Before Attacking Problems: Pray – 3 Reasons Among Many

Pray First

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I wrote earlier this week on my Productive GRACE system.

  1. Get serious about the vision
  2. Required resources
  3. Author a plan
  4. Consistently execute the plan
  5. Effectively adapt to changes

This is the way that I attack problems in everyday life.  The system is scalable and works for long term goals and short term goals alike.  I’m following it up with a few posts that dive in more specifically.  However, there is a pre-step.  The pre-step is prayer.  Pray First!  Prayer is a great gift that believers in Jesus don’t fall on enough.  It almost seems silly to write a list of reasons why we should pray about problems, but I think sometimes we all need reminders and at the very least I need the reminder (and this is my blog).

3 Reasons to Pray First

 

1) We are commanded to pray

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4.6)

When we are anxious, which is what I am when a problem arises, we are told to pray.  I’ve often heard this verse summarized in this way, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything”.  Pray about the thing that is on your mind and heart.  A loving father wants to hear from his children and specifically about those things that are making their hearts worry.  Pray.

2) Prayer brings peace

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Talking to my loving Father who also is the Sovereign God of all creation brings peace.  This peace goes beyond our mental capacities to understand, but it is truly there.  The next time you are anxious about some problem or goal, pray about it.

3) Prayer puts things in perspective

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

When we pray about our anxious moments we are reminded that there is something greater than our worries or goals.  There is God’s Kingdom.  Those goals and worries shouldn’t be our first priority.  God’s Kingdom coming is the thing that matters most.  We need to capture perspective.

 

Next we’ll deal with what to do when there are problems.  However, before we talk about attacking problems why don’t you spend some significant time praying about those problems.  Let me point you to Philippians 4:4-7 and Matthew 6:25-34 for some further reading and study.

Productive Grace: 5 Steps To Attack Any Problem

Productive Grace

The grace that saves us also sanctifies us.  That grace also makes us productive.  Remember 1 Corinthians 15:10:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

Over the next several blog posts, I’m going to share my scalable system to frame up and attack any problem.  It is just as applicable to long range, multi-year goals as it is to attacking daily scheduling issues.

 

The Origin of My System

I became a Christian when I was 16, a week before my 17th birthday. I started a bible study at my high school. Through that I felt called into ministry.  I told my parents, they told me they disagreed. The next year, my senior year, we started the bible study again and saw 30 people cross the line of faith and connect to a church. I talked to my parents again about going to pursue a bible degree and they relented.  They said I had to go to Bob Jones University. I didn’t know anything about the school, but was just excited to go.

When I showed up on campus for freshman orientation I was given a student handbook, no big deal. Every place has rules. Then I got the dorm handbook.  I thought sure there are extra rules it’s a Christian school. Then I got a society handbook, then we got a sports handbook then we got a chapel rules sheet then another rule book for student government.

Then I learned that I was accountable for all the rules before classes started. That’s when demerits would start. I asked what demerits were. They explained the what happened.

  • 75 Demerits = Socialed.  Essentially, no contact with the opposite sex on campus.
  • 100 Demerits = Campused.  Students at this level weren’t allowed off campus except for church or approved ministry.
  • 150 Demerits = Expelled.  If you got to 150 demerits in a semester you were out.

 

Time to Get Serious

That’s when I got serious. I needed to get out, but needed the degree.  I figured my shelf life there may be 4 years but more likely I’d blow up by then. So one Friday night I sold out to the idea: I must graduate in 3 years. I sat down with the course books, an outdated idea today, and started looking and working.  I went through multiple iterations, but by bed time (yes that was a real thing) I’d worked it out.

I started in the fall of 1999 and in June of 2002 I graduated with a BA in Bible na double minor in Counseling and Computer Science without any debt. How?  I learned the importance of envisioning a goal and attacking it.  Since then I’ve developed a way to attack any problem.

 

The Productive GRACE system for problem solving and planning

The grace that saves us also sanctifies us.  That grace also makes us productive.  Remember 1 Corinthians 15:10:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

1) Get serious about the vision

  • Ask: What is the preferred reality?
  • Write out what it looks like.

2) Required resources 

  • Ask: What resources do I need to accomplish this vision.
  • Assemble the named resources.

3) Author a plan

  • Ask: What does this look like specifically.
  • Write down a specific plan.

4) Consistently execute the plan

  • Ask: What do I need to DO right now to make this plan move forward?
  • Keep asking this question repetitively.

5) Effectively adapt to changes

  • Ask: What are the changes that are taking place that could change my plan?
  • Things happen.  Change is going to be necessary along the way.

 

Over the next few posts I’m going to break down each of these pieces to look long range and also short term.  Check it out frequently.

Remembering

A Call To Remember Why We Do What We Do

remembering

According to Jesus, the church at Ephesus had it all.

  • They worked hard.
  • They didn’t renounce the faith in the midst of harsh persecution.
  • They had an effective apologetics ministry.
  • They fought for the sake of the name of Jesus.

They didn’t give up. They kept going.  They persevered in the right things.

