Graduate Level Problem Solving

by Andy Wood on July 27, 2010

in Insight, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Protecting Your Investment

In the 2004 version of The Alamo, there’s this scene where Billy Bob Thornton, as Davy Crockett, looks over the fort wall at Santa Anna’s approaching horde.  There, standing next to Colonel Travis, Crockett mutters grimly… “We’re gonna need a lot more men.” 

Sam Houston… we’ve got a problem.

Problems come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Oh, to have the impossible-looking situations we faced in third or seventh grade!  But every now and then, you and I are faced with circumstances that go beyond a headache or a flat tire.

We’re in grad school, friends.  And we’re getting the third degree.

The other day I was re-reading a familiar story in the Bible about a man with a king-sized problem on his hands.  Good fit, I suppose, since he was actually a king.  Let me set the scene.

Jehoshaphat was a great king in Judah, the son of a wicked king.  He was responsible for leading God’s people in what would be called today a national revival.  The people had turned their hearts back toward the Lord.  A new sense of destiny and blessing rested on Jerusalem and Judah.  Everything was headed in the right direction.

Everything, that is, except a mondo-sized invading army.  You can find the details of the story here.

What Graduate-Level Problems Look Like

Okay, so you probably don’t have any Moabites or Ammonites headed your way.  But Jehoshaphat’s experience has some striking similarities to some big-boy problems in your world.  For example:

1.  Unprovoked hostility.

Judah and Israel had done nothing to cause these people to hate or attack them.  In fact, they had specifically spared them in years gone by.  And what was the thanks they got in return?  An invasion.

Can you relate?  Have you ever been attacked, betrayed, envied, or hurt by someone you considered a friend or beloved?  Have you ever been left wondering if your last words may be, “What’d I do to you?”  That’s a sign you’re in the big leagues of problem solving.

2.  Overwhelming odds.

Here’s some encouraging words:  “A vast army is coming against you.  And they’re almost here.”

Oh, and have a nice day.

What do you do when doom is near-certain?  When “no way” is the story of the day?  When doctors use words like “terminal,” or “long shot?” 

Sure, you could win the lottery or find out that was just a smudge on your x-ray film.  You could also click your heels together, say “there’s no place like home” and ride a tornado to Kansas.

But sooner or later we will face situations where, if the Lord doesn’t come through with some incredible wisdom or stout deliverance, we’re sunk.  That’s a graduate-level problem.

3.  Unresolved fear.

I just love it when the Bible is gut-honest.  Jehoshaphat, verse 3 says, was afraid.

That’s hard for us to appreciate because we can see where the story ended.  But the king was standing in the stew pot, and somebody was lighting a match.

There’s concerned.  There’s anxious.  There’s worried. And there’s skeered.

Jehoshaphat was skeered.

One of the things I have noticed about fear is that it doesn’t always come across in a classic sense – trembling hands, sweaty head, racing heart.  Sometimes fear disguises itself as anger.  Or workaholism.  Or ridiculously funny humor.  Or isolation from people.

However it appears, chronic fear is a sign you’re in tall weeds when it comes to problems.

4.  Unfulfilled promises.

Jehoshaphat called the people of Jerusalem together and called on the Lord.  And one of the things he points out to the Almighty is that some things just aren’t making sense.

“Didn’t you drive out the inhabitants of this land and give it to us?”

“Haven’t we lived here in your inheritance and built you a house of worship here?”

“Didn’t we spare these people when you told us to?

“God, this doesn’t add up!”

Can you relate?

Have you ever found yourself living somewhere between a promise and its fulfillment?  Between what your faith says and what you eyes see?

Welcome to The Show.  You’re in the majors now when it comes to problems.

5.  Absolute weakness.

How’s this for honesty:  “O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us” (1 Chronicles 20:12).

They had no tricks.  No Plan B.  No superheroes waiting in the wings.

They.  Had.  Nothing.

This wasn’t a case of, “Lord give me today my daily bread, but just in case you don’t, I’ve got some grits in the cabinet.”

They had no answers.

Life does that sometimes.  Words like cancer, bankruptcy, abuse, war, and “you’re fired” remind us of how powerless we can be at times.  When you’re staring down the barrel of a loaded situation and you have no power to respond, that’s a graduate-level problem.

6.  Unclear Direction

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).  Apparently Jehoshaphat skipped class the day they taught that leaders are always supposed to have answers to every contingency.

This guy hung it out there before the Lord.  “God, there are no options.”

That happens when the problems are too big… or your strength is too small.  You get to a place where you’re lost on a one-way road.

I’ve found when people get there, they drift to one of two extremes.  One says, “Don’t just sit there, do something!”  The other says, “Don’t just do something, sit there!”  (And as opposites tend to attract, these two extremes are often found in marriages.)

These are just a few examples of times when the problems we face are more than hangnails or hairlines.  This is serious, and requires a lot more than formulas, shortcuts, or even talent.

It requires faith.  And in the next post, I’ll show you how faith responds to God-sized problems.

Previous post:

Next post: