by Tom Wilhoit
My assignment was to read Chapter 5 of the book by Dave Gibbons. The title of the chapter is “Three Questions that Become the Answers”. I could relate to Dave as he shared about his excitement of hearing a guest speaker and anticipating what the speaker was to share on. He wanted to walk away with a bullet list of ideas and concepts that he could immediately plug in and enhance his life and ministry. However, the guest speaker didn’t come with answers but questions which kind of irritated Dave a bit until he realized that his answers were in the questions. Dave explained how he learned then the art of asking the right questions in order to find the right answers. I must admit that as I think about all of the things I am involved in as a husband, father, and pastor, it makes sense to really come up with a list of questions as to why am I doing the things I am doing and how does God want me to proceed from here. This thought provoking process can help us from just being busy to becoming more effective and fulfilled. Dave went on to talk about current trends and how so many are going away from organized church. It’s important during these times that we begin to consider our ways and how we can best reach this and future generations for Christ. To do this effectively, Dave has come up with three questions that have become his foundation for life and ministry.
The first question is “Where is Nazareth?” This is a question that may have been asked many times in Jesus’ times. Nazareth was not a highlight for the sightseeing tourists of the day. It was considered the place on the “other side of the railroad tracks”. Yet, this is the place that Jesus chose to grow up in. He chose to identify with the misfits and outcasts. He did not look for the healthy and wealthy but for the down and outers. Jesus reminds us that He did not come to save those who were well, but those who were sick. This was the basis for his ministry. Dave encourages us to consider the question, “where is our Nazareth?” In other words, who are the down and outers in our city or region. Who are the weak and least amongst us? This does not just mean the physically poor and hungry, but those who are also poor in the spirit, those who, like the Laodiceans, feel like they have it all yet they are destitute, and they don’t even know it! These are people that Jesus Himself would be drawn to. 1 Cor. 1:26-29 (NLT) reminds us that “God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God. So this first question helps us begin the process of helping us establish if we are really doing the work of the Lord. Sometimes it is so easy to minister only to those who step into our churches, people who look and act just like us. It’s important for us to consider this question as we continue our ministry.
The second question is “What is My Pain?” That is, what is it about us that has caused us suffering? Where have we felt injustice or been hurt? Dave makes a great point in saying that people seem to be able to identify more with our pain and suffering than all of our great accomplishments or talents. In my 25+ years of ministry I must agree with him. People may not be able to relate to all the things that we do well but everyone has pain in common. As I always say, we all have our sad stories. We all can relate to one another in this way. In fact, even as a nation, we seem to come together best through our tragedies. Too bad that sort of unity does not last too long. It is refreshing to see. Christ Himself did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. He chose the way of suffering. Most of the disciples also took the road of suffering. Yet, in our generation, we pump out more books and sermons about how to have a prosperous life than ever before. I am not advocating that we should all be poor but we must never neglect the importance of giving our all to Christ and that this sometimes brings us to the road of suffering and hardship. Dave comments on how he is more equipped for ministry because of this road of suffering in his past. For me, I can say the same thing. I had an alcoholic, abusive father and had to endure wetting the bed until I was 15 years old. I had such a hard time understanding this growing up. But as I began sharing my testimony with young people during my later teen years I could quickly see how God was using this to bring many to Him. I could tell you wonderful stories of how God has used my testimony to radically change people. As we consider the question of our pain, remember that as we go through things in life, sometimes our hardship is God’s way of molding our hearts, or giving us opportunity to better relate to others. The key however, is that we have allowed Jesus to heal us and to work through the pain, that we have not allowed the journey on he road of suffering to kill us. I have seen so many who have endured hardship, yet, come through it for the glory of God and now they have such a great ministry because of this process.
The last question is “What is in My Hand”. He relates the story of Moses in Exodus 4:1-5. God asks Moses “what do you have in your hand?” God goes on to perform miracles with Moses’ staff. Yet Moses seems focused more on what he doesn’t have than what he does have. I think we can all pretty much relate to this! It’s so easy to say, “but God, it’s not fair!” I have said that, not realizing the tremendous blessings that He has always given me. Dave reminds us that “everything we need is within our reach and within His reach”. It’s so easy for us to focus on what we don’t have for ministry. We can quickly make out that list. Yet, how often do we come to realize what He has given to us and how much have we done with what He has bestowed upon us? “God takes what we have in our hand and turns it into something powerful to show us and the world that He is there and is working and is with us”.
So the question comes to us, what is in our hand? We must take personal inventory of what the Lord has already given us, and relate this to our life story as we minister to those in Nazareth all around us. As I consider future pursuits in life and ministry I will try to be guided by these questions so that I stay close to the heart of God and that I can truly make an impact in my city for Jesus. I pray you will also do the same. May God grant you favor and wisdom as you follow Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength!
About the author:
Pastor Tom Wilhoit is the husband to Rhoda, and father to Chandler and Summer. He serves as the Associate Pastor of Fellowship of Believers Church in Sarasota, FL. He is also currently acting as Youth Pastor, a former role of his that he particularly cherishes! He has a strong heart for outreach and reaching the lost and hurting, particularly in the beautiful city of Sarasota. And… he really likes hot chocolate.