Tag Archive for faith

Whatever We Ask: Part 2–Ask, Seek and Knock

Ask, and you will be given what you ask for.  Seek, and you will find.  Knock, and the door will be opened.  (Matt 7:7 TLB)

 

Sometimes, that seems too good to be true.  God really gives us anything we ask for?

 

If that were the case, then it would be all too easy for us to make selfish requests of Him.  Just as James and John asked to sit at Jesus’ left and right hand, it seems logical that being tapped into the greatest power source in the universe could make us a tad greedy and ambitious.

 

So why does Jesus tell us to ask then?

 

If you think about it, when do we ask anyone for anything?  It’s when the one we are asking either has or can get something we want but don’t have.  When Jesus tells us to ask, He is simply giving us permission to do so.

 

Along with asking, Jesus tells us to seek.  He tells us this to let us know that God not only can be found, but He WANTS to be found.

 

For this reason, Jesus also tells us to knock, not just once, but persistently and insistently.  Jesus is basically giving us carte blanche to be a pest in seeking out God and petitioning Him with our requests.

 

He is telling us that we aren’t going to wear God out or bore Him to death by bothering Him with our concerns.  This is because God wants us to see Him as someone that we can approach.

 

But really. . .ANYTHING we ask for?

 

It is clear from the context that it isn’t so much the substance of our entreaties to the Lord as our motivation for asking that is more significant.

 

Remember, we are not God’s spoiled brats, but His adopted children.  He chose us for His family, but we also had to choose Him as our Father.

 

The very nature of the relationship that Christians have with God is one of complete submission.  We ask of Him because He has not only the power and authority but also the WILL to give us what we ask.

 

However, the more we are in submission to God, the less likely we are to ask for something selfishly.  If our primary motivation is to please Him, then we would be more likely to ask for the kinds of things that He would want us to have.

 

(So what kinds of things are those?  Come back for Part 3—The Desires of our Hearts.)

 

Doubt: Part 10–Faith Without Deeds

 

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?   Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.  (James 2:14-19, 26 NIV)

 

Even though I believed in God on that day in 1989, I had programmed myself for too long to be independent.  It was all I knew how to do.  The feeling of God’s peace, love, warmth and comfort only lasted a minute that day.  Obviously, I have never forgotten it, but a seed planted takes time to grow, longer if you don’t water it.  I didn’t.

 

Instead, I pushed forward, finished college, and entered the work force.  Full steam ahead, stick to the script.  Living the American Dream by golly!

 

Except my American Dream was a nightmare.  After failing at my first three jobs, I tried to start my own business instead, because obviously, the problem was them not me.

 

Then an interesting thing happened.

 

 

Many of my business contacts were Christians.  Not the robotic, going-through-the-motions churchgoers that I had observed growing up—these people lived differently, and they were like that all the time.

 

They reminded me that I really needed my Daddy, the one that my second-grade Sunday school teacher had tried so clumsily to tell me about.  Except this time, it felt genuine.

 

I heard miraculous testimonies and saw people living lives that I could not explain, except by one thing—remembering that October afternoon at the cemetery.  I had already been forced to acknowledge that God was real, but this was something new.

 

God was Abba, my Daddy, and he actually cared about me.  He wanted to protect me from harm, and he wanted me to lead my family.  And my spiritual maturity took a big leap forward.  But this is still not the happy ending.

 

You see, at this point I am in my mid-20s physically, but still a child spiritually.  I am cracking a Bible for the first time.  The only thing I know about salvation is that it’s Jesus’ job.  I am going to church with my family now, and have us all baptized into the same religion, but I am still running the program of everything-depends-on-me.  I know there is a God and I know that He cares, and I am grateful for this, but I have still not acknowledged my dependence.

 

Sometimes when we won’t let go of our pride, God will use circumstances to knock us down to the point where the only place to look and move is upward.

 

Eight years later, my marriage failed.  I was going to church every week and was active in music ministry, but it was still just religion.

 

And all religion is is a churched-up way of repeating the same old pattern of trying to meet our own needs through our own efforts.

 

Sure, we wrap it all up in God-speak, but Jesus already called our bluff 2,000 years ago when He said to the Pharisees:

 “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”  Mark 7:6-7, (quoting Isaiah 29:13) NIV

 

(To be concluded in Part 11–The Death of Doubt)

 

Doubt: Part 4–Faith

 

“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  (Mark 10:15 NIV)

 

Responding to God requires seeing things as they really are, even the part you can’t see (especially the part you can’t see), the way children do.

 

A child doesn’t worry about the same things an adult does.  Children trust that their parents are all knowing, all seeing and all-powerful.  Even though that isn’t really true, they believe.  In that belief, they feel safe and comforted.  This is what “faith like a child” means.

 

Now some might call this “blind faith,” since the children are believing something without questioning it and accepting as real something that isn’t.  However, nobody condemns children for believing in their parents.  Indeed, if children see a parent fail at too early an age, it can be devastating to their emotional health. This is because they are not yet intellectually developed enough to understand their own limitations.

 

Therefore, it never occurs to them that their parents might be finite, that their knowledge might be incomplete, that they can be taken by surprise, that they might fail, that they might just. . .not. . .know.

 

No, nobody would condemn that child for believing in Mommy and Daddy.  After all, they are children and do not know any better.  As they grow, their understanding of the world around them grows. Eventually, they figure out that Mommy and Daddy are people just like them.  And later, when they become the Mommy or Daddy, they really figure out how much their parents didn’t know.

