The Improbable Origin Of “Solve”

I remember exactly where I was when I first had the idea for the sermon series that formed the basis for the book Solve.


At Good Shepherd Church we support a lot of recovery programs, which hold their meetings at our Zoar Road campus. Many of these meetings are open to the public, so that you can attend them even if you are not a participant. I drop by periodically just to show those communities how much Good Shepherd loves what they are about.

Anyway, a while back I was in an open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, with probably forty people there, and as usual I was awestruck by the raw spirituality of the environment. During the sharing time a man said the following words that still stick with me: “We don’t have a drinking problem. We have a drinking solution. We’ve got all kinds of problems—marriage, parents, self-esteem, money—and what we all have in common in this room is that our solution to those problems has been to drink them away!”

I heard that and immediately I thought, “I may have just heard the single most brilliant insight into anything, anywhere in my life.” So I ran out to the car, wrote it down, and six months later I was preaching the first sermon in a series about our solutions and our problems.

That’s why the first chapter in Solve is called “Problemists.” As we jump from this insight from Alcoholics Anonymous into Scripture and back into our lives, it fascinates me how much we confuse our problems and our solutions. I think you’ll see, as I have found, that often our so-called solutions often end up being the sources of problems. And what’s needed in those situations is for us to turn away from our false solutions to true ones.

I see the same thing in myself. I had a sick day awhile back and was just feeling rotten about myself, as if getting sick meant that I was somehow failing at my ministry. Makes total sense, right? Sickness equals failure or poor job performance! Of course that’s not true at all, but such was my thinking. Anyway, at the end of the day I binged on a bag of Gluten Free Sweet Potato chips. But now I realize: I didn’t have a chip problem.  I had a chip solution. Chips were my solution to my larger problem of irrational insecurity!

 Many of us, if we are being honest with ourselves, will recognize that we do the same thing all too often.  Some of us bounce relationship to relationship to relationship, looking for something in a significant other that’s always elusive. We always think that the next relationship will give us the fulfillment that we feel we lack. If that’s you, I want you to realize now that you don’t have a relationship problem. You have a relationship solution! For others, perhaps it’s gone to the next level and involves jumping from one spouse to the next, hoping the next one will be “right.” Friends, that’s not a marriage problem; it’s a marriage solution. The same can be said for those who spend too much time on the internet, looking at certain websites. It’s not a pornography problem, but a pornography solution. Some of us, perhaps, shop compulsively, chasing satisfaction through acquiring possessions. But again, that is not a shopping problem; it’s a shopping solution. There are many, many situations to which we could apply this same logic.

I have even seen this type of thing happen in the church, where people confuse the problem for the solution. Some people will hop from church to church, or from leader to leader, or from author to author, always in search of the perfect version. But what’s really going on is that they are trying to find in a person what only a living relationship with Jesus Christ can accomplish. It’s not a church problem; it’s a church solution. And there’s a real, underlying problem that only the Lord of the church can provide. 

(The preceding is an excerpt from Chapter One of Solve, which you can order here.  You can also attend the Book Signing Celebration on Monday, June 20th, 2016, and buy a book at the event.)