I will sometimes tell people that I’m an engineer: not by education or role (although both are in alignment with that), but by “DNA”. Whether from the way that God made me, or my circumstances in life so far (and probably both), I just seem to be wired for the principles of problem-solving that are present in the role of being an engineer. If I see a mechanical or logical problem, my mind starts working on how to fix it.
Having said that, after more than 25 years of marriage, I have also had to learn when the time is right to not try to fix a problem! My wife and I can joke about this now, but – as many advisors suggest to guys like me – there are times when it’s good to be a listener, instead of a fixer. The value of empathy and understanding the difficulties that another person is going through can outweigh the potential benefits of “solving” their problem, and a patient ear might show us that the first solution that pops into our mind was not the right one for the situation.
Now, listening isn’t always the solution. Sometimes, a fix is still appropriate. Even then, though, the best solution isn’t always the first conclusion that we jump to. In Matthew 14, Jesus had been providing healing to people who came to Him for help, but it was getting late in the day.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Matthew 14:15 NIV
The apostles are practical. I can relate to that. There’s a problem – the people need to eat – and the disciples “remind” Jesus about it. Have you ever done that to someone else: offering a “suggestion” that something needs to be done (like maybe taking the trash out)? Sometimes, the other person has genuinely forgotten; other times, though, they still remember and are have their own plan to get things done. In this case, though, I’m pretty sure that Jesus knew what was going on here, before the disciples tried to be helpful.
In Matthew 14:16-17, Jesus doesn’t go with His disciples’ suggestion. He instructs them to address the problem. I appreciate that the disciples seem to have at least tried. They have come up with some bread and fish. Even though it’s not much, maybe they were trying to make sure that at least Jesus had something to eat (but that’s just a guess).
But, that’s not what Jesus asks them to do. Perhaps this is a test of their faith, an evaluation of what they have learned from Him, or just a chance for them to offer more suggestions. However, sending the people away to buy food is not going to be the solution on this day.
This is important for us to remember: We do not have to help tell God how to do His work. He is not waiting for us to figure out a solution in situations that look like obstacles to His goals.
Having said that, I think – and hope – that it’s OK to pray for specific solutions to problems (like for a medical procedure to fix a friend’s condition, or for our car’s tank of gas to last until we can get to the station), but there’s an important phrase for our prayers: “Your will be done”. This can be found in the Lord’s Prayer (see Matthew 6:10), but I think that this phrase – and the principle behind it – is a good element to include regularly in all of our prayers.
Of course, this isn’t some sort of rule. We don’t need to thank God for our food and say “Your will be done” every time. We don’t have to always include the phrase, “Lord willing”, whenever we talk about an event in the future. We’re talking about a concept here, not a rote phrase that we have to always say.
Instead, this phrase is a reminder to us that God’s will is best, even if we think that we’re pretty smart. When we really believe that – when we have the attitude that God can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (see Ephesians 3:20-21) – then limiting our prayers to only what we can think of God doing for us is pretty constraining.
Think of it this way: if you prayed that God would provide for a financial shortfall by making your next scratch-off lottery ticket a big winner, and you waste five bucks on a losing ticket, not only are you going to be disappointed, but you’re probably going to resent God (at least a little bit) for not making it a winner.
On the other hand, if you ask God to provide for you, and truthfully acknowledge that He is not only all-powerful, but also incredibly creative, you give Him the opportunity to bless you in uncountable different ways. He might still know that your request isn’t appropriate to be answered in the affirmative at the current time, but – if it is in His will – perhaps the way He chooses to meet your needs will bring help, growth, or other opportunities to you and even others.
In summary, as a commentator wrote, “Jesus’ commands are always accompanied by sufficient resources and empowerment to accomplish that which he commands.” [Chouinard, p 265]. Do you believe that today? And, do you trust God enough to let Him make the call on how to implement His plan in your life? Are you willing to listen to God’s guidance before offering your own solution? I hope so…even as I work on the same challenges, too.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for December 11, 2022
- The Lookout, December 11, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press NIV Commentary – Matthew, by Larry Chouinard, pages 342-349. © 1997 College Press Publishing Co.
2 thoughts on “Are You a “Fixer”?”
This is a good conversation starter for a small group.. . It’s possible we set up go fund me accounts, pray for healing and bailing people out of their dire situations while going against what God is trying to do in their lives. Taking the time and being close enough to hear God’s voice is a must.
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That’s a good point. Good-sounding actions without seeking God’s will can lead to a sort of “false religion”
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