Asking the Right Questions- Introduction

Are You Asking God the Right Questions?

So many times I find myself asking God questions. I ask Him if I’m important, if He has a plan for my life, if I’m living out my purpose. So many of those questions are about myself. It’s important to know that God loves each one of us and knows us better than we know ourselves, but should our focus be merely on ourselves? Is the motivation behind our seeking merely to stroke our egos?

Many times people turn to the verse Jeremiah 29:11 where God tells us that He has good plans for us. We get so encouraged that we often stop reading. We feel like we’ve found the answer to every question we have about ourselves. God says that He has a plan and we know His plans never fail, so we can just relax and keep on living our lives now. Crisis averted… But if we would keep reading, we would see in Jeremiah 29:12-13 that God wants us to seek Him. He wants us to know Him. How sad is it that even when we are seeking His plan for our lives, we stop listening when His answers no longer are about us?

I’ll give you another example. Question: How do you know that God loves you?  Answer: John 3:16. But do you know that this verse also answers the question “What is God’s plan for me?” Probably not. You see, it says that God so loved the world that He
gave His only Son so that none should perish, but all should have everlasting life. Did you see that “so that” part in there? I used to rush right past it, until I started asking God the right questions.

The Bible holds so much truth and wisdom for each of our lives, but we never seem to find it. Sometimes we wonder why God is so elusive and why He won’t just tell us what to do. We don’t see that He has already told us what to do. He wants us to seek Him. When we do that we will find Him, and when we find Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts. That seems impossible. How do we get the desires of our hearts if we can’t find it unless we seek God with all of our hearts? The answer is that God should be the desire of our hearts.

In the coming weeks, I will be writing on some of the biggest questions we ask God. I think it’s important to look not only at what we are asking, but how we are asking and why we are asking. Sometimes we want to blame God for things we aren’t doing ourselves. Sometimes we’re only looking for God to give us the answer we want. Hopefully this will be helpful in your search to know God more, and to see that He doesn’t always show up where we’re expecting Him. If He only did that, we’d never have to seek Him and we’d never truly know how great He is.

How to find Happiness – Giving of your time

Key #8 to Happiness – Giving of your time.

Personally, it’s easier for me to give of my money than my time.  As a busy person, and who isn’t?  When I get home from work or fantasize about a restful weekend, the last thing I want to do is pile on additional obligations that might compromise my well-deserved R&R.  Now of course, a good balance of work, play and rest is an important part of life.

Giving of your time as a volunteer:

Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by thinking that our measly efforts can’t really make a big impact.  We see the immensity of the need in the world and the pitiful smallness of our own contribution, and end up wondering if I have the ability to make any difference at all.  I remember when I got involved with a local homeless shelter that had 100 beds.  I thought, wow – 100 beds!  This is a huge operation!  It sounded like we were helping a significant number of desperately needy people.  But then I heard that there were over 15,000 homeless people within that same valley.  I couldn’t believe it!  The percentage we were helping was pathetically small compared to the magnitude of the need.  I mentioned this to the shelter’s director and he said, “Yes, but as small as our efforts are, they make a huge difference to the 100 people who we daily feed and provide food and safe shelter for their families.”

It never fails.  When I try to bless people by helping out, I inevitably find myself blessed more than those I am supposedly helping.   But wait – are their needs real or am I just making them up so I can jump in and feel like a hero?  No, some peoples’ situations are desperate and they really do need help.  But the depth of humility and satisfaction that God blesses me with exceeds the degree of my contribution by so far that I often wonder – who is really ministering to whom?

Being able to participate in the delivery of real basic needs to truly needy people gives you a sense of gratitude, happiness and thanksgiving for all the blessings in your life.  I promise you, by getting involved, you will develop a passion for the needy.

You don’t have to work with the homeless to be a volunteer.   There are many worthwhile causes and organizations that serve the community…and they all need your help.  Look for an organization you can believe in and figure out a way to serve.  You will be blessed…guaranteed!

Look for a local ministry first.  Here is a great website that lists additional organizations.  http://www.charitynavigator.org/

Here is what the Bible has to say about serving others:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.  Mark 12:31

And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.  Mark 12:33

I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute. Clothe those who are cold, and don’t hide from relatives who need your help. Isa. 58:7

Volunteering at your church is another way to serve.  There is always something you can help with.   What’s also great is that you have the chance to serve every week or just for one event.  Get involved.  Going to church is not a spectator sport.

So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all
the others. Rom. 12:5

Spend time with extended family and friends:

When we’re young we want to get away from family as much as possible.  The older we get, however, the more we realize that we have only one family and good friends are hard to come by.  If you’ve ever lost a loved one unexpectedly, you know that every minute you spend with family and friends is precious.

