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Does prayer really make that big of a difference in life? We all know it’s important and that we should do it, but aren’t things going to happen either way? As we continue our series, “Summer on the Mount,” David Marvin walks us through Matthew 7:7-11, showing us how Jesus calls us to pray continually and trust constantly.
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Does prayer really make that big of a difference in life? We all know it’s important and that we should do it, but aren’t things going to happen either way? As we continue our series, “Summer on the Mount,” David Marvin walks us through Matthew 7:7-11, showing us how Jesus calls us to pray continually and trust constantly.
Welcome, friends. My name is David. I serve here on staff with the young adult ministry called The Porch. We are continuing this series Summer on the Mount looking at the Sermon on the Mount, one of the greatest sermons and works of all time, the first inaugural sermon of Jesus. Let me read the passage we'll be in tonight. We'll dive right in. Matthew, chapter 7, starting in verse 7. Jesus continues the conversation around prayer that he kicked off a couple of weeks ago as it relates to us, one chapter ago in the conversation for them.
"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? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 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!"
Let me pray one more time, and then we'll dive in.
Father, would you speak to us? Thank you that you are a perfect heavenly Father who has invited us to come boldly to you. Would you speak to us now through your Word? Amen.
Anyone in the dental field in here? No. We have no dentists. This is like three services in a row. Nobody? Really? Dental hygienist, dentist? There we go. We have one dentist here. If you want to get a card after… I have a dental appointment this week. It's coming up. What's going to happen there… It's going to happen exactly like it always happens.
I'll go in and sit down. They do the x-rays. They do the annual checkup. They check the teeth, take out the metal utensils, look at different things, and then they'll ask me a question, and I will have the same answer I almost always have to that question. That is, "How often are you flossing?" and I will say, "Like, in the past three days because I knew I was coming here or in the past year?" I'll go, "None. It's been since the last time I was in here. I haven't flossed."
Then they'll give me the spiel on, "Flossing is a really big deal. It's really important. It's a very valuable factor. It has all kinds of implications. You can have a heart attack if you don't floss." Just huge, enormous consequences they'll go through. Regardless of what happens, I pretty much leave, and the same thing happens again for the next year. That's because I'm like, "I've been running this offense for 30-some years. I feel like everything is okay." I just don't floss.
Honestly, I've never met a dentist or a hygienist who follows their own instructions. I always ask them, "Do you floss every day?" To a person, all of them have gone, "No, no. I don't floss every day." I know there's like 1 percent in this room right now… You're the person who flosses every day. That's you. You're the person whose car registration never goes out, and you always make sure it doesn't expire. For the rest of us, though, it's not something that is always regularly a part of our lives.
I think, for me, the reason is it's hard to see the value. It can be kind of uncomfortable and inconvenient, because every time I do it's like a bloodbath in there because I haven't done it in so long. I've been getting by without it and haven't needed it that much, and I don't even know that it would really make that big of a difference. Things end up generally being pretty much the same every time I go in there. They check it out, and it's great, and, "I'll see you next year."
The reason I start there is because today we're talking about the topic of prayer, and I think for a lot of us and for me, in particular, in different seasons in life, the way I think about prayer is the way flossing is a part of my dental hygiene. What I mean by that is the problem is not that I don't care about my teeth and all that stuff. I care a lot about them. I brush twice a day. I had Invisalign work done later because I was chipping teeth, and I had to wear the retainer. I care about my teeth. I just don't see the value in it to floss.
I think a lot of us come into the room, and prayer is, in some ways, the flossing of our spiritual lives. It's not that I don't care about my spiritual health and spiritual life. I read the Bible every day. I'm in a Community Group. I try to share my faith, being authentic with people in my life. Those are all important things, but when it comes to prayer, that's probably the area I know I should do more and I need to do better at, but I just don't always see the value in it and it just doesn't mark my life in the same way those other things do.
