What happens for you when you are confronted with a problem of life? Do you stuff it and hope that it goes away? Do you run from your problems and let someone else handle the problem? Do you find ways to blame others for the problem and minimize your contribution to the problem? Do you question God when problems come your way and ask “Why me, Lord?”? Do you quickly try to solve the problem so that you and others won’t feel stressed or uneasy? What do you do when you are confronted with a problem of life?
In John 6, we are handed a situation in which Jesus creates a problem for his disciples and in particular Philip. “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. (John 6:5, 6 NIV) Jesus saw a situation–a great crowd who were physically hungry coming to him. The problem became defined when He asked Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”
I wonder what was going through Philip’s mind? “This problem is not my problem.” “Let them find their own food.” “They should have thought out their trip and planned better.” We don’t know what Philip was thinking, but when Jesus said “Where shall we buy. . .” he was putting the problem in the lap of Philip and the disciples. I wonder how often do our problems of life come from the Lord so that we have to seek Him for the answer. He knew how He was going to solve the problem of hungry crowds, “He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.” What would happen in our lives if we saw problems we encounter as opportunities for God to manifest His power in solving ALL the problems we face? Would our responses to problems remove the “blame game,” “the running away game,” or “trying to fix it game” we so often fall into?
James tells us that we need to be joyful when we encounter various trials, problems, and difficulties of life because every problem we encounter is designed by God to build our faith in Him and strengthen our endurance in one another so that ultimately we would be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 12-4). James is writing to tell us that every problem is designed by God for developing growth in Him and with one another. The ultimate purpose of the problems and situations we face in life is designed to help us become more perfect and complete, not that we will achieve it here in this life.
When you encounter problems in the next days ahead or are already encountering one, it might be good to think of the problem as an opportunity to see His power and solutions manifest as Philip and the other disciples saw. Not only were the 5000+ fed, but there were baskets of food left over.
How might our journey be different if we had the perspective of turning our problems into opportunities for personal and corporate growth.