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Asking the Right Questions

People ask questions according to their level of knowledge and their true motive.  Good teachers say they can tell how well a class is catching onto a new idea by the quality of questions that the students ask.  Like an old sage once observed, a well asked question is half answered.  This cuts to the heart of many dialogues, both in and out of the church, that boast plenty of sound and fury but signify nothing.  The twenty-first century church cannot afford to ask irrelevant questions that have little or no bearing on our mission.  Whether we ask questions that elicit unimportant answers or supply answers to questions that nobody is asking, we waste precious time on our critical mission.

            Most of us would agree that a soldier under enemy fire should not be asking about the polish on his boots or his weekend pass.  First EMS responders to a horrific crash on the freeway should not be asking each other about uniform styles or who the best manufacturers of ambulances are.  In these days of urgent soul-winning, we must not be asking questions rooted in pride, selfishness or inane trivia.  We must not fritter away our time with questions stemming from fear, bitterness or a gross misreading of the purpose of the church.  We can become so obsessed with carnal pursuits that we forget the spiritual nature of our mission.

            Jesus’ disciples painfully illustrated this point at Bethany, just prior to Christ’s ascension.  Their mood was a strange mixture of gloom and giddiness.  The gloom was brought on from the imminent departure of Jesus, but their giddiness showed their anticipation of a triumphant return of Israel to power, maybe even world dominance.  Barely able to contain themselves, they asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”  Good question.  Wrong question.

            Jesus stopped the question cold.  “And he said unto them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.’”  When Jesus denied them access to this knowledge, he was not disparaging their curiosity; He was jarring them back to their mission at hand.  He went on to say, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8)  In other words, Jesus was signaling his followers not to ask questions about their promotions; instead, ask questions about God’s power!  The success of the spiritual kingdom had priority over the restoration of the physical kingdom.   

            Two millennia later, this response of Jesus to His disciples should make us think.  Are we asking the right questions?  Are we gaining any advantage by asking who has the biggest, nicest or most expensive church building?  I wonder if we really need to know who gives the biggest offerings, has the finest music program or boasts the most luxury cars in the parking lot.  We all want our ministries to be more effective, but I wonder if we spend way too much time discussing computer paraphernalia, projection systems and state-of-the-art lighting. 

            I’m afraid to guess how many pastors host counseling sessions trying to explain why this person was promoted over that person or why they insist on dress codes and behavioral standards.  On a more personal level, how many countless hours do church members spend asking questions about who is to blame for their failures, how can they feel more accepted in this or that group and what are the minimums for spiritual discipline.  

            In the second chapter of Acts, the crowd gathered at the explosion of spiritual power in the upper room and asked “What meaneth this?”  When they were told, they asked “Men and brethren, What shall we do?”  Both were honest questions from sincere hearts and both received powerful answers. 

            Examine your questions.  Are you secretly revealing a selfish intent by the questions you routinely ask?  Are you hoping God will do something that serves a prideful motive on your part?  When you ask questions that focus on God’s power, on becoming a more effective witness, on giving yourself more completely to His cause and on sacrificing more of yourself to Him, then you get His attention. 


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