Good friendships take effort.  Be sure to set time aside to call or to meet with the people you care about.  Humans are not designed to be solitary creatures.  We are designed to have fellowship with one another.  We’re happiest when we’re with other people. It’s by design.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Rom. 12:10a

Let brotherly love continue.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.  Remember the prisoners as if chained with them–those who are mistreated–since you yourselves are in the body also.  Hebrews 13:1-3

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Gen 2:18

Giving quality time to your family:

Spending time, especially quality time with your family (your spouse and kids) is even more important than spending time with your extended family and friends.  We tend to take the closest people to us…our spouses and kids for granted.  We see them every day so we think that counts as quality time.  Well, maybe so – maybe not.  Be honest.

Quality time is different than just being in the same house at the same time.   Spending quality time with our families takes time and focus and can be a sacrifice sometime.  It’s putting our priorities aside to spend time with the other person (s).  I’m sure guilty of that at times.  I get so wrapped up in what I’m doing that I totally ignore my wife sometime.  Even doing something for God can be wrong if it gets out of hand.  Especially with our busy lifestyles nowadays, I recommend having designated days and nights that you set aside every week to spend time with your spouse.  Balance is key!  You will be amazed that overall you will be a happier person when you make yourself available…and you’ll have a better marriage.

Writing this, I realize I’ll have to remember my own advice…or my wife will remind me about this article and maybe even send me a link, so I’m sure to remember to take my own advice.

If you have kids, you don’t have a life…it all about them.  In that situation, don’t ignore your spouse.  Set time aside to do something together without the kids around.

Spending quality time with God:

I left the most important key for last.  Can you know God without spending quality time with Him by reading the Word, praying and seeking His face…not just His hand?   I don’t think so.

Think of people we meet when walking our dogs, neighbors, acquaintances, extended family, etc.  How well do you know them really?  Just think of how much time we have to spend with someone before we intimately know them.  It’s no different with God.  We are delusional if we think that we know God if we’re not spending time with Him on a regular basis (preferably daily)…doing our best to get to know Him.  It’s not enough to go to church on Sunday and then forget about Him the rest of the week.

Getting to know God is NOT just asking Him to fix our problems.  We don’t really get to know God by doing that.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray for God to help us…we should.  What I’m saying is that we need to seek God.  We need to pray that God would reveal Himself to us…by inviting Him not just into our situation and problems but also into our plans…by surrendering our habits…by reading the Bible…by being with other Christians…by making ourselves available to be used by Him.

Read Galatians 2:20 below again…let it sink in.  Our lives are supposed to be a sacrifice.  Frankly, we all are so far away from being that true sacrifice…may God help us all.  The more time we spend with God, the more we tend to realize what sinners we really are our ongoing need for Jesus.   It’s a process of pruning by God.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Success in life is about setting the right priorities…spending time with God should be #1 on our schedule, before anything else, even our own families.  GOD – FAMILY – JOB.  God promises that if we put Him first, He will take care of everything else.  Do your absolute best to not have a day go by when you don’t spend time with Him.  If you do, you will discover a whole new level of happiness – called joy…no matter what situation you’re facing.

Here are some Bible scriptures.

The Lord deserves praise! Day after day he carries our burden, the God who delivers us. Proverbs 8:34

Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.  Luke 9:23

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.  Acts 17:11

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.  Mark 1:35

So that you incline your ear to wise and apply your heart to understanding; Prov 2:2

For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law.  Prov 4:2

Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, And apply your heart to my knowledge;  Prov 22:17

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Heb 4:16

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  James 4:8

Keys to happiness exercise:

  • Ask God for help (ask Jesus into your life if you have not done so already)
  • Schedule your times with God, family, friends and organizations
  • Pray to God to give you a desire to know him and serve
  • Ask someone to pray with and for you.
  • Pray for others in need.

Previous Happiness Lessons:

How to find Happiness – 15 Lesson Series – Overview

How to find Happiness – Introduction

How to find Happiness – Key #1 – A relationship with God

How to find Happiness – Key #2 – Being Thankful

How to find Happiness - Key #3 – Learning How to forgive yourself

How to find Happiness - Key #4 – Learning How to forgive others

How to find Happiness - Key #5 – Living in the present

How to find Happiness - Key #6 – Overcoming fear

How to find Happiness - Key #7 – Giving of your money

May you find happiness through giving of yourself!

Check in next week for another key to happiness.  Get notified via e-mail here.

Juggling Pressures and Crazy Schedules!

Somewhere around age 40 a strange shift happened.  When I was younger, I literally fed on being busy.  And I’m not talking about a healthy busy…you know, living with purpose – having a few places to go, some people to see, etc.  No, I’m talking about insane busy – life on overdrive 24/7.  And I loved it!  I loved having every single moment so compressed that even Einstein would have said, “If this woman adds even 15 more seconds of activity to her day, she is going to upset the time continuum!”

