Asking And Receiving

Throughout the ages there has been much discussion, argument, disagreement, and misunderstanding about the words of Jesus, “ask and you will receive.” I have known many Christians who have become disappointed; even disillusioned with God, because they asked and they did not receive. Some have turned away from God because of it. Others remain quietly despondent but press on with God nonetheless.

Some requests brought to God could be described as selfish, like asking for a boat or a bigger house when neither is needed. There are those who believe to ask for material possessions is a wrong motive. It rather makes me chuckle to note, that often, folks of this persuasion have plenty of unnecessary “things” in their own lives. The counter argument for this is that God cares about our needs but also He loves to give unexpected gifts to simply bless us with extra happiness like good father’s do.

Some requests are brought to God out of a broken heart. We ask that either ourselves or a dear loved one be healed of some terrible disease. We beg God to restore a broken relationship. Single people plead for a spouse, while married people complain to God that the spouse they have isn’t what they had hoped he or she would be. Asking and receiving from God often abounds in disappointment.

Of course, we probably all understand that many times God says, “no” because He understands that what we ask for is not good for us. On this matter I often recall an incident of many years ago. My cousin was visiting us as Christmas approached. She had her little girl with her. At one point during the visit I could see the toddler speaking to her mother. I didn’t hear what the little girl said but the mother’s response makes me laugh out loud to this day. She said with a look of sternness and dismay, “I told you, you are not getting a chainsaw for Christmas!” The little girl was about three years old at the time. What a hoot! I’m sure you and I are hoots, too, at times in what we ask God to give us.

The question of, why do I ask but I don’t receive, has been dealt with in volumes of books and in endless discussions. Therefore, I will not attempt to write a tome of thought on the matter; nor will I conjure up every argument I can remember. I will just share one verse that is often quoted during discussions. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 What a lovely, encouraging verse.

The thing that often comes to my own mind when I consider this verse, in relation to our requests to God to give us what we want is this: There is much meditation on the last part of the verse that tells us that God will give us our heart’s desires. I find not so much meditation on the part that says we are to delight in Him. An interesting note to pay attention to because it is the first instruction. Delighting in God comes before asking Him for anything. Do you think that part is often forgotten?

What does it mean, anyway, to delight oneself in the Lord? I looked it up in the dictionary. To delight means to, “please someone greatly.” Well, that puts a whole new look upon the matter, doesn’t it. Why should I expect God to grant me my heart’s desire if I ignore Him, never think about Him, except in times of trouble, or spend countless hours blaming Him for everything from personal dilemma to the world’s chaos.

What if we spent more time just in getting to know Him? What if we took time everyday to read His love letter to us in the Bible and then meditated upon His words? What if we talked to him, not only when bad things were happening and we needed His help, but just to say thank you for a lovely day: the sunrise, the sounds of birds singing, a friend’s laughter, the enjoyment of a neighbor’s visit. What if we took time to ask God to help us to understand His ways and then to give us the strength to walk in those ways ourselves?

If we took time to truly delight ourselves in Him, I wonder what desires of our hearts we would receive?

 

Which Road To Travel?

Remember what it’s like to have an idea, a thought, a desire to do a particular something?  A part of you feels excited.  Another part is scared.  You don’t really know if it’s the best route to take.  In your heart you know you only want God’s best.  You want to follow His will for your life.  The only problem — you can’t figure out if you should attempt to climb the summit of Mount Unknown or not.  You might be successful or you might very well come crashing down in full view of everyone watching.  What in the world should you do?

Uncertainty is such a part of life’s journey.  We may wonder why God doesn’t just drop a sign from heaven to instruct us clearly in the way ahead.  Why does making decisions have to be so difficult?  I’ve had those same thoughts myself along my own journey through life.

First of all, there is actually beauty in not knowing because the right road could still have some dangerous pot holes ahead.  If we knew the right way and all it held, we might just slink away in fear anyway.  Not knowing but trusting anyway builds our faith and our stamina in God.  Even so, how can we know upon which road we should proceed?

God’s Word tells us in Proverbs 11:14 that there is safety in having many advisors.  In other words, when unsure of a way to go, consult with those whom you see as walking closely with God.  Look for advice from others, just be careful that the advisors you choose are those whose own desire is to seek God in all they do.  I have often, over the years, sought counsel and advice from those more experienced than me who walk an obvious path of keeping God first in their lives.  They have been a huge blessing to me along my own life’s paths.

Last, but by no means least; in fact, the best comfort of all, is Jesus Himself.  We read in Romans 8:34 that Jesus “is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.”  How about that!  He is “pleading for us.”  When we don’t know the way to go, Jesus is coming to Father on our behalf, asking His Father to show us the way.  When we are troubled, Jesus is coming to Father on our behalf, asking His Father to send His own comfort and peace into our troubled hearts.  He literally, because we are His own, holds us as His own, before His Father in heaven; who by the way, is our Father in heaven, too. Father loves us so much that He gave His Son’s blood to purchase our freedom.

So, are you wondering today which way to go?  Seek God’s people to stand with you, and take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus is bringing your needs to His Father.  With godly advice and the truth of Jesus leading you — walk on.  He will close the doors you should not enter and open wide the ones in which to proceed.

Every road taken with God is not always a safe one, but it’s always the best one, and it’s the one that brings ultimate joy when the journey is complete.  Never fear the unknown for when we get to our tomorrows, we discover that Jesus has been there all along, planning our route.

Recognizing The Voice Of God

Every now and again someone will ask me, “How can I know when God is speaking to me?  How can I know that something I’m thinking is God’s will and not just my own idea?”   These are questions that come to every Christian.  We all want to hear God speak into our lives.  We want to be certain of His guidance. We don’t want to make a mistake in discerning what we are hearing.

When answering this question, I think of two verses of Scripture.  The first verse is found in I John 2:27, “But you have received the Holy Spirit, and He lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true.  For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know…”  Now, this verse doesn’t mean that we have no need to study God’s Word; it means that as we study and seek God, the Holy Spirit will speak His truth into our hearts.  He will be the best teacher, showing us what is correct.  He will give us an assurance that what we are hearing is of God and not of ourselves.

We know we need to study because of the second verse I want to share —  II Timothy 2:15, “Study to show yourselves approved before God; a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.”  It is clear that it is of utmost importance that we read God’s Word and meditate upon it.  As a valid part of our study, it is extremely helpful to examine the culture and Bible customs of the time.  This will help us to keep God’s Word in proper context.  Then we will learn how to adequately apply God’s truth to our lives.  In other words, as we study God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, as our teacher, will speak the truth of those words and guide us into its life application.

The things we study are used by God’s Spirit to lead us.  Often when I have prayed, seeking guidance in some particular matter, a verse of Scripture has come to my mind.  As I meditated upon the verse, the path of God’s choosing became clear to me.  If I had never studied, then God’s Word would not have been in my heart for the Holy Spirit to bring to my remembrance.

It stands to reason that, the more familiar we are with the Holy Words of God, the more familiar we become with His voice.  We learn to recognize when God is speaking, or when it’s someone else, or when it’s our own desires getting in the way.  It is only by studying God’s Word that the Holy Spirit is best able to teach us, mold us, and sharpen our spiritual ears to discern the voice of God.

Practicing to recognize His voice is an exciting endeavor, and developing the ability to perceive His truth is a journey that keeps us on a path of continued peace, joy, and amazing adventure in walking with Him!