Maybe when you go to pray you find all of the different to-do lists of the day. You're like, "I'm going to wake up tomorrow, and 15 minutes I'm going to spend in prayer," and then as soon as you start, everything you need to do floods your mind immediately, and you're like, "This isn't even working. I'm not sure what I should be praying. I feel guilty about the fact that I even have a tough time praying for 15 minutes, because then I come to church and they read quotes from Martin Luther where it's like, 'I had so much to do I prayed for four hours today.'"
You're like, "I shouldn't even try this. I can't even make it 15 minutes, let alone four hours. Does it really make a difference? If I prayed today, would it really have changed things? Isn't God going to do what he's going to do anyway?" You may wrestle in the same way flossing… Wrestling with, "Man, is prayer really that big of a deal?"
Today we're going to look at Jesus' invitation about what it looks like to pray and what God calls us to pray for and how you and I can experience a life that includes everything God wants, which includes prayer. What is prayer? Prayer is just talking to your heavenly Father. Just like flossing, like the tragedy… You can get away with it for 30-something years of not flossing, but I was joking with Todd last night.
"Hey, dude. You can say that in your 30s, but there's going to come a day… Let's talk to you when you're 80 and toothless and you do have those heart problems come up, because it does come back to get you." In the same way, someone not pursuing the life Christ wants, a life that is marked with prayer, doesn't bring about all the fullness of what God wants you to experience in your relationship with him.
So, for the next 25 minutes, we're going to look at two ideas from the passage we just read that Jesus calls us to when it comes to prayer that should mark our prayer life: pray continually and trust constantly. As the people of God, if you're a Christian, Jesus says when it comes to your prayer life, talking to your heavenly Father, which is the context of this whole thing (you're to call God your heavenly Father, bring your requests), you are to pray continually and trust constantly.
So, we'll dive in and look at the first idea that comes in the first two verses we read of praying continually. Why do I say Jesus is calling us to pray continually? Look at the first two verses. He says the same thing three different ways, essentially, and he repeats it twice, as if it wasn't clear enough. "Ask and you'll receive, seek and you'll find, knock and the door will be opened, because every time you ask you'll receive, and every time you seek you'll find, and every time you knock the door will be opened to you."
He repeats it. He's hammering home, "I want you to be persistent in going to God. Be people who are marked by prayer." All throughout the Gospels, there are multiple occasions where Jesus said, "Let me tell you a story, and it's a story to encourage you to never stop going to God and talking to God. Pray to God. Pray to God. Pray to God." He's telling you, as a Christian, God wants to have a relationship where you're in constant communication, where you go to God, where you talk to him.
In Luke, chapter 18, there's a parable Jesus tells, and he starts the chapter and, really, the parable by saying this: "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." What's interesting is even the words ask, seek, knock… A lot of people get hung up on whether those are three different things. He's just saying, "Go to God. Go to God." Even the word seek is translated ask in John 16. He's just saying, "Go to God. Bring your requests to God."
Look at this. Do you know what ask, seek, and knock spell out if you make an acronym of the first letters? ASK. Bring your requests to God. If you get nothing else, that is free. Everyone got their money's worth by just taking that. Now when you look at this passage you'll be like, "Oh, he's saying to ask." God wants you to bring your requests to him, and a particular type of request. We can talk about it in a second.
God wants a relationship where you feel the freedom as a child. "I can bring my requests, and I can talk to my heavenly Father, knowing that the door is always open." Matthew 7:7-11 is these verses. It has been pointed out by a lot of different people along the years that 7-Eleven is a gas station that is always open. This is a passage that tells you God's door is always open. Matthew 7:11. (Hey, that's back-to-back, people. That's two things. You got your money's worth.)
That is huge, because it tells us that the heart of God is like, "Hey, I want you to come and knock on my door, and the door is always open. Come and knock on my door. I want you to come and knock on my door, and you're going to find that the door is always open. I'm always wanting to have a relationship with you. In fact, I'm knocking on your door to have a relationship." He operates very differently than most of us operate even in our own lives when somebody knocks on our door.