I remember one day in particular.  I was working for a Los Angeles radio station and I was a little late to an appointment (first time ever) so I was flying down the 5 Freeway (just a few miles over the speed limit).  Well, I wasn’t exactly behind schedule – let’s just say I didn’t have an extra 30 seconds to spare.  I was weaving around the “slow pokes” with amazing skill …when a thought flashed across my mind.  ”I am really an important person because I have an appointment!  And better yet, it’s not my only appointment, I have lots of appointments which is why I’m barely going to make it to this one on time.  I have really arrived – I’m busy so I’m important!”

Now of course it is fun to have purpose and commitments, etc, but I hope you can see that this attitude was a little off.  And here’s the thing…I really believed it.

Well, again, somewhere around 40 this vague cloud of exhaustion started following me everywhere I went as I sped around on overdrive.  I still believed that being busy meant I had value, but the crazy pace was beginning to wear on me.  After a few years, I still kept up my workday pace, but I started to find myself withdrawing at nights and on weekends.  At first it was just one night a week, but it slowly grew to the point I almost resented having to make any social plans at all…didn’t want to be pinned in.  What if when that scheduled time came around I didn’t feel like it? Everyone wants something from me and I have nothing left to give!  “I gave at the office” took on a whole new meaning.

Again, as I noted this growing behavior, I grew to like it.  Ok, that’s just me – I’m maturing.  But then it seemed that I couldn’t get enough time alone and away from the crowd.  If I had too many social activities on a weekend I would find my anxiety rise exponentially – which also would guarantee a very short fuse the entire next week.  I became aware of how much time I needed to “recoup” from all the workday “performing” and all that I thought others demanded of me.

Well, I’m not a total recluse today, and don’t get me wrong – I know I need my friends probably more than they need me.  But I do still find myself needing to retreat and give myself plenty of unstructured “down time.”  When I don’t, all the activity becomes completely meaningless…even depressing.  I was enjoying some of this precious alone time rattling around in the garden a few Saturdays ago.  Then I remembered a social event I had committed to. Agh!  I watched myself instantly begin brainstorming ways to get out of it, and of course, the internal angst level started rising.

That’s when I thought of Him.  How did Jesus handle it?  How could He stand all those crowds, people pressing in on every side, following Him everywhere, trying to catch Him in His words – with not a second to Himself?  How did He do it!? 

Well, first of all, He snuck off regularly to be alone and talk with the Father. But often His compassion for the overwheming needs of the crowds caused Him to postpone His solitude and keep going.  But how did He do it? Sometimes I feel that I just can’t handle another detour, another glitch, another interruption! 

Why did He push Himself?  I mean, He already had the great networking thing of the 12 apostles going.  Couldn’t they just pass along His teachings?  Endless lines of people that wanted something from Him! Ugh!  How could He stand it?

But then it hit me – He pushed Himself, He kept moving to the next town, and the next town and ketp healing, kept teaching…  Why?  I think He pushed Himself because in each incident He had someone’s face on His mind – someone waiting in the next town who needed to hear about the love of the Father…and He had to get there. He had appointments!  Oh, they didn’t think they had appointments.  No, they didn’t know, but He did. I think Jesus had individuals’ faces on His mind and on His heart.  He knew their hurts and confusions, their hopes, their disillusionments. 

He not only knew the people who would be changed forever with a word, or even a glance, but He knew exactly where each would notice Him and what would catch their eye or ear.  Yes, these people were usually in crowds, but they were individuals to Him…individuals that He loved.

I wonder if He would have walked all night to meet with me?  Well, the Bible tells me that He did more than that – He died for me. 

So how can we follow Jesus’ example and have an ongoing reserve to help us balance out difficult people, ongoing pressures and crazy schedules?  By spending time with Him.  “But I’m so busy already!” you say.  Yes, I understand…I am too.  But I promie you that the 15 minutes you spend with God will make the rest of your 23.75 hours flow much more smoothly!  He will literally go before you, like a linebacker – knocking pesky time and energy tacklers out of your way.  Remember what He did with the few fish and loaves of bread?  He can do the same wth your time and your life.

Learning the discipline of setting time aside daily for uninterrupted communion with God Almighty was difficult for me. Like dieting or quitting cigarettes, I started and failed many many times.  But the pain and longing in my heart to not be a ”performance” saint only, but to develop a real relationship with God drove me to keep trying. 

Oh, I’m not perfect now.  I still go through times when I just don’t think I can stand another moment with so-in-so at the job, or another church event, or… (you fill in the blank).  But He has taught me that I can trust Him to redeem my investment of time for Him.   And more than that – when I ask Him, He shows me what He sees in those difficult people, and what I still don’t “get” I just surrender to Him.  God help us all to walk in the Spirit and see the world and all his precious masterpieces (humans, that is) through His eyes.  But you can’t do it on the fly. Give Him time to speak to you daily.

Remember, resetting your schedule and priorities for God can seem difficult.  But difficult is not impossible…and in this case – so worth it! 

Also see Seeking GodLaziness, Success, Peace, Trusting God, Money, How to succeed in tough economic times