Saturday, December 29, 2018

4 Questions that have Changed my Life.

As 2018 draws to an end there are many questions in my mind. Some are biblical, like "why do bad people prosper?" (Psalm 73) and "shall we accept good from the Lord and not trouble?" (Job 2:10). Maybe years ago Christians would have been discouraged from asking too many questions about their faith, but now we realise how mistaken that can be. Questions are good if they stir us up to think more deeply, and perhaps to find answers. Even if they don't achieve that they serve as pointers to a better way of understanding all that is around us. Here are 4 questions that have changed my thinking and my life over the years:

  1. "If you were arrested today and charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" I was first asked this in the 1970's when Christians were being arrested in large numbers, especially in Communist countries. They continue to be persecuted right now, in even greater amounts, and even up to martyrdom. I heard on the BBC news that in 2018 around 250 Christian believers per month were killed for their faith. This has finally caused the UK government to act, beginning with an enquiry led by the Bishop of Exeter that will report back by Easter 2019. The question changed me in the 70's and challenges me even more today.
  2. "What is God saying to you through all of this?" It was 1998 and I had just been released from a long spell in hospital, mostly in Intensive Care, after an illness that had nearly taken my life. It had forced me to relinquish my ministry and leave the leadership of a great church that I loved, and had subjected me to a condition known as the most physically painful borne by man. As I tottered around my local shops, a dear friend met me and asked me this. I did not have the strength to punch her! Rather, her question floored me like an uppercut to my soul. I was so busy pleading for healing and trying to survive that I had not for a moment considered that God might be saying to me in all this. The Bible says "faithful are the wounds of a friend" and this lady was a faithful friend to me that day! My attitude was changed for ever by that question and I still seek to hear God in every situation I face.
  3. "If you only had one more book in you, what would you want to say?" The person who has been editor of 3 of my 4 published books, asked me this in 2018. Maybe I do only have one more book in me - only God knows, but this question has served me well. It has focused my mind on what I am learning and want to communicate to others. In a phrase - "God can be trusted" - that's what I want to say! What if you only had one more sermon to preach, letter to write, or year to work? Even more crucially, what if you only had one more day?
  4. "What would you do if you were 10 times bolder?" I was at Leadership Academy with my good friend and colleague Matt Gregor when we were asked this powerful question. It has stayed with me like a mantra every time I face a challenge about the church I serve, the people I meet or the circumstances I face. I want it to be my provocation throughout the coming New Year. I long to be able to say that by the end of 2019, and by God's Holy Spirit's power, I will have been ten times bolder than I have been thus far. A similar question is "what would you do if you knew that you could not fail?" Hmm. Food for thought.
Have a very happy, prosperous and peace filled New Year!