I think some of us think that's what God is like. What do I mean by that? When somebody knocks on our door today, we pretty much all do the same thing, for most of us, versus like 20 years ago when somebody knocked on your door and you didn't know they were coming over. We're hanging out as a family. We're watching something on TV. We're hanging out, eating food, and all of a sudden there's a knock on the door.
Everyone is like, "Oh, somebody is at the door. Let's go see who's at the door. Oh, hey! It's Bill and Beverly. Come on in, Bill and Beverly. We're just hanging out watching TV. Want some soup? We're going to sit down and have a little brunch together. Join us. We're going to sit down and have a little Sara Lee cake. We'll lose track of time." Before pagers and cell phones and any of that stuff, and we just spend the whole day together.
Then at the end of the time… You'd lose track of time. They'd walk out and be like, "Man, we have to do this again." You'd be like, "Bill, the door is always open. You guys come over." Versus today… Today when somebody knocks at the door, the same thing happens every time. It's like you're hanging out, watching TV. Knock! Knock! "Did you invite someone over? Did anyone invite anybody over?"
Then somebody from the back comes. They're doing laundry. They don't even know what's happening. They're like, "Hey, where's the detergent?" and you're like, "Shh! Oh no. All right. Great. They know somebody is in here right now. Everybody play it cool." You just try to wait long enough, and hopefully they'll go away. Even if somebody calls and is in the neighborhood, it's not like, "Bill and Beverly, come in." They have to call at least from outside or maybe a few streets over to give you a heads-up and get permission to advance toward the home, because the door is not always open.
None of us would say it this way, but I think a lot of us think God is like that, that when you ask and you knock, it doesn't seem like he's going to respond, he doesn't even want to respond, he doesn't care about you, that he's ignoring you. The Bible says that is not the case. Your heavenly Father loves you. He wants you to ask, to come to him, to bring those requests and know the door is always open.
Is he saying that every time you ask he will always give you what you want? That's the interpretative challenge of the text. Right? It seems like, "Hey, if you ask, you'll receive; seek, find; knock, the door will be opened." Is he saying every time, no matter what you ask for, that's what God is saying? No. And how great is that? If that was the case, how many things in life would we have asked God for that we look back on in life and are like, "Oh man, I really dodged a bullet there"?
All of us would be married to the girl in sixth grade who we took to that dance. There are so many times that in our lives we would have asked… It's really, honestly, a good thing, because there are times we don't even know what we need. What is Jesus saying there? What are the things you can ask for and you can know, without a shadow of a doubt, these are the things God is going to always answer, is always going to let you receive?
Well, repeatedly, Jesus says, "If you ask in this way, you're going to get it every time." He adds a qualifier over and over throughout the Gospels. Jesus would say it in two ways. "If you ask it according to my will for your life, you can know that's going to happen." He would say it another way. It's essentially saying the same thing. "If you ask in my name…" Have you ever heard this before?
"If you ask it in my name," which essentially means "In line with my will." It doesn't mean just adding that to your prayer. It means "Ask it aligned with my will." Those are the things that are going to happen. When your ask intersects with God's will, those are the things that he has promised, "I'm going to give you those things. You're going to see my will for your life."
Jesus would say in John 14:14, "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." In John 15:7 he says, "If you remain in me [abide in me] and [I] in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." Jesus says, "If you are so connected to me, you can bring the requests to me, and when they align with my will, those are the things that are going to be done for you." But you're still invited as a Christian… You can bring your asks and your requests and your things to God, and you can trust him when his will doesn't align with those things.
Jesus gives us the perfect example of what this looks like, where he says, "I'm going to give my ask to God, and yet I'm going to trust his will and whatever he has for me. If he doesn't give me the ask in the way I want, I'm going to trust his will." In the garden of Gethsemane in Mark, chapter 14, we're told Jesus goes, and he's praying before the Father, and he says, "Let me make abundantly clear: This is what I want. This is my ask. These are my desires."
