1. Acknowledge the problem.
I know Christians who live with a white elephant in their living room. Everyone in the household, including the family dog, knows this massive intruder is in the house, but no one has the courage to confront it. Ignoring the problem will not cause it to disappear. Ignoring the problem will cause it to overtake you.
Do you practice the Linus philosophy? One day Linus and his friend Charlie Brown were chatting with one another. Linus turned to Charlie and said, “I don’t like to face problems head on. I think the best way to solve problems is to avoid them. This is a distinct philosophy of mine. No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from.”
Ignoring the problem will not cause it to go away. The first step in solving any problem is to recognize that it exists. You won’t find the solution until you discover the problem. When you go to the doctor with unusual symptoms, he admits you to the hospital and performs various tests to determine what is wrong with you. Once your physical problem is discovered, the doctor can prescribe the proper treatment to heal your illness. So it is with all problems.
Recognition of the problem is not surrender to it. Many Christians believe that positive confession requires that you do not acknowledge the problem exists—nothing can be further from the truth! Positive confession is proclaiming God’s promises in faith, believing that these promises apply to you, and knowing that His promises are sufficient for the victory over your problems.
How can He provide you with a healing miracle unless you acknowledge you are sick? Instead, speak to that illness in the name of Jesus Christ, your Healer, and proclaim that, “My God promises to heal all of my diseases!”
How can He provide you with a financial miracle unless you acknowledge that you are in debt? Acknowledge your spending problem, your refusal to work, or your failure to obey the Lord in the tithe and offering. What to do? Obey God’s Word immediately, rebuke the devourer, and proclaim in faith that, “My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory!”
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…A problem acknowledged is a problem half solved! Acknowledge the problem, and He will show you the path to your provision.
You don’t have to wait to improve your life. Begin by acknowledging the problem. Don’t let it hold you hostage any longer. Deception is an evil companion; it makes you believe everything is all right while it is quietly seeking to destroy you.
Nothing is too big for God! You and He are a team Each problem you have is a hidden opportunity so powerful that it dwarfs the very problem you are in. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity.
Remember what Helen Keller said: “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted island, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”
2. Take responsibility for your actions.
Winston Churchill said, “They key to greatness is responsibility.” To free yourself from the yoke of your problem and to reach your divine destiny—your provision—you must take responsibility and accept the consequences of every thought, word, and deed in your lifetime.
Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden not because they sinned but because they blamed their conduct on someone else. They refused to take personal responsibility for their actions.
When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and attempted to hide their sin from God with their shabby fig-leaf attire, God called to them in the cool of the day, saying, “Where art thou?”
Now, let’s listen to the drama in the Garden of Eden. Adam faced responsibility like a man; he blamed it on his wife. God gave Adam the opportunity to stand tall and take responsibility for his actions, but instead he whimpered, “This woman You gave me…!” (See Genesis 3:12) “It’s Your fault, God!”
God looked to Eve in her St. John’s Fig Leaf original for her response. She was just as irresponsible as her husband. She said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (See Genesis 3:13). “The devil made me do it!”
Had they taken responsibility for their conduct and asked for forgiveness, they would not have been kicked out of the Garden of Eden.
Only when you take responsibility for who you are, what you have become, and the decisions you have made will you reach your divine destiny, your promised land flowing with milk and honey, your priceless provision.
You must accept responsibility for a problem before you can solve it. How many times have you heard someone say, “That’s not my problem”?
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…When God asks you a question, He’s not looking for information. Nothing you do has taken Him by surprise. He is probing your inner man to see if you will take responsibility for your deeds.
You will get trapped in the wilderness and live a life of absolute misery, attempting to avoid the very problem whose solution holds the key to your success. You can solve a problem only when you face the reality that it is yours to solve.
Stop going through life saying, “It’s my mother’s fault; she was never there for me.” “It’s my father’s fault; he rejected me.” “It’s my professor’s fault; he was too hard on me.” “It was the policeman’s fault; I was only doing 55 mph in a school zone, and he spoke harshly to me.” You are trapped in the problem until you take responsibility for the problem.
It is not possible to live life without problems, but you don’t have to be trapped in them, be it marital, financial, or emotional. Acknowledge the problem and become accountable for it!
