Sunday, June 21, 2009

Genesis 32:22-30 - Summer Sermon Series: Questions #1

Genesis 32:22-30
Why do We Have Questions if God Takes Care of Everything?

I would like to start off today thanking people for their questions. I got almost two pages of questions from the note cards I passed out and those who responded via Facebook. Some of them were really good and some were too big to handle on one Sunday. We had requests to discuss the book of Revelation and other religions. Those are is a little to big for one Sunday but they may be sermon series down the road. Some others that were interesting but that we won’t get to are, What would love look like without God? What does Psalms mean and why does it start with a P? How did God create the ABCs? Would Jesus drink coffee? Does God get angry if I read my daily horoscope and follow it’s advice? These are all good questions but here are the 11 we will be doing:
1. Why do we have questions if God takes care of everything?
2. Who created God?
3. Why did God make mosquitoes?
4. Was God lonely when he made people?
5. Why does God love me so much when he knows who and what I am?
6. Does God cause bad stuff to happen because of what I do?
7. Why do we sing to God?
8. Why does the preacher wear a black dress?
9. Why were there 12 Disciples and why were they all men?
10. Is heaven an imaginary place?
11. Does God still perform miracles like in the Bible?

You can see what questions are coming up in the bulletin and a this whole list is on the website along with the dates of when the sermons will be preached. I have also included in the bulletin some notes. As you listen to the sermon you can fill in the blanks and if you have further questions head to the website and ask them in the sermon area and underneath that sermon. With all that said, why do we ask questions if God takes care of everything?

I thought it would work. I thought the science was sound. It looked like it would work after what we saw on TV. My best friend Josh and I thought we could be like G.I. Joe and parachute off the deck of my clubhouse. It was about 8 feet off the ground and the pillowcase we were planning on using seemed big enough. I think almost every kid thinks that they can defeat gravity at one time or another. For us this was our moment, actually this was Josh’s moment. I watched with eager anticipation. Josh climbed the latter, and stepped up on the edge of the railing. He balanced himself and then held the pillow case’s four corners, two in each hand. He stood there for a little bit but with some of my coaxing he decided to make the leap. We questioned whether or not the pillowcase would fill with air and enable us to float to ground where we would do a barrel roll and be ready to take on the forces of Cobra. The thud that I heard when Josh hit the ground answered our question…gravity won.

Many times people feel nervous about asking God questions, but actually God enjoys being asked. It is all over the Bible. Ever since creation we asked God questions. Adam and Eve questioned God in their hearts about why they were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jonah questioned God on why there was a need to save the Ninevites. Jesus was littered with questions his entire ministry. We constantly wrestle with questions that concern God. But is it wrong?

The author of this question I think is asking that question. If God is supposed to be taking care of everything, than why do we question him? Why do we want to know more about God’s plan for our lives and world? Is asking okay to do? Yes. Yes it is okay to ask questions because God delights in our asking. What we need to understand is the motives behind our questions. What are we hoping to gain by asking these questions?

I sense there are three different things people hoped to gain by asking God questions. The first one is entrapment. People ask God all the time in order to trap him. If the question traps God then it proves something to the other person. It may prove God doesn’t exist or that Jesus really isn’t God, or that Christianity is extremely flawed. We see this in the religious leaders and Jesus. On numerous occasions they attempted to catch Jesus in a situation or with a question that would give them some type of fodder to bring charges up against him. Jesus was questioned about working on the Sabbath, stoning a woman caught in adultery, his authority, his disciples, and his teachings.

One of the most well known entrapment questions is found in Matthew 22:15-22 (invite people to turn to it themselves). Here the Pharisees admit they are trying to trap Jesus when they ask him in verse 17, Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? When Jesus tells them that he knows why they are asking the question and then to give to Caesar what is Caesar’ and to God what is God’s, they are walk away amazed. God knows our motivation and we think we can fool God in order to get what we want.

