Baselines To Problem Solving

Every problem will yield to facts and faith and prayer. And so, the first step is: what are the facts?

Scripture: Acts 15:13-15


Alright, thank you very much. And hello friends, how are you? Well, let’s look at the 15th chapter of Acts today as we go on in our study in this great book. And we’re now at Verse 13. They’ve had a lot of discussion about this question concerning must a person, in order really to be a Christian, also observe all of the Mosaic Law? That was the basis for it all. And they’d had some discussion and then Peter said, “Well, you know what God has done through me. And actually, the fact is that both Gentiles and Jews are saved through faith, you know that,” he said. So everybody kept quiet and listened to Barnabas and Saul, Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had brought among the Gentiles by them. And you remember I mentioned to you that the way to get an audience is to specialize on what God has done. The reason some people aren’t having anybody listen to them, is because God hasn’t done anything in their lives. It’s that simple. The way to get a listening audience is to specialize in what God has done. The reason some people don’t have anyone listening to them is because God hasn’t done anything in their lives. As soon as something happens in your life which God has done you have the makings of an audience.

They kept silence and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul. Another thing you remember I mentioned is that while it was Paul and Barnabas in the evangelistic campaigns they held, now when they come back into the Jerusalem setup, it’s Barnabas and Paul. Give God the right to determine where on the totem pole you are going to be. Give God the right to determine what your relative position with other people in leadership is going to be. You may not always be in the limelight, nor indeed need you be. Just be sure that God’s will is being done and that you don’t get edgy if somebody else is mentioned first. Barnabas and Paul it is here. In the preceding chapter, it’s Paul and Barnabas, okay?

Now we’re down to verse 13. It said, “After they had held their peace, James answered saying, “Men and brethren, harken unto me.” Now, you’ll notice how these people waited for one another to have a chance to talk and you’ll notice also that James didn’t speak up immediately. He wasn’t the first to speak. Oftentimes, the person who is the most respected will wait until other people have had their say and then he’ll speak. The fact that James was highly thought of and especially respected is shown in Chapter 12 Verse 17, where Simon Peter said after he got out of prison, “Go show these things unto James and to the brethren.” So now everybody else has had his say. Now James says something, all of which would remind us that you don’t need to speak up right away, you don’t always have to make a speech, it’s all right to be still once in a while. Just be sure that when you do speak up in a meeting, you have something to say.

And again, be sure that when you do speak up in a meeting, you are summing up and bringing into focus what other people have said. I’ve been in meetings where folks just couldn’t wait to make a speech and it didn’t really relate to what was going on. It simply was a kind of an emotional catharsis to let them get something off their own soul. Now you don’t really have to be that kind of person. There are other ways to relieve the pressures of emotional buildup other than making an ill-advised speech. So when you do speak in a meeting, be sure that you are bringing into focus, into friendly and helpful and constructive focus, what other people have been saying. If you want folk to listen to you, you have to prove that you have been listening to them.

One of the complaints that young people have today is they say that grown-ups don’t listen to them. This is one of the big hang-ups that they seem to have, and I think sometimes really they’re right. “Don’t bother me with facts, because my mind is already made up,” we seem to be saying. Now of course, some of the ideas that other people have may be pretty far out, they may not be based on facts, they’re certainly, in the case of the very young, not based on experience. And so when you hear some of these concepts, if you are, let us say, on the other side of 50, for example, or even on the other side of 30, which is the magic dividing line beyond which no one is to be trusted, we are told, you tend to say, “Well, oh that’s too far out. I just can’t even listen to it.”

Do remember, you are not always obligated to agree with everyone, but if you wish to work with people, you are obligated to listen to them, because this is a way of saying, “I think you are a person of some value.” And when you do not listen to people, you are in effect telling them, “You are not a person of any value to me.” Now, you may not intend to give that impression, surely. But this in effect is what you’re doing. So you want to listen. You’re not required to make a speech always. You’re not required to be the first one to speak up. When you do speak up in the presence of others, please remember to bring into friendly and helpful and constructive focus what other people have been saying, first, so that you prove that you’ve been listening to them, and second, so that you can lead them beyond what they’ve been saying into what they ought to be thinking. Good idea?

