How… or Why?

I recently met a man who is a doctor and we started to engage in a very interesting conversation. During the course of our discussion, he said that I seemed like a “why” person. I was a little perplexed and so I followed up asking for clarification about his assumption. He let me know that in his experience there are “why” people and “how” people.

I found that a little curious and started to process it right on the spot. As he continued, he said that “how” people are concerned with what the next steps in a process are whereas “why” people want an explanation to have a better understanding of the method, or reason, requiring the action.

As our conversation continued, it was clear to me that given the choices of “how” or “why”, I was definitely a “why” person. I admit that how to do things is important and in the project management world we refer to that as “execution” phase. But before things can be executed, they must be planned – and planning is helped by understanding the underlying need – the “why.” In the organizations that I consult to, this part of the process is called “design” phase.

So, each of us, when thinking through a problem or opportunity, goes through a process of thinking about it (design phase), deciding what we are going to do (design freeze) and doing whatever we decided on (execution phase). I strongly believe that God created each of us to be either a design person or an execution person. I, of course, don’t know about you, but God definitely wired me to be a design guy. And it is a rare person indeed who is great at both.

I always like to know the reason that someone is asking me to do something. On the other hand, Janet is more of a “how” person. She likes to have a clear understanding of what needs to be done and doesn’t always need to know the reason why. What trust that takes to be content with the “how” without needing to know the “why”! I envy that in her and many people I know. And I am thrilled to be married to someone who so clearly balances me when it comes to discussions of issues, or even biblical theology.

Janet is a poster person for extreme faith. She doesn’t get caught up in all the theological reasons to do something. She knows that acceptance of the offer of eternal life drives her faith life. A strong belief in Jesus, augmented by prayer, kindness, humility and many other traits are what she depends on to deepen the practice of her faith. She just moves forward; and it seems effortless as I have watched her for almost half a century.

On the other hand, I tend to explore things such as why it is so important to grow deeper in our faith – I probably dig a little deep and want answers to all my questions. Janet just does it… no commotion, no doubts, no reason to question why – she is so secure in all this that she can just rest and execute. I really envy that level of acceptance and peace – that unbelievable faith.

What I have come to understand is that it is difficult to be both a “why” person and a “how” person. I think that God wired each of us to be better at one or the other. And if by chance, we plan to do something based on information that we have acquired, but fail to decided what to do (design freeze), we are hopelessly stuck. In fact, I have been asked to work with teams who get stuck and can’t seem to move forward to build, or execute, what has been planned.

I certainly don’t what to be hampered or paralyzed in my faith life. I think I can safely assume that you don’t either… but there is a verse in the Bible that helps all of us with the “why” and the “how” all neatly tied together with no room for reaching a false conclusion about Jesus. And that is tonight’s verse – probably the favorite verse of Christians throughout history. Yep… in case you haven’t guessed it by now, our verse is John 3:16.

In this familiar passage of Scripture, the apostle John gives us the reason that God sent Jesus (the “why”) and what are response should be (the “how”). John, in his unbridled and overflowing love of Jesus, teaches us, in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The “why” – God sent Jesus to us because He loves the world and each of us in it. The “how” response is to just believe. That’s it. No jumping through hoops – no need to achieve some level of success, not even an attempt to be worthy to be invited into heaven. Just believe in Jesus – that’s the complete “how” to have eternal life.

My encouragement this evening is that whether you are a “why” person or a “how” person, God has all the answers for you. He will never let us down. My prayer is that we can all accept that God loves us and sacrificed His Son for us, as a complete sacrifice for the sins of the world – and that we will become more like Jesus as we grow in our faith. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…


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