Most of us are probably both. Just consider these Bible stories:
David was a problem to his older brother but became an answer to the nation’s need to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
Joseph was a problem to his brothers but became an answer to the Midianites and, ultimately, Potiphar (Genesis 37–39)
Joseph became a problem to Potiphar but became an answer to Pharoah (Genesis 39–41)
Hannah was a problem to Penninah, but she became the answer to Israel’s need for a prophet (1 Samuel 1)
Once converted, Paul became a problem to the Jews, but through his writings, he became an answer to the billions of Christians who needed understanding about the true nature of the gospel
We often see resistance from people around us as a signal that we’re doing something wrong, but rejection or negativity from others is not always a true indicator of our progress toward ultimate personal success. As we can see from the above examples, these times of interpersonal friction often move us toward our greater purposes. What begins as a small problem for someone close to us may well be the beginning of our becoming a big answer for a larger problem in the world.
How do we move from seeing ourselves as a problem to seeing ourselves as an answer to a question the world is asking? The life of Jabez gives us some insights.
“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).
Jabez’s mom gave him an identity as one who brings pain, but he refused to embrace the lie that he was who his past experience said he was. He basically said, “I am not going to be a problem (someone causing pain), but I am going to be an answer to others by becoming blessed.” How did he do this? Did he focus on trying to make his mom change her opinion of him? No, he did what we all must do; he sought and found God in a life-transforming way.
Jabez adopted the attitude Jacob had in Genesis 32 when he told the angel, “I am not going to let you go until you bless me.” There have to be times in our lives where we go to no one else but God about a matter, where we spend time “wrestling” with Him for revelation and breakthrough. This is the key to overcoming being a problem, to finding our purpose, and to becoming an answer to the deep needs of those around us.
“Lord, make me an answer,” is the true heart of Jabez’s prayer “Oh that you would bless me indeed.” He probably did not fully know this at the time, but his desire to be free from personal emotional pain and from the responsibility of inflicting it on others set him on a course of divine favor and expanded positive influence.
The book Good to Great challenges us to find the one thing we can become the best in the world at. As we invite the Holy Spirit into our pondering of what this could be, we will be led on a journey to identify our greatest and most distinct strengths, not merely our weaknesses. As we see ourselves in our full uniqueness, our eyes will open to the questions we were born to answer and the problems we were made to solve. As we move forward in this and do not “despis[e]…the days of small beginnings” (Zechariah 4:10), we set ourselves up for what David, Joseph, Hannah, Paul, and multitudes of others experienced. We will find ourselves doing what we never thought was possible.
The world will never be the same.
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Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.