************ Sermon on Matthew 7:7-11 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 11, 2001
"Ask, Seek, Knock"
Topic: PrayerHow about you? Have you been too busy, too hard at work to sharpen your ax? Jesus tells us this evening that prayer is the hone that gives you that sharp edge. Without it, the more work you do, the duller you'll get. With it, you are drawn closer and closer to the Lord.
Some years ago a young man approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job. "That depends," replied the foreman. "Let's see you fell this tree." The young man stepped forward and skillfully felled a great tree. Impressed, the foreman exclaimed, "Start Monday!"
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rolled by, and Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, "You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today."
Startled, he replied, "I thought you paid on Friday." "Normally we do," answered the foreman, "but we're letting you go today because you've fallen behind. Our daily felling charts show that you've dropped from first place on Monday to last on Wednesday."
"But I'm a hard worker," the young man objected. "I arrive first, leave last, and even have worked through my coffee breaks!"
The foreman, sensing the boy's integrity thought for a minute and then asked, "Have you been sharpening your ax?"
The young man replied, "I've been working too hard to take the time."
I God Always Answers
A Let's make sure we properly and fully understand what Jesus is saying to us this evening.
(Mat 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. (8) For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.In these words Jesus is not stating that God will grant us every desire and request which we make known to Him. That is how some people like to understand Christ's words.
I don't know if you have seen the signs and the advertisements for "The Prayer of Jabez." This a book written by David Wilkerson on two obscure verses of the Old Testament:
(1 Chr 4:10) Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request.Based upon the "Prayer of Jabez" and the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, pastors are preaching and people are saying that if we want a life of blessing and health and strength and prosperity, then all we have to do is pray about it.
Many of those today talking about the "Prayer of Jabez" or Jesus' words to us this evening are guilty of binding God. They treat God like a genie in a bottle. Prayer releases the genie so that God gives us what we want.
B If we read Jesus' words carefully and accurately we find that He did not say that God will grant us all our wishes. God is not bound by our prayers. Nobody can "make Him" do or give anything. Look at the Apostle Paul: he asked God to be cured of a thorn in his flesh and God refused (2 Cor 12:7-9). What Jesus said is that everyone who asks will receive. But He does not say what they will receive.
This becomes obvious when we look at a literal translation of Jesus' words. The translation, "Ask and it will be given to you," is not quite correct. A better translation is, "Ask and to you will be given." God will answer our prayers, but what the precise answer will be is not indicated.
The same thing is true for the person who is seeking. Maybe she will not find what she is looking for, but she will find only what God's love has provided for her.
And, he who knocks will find an open door, but it will be an open door to God's care and God's love and not necessarily an open door to a house of treasures and wealth and health.
C "Thank God," I say. "Thank God that He does not always give us what we want and ask for." Different times in my life I have asked and hoped for certain things which I believed I needed and were the best for me. But now as I look back I am thankful that God did not grant me certain things and that He shut certain doors in my face. He knew better and knows better than I what is good for me.
D We see, then, that God always listens to our prayers. He always acts on our requests. And, He gives us exactly what His wisdom and love says we need. He gives us what He knows is best for us. God is never a deaf Father to and for His children. A petition sent up to Him never reaches Him at an inconvenient hour. It is not like a piece of e-mail which may sit unopened and unread in someone's Inbox. God may not grant us our wishes but He always hears and answers the one who is praying. That is the comfort of what Jesus is saying to us this evening.
II Ask, Seek, Knock
A We need to ask why Christ says the words in front of us this evening.
(Mat 7:7) "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.Running through Matthew 7 is the theme of judgment. We are reminded that in this life we are always living under the judgment of God. Whether we like it or not, the eye of God is upon us, watching us and measuring us and evaluating us.
Do you know what He sees? He sees that we are evil (vs 11); not only do we do things that are evil, but we are evil; our nature is corrupt and evil. He sees that our faith is weak and shallow. He sees that we make only a beginning at living up to what He says to us in the Sermon on the Mount. He sees that we imperfectly pattern ourselves after the Lord Jesus Christ. He sees that too often we hide our light under a bushel. He sees that we need help and grace in living the Christian life.
B Where do we get the help that we so desperately need? Here is the answer:
(Mat 7:7) "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.To live according to the high standards that Jesus lays out for us in the Sermon on the Mount we need to pray for help and guidance. Otherwise we will fall and fail.
Jesus uses three words in a row: ask, seek, knock. We notice that Jesus is building up to a climax in these three words. Seeking is stronger than asking and, of the three, knocking is the most powerful way of approaching the Lord.
When we ask for something in our prayers, we express a desire.
If we are sincere and heartfelt about our payers then we also seek what we have asked for. We may never forget the firm rule: pray and work. We cannot ask for strength in order to obey the will of God without earnestly struggling to do so. Praying and seeking what you have asked for go together. Otherwise our prayers have no value.
