“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
It is a good and natural thing to ask questions. We begin doing this at a very young age. That’s just the way God wired us: to seek after truth (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Matthew 7:7). Undoubtedly, there comes a time when children begin to ask hard, theological questions. A case in point: my 5-year-old son recently asked me, “Why did Jesus have to die?” and “Does Jesus get older every Christmas?”
In my years as a youth and young adults pastor, I’ve been asked all sorts of questions. About: Faith, Sex, Creation & Evolution, Friendship, Courtship, Angels, demons and spiritual warfare, New Age cults. I actually ended up starting a blog in 2009 because of the number of questions I was being asked to answer. The aim of this blog was to help other young people, who might not be able or comfortable asking an adult, find the answers they were looking for. Today, this blog has answered nearly 800 questions: www.askusblog.com
In the contemporary climate of relativism and postmodernism, the search for truth has become more important than ever. Young people are looking for answers. So this begs the question: How can we help people in their search for truth? Here are five ways:
1. Pray for them earnestly. We have to pray that they would know the truth (Ps. 145:18). Before we try to forward them an article about why Christianity is the truth, we must pray that their spiritual eyes are open to seeing God’s Truth. Whenever I answer a question on our Ask Us Blog or speak to a student who has question about our faith, I am praying for that student. I’m not just praying that I have the right answers, but rather for the other person’s heart that it would be receptive to the truth and that the Holy Spirit would work and change their heart
2. Know your stuff and present it thoughtfully. One of the ways to quickly frustrate (and possible alienate) your child is by not doing careful research or presenting facts thoughtfully. If your friend has a question and you’re not sure what the Bible says, be honest and tell him that you’ll need some time to do some research. There are plenty of websites that provide solid, though-out answers to common questions, such as www.gotquestions.com or www.carm.org. So here’s what I suggest: Take a few moments and try to understand the question your friend is posing. Is there an underlying reason why they are asking it? Is something else stressing them out or causing them to doubt God? Have they asked the question in a curious or a hostile manner? Most of the time, people are being their inquisitive selves, so there’s usually no need to worry at this point. Then, I would look through my Bible in addition to 2-3 additional biblically-sound resources reading as much as I can on the topic. It could be a book such as R.C. Sproul’s Now, That’s a Good Question! (1996) or websites I’ve mentioned above. Once I have a better grasp of the issue, I’ll jot down the most important points. The lens by which I always look though is the uniqueness of Christianity. In other words, what makes the Christian faith so utterly special and unparalleled? For instance, if we are researching about Scientology, I would focus upon how Christianity provides a better solution to humankind’s biggest problem: our finiteness. New Age Movements like Scientology lead people to think they are God and can enhance and control their lives through their person and/or resources. However, this is not a realistic nor helpful view. Christianity, conversely, tells us that we are never God and never meant to be Him. What we need is a solution to our finiteness, our sin: Jesus. Jesus was greater than us (his divinity), yet he could identify with us (his humanity). In Jesus, we have a realistic, yet hopeful solution to the universal human problem. That’s just one quick example. What you want to avoid is simply forwarding them a link you found and then tell them to read the answer for themselves. Remember, Jesus himself taught the truth by asking hard questions and dialoguing with his disciples.
3. Be patient and listen well. There will be times when your friends will not agree with you. They may consider Christianity to be archaic and out-of-date. They may get angry and unreasonable. Don’t give up on them. In the age of the internet, my observation is that young people are constantly bombarded with all sorts of information, much of which is false or one-sided. Our job is to help them process and discern what is true and what isn’t (John 8:32). This requires a great deal of patience, as well as a listening ear (James 1:19). As we attentively listen to their ideas and perspective before presenting our own, we build trust, and trust is the foundation of presenting truth. You’ll never (really) listen to someone whom you don’t trust.
4. Show them the truth of Christianity by the way you live. This point is crucial. They need to know that Christianity is not simply a set of theoretical principles on how to be a good person, but rather that Christianity is the truth and the truth has the power to transform lives (2 Cor. 5:17). Remember, your goal is not win an intellectual argument; it is to help them find the truth in the midst of a chaotic and confusing world. And the way to do this is to show the power, wisdom, and joy of following Christ through your life. Teenagers and young adults need to know that Christianity gives us the solutions to the most important problems and issues. The way you live could be the catalyst or the hindrance in bringing your child to faith or deepening your child’s spiritual journey.
5. Challenge them to seek the truth for themselves. When I speak to students, I provide resources, pray with and for them, and try to listen patiently, but ultimately they must come to conclusion on their own. We cannot force them to understand on our timing. We can only point them to Jesus, His gospel, and His Word, and humbly encourage and challenge them to think on their own. I always tell students that they have to “think through” the issues. It’s not enough to just “think about” topics; they must reach a conclusion. Students today are thinking today, but our job as parents and youth counselors is to help them think deeper. This could take days, months, or even years, but don’t give up on those who have questions. Pray for their spiritual eyes to be opened; their hearts to be enlarged; and their minds to be renewed by God’s power and love (Romans 12:1-2).
Ho-Ming Tsui is the Lead English Pastor at Richmond Hill Christian Community Church.