Small detour here. When you’re chairman of a committee, all of what I’ve been saying to you comes really into use. And I wanna go a step further than what I’ve said, namely to listen and to bring into focus things; every now and again you need to remind a committee, if you’re chairman of a committee, you need to remind them of the purpose for which they’re gathered. People get off into all sorts of bypaths, and you need to say kindly, “Now let’s draw this discussion back onto the basis for which we’re gathered here. What we really want to decide is does the church need a new roof and how are we going about getting it?” and so on, or whatever the subject may be, right? So now and again you need to draw the group back to the original purpose of their discussion, because otherwise they’ll get off into other problems like who should have a key to the church [chuckle] or something like that. You can get a committee to spend $100,000 and you can do it in 10 minutes sometimes, but if you get off on to something like who should have a key to the church, that’s good for two hours any time, isn’t it? It’s a funny thing.

Well, another thing you can do if your chairman of a committee, is now and again, just back off from the discussion and say, “Now let’s see what we’ve been saying to each other and what we really agree on so far.” In any meeting you will find that there are certain points where people agree. Although they may not be willing to agree with the other persons on everything, there are certain things on which they do agree. As chairman, your job is to bring into friendly focus the things that we do agree on in the light of the job that the committee has been given. What is our purpose and objective and what are the things that we do agree on so far? Even though we may have some differences, let’s see what we agree on. When you do this, you are giving people a chance to say yes to each other on something without losing face.

It’s a very important psychological principle and salesmen of course use it every day. If you’re gonna get a person to say “yes” on something, he is more likely to say “yes” on something else. And so you can use this very solid principle of human nature in carrying on the Lord’s work in your committees and in your larger groups. Well, that was a detour, and I thought maybe I’d just throw in a couple of trade secrets there that really do work. Always remember that your meetings go better if they are started with real prayer. If you will pray through the agenda of any business meeting, you will find it to be a better and probably a shorter meeting. Okay, end of detour.

Let’s go back to the text, Chapter 15, James finally speaking up. He’s the last one to speak, and his words seem to be indeed the most meaningful. Now, when you’re going to sum something up and lead people to a decision, what do you do? Notice his procedure, he said, “Simon declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.” First, what are the facts in terms of what God has been doing? I went over this with you in Peter’s speech as you recall. What has God been doing? What are the facts? Every problem will yield to more facts and more faith. Every problem will yield to facts and faith and prayer. And so the first step is what are the facts? Give the facts in terms of what God has been doing. Simon declared how God has visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.

Now in the second place, first, you get what are the facts, what’s God been doing? Second, what does the Word of God say in this connection? Verse 15, Acts 15, Verse 15, “To this agree the words of the prophets, as it is written.” Then he quotes from Amos Chapter 9 Verses 11 and 12. So the second point is, what does the Bible say? First, what are the facts as I know them? Second, how does the Bible bear on this particular problem? Alright? And third, jumping down to verse 19, although we’ll come back a moment. In the third place, what is the best common sense that you can apply? What first are the facts? Second, what does the Bible say? Third, what is the best common sense you can apply to this problem in the light of what God is doing and in the light of what the Bible says. “Wherefore,” he says, “My opinion is that we trouble them not,” and so on.

Now this is a very good procedure, and I wish that you might put it down in your own mental notebook and use it from time to time in solving your own problems, and in taking care of your own management situations, where you need to work with people in achieving an objective or solving a problem. In other words, you don’t have to have a big knock-down drag-out argument and split the church over something. There are other ways of doing it, other ways of carrying on the work and other ways of achieving a good objective, other, that is, than fighting a full-scale war and trampling on people, and leaving a wake behind you of bruised feelings and hurt and so on.

How do you do this? You let people talk. You let people talk. “The people came together to consider the matter and when there had been much discussion, Peter rose up.” You let people talk. Second, you guide their thinking in terms of what has God been doing and what is the basis on which He works, by faith. Then you follow James in this manner, as I’ve just said to you, and James follows the procedure of number one, what are the facts? What does God been doing? Number two, what does the Bible say? And number three, what does common sense indicate? This, it seems to me, is an excellent formula for achieving any objective that you need to reach with people either in a committee or a congregation, or in solving some of the little interpersonal problems that arrive now and again as we work in God’s work. Good idea? I think it’s a good idea. Try it on for size yourself today.

Now, let’s pray. Dear Father, help us to apply Thy Word to our hearts this very day, I ask in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen. Amen, God bless you, dear friend, all the way. That’s all for now.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

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