3. Be willing to work.
God set the example and worked for six days in the creation of the universe. The first day God created light, and then He rested. The second day God created the firmament, and then rested. The third day God created the dry ground with the trees and grass, and rested. The fourth day God created the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night, and rested. The fifth day God created the fish in the seas and birds in the air, and then He rested. On the sixth day God created Adam and Eve, and no one has rested since.
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…The person who accepts responsibility for his or her problem is the person who will overcome it.
God rested on the seventh day, not because He was tired, but because He was establishing a prototype that is an essential part of physical and spiritual health.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth worked as a carpenter with His hands. His twelve disciples were working people who rose before dawn to drag smelly fishing nets through the waters of Galilee to earn a living. They worked hard! One was even a tax collector!
Saint Paul wrote, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Those words should be chiseled over the doors of the Welfare Department in Washington DC. Giving money to an able-bodied man or woman who can work but refuses to work is a violation of the law of God. The work ethic in America is dying. Our society’s rejection of God’s mandate to work is a symbol of our rejection of God and His plan for our lives.
Saint Paul writes to Timothy the words that would drive many modern-day “cotton candy” Christians out of the church: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). An able-bodied man who sits on the couch watching television every day while his wife works two jobs to provide for their family has “denied the faith” and is “worse than an infidel.”
God created man to worship and to work. He who never works is unfit for worship, and eventually he who never worships is incapable of godly work.
How did America’s welfare originate? For over one hundred years the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that is was illegal to take money from one citizen who would work and give it to a citizen who could work but would not work.
In an attempt to counteract the effects of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created a peacetime domestic program called the “New Deal.”
President Roosevelt established several new federal programs and agencies designed to reduce unemployment and restore prosperity. The fundamental legacy of the New Deal was increased government involvement in the lives of the American people.
Among the new federal strategies was the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which contained three major programs—a retirement fund, unemployment insurance, and welfare grants. These programs, coupled with a new subsidized housing program, began what some refer to as a welfare state.
Roosevelt’s New Deal was meant to temporarily open the public treasury to those in desperate need, but no one was ready for what evolved.
More than two hundred years ago, while the original thirteen colonies were still part of Great Britain, Professor Alexander Tyler wrote of the Athenian Republic, which had fallen two thousand years earlier:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.
Think of it…this statement was made more than two hundred years ago about a democracy that fell more than two thousand years ago! Is America destined to repeat history?
Our distortion of the federal welfare system has eroded the American dream. What is the result of this abuse?
Many of America’s children don’t have the confidence or belief that they can succeed on their own. The majority of welfare children grow up expecting the government to take care of them; they know no other way! The impact of increasing the lenience and generosity of welfare in undermining work and prolonging dependence has been confirmed by controlled scientific experiment. Children who grow up in poverty because their parents refuse to work suffer from idleness, loss of personal integrity and self-esteem, and eventually loss of hope with no dependency on God! What do they see as the answer to their lack? Not work…not trust in God…but a vote for the politician who promises to supply the most.
We are ignoring God’s work ethic, and until all Americans work who can work, our economy will fail. That is one of the reasons dark economic clouds are gathering over America.
Glenn Van Ekeren wrote a fascinating paper on work; allow me to share portions of it with you.
In a national survey of 180,000 American workers, 80 percent indicated a dislike for their jobs. What a sad reflection on an activity that absorbs a major portion of our lives. Making matters even worse, few people who dislike their vocations will ever be a success at it.
Maybe it’s time to consciously renovate our thoughts about work. We can choose to view work much like Thomas Edison: “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.” Edison believed the purpose of work was joy and fulfillment.
Or we can do as the foolish king who was condemned to hell forever because of his evil lifestyle. Each day he was required to push a large boulder up a mountain. At the end of each day, the rock rolled down again. Each day was a tortuous repeat of the day before.
Hordes of people view their daily responsibilities as replicating the uninspired fruitless experience of the foolish king.
It is estimated that more than 37,000 ways for making a living exist in the United States. We must stop looking at work as simply a means of making a living and realize it is an essential ingredient of making a quality life.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should seep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” We should work as if god was watching, because He is.
Will Rogers believed that, “In order to succeed, you must know what you are doing, like what you are doing, and believe in what you are doing.” Roger’s suggestions deserve a closer look.
