Questions we Would Ask God: Help!

Another of my articles for the church magazine, which attempts to answer questions people have for God.

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We are up to our ninth question from the congregation survey I did (back in 2011!) to find the top ten questions we would like to ask God. In answering them, I'm not trying to be God (obviously!), but to look at what we can know of the answers from what God has told us in the Bible.

This time, the question is simply: Help? A number of the questions you wrote down were requests for God to help, whether with situations in our lives, or perhaps for help to live a better life. The instinct of the question is absolutely right. In Philippians 4:6 Paul writes: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (NIV). This reminds us that God is the person to bring everything before in prayer, including asking him for help (although we mustn't forget to say thank you to him as well!). The Psalms, the Lord's Prayer, Paul's prayers in his letters and the many other examples of prayer in the Bible provide us with models and examples of how to do that.

I think that there are three things to remember when we ask God for help (and I have borrowed these from an Australian minister called Archie Poulos). The first is that we need to remember that God is big. More formally God is omnipotent or all-powerful. As Jeremiah says to God: "Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17 NIV). This matters when we ask God for help. We are asking someone who is powerful enough to help.

The second thing we need to remember is that God is good. The Bible often tells us this, for example in Psalm 100:5 we read: “For the LORD is good and his love endures for ever” (NIV). This is important when we ask for God's help, because he is not just powerful. Someone can be powerful and use that power for evil, but not God. He loves and is good and his power and his goodness will always work together (Luke11:9-13). When Jesus says, "No-one is good – except God alone” (Luke 18:19 NIV), it reminds us that God is himself the standard of what is good – he defines what good is. Sometimes we will ask for God to help with something, but what we want is not good. God will only ever do what is good and so God does not always give us what we want. For example, if we want God to help us live better lives, we will need to understand that “better lives” are defined by him and not us. It may be that we need to pray for obedience to him in that.

The third thing we need to remember is that God is wise. In Romans 16:27, Paul writes “to the only wise God be glory for ever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (NIV) and in Romans 11:33 he writes “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (NIV). God's wisdom means that what God does will always bring about the best outcome from his perspective. We are not always wise, but he is! So when we ask God for help he will not make a foolish decision just because we want it (which is a great encouragement). He will always make a wise decision. Again, as an example, if we want to live better lives, we will need to trust God to help us in the most wise way to do that, even if we do not understand the route he is taking.

These last two things (God's goodness and wisdom) explain why we do not always get the help from God we want and why we cannot always understand why. Whereas he is always good and wise, we are not. He knows better. The relationship is similar to that of a parent and a child (which, I take it, is part of the reason Jesus teaches us to pray to our Father in Luke 11:2 and Matthew 6:9). Children often ask you to do something for them that is either not wise or not good (or neither) and, of course, no responsible parent does those things for their children, because they know better. In a much greater way, God knows better, because he is wise and good and so he does not always help as we ask.

Hopefully, remembering that God is big, good and wise will enable us to bring everything to him to ask for help and to trust him for good and wise help in the situation. As always, do talk to me about anything particular this or other articles have raised for you.

Next time will be the last in the series. We will be looking at: Why do we fail and yet you keep forgiving us? That's a cracking question to finish on!

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