“But” Flip

There is power with words and the impact they have on our thinking, actions and attitudes. For example, how many times have we heard people share their goals and dreams, but end them on a soar note? Thus, how can we ever hope to gain any traction if we defeat ourselves from the very beginning. However, the Bible reveals a very powerful tool in this regard – a perspective I endearingly describe as “But Flip”. For example: 

Work: Have you ever desired more from your current career, or wanted to pursue a dream job? If so, the following statement may sound familiar:

I want to get my doctorate degree, but the schooling is too long.

Speaking like this is defeating, but look what happens when we flip the two phrases joined by the conjunction, “but”.

The schooling is long, but I look forward to getting my doctorate degree.

Much more positive and empowering idea! We acknowledge the challenge, but emphasize the benefit and goal.

Relationships: Here’s how it can work with our relationships:

I want a great marriage, but it’s too late to do anything about it now.

Now “flip it”- and here’s what happens:

It might be too late to do anything, but I want a great marriage!

Much better – right?

Worries: Of course we all have worries, and here’s how the flip helps those too:

I want to save for retirement, but I have too much debt. Now change it to:

I have debt, but I want to save for retirement.

Again, the “but flip” changes the tone, which benefits our perspective to view the opportunity greater than the problem.

Application: “Power Perspective” – Habukkuk 3:17-19
Even though the “but flip” helps change our language to be more empowering, there is still a vital component the prophet Habukkuk teaches us to never forget as we “flip” our perspectives. For we can possess positive outlooks, but God is the reason for our positivity and hope regardless of the outcomes. This is because we know with man things are limited, but with God, all things are possible and can be trusted even in the toughest of times. So, next time you catch yourself speaking in the negative, try flipping the problem into the opportunity.

A Wealth Of Missing Ingredients 

 Just like any great meal begins with a quality recipe, the type of ingredients we choose will also determine our recipe’s ultimate result. Similarly, throughout my career, I have witnessed many families, businesses and individuals sadly come up short when it comes to preparing a “tasteful” financial future. This is usually due to lacking the proper recipe and/or the proper ingredients. However, those with proven track records of success demonstrate and reveal three primary components to supporting long term financial vitality. Thankfully, these ingredients God gives to us all, regardless of our beginnings, background and former bad decisions:

Passion: Without passion, we lack the primary spark to even start the flame necessary to get us started. However, with passion, what we can accomplish is staggering. This is true for us spiritually, physically, relationally, professionally and financially. Thus, the key is for us to unite our existing God-given passions and desires with our goals. In other words, what are the reasons for our goals? Positive passions typically exist because they serve a greater good and stretch beyond benefiting just ourselves. Therefore, pray to define what drives you and why. Is it to protect and provide for our families, help the lives of others and/or improve our communities? Whatever the reason(s), when we forge them with our goals, while trusting God’s sovereign authority over them, we become more committed to achieve them (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Vision: When we have vision, we have hope, and with hope, people have literally impacted the world. Vision is like seeing the picture of what our recipe will create. It is the outcome of our efforts. It helps keep us from cheapening the process, taking shortcuts and giving up. This is important because without passion, we are simply robotic in our efforts; and without vision, we can’t fully appreciate why we are choosing to do what we do. This can lead to feelings of frustration, rather than stimulation. Thus, vision propels perseverance and often serves as inspiration for others to join the cause (Acts 2:17). When our lives are surrendered to God, His vision becomes our vision and as a result, we are able to participate and share in His Kingdom agenda right where we are. 

Clarity: Without clarity, we are left with confusion and chaos. This can cause us to get distracted, discouraged and/or disenchanted when our goals don’t seem to be making headway. This is like taking the cake out of the oven before its fully cooked and trying to decorate it so that it looks ready to eat. This happens when we lack direction and allow our impatient emotions to rule. We can’t allow the same thing to happen to our stewardship. We must be diligent, disciplined and dedicated to the process and clarifying the hows and whys to what we do helps make this happen. However, clarity also empowers us to keep our priorities in check. For even though financial stewardship is Biblical, it should never take higher priority over our relationship with Christ (Luke 10:27).

Application: “Half Baked?” – Proverbs 16:9

In summary, none of us likes the idea of financial instability, but security in this area requires a plan/recipe and our obedience to God in order to achieve it effectively. Therefore, define your dreams, know your passions and envision the value of making them a reality. Then, clarify how to get there, but this is still only a half baked solution. For the plans of man are in vain when orchestrated apart from God. We can read, apply and learn all we want from man, but God is the final authority and His Word contains the true recipe for success – not just for our finances, but for our life here and for eternity. 

Danger Zone

Throughout my career, I have witnessed three key behaviors lead to the slow fade and decline of many. These are resisting change, pessimism and complacency – and these negative behaviors have destroyed more than just careers. However, there is good news in knowing these self-defeating traits can be changed and even avoided. For the opposite of these are adaptability, optimism and developmental improvement. In other words, in life, there are “downers” and there are “doers” – and we definitely want to strive to be among the doers for very obvious reasons:

Pessimism: Someone once declared, “I have never met a successful pessimist“, and when we think about it, that is very true, especially when we define success from a Biblical perspective. For knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, means we know He is victorious and that He has plans and purposes for us (Jeremiah 29:11). Therefore, as Christians we don’t have any reason to possess pessimistic outlooks. Rather our optimism is based upon our faith and hope in God’s promises. We can then take this optimism in the workplace, our homes, our communities and the church to be better encouragers and reflections of Christ wherever God leads.       

