I have long believed that the quality of our lives is determined in large part by the quality of our questions. What we ask leads us to truth and can then lead us toward objectives and goals that make up the significant aspects of our lives. My curious mind and constant question-asking in college earned me the nickname “Q.” That quality, of always seeking answers, has benefited me greatly in my career. As I reflect on some of the most important questions I have asked along my journey, I see four critical questions that many people are not asking.
What will this cost me, and am I willing to pay the price? – In Luke 14:28 Jesus says, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (NIV) In business, people routinely run “cost-benefit analysis” to help them make an informed decision. With important decisions in life like what to study, who to marry, if and when to have children, when to look for a new job, if a relationship should end, or how much to spend on a big purchase, it’s vital to consider the cost. Everything in life is a trade-off. When we choose one career field, we are forgoing others. When we decide to marry, we are making a lifelong commitment and closing the door to others. When we make a purchase, we have less for charity or investments. For every decision we make we should always analyze the true cost of that decision. I have seen many people make rash decisions that seemed good in the moment but later ended up paying a cost they did not foresee.
When thinking about quitting a job to go back to school, have we thought about the price of admission, plus the cost of lost income for two or three years, and if we will be able to recoup that price over the rest of our lifetime? The opposite is also important. If we don’t get the education we need because it seems “too hard” and we don’t want to make the time and investment, is that a wise decision? If we put off a career and advanced study to travel the world and enjoy ourselves in our twenties, are we willing to pay the price in our thirties when we don’t have a solid career path, lack advanced education, and have fewer opportunities than our peers who worked hard in their twenties?
We know the Bible says being a disciple of Christ will be difficult. For much of our generation, especially in the West, we have grown up in a comfortable environment where living out our faith has been easy. But what if it became hard? Would we be willing to pay the price of speaking truth and being a witness? Christ said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” and caring for the least of these may cost us greatly. The reality is that it will cost us to live out our faith. We need to ask the question. Every decision we make has a price associated with it that must be paid. Good or bad, in our ministry, our work, our education, or our personal lives, we need to know the cost of our decisions and ask if we are willing to pay that price.
Why was this fence put up? – Millennials have become known for their propensity to question authority, drive for change, and desire to make the world a better place. There is a place for this, and lots of change is needed. However, before we change systems, it is wise to understand how the system came to be in the first place, what worked and didn’t work, and what we can learn from the past so we don’t repeat it in the future. Robert Frost famously said, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.” Understanding the why of the past will help us see not only what worked but also the reasons for failure, which will allow us to craft better plans for the future.
How can I change my point of reference and see the bigger picture? – There is nothing more frustrating than working with someone who thinks he is always right, can only see the world from his own point of view, and is incapable of putting himself in another person’s shoes to see the world from a new perspective. This narrow view hinders growth and kills careers. Over time, we get to draw from a lifetime of experiences and world travel that should help us not have an expansive view of people, politics, and issues that we face. For young people who don’t have decades of life experience behind them, it is important to flex our muscles and see the world from new perspectives.
We like to cluster ourselves in our neighborhoods and churches with people like us because it feels comfortable. But if our friends all come from the same background with the same views and beliefs, it limits our exposure to different views and ideas, minimizing our effectiveness as leaders. To combat this I routinely read magazines and periodicals that I know have different political leanings and beliefs. Instead of limiting my friendships to people in my socio-economic bracket and with similar beliefs, I seek out friendships and connections from all walks of life to be able to learn from others and see the world through different lenses.
Seeing the bigger picture in our careers will help us advance and have greater opportunity and success. It will also allow us to understand other people’s perspectives and worldviews, which will allow us to work together to solve the tough social challenges we face in our global community. Seeing the bigger picture in our faith might show us we need to move away from our comfortable Christianity and serve and love in a bigger and more meaningful way.
What is my role vs. God’s role? – One question that is being asked often today is “What should I do with my life?” Everyone seems to be searching for their calling and purpose, which is great. However, I have seen many in this search sit back and say, “I am waiting for God to open a door.” The reality is probably that God is waiting for us to take action. No matter what our current position in life is, if we are faithful and diligent in using our work as worship, God will honor and bless us. The Bible is full of these promises. Hebrews 13:6 says, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” Deuteronomy 15:10 says, “Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” God has not promised to fix our situations. He has promised to help and bless the work of our hands. This requires us to take action, be faithful, and be diligent.
Far too often we are seeking the best opportunity—the dream job, the position of influence, the money—and we are waiting for God to make it happen instead of realizing the opportunity God is charging us to be faithful in at the moment. When we are faithful in those times, He will bless. Our question therefore should be: “What has God placed before me and how can I be faithful in executing my duties?” When we have this mindset, God will answer our question of “What should I do with my life?” Remember the promise of Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” To make our paths straight, God expects us to be taking action and walking. He can’t make our paths straight if we are sitting down waiting on Him.
When we ask these questions and seek the truth, we are enabled to move from living a life by default to intentional living. Life by default is living a life without asking any questions and accepting the results of whatever happens. Intentional living is asking tough questions, seeking truth, and making the best decisions based on the answers we have received that help us align with the plans and directions that we believe God has called us to pursue. The people with the fullest hearts and most rewarding lives have taken the time to ask the right questions.