An Audacious Request

Luke 11:13 (NIV)

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

As you can see, the topic of prayer (communication with God) is being examined … and more specifically … the aspect of “asking” God for real needs in our lives.  I think it very important to examine this verse in the surrounding context because it follows Jesus’ teaching of a “model prayer” … followed by a parable … that leads to a teachable moment … and culminates with the life application of our verse … which should itself prompt us to seek and ask God for His incredible gift … His indwelling Holy Spirit!  Follow along with me:

Luke 11:1-13 (ESV)

The Lord’s Prayer

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins (debts), for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Parable of the Inopportune Friend

And Jesus said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence* (or persistence) he will rise and give him whatever he needs. (*The NIV Translation renders the expression “shameless audacity”.)

Teachable Moment

And so I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What fathers among you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Application

13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Now, given the background and foundation laid here, it is evident to me that the focal point of this passage is Verse 13.  Jesus begins with teaching that prayer is about connecting with God the Father.  Prayer acknowledges God is … His dominion … His power.  We are to show Him reverence – “hallowed be your name”.  “Your Kingdom come,” means God has authority and sovereignty over all HIS creation … including us.  Jesus encourages us through prayer to ask for our physical needs … to request forgiveness … and to avoid the temptation of evil.  But then, Jesus shares a parable to emphasize our need to be “persistent” in prayer.  It is as though we are urged to be bold and tenacious in the expression of our hearts before God.  But why the need for perseverance?  Perhaps our resolve and steadfastness in prayer reflects the sincerity of our hearts … that we have not come before God with just some vague hope laced with doubt or a general wish for something without deep expectancy to receive it.

I find confidence in that Jesus moves into an imperative concerning prayer at this point: “And so I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  If prayer was futile or pointless, why would Jesus instruct us to ask, seek, and knock during prayer AND assure us the Father will favorably respond?  Jesus goes on to compare the responses of human fathers to their children when they “ask” for various physical needs.  He observes, “if sinful human fathers know how to respond to requests based upon their mortal capacities to give, then how much more will our perfect Heavenly Father know how to respond to His children when they ask for even greater needs … something so “audacious” or “outrageous” as to want the Holy Spirit?  Yet, Jesus indicates that the baptism or infilling of the Holy Spirit is exactly what we should be asking to receive!  I dare say, He is indeed our greatest need!

I know that I have quoted this passage quite often, but I believe it shares great insight into this issue:

2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

  1. His divine power (the Holy Spirit) is a gift. (Cf. Acts 1:8; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:45)
  2. His divine power (the Holy Spirit) is promised. See Joel 2:28-29. (Cf. Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:33, 39; Ephesians 1:13)
  3. His divine nature is effectuated in us through the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (Cf. Acts 10:38; Romans 15:13, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 2:4; Ephesians 3:16)

You might note that most of the cited cross-references above point to the power of the Holy Spirit to endue the ability to proclaim the Gospel … the Word of God … with boldness or with tongues (other languages) so that the message of Jesus Christ is spread to anyone and everyone who will hear or listen. I believe the reason this “power” is so prominent it because the Word of God induces genuine faith (Cf. Romans 10:17); and it is faith in Jesus Christ that effectuates the divine power we need for a transformed and Spirit-filled life as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) Indeed, His divine power is essential for the Kingdom of God to be realized in our lives; and I believe that is our greatest need to be sought through prayer. As Jesus shared, we should ask the Father for the Holy Spirit (His divine power) with “shameless audacity” and “persistence”!  And although I think such brash language was used in His parable to urge us to be fearless and courageous as we approach the Father, I cannot help but believe we should always be humble and reverent before Him … even when feeling zealous for His precious promise.  And this is His promise: Our Heavenly Father, who is perfect in all His ways, WILL give His Spirit to those who ask Him.

One final thought:

James 1:5-8 (NIV)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

So when you ask God for anything … believe God! By His own glory and excellence, God has promised to grant us His Spirit, and He has promised to grant us eternal life through His Son, Christ Jesus. And so my prayer is that you and I will believe His great and precious promises in these latter days and ask for them with expectant boldness! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

God – I Don’t Understand

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This verse is referenced and quoted quite often … and with good reason.  Isaiah helps us have a healthy and appropriate perspective about God.  In short, He is God and we are not.  He created us … and not the other way around.  He is the potter and we are the clay … as Isaiah used this metaphor to bring this truth to light:

Isaiah 29:15-16 (ESV)

15 Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of Him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Isaiah 64:7-9 (NIV)

7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins. Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.

