Reading: Communicate the potential good in the problem
STEP TWO: Influence - Use it!
Philemon 15-16 Maybe this is the reason that Onesimus was separated from you for a while so that you might have him back forever-- no longer as a slave but more than a slave--that is, as a dearly loved brother. He is especially a dearly loved brother to me.
6. Communicate the potential good in the problem.
They were new to the church. A husband, a wife, and two kids. I showed them how to read the Bible and pray and gave them the Bible reading plan that our whole church was following. They were willing to give it a try.
I invited them to the small group I was leading, a small group whose purpose was to support group members' walk with God in their personal lives, marriage, and family.
They came. It seemed to go well. There was a lot of great sharing and supporting.
The next meeting only the wife came. The husband was busy with a meeting.
The next small group meeting it was the wife only again. Another excuse for the husband.
The next meeting, again, the wife was alone. This time, when we asked where her husband was, she blurted out through tears, "My husband is back on cocaine.”
Okay, now that is a problem. But there was good in the problem. We now knew what we were up against. Often in the church world, people's problems are kept hidden for years and years. Time is wasted. Emotional energy is spent. But no one knows what is the real issue.
It only took two small group meetings to find the problem.
In second grade, I had a hard time with reading and comprehending. I would read a short story and wouldn't be able to answer the simplest of questions about it. I was put in a "special” reading class with a few of my other reading-challenged classmates. I was not sure what progress we were making.
When as a parent you see your child struggling with school work, or with friends, or with health issues, it breaks your heart. You want to fix it.
After a few months in this special readingclass, my teacher met with my parents to discuss my situation, my problem. The teacher told my parents that I just wasn't catching on and that maybe I never would. Then she said, or at least this is what my dad told me, "Teach him a trade; he'll never go to college.”
Maybe your problem is not cocaine or reading issues. Maybe you struggle with ADHD. Or depression. Or a strong-willed child. Or debt. Or fear. Or boredom. Or health problems.
What might your problem be?
Well, my dad took my teacher's words as a challenge. He found some workbooks from a company, and both my younger brother and I had to do these workbooks every day. He gave us a dollar for every book we finished.
I don't know if these workbooks helped, but I do know that my dad's attitude, how he took a problem and made it a challenge, helped me go positively forward in my student career. By the way, my student career took me through four years of college and then another four years of graduate school.
The example of my father taking on a problem, my problem, and changing it into a challenge, became one of my greatest inspirations.
Problem or challenge. Which do you tend to focus on?
I mentioned the example of Tom and the ACTS sheets back in the Topic 1 - remember, he was the guy with the sound studio below our church office. Tom started coming to our church. He also started a music video production company. So we started making short church videos.
One of our first videos went this way:
On the screen was a glass sitting all by itself on a chair filled with water to the halfway point. As the camera slowly zoomed in, a voice asked, "Is the glass half full or half empty?”
The camera kept zooming in on the glass, which eventually filled the whole screen. The voice answered the question, "Neither.”
Then a hand introduced a new glass into the scene, about half the size of the first one. Another hand picked up the first glass and poured the water of this first glass into the smaller glass, filling it to the top. The voice-over continued, "The glass is neither half full nor half empty. It is just too big.”
The video ended with these words scrolling across the bottom: "Brought to you by the church of lower expectations.”
Now, I am all for expecting the best of people. In fact, that is one of the principles that we will look at in this book.
But sometimes we expect too much in the short term and too little in the long run.
We hope the car, the fridge, the electricity and the Internet work today. We expect our job to be there when we get to work tomorrow. We expect food on our table. We expect a degree of obedience from our kids and a bit of friendly conversation with our spouse. So when the car does not work or the Internet is down, or our son says something disrespectful, we can easily feel overwhelmed.
It is the unexpected problems that bring us down. But each unexpected problem has unrealized solutions as well. And therein is the good.
Philemon 1:15-16 Maybe this is the reason that Onesimus was
separated from you for a while so that you might have him back forever-- no
longer as a slave but more than a slave--that is, as a dearly loved brother. He
is especially a dearly loved brother to me. How much more can he become a
brother to you, personally and spiritually in the Lord!
Paul and Philemon have a problem. Runaway slaves merited death. But Onesimus, the slave, is now a Christian. Philemon is a Christian. Paul is trying to help Philemon see the good that can come out of this situation. How do you think Philemon heard all of this?
When facing a sensitive issue, why is there a tendency to focus on the negatives?
Why is it sometimes hard to focus on the positives?
Why is it even more difficult to concentrate on potential positives?
Where do you need to focus on the positives and potential positives?