The Lord has filled my heart with joy; how happy I am because of what he has done! . . . how joyful I am because God has helped me! (1 Samuel 2:1 TEV)
Do these words sound like they came from a person in deep despair over life’s heavy problems? No! They sound like the testimony of someone living in joyous victory and confidence. They are the words of Hannah, a woman whose life was weighted down with problems. Her problems resulted from being one of two wives of Elkanah, and being unable to bear children. The other wife laughed at her and made her life miserable because she was barren. Hannah was overcome by a spirit of sadness and she wept many tears because of these problems. She lost her appetite. Her sadness was a problem for her husband, too, because he loved her very much. How could a woman with such problems be the same one who spoke the words of 1 Samuel 2:1? She took her problems to God. She made a commitment that God had been waiting to hear. The commitment brought peace to her heart even before her problems were solved. “She went away, ate some food, and was no longer sad” (1 Samuel 1:18 TEV). Later, the Lord gave her the son she had so long desired. Her life began to turn around when she took her problems to the Lord.
Solve The Sin Problem First
The greatest problem any of us will have to solve is the sin problem—and there is a solution! In chapter 1 we read several Scriptures which tell us that all have sinned, that no one is righteous, and that we are all guilty before God for our sins. We also saw that the penalty for sin is death—eternal separation from God. Before we can approach our other problems from the right perspective, we must first solve the sin problem. Before we can help others find solutions to the problems they face, we must show them their need to solve the sin problem in their life. Jesus Christ is the only answer to that problem. We come to Him and receive forgiveness through confession and belief. We maintain our relationship to Him as our Lord and Savior through obedience.
Confession includes being willing to admit that we are sinners, being sorry for our sins, and agreeing that we will stop sinning. It is also an acknowledgment that we want Christ to be the Lord and Master of our lives. It is a willingness to entrust our lives completely into His hands.
With Christ’s death upon the cross and His resurrection from the dead, God completed His redemption plan so that man might be restored to fellowship with Him. Christ became the covering for our sin. His resurrection was an essential part of the plan. In 1 Corinthians 15:17, 21-22 we read these words:
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile [hopeless]; you are still in your sins. . . . For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.When we acknowledge that Christ has won the victory over death and the grave, we also acknowledge that He has provided a way for us to receive forgiveness for our sins, and to gain victory over them. We believe that He has power to help us overcome temptation and to live a godly life. We also believe that He will direct our lives as we put our trust in Him, and that He will prepare us for eternal life in heaven with Him.
Once we have confessed our sins and acknowledged Jesus Christ as our risen Lord and Master, we must live a life of obedience to Him and His Word. This is the way we show our love for Him. Jesus emphasized the importance of obedience in His words to the disciples (John 14:15,21,23): “If you love me, you will obey what I command . . . Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. . . . If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.”
Let The Bible Be Your Guide
After we become Christians, we do not look for just any solution which will get us out of a hard place. We look for solutions from God’s Word that are consistent with the Christian way of life. The ways in which a Christian believer solves his problems are very important.
First, a Christian is committed to a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. Therefore, all possible solutions must be examined in the light of Scripture, and especially the teachings of Jesus and His disciples. Many Scriptures are clear on the subject of right and honorable actions. Solutions contrary to Scripture must be rejected!
Second, the Bible is God’s operations manual for us. When a manufacturer sells a piece of complicated machinery, he provides an operations manual, a set of instructions which explain howto keep the machine in good working order. These instructions must be followed if the machine is to work properly. In a similar manner, people were made by God, and He knows what it takes to make human life successful. The Bible is the “operations manual” that He has provided. To scorn (reject) or ignore God’s stated instructions is to invite trouble and problems. We saw in Chapter 1 that disobedience brings disaster!
It would be impossible to list here all of the Scriptures which deal with the way we should live. As we proceed with this course and discuss specific problems, we will see what the Bible has to say about them. But some general guidelines are found in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5–7) which we want to consider briefly.
The Ten Commandments
There is a popular teaching that says, “Since Christ paid the penalty for our sin, we are no longer under the Law, and have complete liberty to live as we choose.” It is true that Christ has set us free from the bondage of sin, but examine His words in Matthew 5:17-18:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Christ did not do away with the moral Law of God, but He does give us the power to be obedient to the Law. Take time now to read Exodus 20:1-17 and Matthew chapters 5 through 7. You will see that Christ expects His followers to be careful observers of His commandments, and to go even a step further in determining to avoid those things which might lead to disobedience.
The purpose of this book is to help you find solutions to your problems. In order to have a proper foundation in approaching your problems from a Christian perspective, you need to know what the Bible says that will be of help to you. God did not give us these commandments because He wants to make us His slaves. He gave them to us because He knew that obeying them would help us to avoid many problems and have happy, fulfilled lives.
The “Be” Attitudes
One day I heard a conversation about a woman who had moved several hundred kilometres away from her original home. One person said, “Mrs. Sepeng moved there because she was so unhappy.” “She will still be unhappy there,” replied the friend, “because she had to take herself along!” The friend spoke an important truth. If your attitude is wrong, no outside solution to a problem will be of permanent help. But when you approach your problem with the right attitude, you can expect victory over the problem, whether the desired solution comes or not. Jesus had much to say about attitudes. The Beatitudes, which are part of His Sermon on the Mount, have often been called the “be attitudes” because they describe what we should be. ). They are recorded in Matthew 5:3-10. These are the attitudes of heart and character which the Holy Spirit will produce in believers who allow Him to do so.
Love Is the Key
Throughout the Scriptures, love is given as the key to finding solutions for problems. Once someone asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28).
Here is His answer (Mark 12:29-31):
“The most important one . . . is this: . . . ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Just think of all the problems that could be avoided if we would determine to show the kind of love described by Paul! That is the attitude God wants us to have, and if we have it we don’t need to worry about breaking the Law. In Romans 13:8-10 the apostle Paul expressed this:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.