The modern American church has a lot in common with Ephesus.  We work hard.  We plan and administrate with precision.  When persecution presents itself at home and abroad, we respond in a powerful manner.  We know right from wrong, and can argue our points well and amicably, even.

Quitting? We are doing anything but.  Our efforts in missions and church planting throughout our world, country, state, and city are moving forward.  We are doing great things!

Why does Revelation 2:4 convict so deeply then, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”

 

That is a gut-wrenching thought.  We are doing the right things, but in the middle of doing the right things for God and others — maybe we’ve forgotten and abandoned the love we had at first for God and for others.

 

Perhaps our churches have forgotten the compassion shown to us by a nail-pierced Savior.  We’ve forgotten those spontaneous compassionate works, motivated by the Holy Spirit, that we did for others when we first believed.

 

I know we sing about this every week.  I know we talk about these things every week.  I know we show videos and read books and even pray about these things every week.  But when was the last time it brought you to tears?  When was the last time it was not a vision for our church that motivated our actions, but a heart’s vision of a risen Savior that compelled us to do something? Something that we weren’t intending to post on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter?

 

Let’s do the things that Jesus said to do in order to match our commended great works with rekindled love for Jesus and people.

 

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” (Revelation 2.5)

 

Prayer

Lord, forgive us for loving our programs, ministries, buildings, and visions for our churches more than you.  Forgive us for working hard, but forgetting the love we received at first, and gave to others at first.  May our love for you spark revival in our hearts, families, and churches.

 

Goals Need to be SPECIFIC

Tips to help make your goals specific

specific

Goals needs to be specific.  The destination needs to be obvious.  Your goal needs to have a very clear target.  Words like “more” and “less” are off limits when writing a goal. Ideas like “do better” or “weigh less” are also strictly prohibited.  Vague is the enemy of accomplishing goals.  You’ve got to know what you want to accomplish…exactly.

Do’s and Don’ts of Specific

  • Don’t say, “save more”. Do say, “save $1000.”
  • Don’t say,  “lose weight”. Do say, “lose 10lbs.”
  • Don’t say, “get better at returning emails”. Do say, “set a reminder to check and respond to emails at 5pm.”
  • Don’t say, “have more blog followers”.  Do say, “have 1000 new blog followers”.

The more specific you can get the better.  Specificity brings definition to the goal.

Tips to help you clarify

  • What EXACTLY do you want to accomplish this year?
  • Where do you want to go EXACTLY?
  • Ask a friend, mentor, or coach and see if they understand your goal.  Is it obvious to them what you are trying to accomplish?

 

 

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

 

Goals Need to be MEASURABLE

Tips to help make your goals measurable

measurable
 

A couple years ago I wanted to improve my physical endurance.  I set the goal of completing a marathon which means moving forward for 26.2 miles over the course of hours.  It was easy to see during training runs that I was going further.  Each month I could see progress towards the measurable goal of 26.2.Your goals need to be measurable.  You need to be able to know when you’ve achieved the goal.  You need to be able to see progress and movement forward towards the goal.  This aspect goes hand-in-hand with specific.  Specific focus helps define the measurable aspect of the goal.  When annual goals are measurable it aids in the process of setting monthly goals that help achieve it.

 

Tips to help you clarify

  • What number can be associated with the goal?  Maybe it is a distance you want to be able to run or an amount you want to put in your retirement account.
  • Is it possible to see progress towards your goal?   Where do you want to be in April? July? November?
  • If you are having trouble coming up with a measure you may need to make your goal more narrow and specific.

 

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Goals Need to be ACHIEVABLE

Tips to help make your goals achievable

Achievable
 

I recently completed a marathon.  That was a stretch, but an achievable goal based on my ability level, size, and talent as a runner.  All it essentially requires is that you need to be able to endure pain and boredom for a long period of time and not stop moving your legs forward.  It would absurd for me to make my goal to set the world record in the marathon or win the Chevron Marathon.  Those goals aren’t achievable, they are ridiculous.  Don’t write ridiculous goals.Your goals need to be achievable.  The goal needs to require stretching, but also be attainable if you are diligent and disciplined.  This is a tightrope to walk.  Don’t make the goal to easy. Don’t make the goal to hard.  Unless you are in your last year in college you can’t graduate within a year most likely, but perhaps you could graduate in two years.  You can accomplish more than you think you can when focus on the goal, but be honest with yourself about what is actually doable.

 

Tips to help you clarify

  • Is it reasonable to see yourself achieving this goal within a year?
  • Based on your current position and ability level will this goal stretch you, but not demoralize you?
  • Would your goal be better as a 3 year goal with separate annual goals?

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.


SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Goals Need to be TAILORED

Tips to tailor your goals

 

tailor

After you’ve written the goals and evaluated them for yourself and shared them. Now you should tailor them or tweak them.  Take the input from your personal evaluation and the input from others and rewrite your final draft of your goals.  Write them clearly for the year.  Then write out the subgoals that will get you to those major goals.  Make sure those subgoals also carry the markers of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

Tips to help you tailor your goals.