He says in Mark 14:36, "Abba, Father…everything is possible for you. Take this cup [the crucifixion] from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.""God, I'm going to bring my request. Make no doubt about it. I'm going to ask, will you take this away from me? But at the end of the day, I trust you, and your will be done."
As Christians, we have been invited to say, "God, I'm going to bring my ask to you. At the end of the day, your will is better for me. You know what I need before I even ask for it, and I'm going to trust you to bring about your good and sovereign will in my life." He says you can take it to the bank every single time, but do not make the mistake most Christians make, which is failing to ask.
James, the baby brother of Jesus, would come along later and further emphasize this idea. Bring those requests to God, and if you don't receive them, you can know it just wasn't a part of God's will in that moment, but don't stop asking. He would say this in James 4:2: "You do not have because you do not ask God. When you [do] ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…" You don't align with the will of God. "…that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."
Two problems inside of our body is that we don't ask, and then oftentimes, we ask and the reason we don't receive is because we're not asking for the right thing always. Sidenote: you can bring your things to God, whatever is weighing you down. You can pour your heart out to God. "This is what I want. Take this cup of singleness from me. Take this cup of infertility. Take this cup of our financial situation being so hard. God, bring those things to me."
You've been invited to ask, to ask, to ask. In 1 Peter 5:6-7, God says, "Cast everything you care about," or "Cast all of your anxiety…" The same word is translated in the ESV "all of your cares." "…on the God who cares for you." What do you think he means by cast if it's not pray? Nobody would be like, "Hey, just roll them onto God." Clearly, he's saying, "Bring everything you care about to God," because God cares about you. You have a heavenly Father who cares.
You don't have to hide and act like the things you really want in the moment are more spiritual than they are. So often, we feel like we have to pretend before God. It's, honestly, just weird and not genuine, where we feel like we have to downshift into King James Version when we pray, like, "Our Father-eth who art in heaven-eth, today-eth make-eth it great-eth for you-eth."
We don't feel like we can just say, "Hey, God, I feel like we're struggling to make ends meet." "I'm struggling today with singleness. I really don't believe you're as good as you say you are." All of those things. Just pray honest prayers. Maybe that's a third thing, just for free, that you can walk away with if nothing else: that God wants a relationship.
Do you know what you can't have? A relationship if you're not real. Do you think God doesn't want you to be able to be honest with him? You can be honest with your friend you haven't seen from college when you're catching up on the phone about, "Man, I'm thinking about this job, and I don't like this," and you think you can't be that way with God who already knows that? Think about that.
I've sat down with people who have said, "I feel like I'm struggling with singleness, but I don't want to pray, 'God, will you please bring me a spouse?' because then he won't bring me a spouse because he'll want me to be okay without having a spouse before he gives me a spouse." It's like, do you really think that maneuvering works on God? He sees everything. He knows everything about what you want, what you don't want, and what you're trying to act like you don't want. Right?
But there's something inside of us that thinks, "God is too busy to be bothered. He doesn't really care. These are too small, mundane things. I need to just pray for starving children and more Bible." Those are great things to pray for, but the God who's there wants a relationship with you. Jesus says you can ask, and if you ask… Do you know what happens the more you grow in your relationship with God?
The more you ask for things, God just begins to change the ask you make. Over time, it goes from, "Hey, God, give me a boat" to "Will you give me more of you? Will you deepen my love for you, my trust in you?" Jesus says, "Ask. Pray continually. Bring your requests to me." In the Bible, it's almost as though you can have a gift registry with God. Bring him all of your asks. You may not get all of them, but you can bring him your asks.
