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« Heaven on Earth? | Main | Anomie »

Ask the right question

Good teachers can tell how well a class is catching onto a new concept by the quality of questions that the students ask.  Questions reveal a person’s motive and the level of his or her knowledge. Like an old sage once observed, a well asked question is half answered.  This strikes at the the core of many dialogues that boasts plenty of sound and fury but signifies nothing. 

Irrelevant questions have little or no bearing on discipleship.  Don’t waste time on your critical mission by asking questions that elicit unimportant answers or supply answers to questions that nobody is asking.  A soldier under enemy fire should not be asking about the polish on his boots or his weekend pass.  First EMT responders to a horrific crash on the freeway should not be asking each other about uniform styles or the best manufacturers of ambulances.  

In our chaotic days, we must not ask trivial questions rooted in pride or selfishness.  We must not abuse our time with questions stemming from fear, bitterness or a gross misreading of the purpose of the church.  Carnal pursuits distract from the spiritual nature of our mission. 

Moments before Christ’s ascension, the disciples’ mood mixed gloom with giddiness.  The imminent departure of Jesus caused the gloom, but the giddiness framed their anticipation of a triumphant return of Israel to power—maybe even world dominance.  Barely able to contain themselves, they asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Good question.  Wrong question.  Jesus stopped the question cold.  And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”  Acts 1:7. Jesus was not disparaging their curiosity; He was jarring them back to their mission at hand.  He continued, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end 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. 

Over two millennia later, this response of Jesus should make you think.  Are you asking the right questions?  Are you gaining any advantage by asking who has the largest, nicest or most expensive house?  Do you really need to know who has the biggest salary, gives the highest offerings, has the greatest talent or boasts the most luxurious car?  In the church, we all want our ministries to be more effective, but I wonder if we spend way too much time discussing computer paraphernalia, projection systems or state-of-the-art lighting?  How many people want to know why one person was promoted over another, or why the church establishes 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?   

Examine your questions.  Do you unwittingly reveal 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, however, or on how to become a more effective witness, on how to give yourself more completely to His cause and on how you can sacrifice more of yourself to Him, then you get His attention.

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