Symptom or Source?

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

Billy McNeely lives in Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories. He had an itch in his back for months and he was constantly scratching. All the scratching had not solved the problem of his itch.

He decided to go to the doctor to get some relief and discovered that he had a knife blade that had been buried in his back for almost three years. I am not a doctor, but I could tell him that all the scratching wouldn’t alleviate the itch of a knife blade embedded in the back!

McNeely had celebrated a birthday party in his home in April 2010. It must have been a pretty wild party because McNeely got in a fight over an arm-wrestling contest and was stabbed five times. A doctor stitched him up, but never took x-rays.

McNeely has actually set off metal detectors and felt a little bit of a lump in his back. The doctor dug out a blade measuring 2.7 inches!

Scratching is not the solution to an itch unless you get to the source of the problem. We spend too much time scratching and we are only dealing with the symptom rather than the source of the problem.

That reminds me of the old man who lived as a recluse in the mountains. Someone had given him a clock. One day the hands of the clock were not moving. He carefully removed the face of the clock and the hands and brought them to town to a jeweler and asked him to repair the clock. When the jeweler inquired about the rest of the clock the old recluse said, “There is nothing wrong with the rest of the clock. It is just the hands of the clock are not keeping correct time.”

You don’t correct the problem of the hands of the clock until you correct the internal part of the clock that causes the hands to move. We oftentimes try to change our behavior without a change of heart. Our words and actions are the symptoms of the problem. They can be corrected only when our hearts are changed.

The Bible explains that the source of the problem is the heart, and the hands express the symtoms. The Bible says, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV) Rehoboam was an evil king because “he did not seek the Lord with his whole heart.” (II Chronicles 12:14 NLT) God addresses a nation doing wrong, “I’ll give you a new heart. I’ll put a new spirit in you…then you will obey my commands.” (Ezekiel 11:19 MSG) Internal priority produces external performance.

Billy McNeely finally dealt with the source of his problem. Life is extremely frustrating when we only deal with the symptoms. If we want the hands of life to work better, we have to go to the internal source of the problem. Solutions deal with the source, not the symptom.

Scratching will never solve the problem of the itch. Removing what causes the itch will eliminate the need for scratching.

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