Do you guys know what I mean by that? Do you know what a gift registry is? Good. Okay. Gift registry is what you do whenever you're getting married or having a baby. It's like the coolest part of living in the 2000s getting married. I know they had gift registries before 2000, so I just insulted everyone, but part of the gift registry today is that when you get a gift registry today, you're going to Bed Bath & Beyond…
I don't know how you registered for things in the older times, but today, when you go to Bed Bath & Beyond… Here's what you get to look forward to if you're engaged or you ever get engaged someday. They give you a laser gun, and you get to walk around, and it's like duck hunting Bed Bath & Beyond for all of the different things you want. You select those different things, you fill out the list, and then you send it to your friends.
You're like, "Look. Don't worry about getting us anything, but if you do, these would be the things we'd like." Then, hopefully, they give you it for your baby or for your wedding. With God, he's saying, "Bring your requests." You're not going to get everything on the list. You might not get most of it. I don't know, but you can bring that request to God, and you can trust him when something doesn't appear in the way you hoped or wished it would.
The gift registry analogy is kind of a perfect one, because I think, for many of us, there's always that person when we put the list together and send it out to the friends… They get that list, and they're like, "Yeah, I'm not doing any of these. I have something for them," and they get all excited. This is the same person who makes homemade gifts. They're like, "I'm going to make this out of recyclables. It's going to be great. They're going to love it."
Maybe this is just me and my life. Can we all agree the percentage of people on planet earth who should be making things at home as gifts is pretty small? I am insulting people right now. Just food for thought. You're probably in that percentage, but a lot of us are not. Anyway, there's always a person who goes off the gift registry, and really why is because they're just not good at giving gifts. They're kind of a bad gift-giver.
Is that what God is? Is he bad at giving gifts? When he doesn't give something that's on the list and he does give something… You're like, "Man, I did not ask for this." Jesus tells us emphatically, "No" in the next verses. We'll read them, as we dive into trusting constantly. "Which of you [when it comes to asking] , if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil…"
He's not just throwing shade unnecessarily. He's drawing a contrast between human fathers and a perfect heavenly Father and saying as good as whatever dad you have or didn't have, every earthly father, even the best one, by comparison to God is evil, because he's perfect. He's the perfection, not the reflection of our earthly fathers.
"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!" I want you to think about that verse for a second. How crazy, how powerful, and, honestly, beyond our ability to understand is that truth?
He looks around and says, "Look. Even the best or even the worst or even every earthly father out there… When their son comes up to them and is like, 'Dad, can I please have something to eat? I need some bread,' he wouldn't turn around and be like, 'Here's a stone!'" No one would do that. That's what he says.
Most fathers out there… There are always exceptions, but for the most part, most of us love giving things to our kids. You love giving gifts, and you're broken and evil and fallible. Even the worst of fathers gets delight about "I want to do good toward my children. I wouldn't give them a snake when they asked for fish."
Jesus says, "You're evil by comparison to God." You may not even realize that and fully think of it that way, but God is perfect. He's perfect in goodness and love. Do you think he would do anything less than what you would do? By comparison, God would do far more. He'll never give a stone.
The reason I say trust continually is because as we live the Christian life, I don't know how you can live it without having a deep trust that "My Father only gives good gifts. There's nothing bad, and if it is, it didn't come from him. No matter what I walk through, as broken as the circumstances in life are, my Father gives good gifts."
It takes tremendous faith in the face of pain and in the face, candidly, of just the brokenness and sin in our world to hold on to the fact that "Whatever this is, if it's not good it's not from God or it's good and I just can't fully understand how it's all going to work out. Everything God allows he redeems, because it's going to be good, because he only gives good things."
Inside of the room right now, I know there is pain, that without having a deep sense of faith that God is at work and everything that is broken he's going to redeem, he is using, and he will work for good, you can't believe you have a good, loving heavenly Father.
I was reading through our First Impressions, which is just the card that if you fill out that Watermark News and go turn that in, we'd love to connect with you. People do that every single week, and sometimes they include prayer requests, and our staff loves to get a chance to follow up and to call and pray for them. So if you fill that out, that's going to happen. Every single week, they'll send out the list to our staff and tell you, "Hey, reach out to this person."