So with this perspective in mind, we usually come to the realization that God is ultimately beyond our comprehension.  He is the mystery that each human soul wrestles to attain.  As King Solomon wrote: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) So we do not know all the hidden things of God … the mysteries of His wisdom and counsel … nor should we be able to comprehend all His knowledge. It is too great for human minds. As Moses wrote: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29) So God determines what He will reveal to us, but note that the glimpse He gives us “belongs to us and to our children forever.”  That is profound for us to contemplate. And consider that God HAS revealed many things to us … mysteries as Paul described them … and He appoints the times and circumstances of His revelations.  But all of this is for one purpose: “that we may be obedient to His Word … His laws and decrees.”  God has revealed “enough” of Himself to us in order for us to know Him, to fear Him,  and to keep His commandments. Consider this example:

Ephesians 3:1-14 (ESV)

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.  Of this Gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of His power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

What we find here is that the mystery of Christ – though written in the Old Testament Scriptures – had not been revealed (unveiled) until Jesus actually appeared on the earth to fulfill all that had been written and prophesied about Him.  Even then, Jesus came to His own (the people of Israel), and yet, they rejected Him.  As the Apostle John wrote: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own people, and His own people did not receive Him.But as many as did received Him, to them He gave the right (authority) to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:10-12) To me, this is an illustration of how people can fail to connect with the thoughts and ways of God. The Messiah did not come as the Jewish authorities had expected nor did they entertain what God had declared through the Prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13) Yes, that means God had always purposed from the foundation of the world for everyone who believes in Him (Jews and Gentiles alike) to receive salvation and eternal life.

God declared, “My thoughts are not your thoughts and neither are your ways my ways.” And yet, I see through the Scriptures that God HAS intentionally revealed Himself through His Word and through His Son. What the religious leaders could not comprehend … or perhaps refused to entertain because their own thoughts and their own ways were seen as superior … was not the absence of revelation or light that God had made available to them. It could have been the hardness of their hearts. As Paul wrote:

2 Corinthians 3:14-16 (NIV)

14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

So my point is that when we come to the place that we just do not understand what God is doing or how He is doing it or why He is doing it, we need to just trust what we do know … what He has already revealed to us.  When we do not understand the affliction of a chronic disease in our bodies … we do know that God loves us with an everlasting love.  I know that seems incompatible – suffering and love – but God has revealed both human experiences in His Son.  We know that suffering has a role in teaching us obedience (Cf. Hebrews 5:8) … which God in His love for us orchestrates for our good.  O, His thoughts and His ways are higher!  God knows the ultimate end … the ultimate goal … and He is determined to get us there for His own glory.  As Paul wrote, and I often quote, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I am convinced that God provides us what we need … when we need it … to uphold us and sustain us even when we do not understand what He is doing in the moment. As King David affirmed: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (Psalm 84:11-12) Yes, God knows how to provide us with the knowledge and wisdom that we need for life. For we have been advised: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)  And God knows how to bless us with every spiritual blessing. (Cf. Ephesians 1:3) Yes, He knows what is best for each of us and He does not withhold it.  Even spiritual discipline through physical distress can refine our faith in ways we could not imagine for our good. I think that is why Jesus taught us to ask, seek, and knock when approaching Father God in prayer:

Luke 11:1-13 (ESV)

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread,  4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” And He said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Oh, I think there is a lesson here.  When we do not understand the thoughts and ways of God, we need to ask for wisdom and discernment and it shall be given.  We need to seek what has been revealed to us and we shall find it.  We need to knock on the door of mystery and it will be opened to us.  But as Jesus points out in His parable above, we need to be persistent in our prayers! We have been created by a God who deeply cares for us and loves us with an everlasting love!  As Paul wrote: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32) What does ALL things mean?  Does it not include wisdom, discernment, grace, knowledge, prophecies, healings, miracles, forgiveness, and so forth?  Does it not mean the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit?  Are these not meant for our good?

So what can we conclude? Well, there is a vast depth of knowledge of God that will always be far too great for us. It will most likely always be incomprehensible unless God ever decides to reveal the depths of those mysteries and hidden knowledge.  The thoughts and ways of God manifested in creation through His eternal power are just higher!  I encourage you to read Job Chapters 38-42, and you will receive a great “education” on why God is God and why human beings are not. It brings appropriate rationale to our limited, finite minds and provides the context for why it is reasonable for us to embrace and worship such a Being as God.