Topic: PrayerDo you see her approach? She asked and now was seeking.
A pious but cranky old woman had missed the announcements in church one Sunday that the church picnic was to be held that week.
On the morning of the event someone suddenly realized the oversight, and called her on the telephone and said, "I'm dreadfully sorry that we forgot to remind you about the picnic."
"Well, it won't do any good NOW!" snapped the old woman. "I've already prayed for RAIN!"
But even that is not enough. As sinners in a sin-filled earth we are bound to experience failure in many ways. We will be disappointed and have the feeling that we stand before a closed door. Then we need to start knocking. By knocking we show persistence in our prayers. We are to be persistent like the widow in Jesus' parable who day after day asked the judge for justice (Lk 18). One of the fatal things in the Christian life is to be content with passing desires. If we really want to be children and women and men of God, if we really want to know Him and walk with Him and live with Him, then we must persist in asking and seeking day by day.
Ask, seek, knock. Ask for what you need. Seek the answer. And keep knocking on the gates of heaven until you get the answer. That is what Jesus is saying to us this evening.
III How Much More
A Jesus is also teaching us this evening that God is more than able to give us what we need. Think of a balance beam. On the one side are all of our needs, our sins, our failures, our weaknesses, our limping faith. On the other side is God and the riches of His grace in Christ. No matter how big our need, the grace of God is always bigger. No matter how deep our sin, the grace of God is always deeper. No matter how heavy our burdens, the grace of God is always heavier. So ask, seek, and knock knowing that our asking can never exceed God's giving.
B That's the whole point is of what Jesus says to us in verses 9-11 where He compares earthly fathers to our heavenly Father.
(Mat 7:9-11) "Which of you, if his 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!
It goes without saying that followers of Jesus are expected to be good fathers and mothers. In spite of the fact that parents are sinners and inclined to evil Jesus expects them to provide for the needs of their children.
A good father, for instance, does not deceive his children by giving them stones for bread. And he does not expose them to danger by giving them a poisonous snake instead of a fish.
Jesus moves from our earthly parents to our Father in heaven with the expression, "how much more" – "how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?" Our Lord here uses the familiar form of arguing from the lesser to the greater. If an earthly father does so much, how much more does our heavenly Father.
You know as well as I do that there are fathers who neglect their children and even abuse them. And, there are mothers who abandon their children. Using the words of Jesus, these are the kind of parents who give stones instead of bread and serpents instead of fish. But these are not the sort of parents that Jesus compares to God. What He is saying is, in so far as earthly parents care for their children, how much more does the Father in heaven care for His children.
C In response to our asking, seeking, and knocking we should consider what God gives us as our Father in heaven.
Because God is our Father in heaven He will never give us anything that is evil. He never gives stones instead of bread and serpents instead of fish. Sometimes we are tempted to think God is against us when something bad or unpleasant happens to us. But God is our Father – the model for all earthly fathers and mothers to follow; and, as our Father, He will never give us what is evil. Never; it is quite impossible for Him to do this.
As my Father, God is interested in me, He is concerned about me, He is watching over me, He has a plan and purpose for my life, He desires to always bless me and help me.
As my Father in heaven, it is God's purpose to give me good things. What are these good things? Those who use "The Prayer of Jabez" say the good things are health, wealth, happiness, a large home, a booming business, a new car, etc. But we all know that God is not a genie in a bottle Who magically gives us what we want.
What are the good things that the Father in heaven gives to His children? We find the answer in Luke's version of the teaching in front of us this evening:
(Luke 11:11-13) "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? (12) Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? (13) 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!"Did you hear what the good gift is? It is the Holy Spirit. You see, in giving us the Spirit God gives us everything. In giving us the Spirit He gives us everything we need to be children and women and men of God. In giving us the Spirit He gives us everything we need to know Him and walk with Him and live with Him. In giving us the Spirit He gives us everything we need to make our faith strong and deep. In giving us the Spirit He gives us everything we need to live up to what He says to us in the Sermon on the Mount. In giving us the Spirit He gives us everything we need to pattern ourselves after the Lord Jesus Christ. In giving us the Spirit He gives us everything we need to let our light shine. In giving us the Spirit He gives us everything we need to live the Christian life.
D This shows us what our asking, seeking, and knocking should be all about. What it comes down to is this. Ask, seek, knock for any of those things that are for the good of your soul, that makes you more perfect, that enlarges your life, that brings you closer to Jesus. Ask for these things, seek these things, knock on the door of heaven about these things and God will give them to you. That is God's promise. Ask, seek, knock for the fullness of the Spirit; ask, seek, knock for a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control and God will give this to you. Ask, seek, knock for God to make your light shine and He will give this to you. Ask, seek, knock that you better know God and Christ and He will make this happen. Ask, seek, knock to seek first the kingdom and its righteousness and God will make this happen. That's the promise of your Father in heaven.
(Mat 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. (8) For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
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