Summary: How do we receive God’s blessings?
I’d like to begin this morning by giving something away. It’s a $20 gift certificate for Applebee’s, and it’s available to anyone who wants it. [Hold out the $20 bill and wait until someone comes up and takes it]
What did you have to do to receive the gift certificate?
* Believe the gift certificate was real (that I had the power to grant the offer)
* Believe the offer was real (that I genuinely intended to give it away to whoever wanted it)
* Exercise faith and ask for it.
Prayer is like that. The difference is that I was offering something relatively trivial. And I only had one. But God’s riches are far more valuable and they are inexhaustible. Wouldn’t you like to know how to tap into the vast riches and resources that God has made available to us?
This morning I’d like to continue our series on WestShore’s Core Values as we look at the core value of "Commitment to Prayer - Acting on the conviction that God hears and answers prayer."
How do we receive God’s blessings? 1. We ask.
"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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." -- Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)
"You do not have, because you do not ask God." - James 4:2 (NIV)
People will do all kind of things to gain God’s favor ando receive His blessings, especially when they are in great need or in extreme danger ["God, I’ll do anything if you’ll just ____"].
Ironically, while people are often willing to do great things in return for God’s blessing, things God has not asked for and does not want; they are unwilling to do the one small thing that He actually requires (which is to pray). [Illustration: 2 Kings 5:9-14]. Why? Because they want to earn it. They think they can earn it. They’re operating on a merit basis, not a grace basis. The problem is that they’re using the wrong country’s "currency". The currency of this world is works, merit, getting what you deserve. The currency of God’s kingdom is grace. [It’s like going to some South Sea Island where the economic system is based on barter and livestock, and trying to buy things with green pieces of paper. They would laugh at you. And then eat you.]
In reality, it insults God when we try to pay for His blessings with our works. First, because it makes His relationship with us one of economics, rather than love [Like trying to "pay" for dinner at friend’s house]. Second, because what we have to offer is so pitifully small that it devalues His blessings.
People are willing to anything except what God asks, because His way requires humility. It requires an acknowledgement that we are dependent on God, that we are indebted to Him, obligated to Him; that we can never repay Him for His blessings to us. It’s like people who refuse to let you give them anything without giving you something equivalent back. Everything has to be a "quid pro quo," so they never feel obligated to anyone.
So they bargain with God, make sacrifices, give money, etc. etc. But they refuse to do the one small thing that God requires. In reality, that one small thing is the biggest, most difficult thing that God could possibly ask of them. Because it requires them to humble themselves and come to God, hat in hand, asking His mercy and grace. And their pride just cannot permit them to do that.
People sometimes don’t ask because they think that God already knows what they need, so why bother? This misses the point. The purpose of prayer is not just for us to get what we want. What matters most is our relationship with God. The purpose of prayer is for us to be blessed by God in such a way that He is honored and glorified, and we grow spiritually.
God is not honored when people enjoy His blessings and give Him no credit. Or worse, when they give the credit to someone else - such as themselves, or luck, or chance. Prayer reminds us that all the good things we enjoy, and the good things we seek, all must ultimately come from God. There is no other source for good things.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." - James 1:17 (NIV)
But when we pray, and God answers our prayers, He receives the glory, and we grow in faith, hope, and love. That’s the point. Not just getting what we want.