Resistance: We know change is inevitable. Therefore, if we fight against it, we are in a constant state of conflict and resistance. This of course can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, anger and all other sorts of negative consequences. Rather, we must learn to adapt to change. This doesn’t mean we compromise our convictions and truth, but it does mean we don’t embrace stagnation. In fact, our faith is our greatest strength when faced with changing circumstances. For these are some of the best moments we get to turn to Christ for His guidance and direction and seek His wisdom on how we can best manage the change in a way that honors and glorifies Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Complacence: A complacent person is one who doesn’t seek to improve. Rather they settle for stagnation. As Christians, there is no room for complacency, or stagnation. For God is constantly refining us (Psalm 66:10). In addition, there is beauty, joy and rewards in learning, improving and developing ourselves, our business and others. Any loving parent desires to help their children learn, develop and prosper as contributing members of society, the church and any organization they may be a part of. In addition, complacency is not the same as contentment. For learning to be content in Christ highlights the very fact we aren’t being complacent in our faith.  

Application: “Change Agents” – Philippians 4:13
We will most likely have to struggle with any, or all of these traits from time to time, but the key is we don’t allow ourselves to stay in these danger zones. However, perhaps even more difficult is when we cannot escape the pessimistic, complacent and resistant people that surround us in life. For we might be forced to interact with them on a daily basis. This of course is difficult because their negative state can begin to rub off on us. However, this is why we must always be aware to our own behaviors, which means we must be the change agents in order to adapt to the situation so that we don’t allow this person to zap our optimism and desire for growth. To do this well however requires God’s strength and as a result and by His grace, we get to serve as better testimonies and witnesses to the power of His gospel.  

Problem Solving

In the ninth chapter of the Luke we read about Jesus feeding the multitudes. Powerful truth and encouragement are revealed through a very short section of Scripture, beginning in verse 10 and ending in verse 17. For me, it demonstrates how God allows problems for our growth and benefit in the following ways: 

The Problem: We see in Luke 9:13 that Jesus directs His disciples to solve the problem of not having enough food for everyone when He says, “You give them something to eat.” Clearly, He knew there was nothing they could do in their own power to solve the problem and yet, He directs them to do so. Thus, He used this difficulty to challenge their faith and spiritual growth – and He often does the same with us. He sees and knows the problems we face and that they are accompanied with the challenge to solve them. However, how many times does this challenge only serve to frustrate and overwhelm us more? This of course is not the response, God is looking for. Instead, we can learn from how the disciples handled the situation.  

The Pursuit: In the same verse, we see the disciples immediately turn and pursue Christ for help rather than scramble to solve the problem solely by themselves. They present an idea, but the key is they are talking with Jesus about their problem. This is what we are commanded to do as well. For we are encouraged to cast all our anxieties on Him because He cares (1 Peter 5:7). As an example, we then see Jesus direct His disciples what to do next. As they obey, they position themselves to receive His blessing, and so can we. We must turn to Him as we face challenging circumstances, or any situation and seek His guidance. Then obey.

The Praise: As the disciples sat the people down in groups of fifty, as directed, we then see the next step to facing problems. We are to give praise and thanksgiving for God’s help before it is even received. Meaning, we believe He knows our problem and will help solve our problem as He chooses (1 John 5:14). For example, we see Jesus giving thanks for what He had, five loaves and two fish before they were miraculously multiplied in Luke 9:16. Likewise, when we face problems we can thank God for what we have been given and for the opportunity to trust Him with our problems and thank Him in faith for helping us solve them.

Application: “Surrender All” – Luke 9:23 

It can be difficult to learn the valuable lesson of full surrender. For many may believe in Jesus as Savior, but are challenged when it comes to making Him Lord and Master. This is because it requires choosing to move beyond our wants. It involves denying self and surrendering our entire life fully to Him. This means He runs the show and we pursue His ways, rather than ours. However, for all who follow Christ as their King, Lord, Master and Savior soon discover, He is more than capable to handle the problems we face. In fact, He can use any situation, or challenge as powerful tools to bless not only us, but countless others in the process.    

In God We Trust

In America we have “In God We Trust” printed on our money, which should serve as a good reminder to what our top priority and focus should be. However, if we’re honest, many times, it’s the money we actually trust. We may trust that how much, or how little we have of it determines our success, security and stability in life. However, this of course is never true. For God is our source for living a successful life, our security and stability. For when He is trusted above all, our perspectives are properly aligned to view everything that comes our way as opportunities for Him to build our faith and expand His truth: 

Trials: We all face trials, difficulty and problems. Yet, when we trust that God has allowed these trials to enter our life for a reason and purpose, we can trust our trials to Him. We may not like the situations and problems we face, but we know He is in control and when we surrender to Him and pursue Him throughout our trials, He strengthens our faith and allows our difficulties to serve as blessings to ourselves and others (James 1:2).  

Tests: Tests can sometimes be confused with trials and temptations. However, we are told that temptations do not come from God. In addition, trials are typically problem areas we face, but tests can come in the form of seemingly successful situations. For example, a test might come in the form of more money, a job promotion, public praise and etc. They serve to reveal and cleanse our hearts, much like trials can do. Thus, when we trust God, we can face such tests knowing He has brought, or allowed them for good reason (Deuteronomy 8:16).

Taming: Taming can also be seen as fine tuning. It is when God is figuratively taking sand paper to polish down our rough edges. This of course involves tests and trials for in God’s hands they serve as tools to help purify us and make us more like Christ – including more kind, gentle, patient, loving, humble and true (Isaiah 1:25). 

Application: “Better Than Bitter” – Hebrews 12:15 
The dangers to not placing God as the primary source of our trust are numerous, but one of the most treacherous risks is in the area of bitterness. This is because without a Christ-centered perspective we begin to doubt, question and misunderstand why things are happening. We may also begin believing too much in our abilities as reasons for our success, or for solutions to trials. Yet, when we trust God in all situations, we can possess peace, rather than panic, knowing all these things happening to us can work together is for good and be used to make us better disciples for His Kingdom.