Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Power of Questions - Eleanor Shepherd

I realized a few days ago that one of the most significant conversions to the Christian faith came about as a result of questions. I was reading in Acts, chapter nine. The story recounts how Paul, formerly Saul, saw a blinding light and heard a voice. That voice asked him a question. It said, “Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Interestingly, Saul replied to this question with his own question, “Who are you, Lord?”

These two questions set the stage for Paul to do the only thing that he could do during the next three days while he suffered from temporary blindness. He was able to mull over the answers to these questions.

Why was he persecuting these followers of Jesus, and thus Jesus Himself? What was he afraid of? What did he hope to accomplish by rooting them out and destroying them? What was it all about?

Coupled with these questions was the question of who Jesus was? Was He really alive as His followers claimed? Was He interested in the lives of those who committed themselves to Him? Was He truly God? If so, what chance did he, Paul, have in fighting against Him? Was he on a dead end street?

As he debated possible answers to these questions in his own mind, the One who spoke to him was preparing to respond to his needs. He would not necessarily be given clear-cut answers to his questions, but he would be given what he needed, someone who would accept him as he was.

Ananias was a follower of Christ and to him was given instructions, not questions. The Lord said to Ananias, “Go to this man, because he is praying. “

His questions were leading Saul to realize that he did not have answers and he had to look beyond his own limited capacities to seek wisdom. His questions led him to prayer. They led him to bring his questions to the only one who really has all the answers.

Instead of giving pat answers to those questions, the Lord was preparing to give the answers that Saul really needed. He was sending someone who would be able to restore his sight, but he would never see things the same way again, because he had entered into a new relationship with God through Christ Jesus. No longer was He fighting Him, He was seeking Him in prayer.

Ananias, just like you or me, was apprehensive about approaching this man who was notorious for his persecution of the followers of the Way of Jesus. He knew that to come into the place where he was and talk about God sending him could stir the man to accomplish what he had come to Damascus to do, search out the Christians and throw them into prison or have them killed.

But the Lord tired to help Ananias see Paul from his perspective, not as the man he had been, but as the man who by the grace of God he was becoming. He saw in the intensity of this man of conviction the capability to suffer in the way that was going to be required by those who would choose to live by the values of the Kingdom of God.

The Lord helped Ananias to see that here was a man who was capable of being a chosen instrument of God to bring the name of Jesus to Gentiles, and kings and the people of Israel. But the price would be much suffering.

Ananias listened to God and then I expect that as he went into the house where Saul was staying he listened to what Saul had to say. Saul must have talked to him about the way these questions had been playing on his mind as he sat in the darkness. He may have told Ananias that he found that despite all of his education and religious training, he could not figure out what God was doing. All he could do was bow before Him and ask for wisdom and understanding and mercy.

Ananias, who himself was filled with the presence of the Spirit of the Lord, placed his hands on Saul. I can just imagine him placing his arm on Saul’s shoulder and saying, “Saul, my brother, Jesus sent me to tell you that He is going to give you everything you need. Since you are opening your life to Him, He will come and live in you in the person of His Spirit.” Then as he spoke, the scales fell from the eyes of Saul and from that day he really did see everything in a new way and left us a record of that in the library of books that he wrote that became part of the New Testament canon.

I am sure Saul had more questions, and as we read through his writings, we find him raising many of them. The interesting thing is that the radial change that had taken place in him also raised questions for others. The account of the story continues by telling us that as he began to share with others the new way of thinking that he had come to, those who listened were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on the name of Jesus?” “Hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”

I suspect their questions led some of them to think more deeply about what they believed, and what might bring about such a radical change in a person. I believe that these questions started them on the journey to faith in Christ.

Aren’t questions wonderful tools to point us to Jesus?

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

What a great message, and such clear insights!
Lots of spiritual food for thought and inspiration.

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