I was thinking about my Grandfather recently and, once again, assessing the huge impact he had on my life. If I were to summarize that impact into one single concept it would be that he helped in the process of teaching me how to think for myself. (My Dad also had a huge impact in this area of my life by reminding me regularly that there was no such thing as a dumb question and that I didn’t have to follow the crowd, I could be my own man.) Grandpa did this in direct and indirect ways. Perhaps the most frustrating of his devices though was to regularly answer my questions with a well crafted question of his own. I remember on regular occasions that I went to him seeking a “quick fix” to whatever issue I was confronted with and, instead of telling me what to do, he would guide me through a process of assessment and evaluation that would assist me in seeing the situation in its totality and then responding in such a way that, not only did I address the circumstance I was faced with in the immediate, but I also developed a plan of action that would keep me from repeating the behavior that caused the situation to begin with.
I was always amazed at how skillful my Grandfather was in using this method. He always seemed to know exactly the right question to ask to lead me down the path of self-evaluation and applied wisdom, and then I noticed something – Jesus did the same thing. When we read through the Gospels we find multiple instances when Jesus employed this same technique in dealing with both his disciples and the religious leaders. Someone would ask him a question (i.e., Matthew 17:25, 18:12, 21:28, 22:42, etc.) and his response would begin with, “What do you think?” Then he would tell some story that would help the listener to see themselves and their circumstances in a whole different way – the Kingdom way.
I’m convinced that Jesus is doing the same thing in our lives today. When Jesus says seven times in Revelation 2, 3, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”, I believe it serves as a reminder of Jesus’ promise in John 16:13: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” Jesus did not say that the Spirit would simply tell us the truth, but that he would “guide” us into the truth.
As with my Grandfather, this process can be very frustrating at times but, in the end, it produces a deeper level of intimacy with God, a greater level of spiritual maturity and a profound joy stemming from an increased awareness of the working of God’s Spirit in our lives!