Receiving Good Things From God
Matt 7: 7-11
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
We have spent three chapters with Jesus challenging us at the deepest levels to be like God. We are told what attitudes to have and they are unexpected, maybe even unnatural. He has told us that we are to be salt and light, to act as God’s children and then applied the moral law to us in ways that are deeply internal and difficult. We must be perfect, like God!?
Finally Jesus considers religious activity, things that people do to bring them closer to God and He points out that unless we fight the battle in the heart and get our motives right, those activities can make us worse, not better. They will give us an earthly reward, but we will be estranged from God and His life. Our hearts must conform to the heart of God! We have a lot of work to do. If you are like me, you probably have felt the presence of God too seldom in your life. You would like to know Him better, to be more completely full of His Spirit, and experience His best for your life more and more. That, I believe should be the reaction to His messages in this passage of Scripture. And that is poverty of spirit. We know that we need God. We need Him to heal us, to lead us, to rebuke us and to love us. We need Him to not lose patience, to not give up on us, to be for us, not against us. I, who need to believe in God, need God to believe in me!
Into this atmosphere, Jesus says the following things:
- Be Persistent in Asking God for What You Need
- God Will Meet You in Your Need
- God Will Give You Life
- Be Persistent in Asking God for What You Need
- Go to God for help!
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
- What is the alternative?
All of Scripture is focused on this very point. We do not desire or act in ways that promote life in ourselves and others. God made us in His image, our desires corrupt that image. Human desire twists the good things that God has made and turns them into weapons for death.
What should we do? Eastern religion tells us to abandon desire. We must be free of it. Jesus Christ promises a change of heart. We can live in a world of desire in Him and be born again. And if we never desire what is best, we can have the power of the Holy Spirit so that we are not required to have all desire met in order to have life.
- Be persistent there is no other way
Since we have a heart need, we need a new heart. We do not know our hearts, God does. Our deep desires stay hidden, we are full of motives and desires that remain hidden within us. We have been wounded and twisted from childhood and the best of us cope better, we are not better. People spend lots of time and money in therapy considering why they do what they do and trying to train themselves to be free from toxic ideas, desires and habits. And Jesus comes along and says:
John 8: 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
It’s like they are talking about two different things! How do we get on the same page as Jesus? Ask and keep asking. Seek and keep seeking, knock and keep knocking. The problem is not with Jesus and His ability to communicate. He says all the time: “To the one who has ears to hear, let him hear.
We have a perceived need. It is a desire that is not met. Now, if life is found in having our desires met this is a very straight forward process. But, if life is found in having God’s desires manifested in us, then we have a pathway of life that is more complex to us. I believe that a whole lot of our problem is that we want Jesus to be the pathway to meeting our desires. We focus on the promises of God in Scripture that we desire. And God waits for us to catch up. We pray for things that are not what God wants, our prayers return unanswered. What should we do? The person who believes in Jesus will persist. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. Why would we do that? Because we actually believe in the revealed character of God.
- God Will Meet You in Your Need
- God shows up in our lives
What does this look like? It looks like God making Himself real to us. It’s the postman in the TV show Benson. It’s a random dream. It’s a random text. It’s just God being God. He touches the lives of people, I believe all people. If we recognize that and act in faithful obedience, then I believe we get more light. And those who walk in light, walk in life. We walk in freedom from the desires of our hearts, having our hearts full of something more powerful than personal desire, the person of God.
- God shows us the need for patience
II Peter 3: 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,
- Patience and persistence are the pattern
II Cor 12: 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul had a need to not suffer. He did not know that what he had was going to turn out for his good. He prayed. Does God answer the Apostle Paul’s prayers? Surely! So, what happens when he prays? Nothing. What does he do? He prays again. And he prays again. And then God gives Paul revelation of His will. This weakness in your physical ability will cause you to be strong in spiritual ability by making you dependent upon the power of God. “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made complete in your weakness, it is manifested.”
Paul’s response: I am content. That might as well read, “I am full of life.”
Jesus prays in the Garden: Luke 22: 39-46 39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Jesus prays because He has a desire that is not going to be met. Surely God answers His prayers! What happens? What does Jesus do? What does God do for Jesus?
Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. Be persistent, be patient. God is going to show up in your life and give you what you need for life!!
Please note that I did not say this was easy. It is easier to quit and aim to meet your needs on your own.
III. God is a Good Father
- Think of a good father
If you ask for bread. If you ask for fish. If you ask for an egg. You will not receive a stone. You will not receive a snake. You will not receive a scorpion.
A good father gives what you need rather than what you want. They give you discipline.
Hebrews 12: 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
- Satan accuses God of evil intent
He does this because he has evil intent and is familiar with evil intent. But, God is good. Look at the cross. Who is Jesus Christ to you? Look at the Apostle Paul. Do you think either of their circumstances ended in disappointment? So go ahead and cry and mourn at the tragedies in our circumstances, but do NOT expect that they will turn out poorly.
- A friend comes at midnight asking for bread.
- Trust God’s goodness over your perceptions
If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children.
How much more! We suffer and Satan screams that God is not there, that God cannot be good, that God is weak and stupid. How could He not be. But here’s the rub. If God is not good then there is no goodness. If God is not love then there is no love. If God is not just then there is no justice. If God is not wise, then there is no wisdom. If God is not powerful, then there is no real power. Look at the cross. What do you see? I see goodness, I see love, I see power I see wisdom. I see Satan defeated in a way that does not seem possible by the God who works all things out in conformity to His will. Why is God not more clear? Look at the cross!! What do you see?
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER give GOOD GIFTS to those who ask of Him. In Luke 11 it says, “THE HOLY SPIRIT instead of good gifts.
This is the message of the entire Bible. God is invisible. Our hearts and minds are twisted by sin so that we do not think or desire healthy things. God pays the penalty of our sin and then gives us His Word so we might understand the way things work in our lives and in God’s world. Will we trust God? Will we believe what He says? It’s not a popularity contest. God is not insecure like we are. He will not be moved by our unbelief. We will have to trust Him and adjust to Him. Circumstances requiring patience are a big part of how He works in our lives. Ask and keep asking and pay attention to what you desire. When you struggle with the fact that God is invisible, look at the cross. What do you see there?
Let me close with another parable:
Luke 18: 1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Things will be this way until the Son of Man comes. Those who are asking, seeking and knocking are expressing faith in the coming of the Son of man. Will He find faith on the earth? Will He find you expressing faith? Let’s pray!
Good Sermon, Mark. Thanks for posting it for us.