I was reading through the past couple of weeks, and the pain represented just by the people not in the room but who wrote, "I could use prayer…" It was palpable. The amount of pain in a room this size is beyond anything any one of us could handle, fully grasp, fully understand. Let me give you some examples. Here were a few of them.
"Please pray for my husband. He has stage IV lung cancer. Pray for all of this to pass peacefully." Another one: "I was diagnosed two years ago with an aggressive breast cancer. I have maintenance scans this week. Please pray that they're clear. Pray for courage. Pray that I'd see God in this and remain faithful. This has been a scary and lonely road, and yet I've seen God's goodness."
Another said, "My daughter has been so depressed and having suicidal thoughts. Will you please pray for Christ to win in her life?" Another: "Please pray for the peace of God when I read the impact statement at the sentencing of the person who murdered my brother." Another said, "I underwent a clinical trial for cancer, and I've been cancer-free for a year, but I just found out this week it's back. Please pray for the chemo, that it would be effective."
God doesn't give cancer, and he doesn't give things like that. They're a part of the brokenness of our world, but it still takes hope and trust. He doesn't give, but he allows. When you're in those moments, I don't even know if it makes a difference. It takes faith to trust, "My heavenly Father is a good, perfect, loving Father. This life is a vapor. For all of eternity I'm going to see that. He proved his love for me by dying in my place on the cross, and I can trust him. I'm going to hold on to that truth. He only gives good things. He's not giving me a stone."
In the brokenness of life or this world since sin entered it, it may look like a stone, but it's either not from God or someday I'm going to see he was working it together for good. I was talking with a friend on our staff this week, and he was sharing about how important and meaningful this passage had been for him. He said, "There was a time in my life where I really wrestled with, 'How could this be anything other than a stone?'"
He said, "My dad got diagnosed with cancer when he was 40. It was pancreatic cancer. He was a pastor, and he had run a ministry. Our family was over in Kenya. We were doing ministry work, and he got sick over there, so we flew him back to the States. We didn't think it was anything really serious. Sometimes you get sick when you're traveling internationally. Things can happen. The doctor came and said, 'He has pancreatic cancer.'" At 40. An incredible anomaly.
They began to do treatment, and they walked through it, and he was cancer-free. Then he went back for one of his scans, and the doctor said, "It's back, and it has spread to your liver. You have seven months." He said, "How is that anything other than a stone?" He said, "With a little bit of time and perspective and just by God continuing to help me see that he only gives good things, that he redeems everything he allows and it's not him giving me a snake, I began to even see, though imperfectly, God redeeming and using the worst moments in my life. I mean, the very worst.
I mean, just losing my dad. My dad is never going to see me get married someday. He's never going to hold his grandchildren someday. He's never going to see me finish school. I have to figure out all of this all on my own, and he's a good heavenly Father?" He said, "I began to see, as I got a little farther through it, even the worst pain God was using for good."
He said, "I had just entered into college, and we held an event on my campus. It was called 'Finishing Strong: How a Dying Man Feels More Alive Than Ever Before.' Almost 2,000 people came, and hundreds of them trusted in Christ. Then I began to realize that my prayer, 'God, will you heal my dad? Will you heal my dad? Will you heal my dad?' was answered. Not in the way I would have asked or wanted, but he was home. He was in heaven, and he was healed."
I know in the room and in the situations I just read and everything that's going on, it's not always that easy to connect the dots. It's not always that clear how God is at work redeeming the worst of circumstances, but I know he has promised he will and I know he promised he is. Maybe you invited brokenness into your own life, in your marriage or having a child out of circumstances that were not in line with God's best.