Know what you are doing. Winners in life are willing to do things losers refuse to do. Winners prepare, study, train, apply themselves, and work to become the best at what they do. Choose one part of your job. Apply your talents. Become the expert and excel!
Like what you are doing. The secret to happiness, success, satisfaction, and fulfillment in our work is not doing what one likes, but liking what one does.
Believe what you do. Successful people are not in a job for something to do…they are in their work to do something! Get beyond the job description, title, paycheck, or “to do” list. Be passionate and set your goal on the end result.
God is never going to trust you with a better job unless you succeed at the one you have. Art Linkletter summarized what it takes to turn good into better, boredom into stimulating activity, and discontentment into commitment:
Do a little more than what you’re paid to do.
Give a little more than what you have to.
Try a little more than what you want to.
Aim a little higher than you think possible.
And give a lot of thanks to God for health, family, and friends.
A president of a major corporation was asked, “Is it still possible for a young person to start at the bottom and get to the top, and if so, how?”
His answer? “Indeed, it is. The sad fact, however, is that so few young people recognize it.” His outline for success? “Keep thinking ahead of your job! Do it better than it needs to be done. Next time, doing it well will be child’s play. Let no one, or anything, stand between you and a difficult task. Let nothing deny you the rich opportunity to gain strength in adversity, confidence in mastery. Do it better than anyone else can do it. Do these things, and nothing can keep the job ahead from reaching out after you.”
Listen to the words of President Harry S. Truman: “I studied the lives of great men and famous women; and I found that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work.”
4. When you are wrong, admit it.
It takes profound moral and spiritual strength to utter the words, “I am wrong”. A weak person will never admit he or she is mistaken. We all make mistakes; just don’t make the mistake of proclaiming you have never made one.
How many marriages could have been saved by the willingness of one or both in covenant to confess, “I was wrong!” How many business deals go south, how many churches split, how many chief friends became bitter enemies because no one had the strength of character to humble themselves and say what weaklings can never say: “I was wrong!”
Scott Peck in his book People of the Lie describes those who would rather lengthen their stay in the problem than to admit they are wrong. They are:
Utterly dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection, they are unceasingly engaged in the effort to maintain the appearance of moral purity. They worry about this a great deal. They are acutely sensitive to social norms and what others might think of them…they dress well, go to work on time, pay their taxes, and outwardly seem to live lives that are above reproach.
The words “image,” “appearance,” and “outwardly” are crucial to understanding the morality of the evil. While they seem to lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their “goodness” is all on a level of pretense. It is in effect, a lie. That is why they are people of the lie.
Actually the lie is designed not so much to deceive others as to deceive themselves. They cannot or will not tolerate the pain of self-reproach.
These poor souls would rather die in the problem than to admit they are wrong. I challenge you—ask God to take the scales from your eyes and deliver you from this overwhelming bondage. He is waiting for you to take the first step, and He will do the rest!
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…Nothing in your life will work until you do!
Let me tell you the true story of a very rich man who made his fortune in the livestock business. This mighty man of wealth had a wife who was Hollywood beautiful. She was more than a head turner; she was a heart stopper. By appearances, he had all a man could want.
The rich man was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. Nabal was known to be mean-spirited and unjustly cruel on his best days. Abigail was known to be gracious and loving even though married to this rich, arrogant, self-centered man whose very name literally meant “fool”.
There was a young military commander who patrolled the area that included where Nabal’s ranch was with all its thousands of heads of livestock. It was the presence of this young military commander and his men that kept thieves from raiding Nabal’s bountiful ranch of its hundreds of sheep and cattle.
One day when they were running low on food, the young commander sent a messenger to Nabal and graciously asked if he could spare a few sheep for he and his men to eat. He was confident that Nabal would be deeply indebted to him for taking care of his property. This young commander would soon be king of Israel—his name was David.
What was Nabal’s response to David’s request? Nabal went into a tirade! He insulted David and his father with his angry reply: “Who is David, and who is his father, Jesse?” Nabal knew exactly who they were; he was being as rude and offensive as his obnoxious personality permitted.
When David heard of Nabal’s outrageous denial, he commanded four hundred of his men to put on their swords and instructed them to take all the sheep they needed by force. David then made plans to kill Nabal.
