We are always talking about how to persevere in the Christian life. Today, we’re addressing an issue, which I know that I’ve been faced with before. It’s what happens when we feel like we can’t answer our friends’ questions about faith, whether it’s a big question or it’s a question about God, about a question of why we believe what we believe. What do we do in those situations?
That’s a great question, Sam. As I often say to my children, honesty is the best policy. So there is a genuine appropriateness to saying, “Hey, that’s a great question. I just don’t know the answer.”
But there are a few things the Bible tells us about how we can address these sort of issues. The Apostle Peter, for example, says this in 1 Peter 3, he says, “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.”
So clearly, Peter is exhorting Christians to say, “Hey, you should have an answer. You should be able to reflect.” Now, that doesn’t mean we have answers to all the mysteries, “Why did this happen? Or why is this nation at war? Or why did this tragedy happen?” But we should be able to give an answer for why we have hope.
it’s okay sometimes to say, “You know what? I don’t know all the answers. But what I do know is Jesus has made a real difference in my life”
I’m reminded a little bit actually of the story; in John’s gospel. It’s a funny one where there’s a man who’s born blind, and some of the religious leaders get a bit cranky because this guy’s been healed. So they start peppering him with the questions, “Who did this? What was the reason for this?” The guy gets to the end, and he says, “Look. I don’t know. All I know is I was once blind, and now I see.” I think that’s a great way for us to even think about when other people have doubts. I think it’s okay sometimes to say, “You know what? I don’t know all the answers. But what I do know is Jesus has made a real difference in my life,” and explain and share how that has occurred.
Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about serious questions of whether it’s tragedy, or illness, or hardship, or moral questions that may be grey and vague. I think we should do some hard thinking about that. My usual approach has been to say, “That’s a terrific question. Let me go and think about that,” and I will. I’ll go back because I don’t want to give a tried answer or a cliché answer just to, I won’t say win an argument, but just to prove a point. I want, to be honest. I want to be transparent, and I want to do some thinking about those hard questions as well. It’s okay, though, to say you don’t know. But I would say the Christian impotence is we should do some thinking about that and keep that dialogue going, rather than shutting it down.
Yeah. I think, too, when we go off, and we think about it that we actually do get back to the person. There’s been times when I’ve said, “Oh, I’ll have a think about it,” and then I haven’t. I think that probably comes off even worse.
Sure. There’s a lot of great resources out there, and not just for the hard questions. But there’s a lot of great people who have done all sorts of good thinking about all sorts of issues. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You want to go out there and think about, “What have wise Christians through the ages said about this or addressed this?” So there’s different ways we can approach that as well.
I think even doing that thinking helps us in our own walk as well.
It certainly does.
Not just answers the question for someone else but, “Ah, actually, why do I believe this?”
That’s why sometimes when I get asked questions and I think, “That’s a good question I’ve never really thought of before.” So going and reflecting on it has, as you’ve said, brought about spiritual growth in my own life. So I think that’s a terrific idea as well.
It’s humbling too, isn’t it?
Very much. “I’m just a guy who was born blind, but now I see.”
Thanks Mal. It’s always an encouragement. I think we should talk about probably one of the biggest questions you could ask. How do we know God’s will? I’m letting you know that now, because you might want some time to think it through and come back. Because it’s a big question. You [often] think about it, don’t you?
I’ll see you next week, Lord willing.
Each Sunday, FRESH presenter Sam Robinson chats with Malcolm Gill, lecturer at Sydney Missionary and Bible College (SMBC), about different aspects of living the Christian life—or ‘running the race’. Hear them on air Sundays at 6.20am and 9.20am, or on FRESH just after 9pm each Saturday.