Sometimes Pastoral Ministry means going out and seeking the sheep who have gone astray, and leading them back to the green pastures.
Sometimes in Pastoral Ministry, the sheep just sort of wander into your office and ask to be fed.
The latter has happened a couple of times this past week. New faces come into the church, sometimes asking for help, other times just to talk; but always with questions. If I can be patient, the questions start flowing, and relationships start forming. It’s awesome.
Why do we discourage questions?
I can’t tell you how many times people have come to me afraid to ask questions. Somewhere along the way someone has told them that asking questions is the same thing as questioning God, and if they can’t just accept what they are told, then they cannot be saved.
I want to encourage questions. I think it was Anselm who said, “Theology is faith seeking understanding.” You cannot seek understanding unless you first recognize what you do not already know. And what you don’t already know is usually expressed in the form of questions.
People have said there are no stupid questions. I don’t know if I’d always agree. I had one student in confirmation class who kept asking me if goats will fly in heaven. That was a stupid question.
Honest, heart-felt questions that try to get to a deeper richer understanding of who God is, who we are, and how we get right with him – those can never be stupid questions. Ask away. Jesus said no one may enter the kingdom of heaven unless he comes like a child, and if you’ve ever spent any time with a child, you know they ask a lot of questions. It is the only way we ever really learn.
But that’s the flip side of the invitation to asking, you have to be ready and willing to find the answer. Simply asking for questions but never listening for the answer is the formula for folly. If you are going to ask questions of faith, then you must also look to the Scriptures, which are the only rule for life and faith. Take up and read, pursue wisdom at all costs, stay deeply rooted in the Word of God. Only there will you find the answers you seek.
Related to questions is doubt. Doubt is that painful, nagging gap between our experience and our faith. We know God has promised X, but our experience has been Y, can we really trust and rest in what He has said?
Our confession reminds us:
True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounded the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, but God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.
Ether through quiet spiritual neglect, or by willful rebellion in sin; we have our faith shaken, and we can be overcome with doubt. Yet we are reminded in God’s Word, that even when our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, he knows everything (1 John 3:20).
So come to God with your questions, come to Him with your doubts and worries. Come as you are, not as you think you should be. Come to Him. Let His Word speak to you, teach you, and bring life to you through faith in Jesus Christ.