Abigail, the beautiful wife of this empty-headed fool, heard of her husband’s despicable words and David’s intentions. This woman of valor and wisdom quickly gathered two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five slaughtered and dressed sheep, five sacks of roasted grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred fig cakes and loaded them onto her donkeys.
She did not tell Nabal of her intentions. This woman of valor got her “wagon train” of provision into high gear in an effort to intercept David before he killed the fool to whom she was married.
When Abigail saw David, she bowed to the ground and fell on her face before him. She was the absolute portrait of strength as she humbled herself on behalf of her husband in an attempt to save his arrogant life from an enraged David.
Abigail made one of history’s greatest speeches on her face pleading for the life of Nabal, who did not have the strength of character to say, “I was wrong!”
This pure act of humility and contrition would determine her destiny, which was greater than anything she could have ever possibly imagined.
David accepted her request for pardon, and he and his men ate the delicious meal Abigail had prepared. David informed Abigail that had she not come, he would have killed her husband and every son he had by morning.
Thankful for David’s mercy, Abigail mounted her donkey and rode home to her drunken, empty-headed husband who was hosting a great feast of his own.
Abigail knew that timing was everything.
She said nothing to Nabal that night, but at dawn she looked at his puffy face and red eyes and said to him, “David and his men were coming here last night to kill you and all your sons!”
What was Nabal’s response? The “tough guy” had a heart attack and died ten days later. What happened to Abigail? David married her the same week.
Abigail was the woman who married the wrong man, but through her grace and strength, she stepped into the pages of history and became the beautiful queen of Israel. (See 1 Samuel 25.)
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…You know that you have passed from immaturity to maturity when you stop saying, “I don’t have a problem,” and say, “I am the problem.”
When you’re wrong, admit it; it will save your life from a tsunami of grief you’ll never see coming, and it will shorten your stay in the problem.
The more things that change in our society, the more we must remember the things that never change, and that is God and His Word.
Jesus established a perfect model for prayer in Matthew 6. Within the Lord’s Prayer are several supernatural principles; among them is the life-changing application of forgiveness.
The statement “Forgive us as we forgive those…” holds the golden key for many people who want to take a shortcut out of their problem.
Forgiveness is born in an act of confession followed by a purifying plunge into the fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins.
When a friend, associate, or family member makes a mistake that offends you, don’t rub it in—rub it out with the power of forgiveness.
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is a full pardon from an offensive act that’s been committed against you. It’s a fresh start. It’s another chance. It’s the canceling of a debt. It’s a new beginning.
There is no new beginning to your life without an ending to an offense, and there is no ending to your problem without a new beginning through forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. Forgiveness is a supernatural power that breaks the chains of bitterness, bringing joy that is unspeakable and full of glory!
Forgiveness is not softhearted foolishness. It’s the first step to ending the spiritual and emotional problem you find yourself in right now.
Is this you?
You laugh, but your laughter is hollow. You smile, but behind the mask you’re weeping. Are you going through the motions of life like a robot? Have you become mechanical, hiding your inner rage, your broken heart, and your deep resentment?
Are you frantically searching for relief in the magic formulas provided by your druggist, but you can’t seem to quite find it? Are you ending every day trying to find an answer to your problem by taking one more pill, by drinking one more martini, one more glass of wine, or just one more bottle of beer? Are you in one failed relationship after another? You find no peace, no answer to your endless questions, only a deep-seated throbbing pain that will not go away.
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…Forgiveness is cleansing; it’s not whitewashing!
The way out of the problem can be found in the simple mandate given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ: “Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Forgiveness is not weakness; it takes great strength to forgive. Forgiveness is the first step toward happiness, toward hope, and toward healing. Forgiveness is a huge step out of the problem and into the provision of God.
Forgiveness is not for the benefit of the person who hurt you, who betrayed you, who lied about you, or who rejected you when you needed them the most. Forgiveness is for yourbenefit.
Please hear me! God cannot forgive you if you will not forgive another. Jesus said, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).
Forgiveness is not an option for the believer. Charles Swindoll said it perfectly: “Forgiveness is not an elective in the curriculum of servant-hood. It is a required course, and the exams are always tough to pass.”
Even though the exam is tough, the Word of God gives us the necessary study notes to pass the test. The apostle Paul wrote, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32)
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.―Colossians 3:12-13
And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. ―James 5:15-16
The message is clear: if you won’t forgive others, God can’t forgive you. If God is perfect, and He forgave you, why can’t you, with all your faults and failures, forgive others?
