Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ask, Seek, and Knock (Matthew 7:7-11)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:7–11, NASB95)

Jesus ended Matthew chapter 6 (which was all part of an ongoing instruction without chapters and verses) by talking about anxiety and how God tends to the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, ending with an instruction to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. In these verses today He instructed His listeners and all who read His words (like us) to ask, seek, and knock.

Ask, seek, and knock. As I was sitting here considering this passage, my wife, Robin, received a text update and prayer request from her sister in the San Diego area. Many of her relatives, including Robin’s sister, are currently evacuated due to fires raging out of control. In addition, she let us know that one of their cousins, who had undergone treatments and surgery for cancer, was again finding that the cancer had reared its head and they are desiring prayer for a number of things. Last week Robin even received a prayer request from someone close to her who has held out a stiff arm toward God. But because someone close to them is in dire physical health, this person asked her to pray. Ask, seek, and knock—it is an amazing thing how much trials remind us of how powerless we are and how powerful God is.

Some people pray hoping that something magic will happen without any real concept of who God is. They cling to a hope that there is a power out there that will hear their cry and respond with help. But God is not one who hides Himself to those whose hearts are bent toward Him. The Jews to whom Jesus was speaking had been taught that there indeed is a God who had shown His favor on them, and they had been taught that they were to come to Him with their pleas. But, there was also room to question how many really understood that their God loved them and desired them to seek Him with all of their lives.

Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” In asking we recognize our need and we humbly go to God who not only knows that need but also has told us that He will meet our needs. In seeking our hearts are turned toward Him in dependence as we seek after His will. And in knocking we wait, knowing that He will answer for He is indeed at home and He is not peeking out between the curtains to see if He wants to answer the door.

Jesus follows His instruction to ask, seek, and knock with assurances that they will indeed find their Father in heaven attentive to them. He said that when we ask, God answers and we will receive from Him. He said that when we seek that we truly will find Him and what He has for us, and when we knock He will indeed open doors. The greatest of these doors is His inviting us in to a relationship with Him.

James (who is Jesus’ half-brother) wrote about this asking, seeking, and knocking as something that we do believing. He wrote, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5–8, NASB95) Believing means trusting, and this means that we need to be dependent on God. This type of person is one who asks, seeks, and knocks with his (or her) heart is turned toward God in dependence, and Scripture loudly declares and demonstrates that our loving, powerful, and faithful God will answer.

Jesus went on to give very practical illustrations that His hearers would easily understand. Imagine a child asking his father for some bread to eat and he hands him a rock, or who asks for some meat to eat and his father gives him a snake who bites his outstretched hand. Clearly this is not the normal nature of our human fathers, and it definitely is not the character of our perfect Heavenly Father. Later in chapter 1 of his letter, James wrote, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:16–17, NASB95)

We have an enemy out there who is about disappointment, destruction, and death. He showed himself as a serpent in the garden and will appear as a great red dragon in the tribulation period. He is known by several names, but primarily as Satan and the devil. His nature is that of a snake and what he gives is consistent with his character. And his influence is strong in our world which is subjected to all sorts of trials for a season. But God has not let loose the reins of this world to Satan. The devil and his cohorts have limited power. Diseases even are limited in their power, and all of the forces of nature also are limited. But God’s power is limitless and His Word declares that He will take care of those who give themselves to and seek after Him. He will give when we ask, He will show Himself and His ways when we seek, and He will open both the doors for our lives here and most importantly the door to eternity where He has promised to bring to Himself all who believe Him for salvation.

So, when we get requests like we did tonight or when we have other requests of our own we can confidently go to God with our prayers knowing that this is exactly what He wants us to do, and He will answer.

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