It’s important to remember that we are all a work in progress. That others have laboured had in us than we’ll ever know. And that men cannot be changed by giving the right answers, by guilt or beating them with the truth. We have to be patient as we call on the one who changes people from inside out to do his work. But we can be patient with others because God is very patient with us. Just look at how Jesus was patient with the disciples. Even after his death and resurrection he still has to seek them out. He still has to go for Thomas and Peter. How many times do you think God has sought you out?
The work of discipleship is both easy and hard. It is clear and messy. Straightforward and yet deeper than we imagine. It’s possible to say that person is sorted now only to find yourself dealing with the unthinkable. Easy to tick a box too early and assume growth. But the fact that we are lifelong disciples means none of us have arrived yet and it won’t be that easy discipling others. The problem comes when we start hearing the kind of answers we want to hear. We assume people who give the right answers to theological questions are ready for the next level of discipleship; leadership and teaching opportunities. We figure out if they understand predistination surely they can lead young people. They get the trinity then they can disciples others. They have read far and wide on God’s sovereignty, get them a new believers class to teach.
But perhaps instead of focusing on the answers people give we should focus more on the questions we ask. We need to be careful that people aren’t telling us exactly what we want to hear which happens a lot. We need to ask our questions in way that let’s people know it’s okay to speak their minds. In an environment that doesn’t make people feel foolish if they get things wrong. One thing I’ve learnt from many of us in Africa is that we hate to look foolish so we would rather guess or pretend to know than say something that makes people laugh at our intelligence. Perhaps that’s why question and answer sessions don’t work very well with us. You may have to draw it out and be vulnerable in a more friendly environment. And when you ask questions the last thing you want is to make us feel like we are in an examination setting. We hate that. So what kind of questions should we ask?
One I would say questions that lead us to the heart more than the head. You’ve probably heard this saying that there’s always a question behind the question. That’s the question you want to get to. If someone is asking all these hard theological questions about God’s sovereignty in suffering answering them theologically is not enough. You need to also get behind it all and see what exactly is it that they are struggling with.