GOT QUESTIONS 8-13-17
August 13, 2017
The two biggest questions we hear children ask all the time are “How” and “Why”. It might start out something like, “Go clean your room please”. And the child answers, “Why”? So you inform them that it is a mess. And they say, “Why”? So you tell them that it is a mess because they left their dirty clothes all over the floor. And they ask, “But why do I have to pick them up?” And you say, “So I can wash them in the laundry”. And again they ask “Why?” So you explain that they need to have clean clothes to wear, and if you don’t pick them up and put them in the laundry, they won’t get put into the washing machine, which cleans them.” Then you hear, “How does the washing machine clean them?” At this point you are about to just pick up the clothes yourself and be done with it.
And yet as adults, how many of us question God in the same way… God says, “Your soul needs to be cleaned”. And you say, “Why?” So God answers, “Because you have sinned.” And you say, “So, why do I have to be clean of my sin?” And God says, “Because if you don’t give me your sin, so I can wash you, you can’t go to heaven when you leave this earth.” And you ask, “How do you wash my soul?” And God responds, “With the blood of my Son Jesus”. But God does not ever get exasperated with our questions. He welcomes them. He already knows what questions are in our hearts, and is eager to answer them for us.
There is a resident at Evenglow that I have been counseling. He has Parkinson’s and often loses his train of thought mid-sentence. But he has some serious questions about the Bible. He has trouble believing in a literal interpretation of some of the stories in the Old Testament, such as the Garden of Eden, Noah, and Job; as well as the prophecies of the end times. And I know other folks, too, who view a literal interpretation of much of the Bible with skepticism, and yet maintain a faith in Christ. I believe I mentioned one of my licensing school instructors in a previous sermon, who insisted that Job was merely a figurative character in a very long parable. Although I could give Biblical reasons that I believe in a literal interpretation of Job and Noah, and others, I often feel that such argument is counter-productive. The core message of the Bible is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. And so I asked this Evenglow resident, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God, who died to pay the price for your sins, and rose again to give you eternal life?” And he said, “Yes”. Then I said, “As long as you believe that, the rest is inconsequential.” That is not to say we should not search for answers. If we want to know the correct interpretation of a verse or a chapter or even a whole book of the Bible, we can always find people who will argue it one way or another – sometimes with completely opposing interpretations. So how do we get the answer? Ask the author! Remember, sometimes people WANT the Bible to say what they want it to say - not what it really says. So when you read the Bible (and I hope you DO read the Bible…), ask God to reveal its truth to you as you do.
In our Gospel reading (John 3:1-9), Nicodemus came to Jesus looking for answers. He was a Pharisee, and as I mentioned in a previous sermon, the Pharisees were known for using the God’s law for their own benefit, and not in the way God intended. But Nicodemus’ heart was different. He sincerely wanted to know the truth about Jesus. But Jesus’ answer puzzled him, and he was not afraid to ask Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old?” And Jesus explained it to him. In fact, his explanation contains what is probably the best-known verse in the entire Bible, the one that sums up everything in it from beginning to end, John 3:16… say it with me, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
And Nicodemus is not the only one in the Bible that ever asked “How”? When the angel, Gabriel, told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, the Son of God, she asked, “How can this be… since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Did the angel rebuke her, or leave and take his message to someone else? No. He explained to her how she would conceive though the Holy Spirit. Mary accepted his explanation, and the rest is history. We should never be afraid to ask God “How” or “Why”, any more than our children should be afraid to ask us “How” or “Why”. And while we as parents don’t always have the patience of God, and don’t always have all the answers either; God has infinite patience, and the answer to every question that we could ever possibly conceive of.
When we sincerely desire the truth, God will reveal His truth to us. Sometimes there are things we are not allowed to know, such as the exact day of Christ’s return, as you heard in our second Gospel reading (Mark 13:3-8, 32-33). And some things are just beyond the limits of human understanding, as David says in Psalm 139:6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!”
In her book “The Hiding Place”, Corrie Ten Boom tells of her father who she asked a question of when she was only 10 years old, and he responded like this, “He stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor. ‘Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?’ he said. ‘It’s too heavy,’ I said. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.’ And I was satisfied. More than satisfied – wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions. For now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.” We also should be satisfied and at peace to leave some knowledge in our Heavenly Father’s keeping.
And there is one other time we might not get the answer we are searching for, and that is when our motives are not correct. I love how Jesus responded to the religious leaders that would try to trick him and entrap him with their questions. One of my favorite responses of His is found in Matthew 21:23-27, where we read “Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’ Jesus replied, ‘I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism - where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?’ They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ - we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’ Then he said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’” Jesus answered their question with a question. And that question revealed the intent of their hearts, as God will do with us when He knows that we are asking for the wrong reasons.
So if you have a question for God, if there is something in the Bible you don’t understand, or something in your personal life that is troubling you, you can ask God “How?” and you can even ask God “Why?” Job asked God over and over again, “Why, God, why did you let this happen to me? What have I done to deserve this?” And God answered him. Three men tried to give him the wrong answer, but God Himself gave Job the correct answer. So many of us have asked God “Why?” when a loved one passes away, especially when it seems to us that they were a good person and God should have let them live a longer life. It was during a moment like that that the Lord showed me Isaiah 57:1-2, which says, “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.” We don’t know what might have happened in the years to follow had that person remained on this earth. We don’t know why God called him home when He did. But the time will come when God will reveal all to us, even the answers He doesn’t supply while we are still on this earth. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” Yes, then you will know everything completely. Every question will be answered, every doubt will be gone, and we will be completely in awe of all God has ordained from beginning to end, and throughout eternity. Our questions for God will be replaced by praise, our confusion by knowledge, our sorrow by joy, and our yearnings by an overabundance of all our spirits have ever longed for. How? Through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom be all glory, now and forevermore! Amen.