People say, “I can’t forgive my husband…wife…mother…father, children…brother or sisters in Chris because…”
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…The will of God does not take you where the grace of God cannot keep you.
That’s a lie from the father of lies! You can forgive; you just won’t. Your unforgiving spirit is a weapon of control over people, and that, my friend, is the sin of witchcraft! Unforgiveness is a form of bondage that thrives on hate and resentment.
Sharing your bitterness with all who will listen takes your sin to another level. You become a two-legged viper, pouring your toxic poison into the lifeblood of friends and family, killing relationships, separating chief friends, and removing all possibility of reconciliation. Your toxic tongue will extend your stay in the problem indefinitely and will ultimately earn your ruin. God personally guarantees that you will live in torment until you forgive.
Jesus told the story of the unforgiving slave. The king called in his slave who owed him ten million dollars and ordered him to pay his debt immediately.
That slave said, “I don’t have ten million dollars. That’s ten times the total taxes of this nation. It is an impossible debt.”
The king ordered him sold, along with his wife and children and all he possessed. The slave fell on his face, begged for mercy, and pledged to pay back everything he owed.
The king showed him mercy and forgave the slave of his debt and released him a free man.
After receiving this immeasurable amount of forgiveness from the king, the slave immediately went to the city gates and found a fellow slave who owed him twenty dollars and demanded immediate payment. When his friend could not pay, he had him thrown into debtor’s prison.
The fellow slaves who witnessed this merciless act sent a message to the king. The king called the unforgiving slave before him and said, “You wicked slave, I forgave all your debt because you pled for mercy. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?”
Matthew continues to tell the story: “And the king, moved with anger, handed him over to the tormentors until he should repay all that was owed him.” (See Matthew 18:23-24)
Because it was impossible to pay the exorbitant debt to the king, the unforgiving slave was tormented on a regular basis for the rest of his life. He refused to forgive another and dearly paid the price. If you will not forgive, God will send the tormentors.
There is another sad part to this story; the slave who owed the twenty dollars never got out of jail either. Think about it! A minor act of forgiveness would have set both men free forever, but no forgiveness was extended, and both men spent the rest of their lives in torment.
Medical research proves that resentment and bitterness cause heart trouble, ulcers, high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, and even cancer. Those are tormentors! Are you so angry…so resentful…so bitter…so high on hate that you are willing to kill yourself?
How many people have you sent to an emotional prison? How many have you held hostage because of a past offense that you refuse to forgive? You’re concerned with your rights while God is concerned with reconciliation! Do you want to be right…or reconciled?
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…Your lack of forgiveness burns the bridge that you must one day cross yourself.
A man tells a story that began while he was in college.
I was part of a fraternity initiation committee that placed the new members in the middle of a long stretch of a country road. I was to drive my car with as great a speed as possible straight at them. The challenge was to stand firm until a signal was given to jump out of their way.
It was a dark night. I had reached 100 miles an hour and saw their looks of terror in the headlights. The signal was given to jump out of the way and everyone jumped clear—except one boy.
I left college after that. I later married and had two children. The look on that boy’s face as I passed over him at a hundred miles an hour stayed in my mind all the time. I became hopelessly inconsistent, moody, and finally became a problem drinker. My wife had to work to bring in the only income we had.
I was drinking at home one morning when someone rang the doorbell. I opened the door to find myself facing a woman who seemed strangely familiar, so I invited her into our home.
She sat down in our living room and introduced herself as the mother of the boy I had killed years before. She told me that she had hated me and spent agonizing nights rehearsing ways to get revenge.
I listened as she told me of the love and forgiveness that had come when she gave her heart to Christ. She said, “I have come to let you know that I forgive you, and I want you to forgive me.”
I looked into her eyes that morning and I saw deep into her should the permission to be the kind of man I might have been had I never killed her son. That forgiveness changed my whole life.
Mark Twain said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
Forgiveness can transform lives, but the lack of it will wound and forever destroy. The church of Jesus Christ suffers from the lack of forgiveness attacks…not by the critical sarcasm of agnostics, but by Christians who hold other believers hostage over their past. Where is forgiveness in the house of God?
Hear me! The greatest proof the church could give a lost world that Jesus Christ is the answer for their lives is believers who will forgive one another and start loving one another as Christ mandated.