 

 

So why are people condemned for responding to God with the faith of a child, when that is exactly how Jesus said to do it?

Well for starters, people who don’t know the Bible don’t know that’s how it is supposed to be done, and you can’t condemn them for simply not knowing.

 

More significantly, these people don’t know that your spirit does not necessarily grow at the same rate that your body and mind do.  In other words, that faith like a child does not mean intellect like a child.

 

Different ways of growing up

 

Children are going to grow older and taller without any effort on their part.  Physical maturity just happens (at least, to whatever extent anything just happens).

 

Mental maturity requires some input, however.  Children kept locked in a closet all their lives will still grow physically, but they won’t learn much.  To learn, you have to be exposed to knowledge.  As you get older and start thinking for yourself more, you become more skeptical of “knowledge.” You may doubt some things just because they “don’t sound right.”

 

Spiritual maturity, on the other hand, is a major workout.  Absolutely nothing will happen to your spiritual maturity unless you make it happen.  If you don’t, then even as your body grows, and your mind expands, you will still remain a spiritual infant.

 

(So how do you start on the path to spiritual maturity?  Come back for Part 5–Real/Not Real.)

 

Doubt: Part 2–Seeing the Wind

The wind is invisible, but you know it is real.  You can feel a spring breeze blowing gently through your hair (or in my case, across my head).  In autumn, you can see tree branches bending and hear the rush and rustle of the leaves.  You can feel the sting of winter snow and sleet on your face as you lean into the driving wind.  In the summer, sometimes you see the damage the wind can leave behind—fallen trees, flattened barns, roofs torn asunder.

 

Nevertheless, you can’t see the wind itself.  So how do you know it’s there?  It leaves evidence of its existence.

 

If we are going to live solely in the realm of fact, we cannot define the wind.  We can measure its speed, we can observe its results, but we can’t catch it in a jar and look at it.  As Jesus told Nicodemus:

 

The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.  (John 3:8 NIV)

 

Nevertheless, meteorologists will not tell you that they “believe” in the wind.  They will tell you that they “know” it is there, because they can measure its effects scientifically.

 

 

This is perfectly logical.  However, my question is if it makes sense to call something that can’t be seen or measured in and of itself a scientific fact, why do people not use that same logic with God?

 

God is also invisible.  God also cannot be contained.  With His unseen presence, we feel joy with the spring breeze.  When we see the leaves blowing off of the trees in November, knowing that they will be back in April, we are reminded of the mortality of our bodies and the immortality of our souls.  We feel His comfort and warmth in the bleak winter and His calming presence in the storms of our summers.

 

But the thing is, you have to know about God to really experience these things.  The first time you feel wind on your face or see the tree branches or the green wave of cornfields blowing, someone has to tell you it’s the wind.

 

When a child hears an eerie moaning in the night, and does not know that it’s only the wind, he experiences fear.  Then his parents tell him about the wind, and he believes.  He still does not see the wind, but he believes; therefore, it is real to him.

 

So it is with faith.  Although we are all hard-wired to respond to God, emotionally and spiritually if not intellectually, we still have to be told about Him.  There has to be a mental connection before the feelings become real.

 

Even then, we still don’t see God, but we start to notice the evidence, and things start clicking.

 

(For a personal example of this evidence, and for more weather-related metaphors, come back for Part 3–Cloudy)

 

Doubt: Part 1–Object Permanence

As Christians, we should not be surprised when people doubt God.  There were some who saw the risen Christ with their own eyes and doubted.  I’m not just talking about Thomas; some watched Him go up into heaven and STILL doubted!  As Ron Weasley would have said, “How thick could you get?”

 

There is nothing wrong with doubting in and of itself.  For example, healthy doubt and skepticism can keep us from being victimized by liars.  Nevertheless, what matters more than whether or not you doubt is what you do with your doubt.

 

I’ll believe it when I see it. . .

 

It makes perfect logical sense to doubt the existence of a God you can’t see.  When we walk by sight, that is, if we will “believe it when we see it,” then it follows that we don’t believe in what we cannot see.

 

This goes all the way back to the concept of object permanence that our brains learn when we are infants.  If we can’t see Mommy or Daddy, then they have left us forever, so we cry.  But then Mommy or Daddy always shows up.  Eventually we figure out that Mommy and Daddy are real and permanent (relatively speaking) even when we can’t see them.

 

 

It’s really the same way with God; the only difference is how we go about seeing.  With object permanence, seeing is believing.  However, since God cannot be seen, this concept will not work.  To “see” God, you have to exercise not your eyeballs but your spirit.  This takes some learning.

 

First, you have to be aware that you even have a spirit.  We are all hard-wired to know this, but we still have to be aware of our instincts to act on them.  In other words, faith is useless if you don’t know what it is.  The Amplified Bible gives the best definition I have seen:

 

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title-deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality—faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses. (Hebrews 11:1 AMP)

 

Therefore, if walking by sight means you’ll believe it when you see it, then walking by faith means you’ll see it when you believe it.

 

This is foolishness to those folks who consider themselves “fact-based.”  These people will tell you that nothing is real unless they can hold it in their hand and tell you what it looks like.

 

I’ve always liked how Billy Graham answered this contention:

 

Can you see God?  You haven’t seen Him?  I’ve never seen the wind.  I see the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind. There’s a mystery to it.

 

(So can you see the wind? Come back for Part 2–Seeing the Wind. That was kind of obvious, wasn’t it?)