But on the other hand, there is the work of God within our individual hearts and lives that draws us to Him … that brings us to faith … that tests our faith … that brings us into an abiding relationship with Him.  I believe the work of God within us can be known and understood.  I believe God is willing to reveal those aspects of His thoughts and ways to us if we are diligent to ask, seek, and knock.  I believe such inner revelation would be consistent with His love for us.  Yet we need to be willing to accept that even His silence in response to a question might actually be for own good. We need to embrace that His decision to withhold disclosure of His thoughts or ways is better than our perceived need to know them.  That situation could be a “test” God uses to build our faith and trust in Him….

Well those are some reflections on this verse today.  I hope it has been useful and somehow draws you closer to God in your prayer time when you are looking for answers to things about God you do not understand.   When you are frustrated with God and prayers appear to go unanswered; rather than looking for answers that do not come to you … go back and look at all the truth that God has already revealed to you through His Word and His Son.  Take hold of His promises to never leave you nor forsake you. Let your heart embrace His love and grace and peace that you know He has for you.  It could be that those might just be the answers you were looking for all along….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 01/22/19

Matthew 7:7-8

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

This passage is probably quite familiar to you.  Jesus is speaking; or rather, teaching His “Sermon on the Mount” and imparting various spiritual lessons to those gathered and following Him.  The “Sermon on the Mount” actually begins in Matthew Chapter 5 and concludes in Chapter 7.  If you have the opportunity this week, I would encourage to take some time to read it again.  As usual, I want to reprint the passage in its surrounding context:

Matthew 7:7-11 (NIV)
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!

The passage is focused on our prayer time and quiet time before God.  The key principle is that we “ask” God for our needs, and that He is a loving and faithful Father and will give “good gifts to those who ask Him.”  Even the order of the action words in Verse 7 form an acronym of the word “ASK” as shown:

            A         Ask

            S          Seek

            K         Knock

I think Jesus is encouraging us to take “action” when in prayer. In prayer we are asking God for His help; seeking wisdom for our questions and concerns; and knocking on the doors of possibilities for answers to be provided.  But part of the deal is that we must believe God will answer prayer and do so in a manner that is “good” for us.  That might not always be what we think God should do or how He should answer our prayers…. The Apostles, as other inspired writers of Scripture, urge us to ask and seek God in prayer for our needs.  Note some of the insight surrounding prayer that James affords to us:

James 1:5-7 (NIV)
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

James 4:1-3 (NIV)
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Paul was not afraid to seek God and to ask Him for “good things”. Here are some examples of powerful prayers that serve as models for us:

 Ephesians 1:16-19 (NIV)
16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, 19 and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

Ephesians 3:15-21 (NIV)
16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Colossians 1:9-12 (NIV)
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light.

And, of course, John encourages us to trust in the character of the Father and the Son to answer our prayers:

1 John 3:21-23 (NIV)
21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. 23 And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He (Jesus) commanded us.

1 John 5:13-15 (NIV)
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.

What are some of your take-aways from these passages?  Mine are that we should ask in faith; ask according to His revealed will; and have confidence before God that we will receive IF we keep His commands and do what pleases Him.  God is generous and good as we know, but what we ask and how we ask and the intimacy of our personal relationship with God appear to affect answers and outcomes to our prayers.  I believe we need to examine ourselves in these areas more if we have come to the conclusion that “God does not hear me”.  Perhaps, the problem is not God at all….

For some final comments, I wanted to connect this Verse of the Day with our pursuit of holiness and living a consecrated life before God.  More specifically, our lesson on temptation from 1 Corinthians 10:13 comes to mind: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” My thought is this: Do we boldly ASK God for help when we are enticed by our hearts to indulge in sinful behavior or conduct?  Do we diligently SEEK His power to resist and flee? Do we KNOCK on the door of “escape” He promised in His Word to afford us?  The Apostle James wrote about this conflict within us:

James 1:12-15 (NIV)
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

To interrupt this process of temptation => sin => death, we need to ASK God for His power.  As Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)   We need to SEEK the way out of temptation.  As James concluded: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7) And we need to KNOCK on the door of heaven for a place refuge.  As Jesus declared: “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:7-10)

So now you know … that Jesus instructed us to simply ASK.  If we will keep His commands; do what pleases Him; and ask according to His will – He will hear us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.  Let’s start asking for the conviction to consecrate our lives to God.  Let’s start praying for holiness to be the fervent and persistent passion of our hearts.  Let’s start resisting the devil who lies and deceives and urges us to act on the temptations we have in our hearts.  Let’s start submitting ourselves God wholly and completely … knowing that our gracious Father knows how to give good gifts (the anointing of the Holy Spirit) to those who ask Him.  Amen!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!