Last weekend my blog went down for a while, and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t access the dashboard to post anything, I couldn’t read the blog, I couldn’t access the server. I was worried I’d lost all my work and my investment in my blog, and all I could do was e-mail the server people and hope it would get fixed. I was totally dependent on someone else I couldn’t see and had never met. I didn’t know what was going on or how it was going to turn out. Obviously it turned out okay in the end, but even now I don’t really know what went wrong. At the time I was furious, e-mailing the server people with all sorts of questions which I wanted explanations for. But it made me realise something.
We’re all looking for an answer.
We seem to spend our whole lives looking for answers.
Life seems to give us so many questions, some on a very subconcious level, and we are constantly making decisions, even elementary ones about what we wear and what we will have for lunch.
But deep at the root of who we are, we all want ‘the’ answer. We want to find a viewpoint, a perspective, a way of seeing life, something that grounds us.
Something that can help explain everything and which we can put security in.
And a lot of us, when we find whatever that is, we like to know as much about that point of view – and sometimes the others – as we can, so we can defend that view to others and to ourselves.
We figure the more we know, the more answers we have, the more secure we can be.
The more we know, the more we feel like we are in control. The more we know, the safer and more secure we feel. We have the knowledge, the evidence, and ours is the right one. So we’re okay if we get attacked, because knowledge and a good argument will protect us. That’s the message of the secular/consumer science/evidence-led culture.
We in the West live in a very science/reason-based culture, a knowledge/information culture, where the more you know, the more successful you’re likely to be. The more evidence you have to support your opinion, the more weight it carries.
The more you know, the more valid your opinion is.
Well, according to our culture anyway.
However, Jesus doesn’t use the knowledge = validity reasoning at all when recruiting His disciples. When He’s picking the people who will be His closest followers and the people who lead His church, Jesus doesn’t pick the greatest minds of His day, He doesn’t pick the most knowledgeable, respected people.
He doesn’t pick the people who’ve been to Bible college or studied theology.
Jesus picks fishermen and tax collectors. One of His prominent female followers was a prostitute. People who haven’t studied and may not even have the academic prowess too.
These are the people who were key to the Jesus movement emerging.
Untrained, less educated people. And when it comes to preaching the first sermon of the new church, its not the relatively educated John who gets to do it.
It’s Peter, the fisherman.
So what does this have to do with us?
Does it make knowledge a bad thing?
What is it we really can take from all this?
Well, first off I don’t think its bad to have knowledge. Not at all. Jesus was clearly pretty well versed in the scriptures, and in Proverbs it says that we should get wisdom and knowledge. So there’s nothing wrong with learning as much as we can and reading as many books as we can.
Interestingly, it often seperates wisdom and knowledge in Proverbs. Which suggests they are two very different things
– and at the core of them, the beginning of them, is a fear of the Lord.
This leads me to my next point.
That whilst head knowledge is a good thing, and having answers is a good thing, and learning and studying is a good thing, they aren’t the point.
Indeed, the philosopher Loa-Tse said
‘The more you know, the less you understand”
Socrates made a similar observation:
“The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know”
I find this very interesting. According to these guys, head knowledge on it’s own can’t be enough. It’s one of those things that whilst useful and beneficial, isn’t the point.
The book of Proverbs says more than once that the fear of the Lord – not knowledge is the beginning of wisdom. Indeed, it says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge itself.
It doesn’t say ‘having a high intellect and lots of qualifications and reading lots of books is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge’. Not once does it say that, trust me. Go through the Bible and check if you like, it’s not a verse.
According to the Bible, wisdom all begins with God. It has to.
Before we pick up any book, study anything at all.
It’s about God.
Fearing and ultimately knowing God has nothing to do with having the answers and having all the knowledge. Knowing God is clearly more than just head knowledge. Knowing God is clearly more than just having all the answers.
People talk about the fear of the Lord as a reverence and awe, and whilst those things are important, I don’t think they are adequate.
Equally inadequate is the idea that the fear of the Lord is about being terrified, and then suddenly not being afraid anymore because we don’t have to be. Again, it explains part of it, and has value but it doesn’t give us the whole picture.
To me, to truly fear God, is to recoginise that you don’t have all the answers and never will.
It’s to recognise that God is bigger, more powerful, more loving and gracious than we can ever explain or understand. It’s to recoginise there are things He does, and things about Him, we will never know or understand fully.
It’s accepting you don’t know it all, you can’t do it all and the only security in your future can come through trusting Him. It comes through recognising that there is a huge mystery to God. We don’t know Him completely and utterly and never will. It’s being willing to admit that no matter how clever we are or how much we think we know, that it’s nothing in comparison to God. Its recognising that God has things under control even if we cannot fathom or understand them, and trusting Him fully in those circumstances.