He has promised, "You can trust me. Turn to me. Surrender to me, and whatever brokenness is there, I can use it for good. I'm a God who brings about good, who is good, and I only give good things to my children." In Ecclesiastes 3:11 it says, " [God] has made [is making and will make] everything beautiful in its time." Everything that seems so fractured and chaotic and just "How can this all be a part of your plan, God?" There's going to come a day where he says, "You're going to see it was all beautiful. I'm going to make it beautiful in its time."
In Romans 8:28, a verse a lot of us know and have heard before, there's a promise that Paul picks up further and emphasizes this idea. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." No matter what you're facing… I wouldn't pretend that I have all of the answers or even understand everything you're walking through or give you some solution that "This is actually what God is doing and how the good is going to come."
I have no idea, but I do know there's going to come a time and a moment and a day where you're going to be able to see from heaven's perspective he was weaving together something that you go, "Man, it was good. It was hard. It was painful. This life is like a vapor, and for all of eternity, I'm going to see he was good and he was at work, when I see it from above."
Not long ago, I got invited with some friends who had tickets to an A&M football game. I went to the game, and I got to sit on the ground level, on the first couple of rows. It was awesome. We watched the game. Then the band comes out at halftime. I don't know if you know anything about A&M or the band. This is not just any band. They make a big deal about the band. This is the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, so you don't leave.
Most people during the halftime are like, "Let's go get nachos." Not here. We watch them, and they're getting after it, even though it's kind of just a normal band, but I digress. So, they come out on the field. They begin to walk around. They're walking on the field, and at the ground level… I'd never seen it like this. It's so chaotic.
What do I mean? You're just seeing all of the different people going different directions. You see the tuba coming over here, and you see the trombone coming out, and you're like, "Oh my gosh! What's happening right now?" The drummer is going. You're like, "It looks like an ant pile of band members kicked over, and it doesn't look like anybody knows what they're doing. This is so chaotic and pandemonium."
Then you look up at the screen, and when you see it from above, you see they're spelling something out. You see purpose and intentionality. Everything that looks so dysfunctional and chaotic on the ground and like "What are they doing?" when you look from a higher angle, there's purpose, there's intention.
I don't know, friends, what you're going through. I do know that if you're a believer, God has promised you this: there will come a day where you're going to see it from above, and everything chaotic, everything dysfunctional, and everything broken you're going to see he was using for your good.
Maybe you're in a situation where you brought that on yourself, and he's saying to you, as he says all throughout the Bible, if you surrender to him, he's a God who works that together for your good. He's a God who makes the brokenness of sin and cancer beautiful in its time. Tim Keller, who's a pastor, said God will either give us what we ask for in prayer or he gives us what we would have asked for if we knew everything God knows.
God either gives us what we ask for in prayer or he gives us what we would have asked for if we knew everything God does, because he's a good Father. He only gives good things, and he loves you, and he proved that love. He proved that he gives the best things by sending his Son to die in your place. I said earlier there's always that person who goes off the registry, and sometimes it's because they're just not great at giving gifts.
There's another type of person who goes off the registry. It's a person who looks at the list and is like, "Hey, we can get them that or we can get them this, but we have to get them this, because we're a little farther down the road. We've been married for a while or we've had kids for a while, and they don't even know to ask for this, but they're going to need this." This happened with us. We had a friend… We went to the baby shower, had our first son a few years ago, and we had that list together.
They came up, and they'd gotten us something off the registry. Then they were like, "Hey, and then I got you this." It was this particular type of bassinet. They're like, "You don't even know to ask for this, but when the baby is screaming at 3:00 in the morning, this is the bassinet you're going to want, so I'm just doing you a favor. You don't even know to ask for it, but because I've been there, I've seen it, I know what's coming, this is what you're going to need and what you're going to want."
In the moment you're like, "Okay. Why didn't you just give us the bassinet we asked for?" Then a few weeks went by, and that stage… If you've had little kids, of course you know the insanity of like, "We will try anything right now, including putting Benadryl in here, to get him to sleep." It was like, "Let's put him in his other bassinet," and he slept like a champ. It was a game changer. We never would have even asked for it, but they knew.
