Monthly Archives: May 2015

Questions?

Blind Faith (No. 22, 2015)
Weekly Devotional for May 28, 2015
Questions?

Questions often play a vital role in determining paths we will
pursue in life. Wise teachers encourage inquisitive minds in their charge,
“Remember, there are no stupid questions.” So questions are to be actively
pursued. Popular conceptions of trial lawyers assume the adage, “Never ask a
question to which you don’t know the answer.” The fear is that a witness’
previously unknown answer might derail the attorney’s case. But particularly
in criminal court proceedings limited exposure to witnesses prior to their
testimony reveals the rule to be a myth. Every answer cannot be anticipated
accurately. Questions may be ill-timed, or self-serving, or annoying and
repetitive. Still, asking good questions can help us to discern important
truths for living well.

All manner of questions are depicted in the gospel as Jesus’
original audience tried to figure out who he was and how they could relate
to him. Numerous people asked him where he came from, what they should do,
and if they could he please give them something they thought might make
their lives better. Pick a gospel and you won’t read far before coming
across a wide variety of questions. On one occasion “a lawyer asked him a
question to test him. {36} ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the
greatest?'” (Matthew 22:35-36 NRSV) The lawyer assumed that he knew the
answer before asking the question, and Jesus confirms that to love God and
to love one’s neighbor together epitomize and sum up the law. His motivation
for asking was far from pure inquiry. Luke tells more of the misguided
questioning: “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my
neighbor’?” (Luke 10:29 NRSV) Jesus’ answer to the second question utterly
surprised the lawyer as Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan! Even
in the face of conniving and self-serving questions, Jesus encouraged
everyone to pose questions persistently and assures us that this is how we
can come to comprehend God’s love and grace: “So I say to you, Ask, and it
will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be
opened for you. {10} For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who
searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke
11:9-10 NRSV) Jesus affirmed the psalmist’s confidence that God responds
faithfully to our questions: “I asked the LORD for help, and he answered me.
He saved me from all that I feared. {5} Those who go to him for help are
happy, and they are never disgraced. {6} This poor man called, and the LORD
heard him and saved him from all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:4-6 NCV) No
question is too hard for God, who graciously helps us to understand what is
best in life for us. But James does issue a guide to our questioning: “You
do not have because you do not ask. {3} You ask and do not receive, because
you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:2b-3 NKJV)

So, ask God anything, but let him help you to ask the right and best
questions.

One of my favorite authors, Frederick Buechner (pronounced
“BEEK-ner”) published a fruitful summary on questioning and the life of
faith. Buechner draws from his experience as a Presbyterian minister,
professor of religion, and author of more than 30 books to address the
importance of the questions we ask:

ON HER DEATHBED, Gertrude Stein is said to have asked, “What is the answer?”
Then, after a long silence, “What is the question?”

Don’t start looking in the Bible for the answers it gives. Start by
listening for the questions it asks.

We are much involved, all of us, with questions about things that matter a
good deal today but will be forgotten by this time tomorrow – the immediate
wheres and whens and hows that face us daily at home and at work-but at the
same time we tend to lose track of the questions about things that matter
always, life-and-death questions about meaning, purpose, and value. To lose
track of such deep questions as these is to risk losing track of who we
really are in our own depths and where we are really going. There is perhaps
no stronger reason for reading the Bible than that somewhere among all those
India-paper pages there awaits each reader whoever he is the one question
which, though for years he may have been pretending not to hear it, is the
central question of his own life. Here are a few of them:

What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own
soul? (Matthew 16:26)
Am I my brother’s keeper? (Genesis 4:9)
If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
What is truth? (John 18:38)
How can a man be born when he is old? (John 3:4)
What does a man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
(Ecclesiastes 1:3)
Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? (Psalm 139:7)
Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29)
What shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25)

When you hear the question that is your question, then you have already
begun to hear much. Whether you can accept the Bible’s answer or not, you
have reached the point where at least you can begin to hear it too.
(Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking)

Pay attention to the questions you spend time and effort pursuing.
Especially as questions arise in your understanding of your own life and
your relationship with God, learn to ask with eager anticipation of the
answers that will come. Some key resources for the answers filled with God’s
grace are the Bible, prayer and the presence of the Spirit of God in your
heart and mind, and sharing your questions with the family of faith.
Especially in pursuing the life God calls us to live, remember there are no
stupid questions!

– J. Edward Culpepper