‘I want God to use me in the lives of the people around me. But I’m not really sure where to start. Or what the next step is for me’.
As a pastor to busy healthcare students and professionals, this is something I hear all the time. And, honestly, something I feel frequently myself. Maybe you do, too.
We want God to use us, but we feel like we’re too busy. Like too many people, emails, texts, tweets, and pieces of mail are coming at us. That we’re too selfish. Or, that we don’t have enough training to really help people.
If that’s you, I want to encourage you today. Not with a silver bullet, but with a small, but hugely important, next step that will help you invest in others without taking a ton of time.
Here it is: asking powerful questions. If you can ask a question, you can be used in the lives of the people around you.
Watching The Master At Work
In Matthew 16:13-17, Jesus shows us 3 reasons we should ask powerful questions.
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
1 – Questions help us reflect honestly on our culture. In verse 13, Jesus asks his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ It’s hard to stay alert and reflect critically on the culture around us. Here, Jesus helps his disciples think about how the culture of their day views him. Given their identity as God’s people, the word on the street – that Jesus is a prophet (see verse 14) – makes complete sense. But it’s only partly true. Jesus is so much more than a prophet (Hebrews 3:1-6); he is the Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-22).
When we ask good questions, we can help others reflect critically on our culture, too. We also tend to have an incomplete view of Jesus, seeing him (for example) as a good teacher but not Lord. Other areas we may have blind spots include the importance we place on technology and sports, what (and how much) we eat, and the way we drive.
2 – Questions help us overcome our natural defensiveness. When someone challenges us, we tend to get a little feisty. When my wife challenged me about being more gracious with our kids, I got – surprise – defensive. I’m not sure Jesus’ identity would have been a touchy subject for the disciples, but by starting more generally (‘who do people say that I am?’), Jesus avoided putting his disciples on the spot from the outset.
If you sense someone around you could benefit by reflecting more deeply on some aspect of their lives, starting more broadly might help overcome their defenses. When I lead small groups and work with leaders, I’ll often begin by asking about the people they work with, or their campus, before asking them to reflect more personally.
3 – Questions stimulate personal reflection & commitment. After asking his disciples who others say he is, Jesus makes it personal. ‘But who do you say that I am?’ It’s not like Jesus is playing around with his disciples, but ultimately they need to decide for themselves how they will respond to him. His simple, but powerful, question gives them this opportunity. Notice that he could have given them a (ridiculously) complete answer they could write down and regurgitate. But this wouldn’t require any thought or commitment. And it could have overwhelmed them.
Where could you promote reflection and commitment through good questions, rather than spoon-feeding people the answers?
4 – Questions promote humility. Although Peter (‘Simon Bar-Jonah’), as usual, is quick-on-the-trigger with his answer here, many times people will respond to our questions by pausing. And reflecting. We are forced to think more deeply and see that we don’t have all the answers.
If we really slow down, we come to understand that everything we see clearly is a gift from God. Here, Jesus tells Peter, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’.
When God uses our questions to promote insight in a friend, for example, we can celebrate that together. ‘Isn’t it wonderful that God has shown you that?’ This also helps us, as the one offering the question, to remember that God is the one truly doing the work.
Although Jesus knew all the answers, he was a Master at asking questions. It was one of his most powerful tools in helping his disciples make progress. If you’d like to help the people around you grow without making them defensive, questions are a great place to start (or continue). And – maybe best of all – you don’t need a ton of time or skill.
Can you think of a time someone asked you a powerful question? How did it help you move forward? Share it with us in the comments below!
PS – Asking great questions is something life coaches focus on. I’m in the process of becoming a certified life coach, so if you’d like me to coach you around something, feel free to reach out to me!