Saul was similar. If you flip over to 1 Samuel 28, we get the story of Saul talking to the witch of Endor. I know it sounds like something out of the Lord of the Rings but it shows how someone attempts to force God to give them answers. Saul is scared to death about his enemy’s army that are about to attack and he prays to God. God doesn’t answer and so Saul goes to a medium, or witch, to bring back Samuel, the prophet that just died. When Samuel does come back, the message is still the same. Saul had tried to ignore God’s message and use another way to get another answer. He tried to trap God and force his hand. God’s message though stayed the same and when Saul thought God wasn’t answering it was because God had already gave him the answer.

We do this all the time. We pray about something, we ask God questions, hoping that we can force another answer out of God. We ask God questions like, if you are real than heal my wife. God I won’t believe you until you tell me why dinosaurs aren’t in the Bible. The truth is if we search our heart many times God will have already answered that question or like in the case of Jesus, we are shown the motives behind our questions and called out on it.

There is another reason we ask God questions and that is for Enlightenment. We ask God questions to get wisdom and understanding. It is a knowledge thing. Like we asked questions of our teachers growing up, we ask God in the same manner hoping to build our wisdom and knowledge. “God, why do you let bad stuff happen to good people?” “Who created God?” When we ask questions like this we are tossed into a process of discernment. In order to discern some answers to these questions one has to dive into a journey to learn more about the nature of God. As we do that we gain wisdom and understanding.

Flip back over to Matthew 20:20 and you will find the mother of Zebedee’s sons asking Jesus that her sons be on the right and left in his Kingdom. Out of this question or request we learn more about God because Jesus tell us that who sits on the right and left of the throne is up to the Father. We also then learn that Jesus came to serve, not to be served. These are enlightening facts that broadens our view of God and gives us a deeper understanding of who God is. We may never get the answer we hope for but out of the journey of exploring the question we can learn a lot.

The third thing that we hope to get out of asking questions of God is embrace. As we ask questions we hope to build a closer relationship with God. When trouble hits and we are at our wits end we ask, “God where are you?” It is in moments of insecurity, vulnerability, and at times desperation that we ask God intimate and personal questions. “God I can’t do this on my own, can you help me?” It is in these questions that as we listen for the answers we can feel the presence of God wrapping us up and surrounding us. We feel closer to God and can feel God’s embrace.

This is pictured best when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Keep going to the right until you get to Luke’s gospel and the 23rd chapter. There Jesus is praying in the 42nd verse he asks God, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me…” Here Jesus is faced with the reason he has come, to die our death and rise again, and he asks God if there is another way. Then in the same breath he prays, “yet, not my will but yours be done.” In that moment Luke’s gospel says that an angel from heaven comes down and gives him strength. Jesus comes from a place of vulnerability and is given strength and an embrace from his Father. The same thing is true in our lives.

Asking questions of God is fine. That is how we learn. As long as we realize the motives behind our asking, we can grow and glean from that journey. The story of Jacob wrestling with God is a famous one. In the 32nd chapter of Genesis Jacob is getting ready to meet up with Esau, the brother who he betrayed and tricked out of his father’s blessings. He is nervous about making a mends with his brother. As he and his family are journeying to the place where this meeting will happen, Jacob users the family across some water and hangs out on the other side to figure some things out. When he does he ends up physically wrestling with an angel who we later learn was actually God in human form. They wrestle all night and in the morning the battle ends and Jacob requests a blessing. It is within this question that Jacob is transformed. Along with the blessing, God changes his name to Israel which means “one who strives with God.” He is changed forever after this. Out of wrestling with God over what to do, Jacob, now Israel, is never the same.

When we wrestle with God in the end we will be changed. When we are willing to take the journey and explore the questions we have about God, we too will be transformed. Whether it is realizing that we are asking these questions to entrap God, or getting a deeper understanding of God by gaining enlightenment, or requesting to feel the embrace of our loving Lord, we are never the same. It is perfectly okay to ask God questions, it doesn’t demonstrate a lack of faith or unbelief. What it does tell God is that you are willing to be changed and to grow in your relationship with him. God loves it when we are willing to do that because in the end another one of his children are closer to him.

And all God’s children said…Amen.

No comments: