Have you ever been around a child who did not stop asking questions? Do you recall doing the same thing when you were young?
Even as adults, much of our day is still spent asking others for information—soliciting feedback on a project, for example, or requesting status updates on an event. We probably spend even more time each week with those closest to us enquiring about work, school, marriage, parenting, leadership, time management, and the direction of our lives. But have you ever paused to consider asking inspired questions?
What are Inspired Questions?
Inspired questions are the ones found in the inspired Word of God—the Holy Scriptures. They help us sense the presence of God in our life and empower us to become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s moving. They reveal our hearts in ways other questions cannot. They help us discern God’s calling on our lives. They drive us deeper into our own reading of the Holy Scriptures. They are a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking key information in the Bible. They persuade us toward a godly direction. Indeed, they are for everyone who lives on this planet for the simple fact that God’s Word is for everyone. The fact that the Spirit inspired them means we are meant to ask and consider them as well.
Yet in the age of secular counseling, and now question-centered therapy, inspired questions have largely been set aside. Even though they are among the most effective and time-tested ways to help us diagnose our spiritual condition, strengthen our walks with God, and foster our journey with others, many Christians don’t understand what they mean for our spiritual growth. Maybe now is the time to notice and note the question-driven nature of the Bible. Perhaps we should start allowing God to lead us in the question asking.
Four Ways to Utilize Inspired Questions
A substantial portion of our Bible is questions, and asking questions was a primary teaching method of Jesus. To put this in perspective, the Book of Proverbs has approximately 930 sayings, while the New Testament alone contains about 980 questions. That means, you could ask yourself a new question from Scripture every day for the next two and a half years and never see the exact same one—even if you limited yourself to just the questions in the New Testament.
Now it is important to note upfront that we must understand each inspired question in its inspired context. Otherwise, we might mistakenly give a generic answer to what looks like a generic question. For instance, in Mark 10:3, when Jesus says, “What did Moses command you?” Jesus isn’t asking the religious leaders to think about any or all of Moses’ commands, but specifically about his command concerning divorce. Therefore, we shouldn’t ask this inspired question and then meditate on God’s law against coveting, even if that would be spiritually beneficial to do.
A second issue we might face is giving a completely wrong meaning to a text because we didn’t look at the inspired question in context. For example, in Matthew 6:25, Jesus asks, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” It would be possible for someone to get the idea that God was unconcerned about what we eat and what we wear. But just the opposite is true. Our heavenly Father is intimately concerned about these things. The point of the question is that we are often more concerned about material things than we are about the kingdom of heaven and whether we are living righteous lives. God still wants us to have food and clothing, but living in a world that preoccupies itself with them can easily rub off on us, even to the point of addiction.
For some of us, wrestling with the question in its context comes as no surprise. For others, this careful reading might require you to ask a more mature believer for prayer and guidance. You may need to reach out to a local pastor, or grab a reliable commentary or devotional, for assistance. The good news is that help is available, and learning how to study, interpret, and apply the Bible becomes easier over time as you do it both individually and communally.
With that in mind, here are four ways to utilize inspired questions for the sake of your spiritual formation and the spiritual formation of your community.
1. Start with yourself.
Pause for a moment and remember that someone in the Scriptures heard each question you read in the Scriptures. Many of the questions were ones Jesus himself heard or asked. Now you—the 21st century listener—can hear the same ones when you encounter them during your time alone with God.
Start by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and listen to the questions they heard or asked. Imagine what it was like for some people in Simon the leper’s house to hear Jesus ask them, “Why do you trouble her?” (Mark 14:6). Or think about what it would have been like for Peter, who just openly denied being one of Jesus’s disciples, to hear the resurrected Jesus ask him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:17).
Then direct the questions to yourself like the godly saints in Scripture did. Consider this question that the Psalmist asked himself: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps. 42:5). Or recall how each disciple, “one after another,” asked this question after hearing that someone would betray Jesus, “Is it I?” (Mark 14:19). They did not start by looking around, pointing fingers, or questioning others. They first examined themselves with a question that you too would do well to use for your own spiritual growth.
