THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

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The quest for truth and knowledge is a part of life. Asking questions is a part of that search.

Our questions often reveal things about our faith and unbelief, our willingness to follow counsel, or our lack of teachableness. Lot's petition to enter a small city instead of fleeing to the mountain and his subsequent question, "Is it not a little one?" reveal a weakness of character that sought an easier, more pleasurable way for the flesh. Martha's question to Jesus, "Lord, dost not thou care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?" reveals a measure of envy or jealousy in her heart. When Peter pointed to his fellow disciple, John, and asked Jesus, "And what shall this man do?" he betrayed a willingness to be directed by what others did or did not do rather than to be led by the unerring directives of his Master.

Yes, questions are essential in life, but so much depends on the kinds of questions we ask. Without our realization, our questions often reveal self-justification, prejudices, or hidden accusations. They can also reveal a heart that is earnestly seeking to understand God's plan for one's life.

The wrong kind of question distracts our minds from the truth we so much need to receive. These inquiries are likely to send our thoughts in circles that offer no plausible or helpful answer. They will be exploited by the reasoning much employed in society around us. These mental explorations lead to erroneous conclusions about God's will, our own selves, and about other people. As a result, we make wrong decisions, yet feel somewhat justified in our choices because of the answers our faulty queries produced.

Some faulty questions have become rather generic. "Lord, why should I be careful with my purchase of clothing, home decor, or vehicle when my brother is not concerned at all about these things?" "Lord, do I really have to make that apology?" "Father, do you really expect me to visit my neighbor in this busy season?" "Why can't I do something really fun for a change?" These queries are often an escape hatch from some responsibility we wish to avoid, an end-run around something we know we should do, or a blank check to indulge some desire about which our conscience has already warned us.

There are, however, some soul-stirring questions found in the Bible that can serve as examples for us today. When Ruth, the young Moabite widow, received unexpected kindness from Boaz, she fell on her face and asked, "Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me?" (Ruth 2:10). This question unveils a spirit of humility and unpretentiousness. It conveys deep gratitude for unmerited favors received. Oh, that this honest question might always be in our hearts as we come before our Maker!

The lad David, when reproached by his elder brother because of the concern he had shown for the state of Israel's army, replied, "What have I now done? Is there not a cause?" (1 Sam. 17:29). While the exact meaning of David's words may be a bit unclear, the purpose behind them cannot be misunderstood. He knew full well that something was very wrong when Goliath could challenge the armies of Israel and Israel's soldiers stood trembling, afraid to fight. David knew that right and reason were on his side and that the God he served would give victory. David's questions bring to light his understanding of and love for the purposes of God. Oh, that our love for the cause of Christ would shine from our eyes and be felt in the questions we ask!

When Saul, on his way to Damascus, was struck down and blinded by a light from heaven, he cried out, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). There is, perhaps, no other question that cuts to the heart of things as this one does. Many questions seem to have no answer, but God is always ready to respond to this cry. When this question comes from the heart of man and passes his lips, he is addressing his purpose in life, the conclusion of all matters, the ultimate remedy.

We, undoubtedly, spend too much time asking questions that have no known answers. When sickness or adversity strike, many people ask, "Why did it happen to me?" When death takes someone we love, we ask, "Why must I suffer this grief and loss and loneliness?" If our crops are stricken, if reverses befall our business, or if it appears we may lose our job, we ask, "Lord, why do I suffer while the wicked prosper?"

But these questions bring few solid answers and no comfort.

It has been said, "When our questions receive no answers, it is because we are asking the wrong questions." Some years ago, a friend of mine was stricken with an incurable disease. For a few days, he struggled with the question, "Why did this happen to me?" That question brought no answers. Then the thought came to his mind, "Why should this not happen to me? Would I rather see someone else have this problem?" To that question, he honestly answered, "No." Next he asked, "Lord, what shall I do? How shall I respond to this adversity? Do You have grace for me to patiently endure all that lies ahead?" Then the answers came and with them came grace and comfort from Heaven.

Sometimes we ask questions but are not prepared to receive God's answers or to understand them. It is possible to ask, "What is truth?" and yet desire to hear something other than the truth. Sometimes we want an opinion rather than the truth. We are hoping for an answer that agrees with our position on the subject. What we really want is to fortify our predetermined attitude on the matter at hand. Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" but either did not understand the answer to his question or found it unpalatable.

Nevertheless, questions that arise from a spirit of humility and gratitude, that carry a concern for the cause of Christ, and that seek God's direction will be answered. The answers that God sends bring direction to those who seek, victory to those who struggle, quietness to those in doubt, and comfort to all. "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily" (Luke 18:7-8).

From Messenger of Truth, Vol. 114, No. 24, November 23, 2016