"Hey, I'm telling you, you don't even know to ask. You don't even know what you need. I'm getting this for you." The Bible says, as crazy as it sounds, in a similar way it seems as though God works in a similar way. "You don't even know what you need, but I'm a God who's at work, and I'm going to bring it about. I'm bringing things you wouldn't even know to ask for yet, but you would if you knew everything I knew."
Luke punctuates this idea of "Pray continually. Trust constantly." He says a very similar passage. He uses similar language, and he almost has an identical sentence. I'm going to read it. It's from Luke 11:13. "If you then…" Talking about prayer. "…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!"
Luke says, "God loves, like any good dad, giving good things, but do you know what he loves doing the most? Giving the best thing, which is himself." He reflects that and displays that by giving his own life for you, for me, for every person who has ever lived. He's a God who's out there who's not distant, not far off. In fact, the language used in the text of seeking and knocking and wanting a relationship is reflective of exactly what Jesus says he came to do.
He says in Luke 19:10, "I came to seek and save the lost." "Why am I here? That's why. I came to seek." In Revelation 3:20 it says he stands at the door of every human heart and knocks, wanting to come into their life and have a relationship with them. He's not distant, he's not far off, and he embodies all of the different things he invites us to have with him.
He's a God who's seeking and knocking at the door of your life, and if you've never trusted or accepted that free gift, that God who's there is not angry at you…he's in love with you and wants a relationship with you, and he proved it by dying in your place…today is your day. The God who's there is seeking you, like he's seeking all of us, and he's knocking at the door of your heart right now.
Even the fact that you're here today and a friend invited you and you just kind of stumbled in is reflective of the fact that God has not forgotten you. He's seeking you. If you're listening to this at a later time, that's the same thing that's going on, because our God loves giving good things to his children, but he loves…do not mistake… giving the best thing.
Do you know what's crazy? It's like the more you grow as a Christian, the more you develop, the more you get to know Jesus, the more you walk with him, and the more you spend time with him and get to know him and spend time with his Word and walk with his people, something in your heart begins to shift. The things you desire and the things you ask for begin to change.
You stop going, "Hey, God, this week, will you give me a promotion, and finally, can you get me that raise, and will you help this person to get healthy?" All of which you should pray for, and those are great things, but you begin to go, "God, all of these things are great, but I want you. I want more of you. You're the best thing in this life. All of those things are good things, and we need them. We need food and we need clothes on our backs and all of those. God, thank you for all of those, but more than anything, at the end of the day, I just want you."
The more you grow and the more you pursue God, it's like that begins to shift. A lot of us have experienced it. No parent in this room wants anything different for their kids. I want a lot of things for my children. I want them to be healthy, I want them to have a great life, but more than anything else, I want them to know Jesus.
More than anything else, the God who's there wants you to know him and walk with him, and that ultimately is the thing that, above anything else, I don't know that we want anything else more. The more you grow in your relationship with God, the more you see that and realize that. "You're all I've ever wanted. I want more of you." The God who's there, in every page of the Bible and every story in this life, has proved and is showing and is pursuing he wants you. Let me pray.
Father, thank you that you're a God who's patient with us, who hasn't given up on us, who allows us to come to you with everything trivial in our lives. You're also a God who wants more than anything to give us the best thing, which is you. So would you help us, no matter what we're walking through, to believe that, to receive that?
I pray for anyone who has never trusted in Jesus now, that their heart would be burdened by the fact that there's a God knocking on the door of their heart, saying, "I chose you. I love you. I died for you. I want to spend eternity with you, and I paid the way. Will you accept it?"
I pray for anyone who's walking through really painful circumstances, God, that you would be bigger and more near to them than the pain, that they would experience a tremendous trust, that "I can trust continually; my God in heaven only gives good things," and that you would make us people who embrace and pursue the best thing…you…with every day of our lives. Father, we love you. We worship you now in song, amen.