Summary: "Ask...Seek...Knock..." is trusting God for his best. The Golden Rule is not reciprocity, but trust in God's best.
Healthy Disciples: A LIFE OF TRUST—Matthew 7:7-12
In this series on the last part of the Sermon on the Mount, we have considered what Jesus said about a healthy Christian life.
Previously in his teaching on the hillside that day, Jesus talked about prayer. He warned his disciples about making a show of public prayer. He gave them a model for prayer, which we call The Lord’s Prayer. Then, after talking about treasure, worry and judging (which we have considered the past 3 weeks, he again brought up prayer:
Matthew 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. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Some people have latched onto these words as a guarantee that they can have whatever their heart might desire. They make it sort of like a cosmic vending machine: Insert the right words, and God will deliver the product as promised.
Is that what Jesus meant?
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
If we take these words out of context, we might think that someone who ASKS for wealth or possessions will always receive them, someone who SEEKS happiness or the love of their dreams will find what they seek, and someone who KNOCKS on the door of opportunity, for an ideal job and a life worldly success, will find doors opening.
That was not what Jesus meant.
When we KNOCK, we are knocking on heaven’s door, seeking an audience with the Father. Jesus promises that the door will be opened to us, so that we can talk to God.
If we are Jesus’ disciples, what do we SEEK? Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, and one of them was, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” A little later, he said, “SEEK first the Father’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If we SEEK righteousness in God’s kingdom, Jesus promises that we will find it.
When we ASK, we ask the Father to give us what is best for us and all whom he loves. James 4:3 explains, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” If we are selfish, or not seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness, the promise does not apply.
Yet sometimes we ask, with the best motives and the most faith we can muster, and we do not receive. We don’t get the healing we ask for, we don’t see the change we seek, or we don’t feel the intimate fellowship with God that we desire. What went wrong? Were we not seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness? Did we not pray hard enough? Did we not have enough faith? Did God let us down?
God’s answer to those questions is found in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 5:7-9 says it this way: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
Jesus prayed, with perfect motives and perfect faith, and his prayers were often answered in marvelous ways. Yet the answer to Jesus’ prayer about his own suffering and death did not remove the suffering and death. His reward, the righteousness he sought for all of us and his eternal glory with the Father, was not given to him immediately, or in the manner that he asked! Yet his prayers were answered beyond what any of us could imagine!
Do we think we are better than Jesus? If Jesus had to say, “Father, not my will, but yours be done,” shouldn’t we also say that?
The answer to our prayers may be deeper than we can imagine, as it was for Jesus himself.
Jesus tells us to ask…seek…knock… We are not praying to the ceiling, or a cosmic vending machine, or a mysterious Power; we are praying to our Father in heaven, who loves us.
Jesus goes on to say, Matthew 7:9-11 “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!”