You could go down a street, house to house and person to person looking for the answer. The question is what is the question?! If you get to the end of the street, whichever country, whatever the style of housing, you might come to a House of God where you should find the answer. You can only give an answer to the biggest questions if you have first had the answer yourself. If you have, then that answer will be known by you, seen by others who know you and can be known by others who badly need to find the question so they can find the answer by finding you!
- ‘People talk to people who perceive nothing, who have open eyes and see nothing; they shall talk to them and receive no answer; they shall adore those who have ears and hear nothing; they shall burn lamps for those who do not see’ – Leonardo da Vinci
- ‘I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these 'how' and 'why' questions. Occasionally, I find an answer’ – Stephen Hawking
- ‘There are two answers to every question - God's answer and everybody else's - and everybody else is wrong when they disagree with him’ – Tony Evans
Have you noticed that there is a lot of dialogue in the Bible? In the Old Testament, we hear God talking with individuals such as Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaiah, Hannah, David, Jonah and so on. Abraham is bold enough to negotiate with God over the number of people to be spared judgement (Genesis 18:16-33), Jacob wrestles with God, Job debates, Moses queries God’s decisions and Jonah argues with God for being too merciful to Nineveh (Jonah 4) – quite startling!
How about the way God interacts with the fiery prophet Elijah? There’s the drama on Mount Carmel where we see the prophets of Baal shouting and even slashing themselves in an attempt to get an answer from Baal but, unsurprisingly, no response! Elijah then steps forward:
- ‘Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench’ – 1 Kings 18:37-38
It is a surprise that in the very next chapter, Elijah has run away, hidden in a cave and is full of questions to God about his personal safety! What follows is such a tender restoring dialogue where God answers Elijah in a ‘gentle whisper’. When God wants to catch our attention, you cannot predict how it will be. For Moses, there was a voice from the burning bush (Exodus 3); for Samuel, he was woken at night (1 Samuel 3) – to begin with neither of them recognised who was engaging them in conversation!
Here are some guidelines God gives us when we want to have a conversation with him:
- ‘I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes’ – Psalm 17:6-7
- ‘To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans’ – Proverbs 16:1-3
- ‘To answer before listening - that is folly and shame’ – Proverbs 18:13
- ‘Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction’ - Deuteronomy 30:11-15
- ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ – Jeremiah 29:13
This heaven to earth dialogue continues in the New Testament as The Logos becomes flesh. Our first chance to listen in is when we find Jesus who had ‘gone missing’ at the age of 12 and was discovered by his anxious parents in the temple astounding those around him:
- ‘After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers’ – Luke 2:46-47
It was a mark of Jesus’ life and ministry that he spoke with people, questioning them and taking questions from them. His answers often baffled those who were trying to trap him but they were staggered at his wisdom. Two examples of this would be the over the taxation system and judgement for the woman ‘taken in adultery’. Hear his answers and marvel at the outcomes:
- ‘”Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away’ – Matthew 22:17-22
- ‘“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” ... “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin”’ – John 8:4-11
You sometimes hear Christians say that they have some questions they want to ask Jesus when they come face to face! Yet before we get there, we have some questions that he asks of us. As you read them, consider how you would respond and what the common theme is:
- ‘“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven”’ – Matthew 16:15-17
- ‘Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent ” – John 6:28-29
- ‘Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” – John 11:25-27
- ‘Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him’ – John 9:35-38
The question Jesus asks of us is ‘whether or not we believe in him?’ Our works achieve nothing of lasting merit but his work achieves everything for us. If you search your heart, would you say that your great conviction is that Jesus is the Christ sent by God to save you? There it is in black and white and he knows your answer! If the answer is ‘yes’, Jesus is now looking for you to carry that answer in your life, your attitudes and your speech so that when people get to know you or have dialogue with you, they see the ‘yes’ of God.
- ‘You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you Lord know it completely’ – Psalm 139:1-4
- ‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone’ – Colossians 4:6
- ‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander’ – 1 Peter 3:15-16
If you’re still not sure what the answer is, ask people in the last house at the end of the street – often it’s the last place people will go! Even better, go direct to God with your question and he will give you a direct answer. T W Maltby wrote a hymn in the 1940s that can be the first part of that answer!
‘Christ is the answer to my every need; Christ is the answer, He is my friend indeed’
TAGS – salvation, gospel, apologetics, reason, testimony, witness