Fearing God is being okay with the fact that He has all the answers and then some, and that we don’t – and that all our questions don’t get answered.
It’s taking our security away from being right and having all the answers, accepting we don’t and always have more to learn, and being willing to trust God to go with us in life’s journey, putting our security in a God we don’t fully know or understand, trusting in what we do know about Him whilst accepting that there are things we don’t.
It’s embracing the mystery of God, whilst at the same time trying to discover more about that mystery through prayer, worship, study and doing life in community with other followers.
The great thing about this is that no matter how long we live, no matter how much we learn, we can rest and know that God always knows better, that He’s in control, that He has all the answers and that He doesn’t require us to have the answers.
It’s also recognising that God doesn’t bless you more because you know more, and God doesn’t love the ‘super-Christians’ or your leaders or pastors any more than you, and His blessing is equally available to everyone – in fact Jesus usually makes a point of reaching out not to those who are the most obvious, but to the other, the needy, the rejected, the outsider.
Jesus didn’t need educated people to become His disciples, He just wanted people who were willing to follow Him and learn from Him.
He wanted people who were willing to follow and willing to serve, and willing to learn, not people who thought they had all the answers.
If you look at the first disciples, although a large proportion of what they learned they probably learned in their time with Him, they didn’t stop learning after Jesus ascended. They were constantly seeking more of Him, to spend time in His presence, to be obedient to Him, to do His will, and spent time in prayer and worship continuing that journey. You can see it in the New Testament.
They acted on what they did know, and were constatly wanting to go deeper and learn more about God and how to follow Jesus – and they didn’t have the New Testament remember, no Christian books, no Bible colleges or sermon downloads.
They had to rely on God fully.
Jesus isn’t interested in whether we have answers to all the questions. I mean, it’s not like He doesn’t know the answers is it? We must remember, Jesus salvation isn’t dependent on us having the answers anyhow – though we often act like it does.
Jesus wants us to be humble followers, humble enough to recognise we don’t have all the answers and will always have more to learn, and willing to take action on what we do know in order to serve Him, build His kingdom and ultimately become more like Him.
So its okay if we don’t have all the answers.
You don’t need all the answers. You don’t have to have it all together. And in fact all those people who look like they have got it all together with their faith, they have insecurities and fears too. They just keep them hidden – some deal with them privately with God and close friends and family, others hide them even from themselves.
For us, we need to act on what we do know and be obedient to that, and keep on trying to discover more, so we can deepen our relationship with God and know Him better. But it doesn’t make one iota of difference to His love for us, or to the fact that we’re saved, or to our value to God. We are saved by grace alone, through the cross and resurrection of Jesus, and that’s all.
Not by how much we know. Not by being smart or clever.
It’s so easy to fall into that trap. I did it for years without even realising it. For years I thought I was just doing God’s will by serving in church, I did it because I felt I had to do it because I wanted to serve and please God.
It was only as I examined myself that I realised I did many of the things I did in church was down to the fact that on some level I thought they would earn me more status with God, and gain me some blessing down the line.
I was doing the right thing, but my heart was in the wrong place.
I was serving, but out of duty and a desire to please.
I was studying and reading, but so that I’d be better at the things I did in ministry, and therefore impress God more.
I had to let go of these things. I had to die to them. It’s a process I’m still very much working through.
I realised that my heart needed to change and just accept the pure, loving, generous and free gift of salvation & grace through the cross, and that ultimately, anything I did was just an act of service, which made no difference towards how much I was saved or how much credit I had with God.
God wanted me to want Him, to want to know and follow Him. God didn’t want me just to know loads of facts and do all the right religious things – though in themselves they aren’t bad things – but He wanted me to change the heart behind those things and recognise that those things weren’t the point.
It’s good to read and learn more about God. It’s good to pray, to spend time with God and deepen my relationship with Him. It’s great to serve my church and my community and make a differnece in people’s lives using the gifts I’ve been given. It’s important to be discipled, to grow and mature in my faith and my gifts, and to know God more deeply.
But these things are all merely aspects of a life lived in relationship with God, a relationship that’s ongoing all the time, and covers every aspect of my life, with a God I will never know fully, or completely understand.
A God who I want to know better and more deeply, who I want to follow & serve – not out of duty or religious obligation, but out of a deep love and desire to grow, and whose love and character I want to reflect to others.
Do you deep down believe that you need to know all the answers about God before God can use you or be a useful to God?
Do you realise that God’s value and love for you has nothing to do with what you’ve done or how much you know?
Are you okay with not having all the answers about God?