Remember this verse from earlier in this book? Paul shared priceless wisdom he had learned from the Lord that beautifully applies to this point:
“One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV)
If you want to solve problems, don’t look where you have already been – reach forward to grasp those challenges with both hands. It comes down to this: There are really just two things you can do when a problem looms on your horizon. First, and this is most often what we do, we can whine about our lot, the impossibility of the situation. Second, and this is the path to victory, we can solve the problems we face by calling upon God’s strength and wisdom.
Over the last decade I served as an Air Force officer, I reserved a prominent space on my office wall for a sign – one that both reminded me of what my own attitude should be toward problems, and suggested the same to any visitors. It simply read: “Thou Shalt Not Whine.” I called it the 11th Commandment. I tried to obey it, and I asked my staff to do the same.
It’s not any fun to be around someone who constantly whines about pretty much everything unpleasant that comes into his or her life. We all know that. But choosing to be a problem solver is more than a matter of civility – it means you determine to focus on solutions, not bemoaning the latest roadblock that inevitably appears just around the curve on everyone’s journey.
One of my secretaries once gave me some good advice. She was a single mother trying to make it in a very expensive city, and her husband had left her and the kids without much support. Now there was a woman who had plenty of reasons to whine. But she refused to allow that attitude of defeat to infect her or her children.
“I allow myself and my children 15 seconds of whining each day,” she told me. “This usually takes place at the breakfast table, and no further whining is allowed. It has made our home much happier!”
A story is told of two veterans in the hospital recovering from serious war wounds. Whether these heroes would survive and recover was up in the air. One of these men had a bed next to the window, while the other was located on the opposite wall without a view outside.
The patient at the window started describing to his roommate what he saw. He did this day after day, doing his best to encourage his comrade-in-arms.
Actually, though, this all had the opposite effect. The man away from the window view became more discontent each day. Instead of appreciating his roommate’s efforts, he grew to resent them, growing increasingly bitter. Then one day, the veteran at the window died – and the surviving patient got his wish; he was moved to the spot near the window.
But when he took a look with his own eyes outside this coveted portal, he was startled to see that instead of the flowers, trees, people, and other things his deceased roommate had described, there was only the brick wall of another section of the hospital. His now-dead friend had used his imagination in an effort to make both of their days more bearable, more beautiful.
Instead of whining about his window opening onto a drab brick wall, he chose to invite creativity and life into their sad and sterile space.
Stu Johnson is the Executive Administrator for Grace International Churches and Ministries, Inc. Stu has extensive ministry experience as a conference speaker, youth pastor, college and career pastor, associate pastor, senior pastor, and district superintendent. He was also an Air Force officer for 30 years, retiring in 1999 as a Colonel. He has led organizations of 5 to 6,000 people. He has been married to Debbe for over 48 years and has 2 children, Andrew, a Vice Principal and Lisa, a medical doctor.