Questions that Hold Us Back from Belief

I was under a publishing deadline and had been working for 12 hours straight. I suddenly caught a glimpse of the time: “What, it’s 6:50?” I was scheduled to deliver a sermon in 10 minutes. My destination was exactly 10 minutes away. I ran to my car and hopped in the front seat. I sped so fast out of the parking garage that as I rounded the last corner of the garage roundabout, the back tire of my Chevy Blazer hit the final curb.

At my destination, I rushed up the ten concrete stairs, in the front door, and straight down the aisle. The crowd was clearing the room already. It was 7:05pm. I was five minutes late and the homeless men were getting restless. I was at a rescue mission.

On the drive over, I had realized that I wasn’t just late, but that I had also failed to prepare a sermon. “What kind of preacher was I?,” I asked myself. But I had an idea: I had recently heard about a successful preacher who had started his ministry by doing Q&A (Question and Answer time). He had described it as one of the most rewarding ministry experiences of his life. So I went for it. “Ask me anything and everything about God, the Bible, or religion,” I shouted. It made the few guys on their way out the door sit down. I had their attention.

As you can imagine, the night was pretty wild. I sweated more that night than I do during my standard cardio workouts. But I survived, and incredibly, I saw several men accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior that evening. It turned out that a simple question had been standing between them and Jesus.

I spoke in that rescue mission chapel for years. And after that one evening of tardiness and a lack of preparation, I stopped preparing sermons altogether. I simply did Q&A. I have seen more people come to Jesus through this simple ministry than any single effort of spreading the gospel.

And lest you think this is just a personal ministry theory. Take a look at Jesus’ ministry. He regularly asked questions. One scene in particular comes to mind. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his closest disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples answered Jesus by noting that some say the Son of Man is John the Baptist, others that he is Elijah, and others still that he is Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

Jesus, not content with the answers of his disciples, asked another question: “But who do you say that I am?” It is in this moment that Simon Peter says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” He not only recognizes who the Son of Man is, but also that Jesus is the Son of Man (Matthew 16:13–16 LEB).

In many regards, it was Jesus’ questions that led Peter to the right answer.

When it comes to helping someone who is hurting or dealing with a faith issue, it’s important to realize that simply being open to talking is often all that is needed. I don’t feel that it’s my answers that have brought people to faith; it’s really the openness that has made the biggest difference. I’m unafraid to talk about difficult issues, and you should feel the same. If our God can deal with our sin, then certainly he can handle our scrutiny.

The questions we ask reveal our heart. In this regard, questions often reveal more than answers. And Jesus’ questions reveal the most of all.

What questions are standing between you and Jesus? And how can you answer the questions of others?


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John Barry
John Barry


CEO and Founder of Jesus' Economy. John is the General Editor of the highly acclaimed Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary. His new book is Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. It is widely endorsed by Christian leaders from around the world.