the desert.  Though assured of God’s promises and protection, their focus seems to be on physical needs that are, to their mind at least, not met as expected or in a less timely manner than they wished.  Their lives gravitate from one problem to the next.  In addition, like the children of Israel, there is recurrent grumbling about their leaders.  With a problem oriented lifestyle, they see mainly problems in their future and as the children of Israel refused to enter the promised land, so these people are reluctant to enter and possess what the Lord has promised to them.

The scriptures also contain many references to those who despite overwhelming problems chose to live a promise oriented life.  Hebrews chapter 11 enumerates some of them.  Abraham was told at 100 years of age that he would have a son, even though he and Sarah were past child bearing age.  Romans 4:20-21 states the following about Abraham.  “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”  The list of those who lived by faith, that is, led promise oriented lives includes Abel, Enoch, Noah, Moses, and the children of Israel themselves as they passed through the Red sea, and as they walked around Jericho.  It included many others as well, and, in fact, is a chapter of the Bible that is still being written in heaven including all today who have chosen to lead promise oriented lives by faith.

The promises of the Lord are endless and include the presence, the power and the purpose of Christ being lived out through our lives by the Holy Spirit.  In Him, we have the assurance of salvation, the assurance of answered prayer, the assurance of victory, the assurance of forgiveness and the assurance of guidance.  Psalm 139:16 tells us that each event of every day of our lives is under the control of One who is characterized by infinite love, perfect knowledge and absolute control.

If we are to live lives that are characterized by faith we need to change our thinking from a problem oriented lifestyle to a promise oriented lifestyle.  This does not mean that we are to be a “Pollyanna,” nor does it mean that we must put on rose colored glasses to view our world.  It does mean that we follow the scriptural direction to bring every problem or concern to the Lord, rather than dwell upon it, or try to fix it by our own methods.  Philippians 4:6-7 states.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Sometimes I have had to bring the same concern to the Lord multiple times in a day!  Nevertheless, I have continued to do so, knowing that this is His promise and He intends that I should live by it.  After having brought our problems to the Lord, He may provide specific leading for us.  This may include reconciliation with some individual, a further need for prayer, a letter to be written, or a visit that needs to be made to someone.  Quite often, the problem which commands our attention is one about which we can apparently do nothing.  The answer to this dilemma was illustrated to me years ago by Lorne Sanny, past president of the Navigators.  He stated that sometimes he would arrive at his office on monday morning and find a stack of problems that the Navigators were experiencing in different parts of the world.  He confessed that at times, he would not have any clue where to begin to deal with the problems.  It was then that he would place them in a pile and say to the Lord.  “Lord, I am convinced that you are able to solve all these problems without my help, and I would like to ask you to do that.  If there is anything you want me to do, just let me know and I will do it.”

Once we have left our problems in the Lord’s hands, we are then free to concentrate on Him and on His promises.  Whatever need we have, His Grace is sufficient.  In His word we will find promises that more than meet the need presented by our problem.  In the book of Ephesians we see a progression from “sit” in Ephesians 2:6 (and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus) to “walk” in Ephesians 4:1 (I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called) and to “stand” in Ephesians 6:13. (Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.)  It is by sitting with Him, dwelling on His promises, that we are able walk in His way and stand against our adversaries.  This is the goal that the Hymn writer of old, B. Kelso Carter had in mind when he penned the following verses to the Hymn “Standing on the Promises.”


Standing on the promises of Christ my King,

Through eternal ages let His praises ring;

Glory in the highest I will shout and sing,

Standing on the promises of God.


Standing on the promises that cannot fail,

When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

By the living Word of God I shall prevail,

Standing on the promises of God.


Standing on the promises I now can see

Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me:

Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,

Standing on the promises of God.


Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,

Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,

Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,

Standing on the promises of God.


Standing on the promises I cannot fall,

Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,

Resting in my Savior, as my all in all,

Standing on the promises of God.


May the Lord direct your hearts into His promises as they guide your life in Him.


In Christ,

Richard Spann

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