You don’t even have to let the offender know that you have forgiven him or her. The mere act of pure forgiveness within releases you from prison. To erase the offense, to wipe the slate clean, to cancel a punishment, and to give up all claims of the one who hurt you is to be free from your bondage.
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…God is not concerned with what others do wrong; He is only concerned with what you do right. It is right to forgive.
The place called forgiveness is where you can find peace for your mind. Forgiveness is the manifestation of your promise! It’s the place to find health and well-being. Forgiveness benefits your eternal soul. It’s the beginning of the end of the problem and the first step into your promised land.
It’s not what happens to you that matters; it’s how you react to what happens to you that determines your success or failure while in the problem. It really does not matter what someone has done to you; what matters is how you react to that wrong.
6. Control your tongue.
There are seven gates or entrances into our senses. These gates allow different kinds of signals into the mind and, ultimately, our spirit.
Six of these gates are paired. The two eyes can behold the beauty of God’s creation or the horror of man’s evil; the two nostrils are able to smell the fragrance of a rose or the stench of corruption; the two ears have the ability to hear the good news of the gospel or listen to the assassination of another’s character.
The final gate is the mouth. It stands alone and has the choice to speak blessings or curses through the power of the tongue.
The tongue causes us more problems than all the other six gates. There is no other area in our personality more directly related to our total well being than the mouth and tongue. It is not possible to have a good life if you do not control your tongue.
James writes in his epistle, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26). James is saying that if we do not activate the promises in the Word of God and control our tongues from speaking evil, our religion is of no value.
When I was a child, my mother took us to the doctor who made the same opening statement every time he examined us: “Show me your tongue!” The doctor was able to determine if the body was sick by how the tongue looked. Likewise, God can determine the condition of your should by what your tongue utters, for “out of the abundance of the hear the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).
If you are able to control your tongue, you can control your whole life. In James 3:3-8 James gives us illustrations of little things controlling very powerful things. He writes that we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us. With that small bit, we can control a very powerful animal.
James then compares the tongue to the rudder of a ship. A ship is a massive vessel that can carry tons of cargo through the raging surf of the sea, yet that powerful ship is controlled by a small rudder. If the rudder is used properly, it can guide the huge ship through turbulent storms and to its port of call. If the rudder is mismanaged, the ship can be driven into the rocks and destroyed.
Likewise, your tongue, a very small member of your body, controls the destiny of your life. If the rudder of the tongue is used properly, you will reach your divine destiny. If the rudder is used foolishly, your life will be shipwrecked, and your stay in the problem will be indefinite.
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…Your words determine your destiny!
The children of Israel were delivered from Egypt by the promise of God. They had endured the problem. They crossed the wilderness, and now it was time to stand and enter into the Promised Land.
Moses sent twelve men to spy out the provision God had promised to Abraham centuries before. One leader was chosen from each tribe to analyze the nature of the people, the size of their cities, and the kinds of resources available in this new land. The men were to return to Moses with a report of their findings.
The twelve spies spent forty days walking through the Promised Land (See Numbers 13 and 14.) Listen to how most of them allowed their tongues to determine their destiny! Ten of the twelve spies told Moses, “Yes, it is a land flowing with milk and honey. Yes, the fruit is so heavy it took two of us to carry one bunch of grapes on a staff between us.” But they concluded their report by releasing a curse on themselves and on the majority of the people they represented.
“But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan…We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:28-31).
After forty years of miracles, the ten spies doubted their provisions and their Provider. They doubted God’s promise. What was the consequence of their exclamation of doubt and fear? The fury of God turned on Israel because of their doubt and rejection of the promise. God pronounced a death decree on every Israelite twenty years of age and older. They were sentenced to die in the wilderness, remaining trapped in their problem forever. They were within walking distance of their provision, yet they failed to receive God’s promise.
However, there were two spies who were spared from God’s judgment. Joshua and Caleb saw what the others saw, but they believed in faith that God would help them defeat the giants who lived in the Promised Land. Joshua and Caleb did not speak in negative terms. They acknowledged the problem and stood on God’s promise to take them into their provision. They endured the problem, acted on their faith, and walked into the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession for we are able to overcome it’” (Numbers 13:30).
