This morning my wife, Michelle, and I were talking about a ministry situation and the question came up: Where is the balance between knowing when to get involved personally and when to let the person wrestle their way to God for themselves? That’s a tough question.
To be honest, there is a time when it’s best to let a person wrestle their way through on their on. It’s kind of like the butterfly in the cocoon. Sometimes its best to let the person struggle so they can discover the power of God in their own lives, rather than someone always rescuing them. At times, pain is the only thing that drives a person to God.
Yet, in all honesty, there are times when we need to step in a help. The whole ‘bare one another’s burden’ command. Reality is, we all need a boost at some point in life. We were made to ‘need’ God, yet scripture indicates that we can’t come to perfection without each other. Check out Ephesians 4:11-12.
So which is it? How do you know when to do what? It’s tough. Especially if you desire to be an obedient servant of Christ. And especially if you truly love people and want what is best for them. So what are the guidelines? How do know?
There is no easy answer. In fact, I found myself saying these words to Michelle this morning:
That’s why we have to be constant and consistent in our relationship with God. These questions demand a relationship because the Bible is not a textbook where we look up the answers and fill in the blanks. Jesus said, ‘My words are spirit and life…He didn’t say, ‘Here’s the text book. Look it up!’ It would be so much easier if it was.”
I didn’t (and don’t) say that with a mean spirit. In fact, I said it with a heart that is wrestling through the find answers myself.
Maybe I need to explain.
Don’t send me emails correcting me or telling me the Bible is a ‘go to book’ when we need answers. Don’t reprimand me until you hear me out.
Truth is, I do believe the Bible is our answer book. It holds the key to everything we need to know in life. Problem is, we can’t understand it our have wisdom to apply it without the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s apply this to the situation Michelle and I were discussing.
There is no verse in the Bible that I can turn to that says, “This is when you get involved and this is when you let the person struggle.” We can all agree with that, right? Sure. Yet, there are principles in the Word that will help me discern the will of God in the matter. And the more Word I have in my heart, the easier it is for the Holy Spirit to give me direction.
Jewish Rabbi’s loved to pose questions to their disciples that would make them grapple with the sacred text. They weren’t in the habit of just spouting off the answers to life. They understood that in confronting apparent contradictions in scripture, we discover truth.
Take a quick gander through the Gospels and notice how many times Jesus asked His disciples questions. He did this a lot. Sure, he taught and answered questions when people asked, but often times he answered a question with a question. It wasn’t because He didn’t know the answer or was dodging the question. It’s because He understood people learn best through discovery.
Here’s an example of what I mean by ‘apparent contradictions.’
Proverbs 26:4-5 (NET Bible) reads:
Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest you yourself also be like him.
Pretty clear, right? Yep. So the command is to just not answer a fool. YET…the very next verse reads…
Answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest he be wise in his own estimation.
What? Which is it? Answer? Or not answer?
Well, the answer is both! Or maybe its better said, ‘It depends.’ On what? It depends on what the Holy Spirit leads you to do based on the situation at hand, AND based on you wrestling through the text to see what God is saying right now.
I wish it was as easy as looking up the answer and filling in the blanks. But it isn’t.
The Bible is Not a Textbook
When I say that the Bible is not a text book where we simply look up answers to questions and write down the answers because and its all black and white, this is the reason. Sometimes we have to wrestle through the text. Sometimes we have to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying ‘in the now!’
Sure, there are some things in the Bible that are black and white. Truth is truth. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. I don’t mean to contradict that. But knowing how to apply truth to each situation demands a living relationship with God.
Spirit and Life
When Jesus said, “My words are spirit and life,” He was unveiling the need for relationship. The Word is not static. It’s not dead. It’s more than printed words on paper (or papyrus for new testament believers). They are spirit because they come from the Spirit and produce ‘spiritual things.’ They are life because they produce life.
I love this about Jesus.
I love the fact that His Word calls me to engage with Him. With it.
I love the fact that His Word searches MY heart, instead of only giving me answers to questions.
Yes, I love that God has given us answers. But I equally love that they must be sought.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
and it is the glory of a king to search out a matter.
It really is glorious that our Father has hidden things so we will pursue. So we will search. Because discovery is wonderful.
Discovery Is Our Glory
When we search out a matter…when we seek…when we ask…when we passionately pursue…
We realize the glory of discovering Him.
We find the Life and the Spirit that are His Words.
What say ye?
Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.