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Friday, July 31, 2015

Another take on "ask", "seek", & "knock"

I have two grandsons, two children, one elderly mother, and a bunch of people at work who know the meaning of "continually" asking.  They know what it means to be tenacious - persistence likely "paying off" at some point.  At times, you kind of feel like people just keep asking for more and more, then at some point you almost want to say, "Hey! Don't you ever stop asking for more?" If you look at what scripture describes as a "tenacious spirit", you will find God actually doesn't discourage this type of persistence in asking, seeking, or even spending time with him.  In fact, there is a reward for persistence!  

Continue to ask, and God will give to you. Continue to search, and you will find. Continue to knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, whoever continues to ask will receive. Whoever continues to look will find. And whoever continues to knock will have the door opened for them.  (Matthew 7:7-8 ERV)

If we look carefully at our passage, you will see there is a two-fold instruction to us: 1) Continue to do what you have been doing; and 2) Be ready to receive. It is one thing to ask for something - another thing to actually be ready to receive it.  There have been times in my life I have asked for way more than I was ready to receive - like when I challenged someone to "bring it on" in some manner or another.  When whatever "it" was, and "it" came at me full-force, I wasn't ready!  In fact, because I wasn't ready, I ended up missing what came my way, dropping it, or just plain fumbling whatever "it" was!  

There are a couple of meanings to this word "continue" which I think might just help us with understanding what Jesus was instructing his disciples to maintain as a practice in their daily lives.  First, if you have any type of interruption in what you are doing, you need to "pick up" and "start again".  This is one of the first definitions you will find of this word "continue".  This implies we started something, got interrupted from it (or distracted), and now we find ourselves in a position of "starting again" or "getting back into the swing" of whatever it was we had been doing.  

We all deal with interruptions in the "cycle" of stuff we engage in each and everyday.  They range from subtle, quite momentary interruptions, to those big ones which just way-lay you totally.  I think Jesus might just have been reminding us of the importance of US managing the distractions instead of them managing us!  These distractions, no matter how small, can deter us from the steady course Jesus wants to set for us in our lives.  They can influence us quicker than we might realize, so he sets out this idea of taking control of them before they take control of you - so they don't interfere with our asking, searching, or continued progress toward deep, intimate relationship with him.

We sometimes don't "continue" in what we are doing because it becomes "hard" for us.  This is where Jesus is reminding us of the reward of tenacity - the "pay-off", so to speak, of just being consistent in our daily walk.  At first, our prayers might seem to go unanswered - that doesn't mean we should stop praying. In time, we might just find our prayers get "clarified" a little as the "delay" actually brings about insight into "how" we were seeking the answer, or "what" answer we were willing to "accept" as the "right" answer from God.  

Just as importantly, Jesus reminds us of our openness to receive whatever it is we might be finding comes our way.  When a door opens to us, do we always know what is behind that door?  No, but if we are "at the ready" because we have positioned ourselves to receive whatever might be behind that door, we are more likely to be able to "handle" whatever it might be.  He says God doesn't give his kids a snake when they ask for a fish - but there have been times when doors might have opened in our lives where it seems kind of like a den of snakes!  Is that because God was "mad at us" or "teed-off" with us? I don't think every door which opens is because God opens the door!  Some of us are knocking on the wrong door.  It looks like the right one - but we are simply at the "wrong address" when it comes to what God ultimately desires for our lives.

This is a hard one, because God's ultimate desire for our lives may differ from what he allows in our lives.  WE spend a lot of time asking, seeking, and knocking at doors which are not his ultimate desire for us, but he allows them in our lives because he will not violate our will to choose which doors we knock on! If we are to be at the "right address" all of the time, it becomes most important that we stay as close to Jesus as possible in order to be sure we don't get distracted at those "other doors".  Just sayin!