The next time you open your mouth…think! You are about to commit an act that can determine the quality of your present life and the success or failure of your future. Words can heal or they can wound; words can bless or they can curse; words can keep you trapped in the problem, or they can provide a shortcut to your provision.
Those who declare negative words and thoughts of trouble and defeat are treacherous. They come to the strong and consume them. They are like a bottomless pit. They are unquenchable. They are always parched, bitter, and resentful. They are contagious; they drain the lifeblood of those who listen to their toxic tongue.
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…Words are a mirror of your soul.
Yet those who proclaim God’s promises with words and thoughts of hope and victory are inspiring. They strengthen the weak and motivate them. They are like an infinite resource of wisdom and understanding. They are contented, optimistic, and confident. They too are contagious; they elevate the faith of those who listen to their words of encouragement.
7. Get off your pity pot.
As every cockroach knows, staying away from poison is the secret of success and a long life. Self-pity is poison. Self-pity allows our ego to get in the way of constructive criticism. Do you mount your pity pot, stick your thumb in your mouth, and whine for six months when a friend tries to point out a weakness that has you locked in your problem?
Self-pity is one of the worst enemies you can have. Don’t try to make peace with; conquer it! Self-pity is one of the most disintegrating things you can do to yourself. Self-pity blinds the eyes of hope.
Self-pity is an overshadowing defect within a person. It is an obstacle to all spiritual progress. It will cut off all effective communication with others because of its excessive demands for attention, sympathy, and superficial praise. It is a form of self-imposed martyrdom.
Determine to get off your pity pot! Take heed of what Saint Paul said, and “stop comparing yourself to others.” Set your mind on Christ, and self-pity will soon be a part of your past.
The most dangerous thing a person can receive is excessive praise from man. Why do some self-centered superstar athletes and high-paid movie stars break the law with impunity and whine when they are hauled into court? They do so because they have been corrupted by continual, gratuitous praise.
The Bible says, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26). That’s one verse in the Bible I’ve never had any trouble keeping!
Tom Selleck said, “Whenever I get full of myself, I remember the nice, elderly couple who approached me with a camera on a street in Honolulu one day. When I struck a pose for them, the man said, “No, no, we want you to take a picture of us!”
Dr. Joyce Brothers writes, “An individual’s self-concept is the core of his personality. It affects every aspect of human behavior: the ability to learn, the capacity to grow and change, the choice of friends, mates, and careers. It is no exaggeration to say that a strong, positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success in life.”
To which I say, “Amen!”
The opposite of self-pity is confidence. Confidence isn’t something you hype yourself into. Confident is what is left when all doubt is removed.
The word confidence comes from two Latin words: con, meaning “with,” and fideo, meaning “faith.” Confidence means living with faith! If you are going to be the best in your field, you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will. No one will follow a thumb-sucking whiner mounted on his or her pity pot!
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…Problems are inevitable, but self-pity is optional. Get off your pity pot!
Too many of God’s children have a temperament that is unnaturally gloomy, melancholic, and filled with self-pity? Do you feel isolated, cheated in life, and always expecting the worst is going to happen to you? This is stinking thinking! You must stop this kind of thinking now!
Believe in the God who believes in you. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Until you accept who you are and who you can become, you will never accept or attain God’s destiny for your life.
Be careful not to be prideful, for the sin of pride will keep you in the wilderness. Ray Burwick, author of Self-Esteem: You’re Better Than You Think, states, “Pride is an unrealistic appraisal of self. We think we are better than others. Low self-esteem is an unrealistic appraisal of self. We think we are not as good as others, and these two things, pride and low self-esteem, stifle God’s best for us.”
How to Shorten Your Stay in the Problem
In review, the seven steps to shorten your stay in the problem are:
Acknowledge the problem.
Be willing to work.
When you are wrong, admit it.
Control your tongue.
Get off your pity pot.
The children of Israel had no intention of wandering in the wilderness for forty years, but they did so—one day at a time. They lengthened their stay in the problem by making one bad choice after another.
It’s time for you to walk into your promise. Get excited about who you are in Christ and the plans He has for your future. You are a one-of-a-kind creation. He wants only the best for you. Make right choices, and don’t be afraid to expect good things.
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH…Life is too short to waste it staying trapped in the problem. Time waits for no man, and it certainly is not waiting for you.