Don’t be afraid to ask the exact same questions that the people in Scripture did. When Habakkuk was struggling with his surrounding circumstances, wondering why so much evil was going on around him, he cried out to God with questions. He spent time alone with God, asking questions that are now included in the inspired Word of God for your use and instruction (Rom 15:4).
2. Enjoy them with friends and family.
Whether it is with your parents, roommates, siblings, friends, or kids, discuss inspired questions as part of your daily conversations, mealtime fellowship, or family worship. Put a handful of them into a bowl or jar, for example, and then over the meal discuss the question someone picks.
The good news is that you don’t need to make up your own questions. You don’t need to be creative here. Simply allow God’s Word to lead in the question-asking. Let the inspired questions be the icebreakers. Let them become the launching pad into the type of conversations that leave your souls most satisfied.
Indeed, the best questions are inspired questions. Their home is already the Bible, where they are nurtured. They move us from being passive observers to being active participants. And Bible questions point us to Bible answers.
3. Discuss them with your church community.
Inspired questions unite Christians across congregational and denominational lines. No matter where you live, or what church community you plug into, all Christians have the same inspired questions. Therefore, consider adopting a new approach to your small group discussions where you ask and answer a handful of inspired questions each week. Perhaps select a character or book in the Bible, and chronologically engage each question that surfaces. What a great way to foster dialogue within your group, develop life-on-life learning, and help each person find their place in the bigger story of God’s Word.
When you do this, the payoff is great. Questions draw us out of our comfort zones. They remind us of our dependence on God and each other. And despite our differences, inspired questions connect us with other believers and remind us that we are one in Christ. Listen afresh to the questions Paul asked the Corinthian church: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?
Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13).
As individualistic as we are, and as isolated as we’re becoming, we need to seize upon more occasions and opportunities to come together, ask and answer questions, and grow as communities. Discussing inspired questions communally is yet another way to foster community connections and grow together into Christlikeness.
4. Use them to engage your surrounding culture.
From his youth, Jesus spent time asking people questions (Luke 2:46). He engaged lawyers, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and other leaders with questions (Matt 22:41). His followers did the same. In the Book of Acts, for instance, Philip engaged an Ethiopian eunuch with a question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (8:30). The eunuch immediately replied with yet another question, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (8:31).
Using such inspired questions is an effective but neglected way to engage your surrounding culture. The same questions that Jesus and the early church used to engage their surrounding culture you can still use to engage yours. You have the opportunity (indeed, privilege!) to use them to point others to Christ—in whom is the fullness of all wisdom and knowledge. Their quest for understanding—just like yours—can only be found in him alone.
Perhaps start by picking one or two questions in the Scriptures that nonbelievers asked, and then ask a nonbeliever you know if they have ever considered the same one. For instance, Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Imagine giving your surrounding culture the opportunity to ask you the same question because you engaged them with it via the Scriptures. Even if they do not believe the Bible to be true, they can at least understand that it is part of our common literary heritage, like Plato and Aristotle.
Change Your Questions, Change Your Spiritual Life
Using inspired questions as a tool for spiritual formation is both spiritually forming and informing. They facilitate a deeper engagement with God’s Word. They aid us in better understanding and more effectively living out the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. They help us recognize God’s work in others and us. They keep us missionally minded.
Through both personal experience and pastoral counseling, I can testify that asking inspired questions has radically changed my life and ministry. My marriage has been positively impacted because of them, such as the ones posed in James 4:1: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” My counseling benefited from questions like Luke 12:25: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Indeed, there are many others: witnessing and missions via Romans 10:14; communion via 1 Corinthians 10:16; and parenting via Hebrews 12:7.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all asked questions, as did Jesus, his apostles, and their disciples. Perhaps now is the time for you to consider using the same ones for your spiritual growth, as well as the benefit of those around you.
Brian J. Wright is a chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and teaches for several universities and seminaries as an adjunct professor. His latest book is a 365-day devotional, Inspired Questions: A Year’s Journey Through the New Testament (Christian Focus, 2019).
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