Asking the Right Questions

by Charles E. Bryce

How can we arrive at the right answers to questions, problems and situations that come up in our lives? One of the most important things we must learn to do is ask the right questions. History is replete with incredible achievements that occurred because somebody asked the right question.

For most of human history, men have been fascinated with flight. Some early adventurers decided that if birds can fly, people can fly. However, when they tried to fly the way the birds fly, it didn’t work! But Wilbur and Orville Wright, and other researchers and innovators, started asking the right questions, which led to the right answers about properly applying the laws of aerodynamics—and fly they did!

Why did Marconi send the first wireless message? He started wondering if messages could be sent without cables and wires. Asking this question led to his discovery of principles of radio transmission, which allowed him to send the first wireless message from Europe, over the North Atlantic Ocean, to Newfoundland, Canada. And the radio was born.

Of course it is more complicated than simply asking the right question, but that is often what starts the process and triggers the right course of action needed to solve a problem or develop an invention that can change the course of history. So many milestones can be traced back to someone somewhere starting to ask the right questions. It takes innovative thinking—thinking outside of the ruts—sometimes in ways that are simple or obvious, and sometimes in ways that are complex and more subtle. And it takes courage to do that.

Is this question right?

How can we learn to ask the questions that lead to the right answers and then the right actions and ultimately to thrilling success?

Don’t stop asking questions until you finally come to the right answer. When you are trying to get to the right question to ask, you’re probably going to ask a lot of wrong questions before you settle on the right one. Maybe you are trying to work through household issues or family problems. You could be learning how to cook a new dish or sew a different garment or repair something that you’ve never repaired before. You might need to organize an activity or figure out a more effective way to approach someone. Simply asking the right questions so often starts the ball rolling.

Ask the right people. God inspired Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, to say, “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (Prov. 15:22). Get good counsel. Talk to people who know what they’re talking about. Don’t just automatically accept that everything they tell you is right, but learn a little bit here and a little bit there and then put it all together yourself for the complete solution. Think about and discuss all of the possibilities. Don’t rule anything out until you have a good reason.

Learn from the experience. Ask who, what, when, where, why, and how you arrived at the right answer. Quite likely it was by asking the right question and then taking the right action. When you learn from that experience, then you learn to ask better questions. Maybe it was obvious and you saw it right away. Maybe it took a long time. Regardless, you will learn what to consider and what to ask if you recount the series of events that led to the solution to the problem, or the answer to the question that finally turned a quandary into a smashing success!

Practical applications

The right question can lead to the right solution in all kinds of circumstances. For example, you may have a good marriage, and yet, from time to time, a problem still develops that causes tension and disagreement. Ask yourself if you might be the reason for the trouble. Instead of blaming the other person, look at yourself and ask if you are contributing to, or even causing, the disagreement or frustration. If you get yourself squared around, and that does not completely solve the problem, it will at least improve the situation. Asking right questions does not only apply to fixing cars or advancing technology, it relates to strengthening human relationships and altering behavior patterns as well.

Do you have financial problems? Instead of simply saying, “We just don’t make enough money, we have too many bills and it’s all Uncle Sam’s fault—too many taxes.” That’s not going to solve anything. The right question to ask is, “Where is the money going?” Most people don’t budget so they don’t know what their money is used for. Instead of griping and complaining and blaming others, set one month to find out exactly where every penny of your money goes every day. Each day for the next thirty days, keep a careful record of how the money is spent. Then at the end of that time period, calculate the money that came in and add up the money you have spent. You might find unexpected ways to reduce your expenses and actually balance your budget. Then if you diligently stick to that budget, you should be able to climb out of the sinkhole of nagging debt and in time, stand on firm, solid financial ground! And it can all start by asking this question, “Where is our money going?”

A simple question we can ask that will put an end to gossip and false accusations is “Can you prove that?” When someone starts in with, “Did you hear about…?” a good response is “How do you know that’s true?” They probably can’t prove it, so why repeat it. Just that basic line of questioning will blunt a whole lot of erroneous information and gossip, accusations and slander. That is putting into practice 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

If people feel frustrated and their lives are empty, the right questions to ask are:

  1. Does God exist?
  2. Is the Bible inspired?
  3. What is the purpose for life?

Asking, “Can I prove God exists?” and then proving it, “Can I prove the Bible is inspired?” and then discovering you can, “What is the purpose in life?” and then discovering it, opens the door so that God can and will start working with you. But you must not wait too long to do this: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:6–7).

Finding truth

One of the reasons the truth is known today is that two very special people—Mr. and Mrs. Herbert W. Armstrong—asked the right questions. They were visiting relatives and Mrs. Armstrong went next door to visit a thoughtful neighbor lady. They got into a discussion about the Bible. When Mrs. Armstrong returned from that visit, she was very excited and exclaimed they had been keeping the wrong day. Mr. Armstrong thought her insistence on this point was potentially embarrassing, so when they got home, he asked Loma what she was talking about. She asked, “Can you prove to me from the Bible that we’re supposed to keep Sunday?” That’s a really good question! Mr. Armstrong was convinced that all those churches could not be wrong, but as he proceeded to try to prove it, he found out that in fact they were! He actually ended up proving that Saturday is the right day to keep the Sabbath according to the Word of God—and the rest is history!

Of course this was all God’s doing, but He works through people. He started off by working through Mrs. Loma D. Armstrong, who asked the right question, which brought about the right action, which then led to the knowledge of the wonderful truth of God now available to all who earnestly seek it.

We must insist on getting the facts and finding proof when we seek answers and solutions. If we do so in the right attitude, and with the proper motive, then we will invariably start asking the right questions. That will set in motion the process that is bound to ultimately lead to a splendid outcome. Don’t settle for anything less!

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