  • Write the goals down and put them in a very visible spot.  You need to be reminded of what you’re working towards.
  • Put the goals and subgoal deadlines on your personal calendar.  I need deadlines.  This help me see tangibly how much time I have left before a goal is due.
  • Get organized.  I use a two primary tools to help me write out my goals and track them.
    • Evernote – This is my brain.  I send clips and snippets of everything that relates to my goals here.  Motivations, ideas, websites all go here.  Everything is easily uploaded and easily systematized.  They have a wonderful free version.  I upgraded though and am so happy I did.
    • Omnifocus – This is my primary project management and task tracker.  Every goal and subgoal goes into Omnifocus.  I set annual goals as folders and subgoals as projects within the folder then I write tasks that correspond to those subgoals.  This software is a tad pricey, but I’ve found it to be superior to the other task and personal project management apps available.

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Goals Need to be SHARED

Tips for sharing your goals

 

share

Once you’ve evaluated your first draft of your goals you should share those goals with others.  Share them with close friends, your spouse, mentors, and coaches.  Tell them why you are trying to get more serious about setting and completing goals.  Ask them to take a look at the 5-7 goals you are working towards.

When it comes to sharing your goals with others the benefit comes in two areas.

1) Input

You’ll be able to hear what others think about your goal’s attainability and benefit to you.  One of the hardest things to do is to open yourself up to others in this way.  Let them see your goals, maybe even give them a couple days to think about them, and then ask for HONEST feedback about them.  The eyes of others on your situation is a gift.

2) Accountability

Others will be able to know what you are working towards and ask you about it in the future.  Make sure these people are close to you and will ask you about them on a fairly consistent basis.  This community around your goal will help you push forward when you want to quit.  Give them the freedom to ask specific questions.

 

Tips to help you share your goals

  • Who should you share your goals with?
  • Do you have a coach or mentor?
  • What barriers might you find in sharing your goals.

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Goals Need to be EVALUATED

Tips for evaluating your goals

evaluate

Once you’ve written SMART Goals you need to take them to the next level, you need to make them the SMARTEST goals you’ll ever have.  That means you need to do the difficult work of Evaluating, Sharing, and Tailoring your goals.  Over the years I’ve discovered that when I write my goals I’m either too high on what I think I can achieve or too easy on myself.  These next three steps help me get further.

When it comes to evaluating goals you need to take the 5-7 goals that you have already written and set them aside for a couple of days.  The excitement needs to be tempered a tad and you need to think about the reality of the goals that you have in front of you.  If you’re like me you’ve written down the great aspirations of your life.  You can’t get there in a year.  You can get there in a lifetime.  Evaluate carefully and contemplate carefully.

Tips to help you clarify

Look at each of them and ask yourself the basic SMART questions:

  • Are these goals specific?  Are they clear?
  • Are these goals measurable?  Are they associated with numbers?
  • Are these goals achievable?  Are they realistic?
  • Are these goals relevant?  Do they matter to my future?
  • Are these goals time bound?  Do they have specific start and end dates?

 

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Gospel Lens

I have AWFUL eyesight. Without my glasses or contacts I am basically blind. When I wake up in the morning my first reach is for my glasses , just so I can see my alarm clock. My eyesight is horrible. One time I couldn’t find my glasses or my contacts case. I was so frustrated, but the moment I found my glasses behind the nightstand and put them on everything was clear. I could see clearly what was around me. I think that’s what Philippians 1.12-14 is all about.

The Scripture (Philippians 1.12-14 ESV)

[12] I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, [13] so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. [14] And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Paul is writing to a great church. He’s writing to a church that he loves AND he’s writing from…PRISON. Paul is saying in verse 12 that him being in prison is actually a good thing. He’s telling this church not to pity him, but to see that prison is a good thing. Prison isn’t bad in Paul’s estimation because he’s viewing prison through lenses that see life differently. He’s viewing life and his circumstances through Gospel Lenses and that clarifies EVERYTHING that he goes through…even prison.

Paul has taken the chance to tell every guard that he’s had and every jailer who’s come by and all the prisoners that are around him about Jesus. He views his prison as a place where people don’t know Jesus and need to. He sees it as a place that is dark and need of light and he gets to bring the light there. I doubt that this is the natural inclination of people going to prison especially when you don’t deserve to be there. Paul didn’t fight, he didn’t complain, he just advanced the Gospel within the prison walls.



One More Thing

He didn’t just advance the Gospel on his own. His imprisonment made others more bold. Why? Not because he was in prison, but because of his VIEW of his imprisonment. He viewed it not as a sad circumstance and something to be depressed about, but as the next mission field that he was supposed to be on. This made others more bold to share the Gospel in their places of business, home, and life. Paul’s gospel-centered view made others more gospel-centered. Had he seen life through a self-centered lens he would definitely be down and depressed, I wouldn’t blame him, but he wouldn’t have inspired others to walk a gospel-centered path. Others wouldn’t have become more bold…I firmly believe EVERY circumstance and trial exists for the Gospel to advance. Find the way and advance it.