Ask Seek Knock
Scripture: Matthew 7:7-11
We’re in Matthew 7 today, beginning in verse 7.
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Several years ago, eBay had a commercial with a young boy on the beach. It was 1972 and the boy was playing with his favorite toy boat. He leaves for a moment and the boat gets swept up by the waves and is carried out to sea where it finally sinks to the bottom of the ocean. 30 years later, the toy boat ends up in a fishing net and one of the fishermen takes it home and sells it on E-Bay, where the boy (now a grown man) finds it and buys it. The commercial ends with the words, “Whatever IT is, you can find IT on ebay.”
I saw that commercial and immediately looked for a stuffed animal named “Poogie Bear” that I lost 30 years ago. eBay lied. It’s not there.
A lot of Christians have an eBay approach to Matthew 7:7. Jesus says, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Whatever IT is, all I have to do is ask and God will give it to me, right? Not exactly.
Jesus is not promising that God will give us anything we ask for. And I’m glad that’s not true.
If I had received everything in life I thought I wanted or needed at the time, I would have missed out on some of the biggest blessings God had planned for me. Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers, am I right? Any Garth Brooks fans out there?
Let’s look more closely at what Jesus says. He says, ask and IT shall be given to you. But what is the IT? What is it we should be asking for and seeking after? We know this doesn’t include anything, because of the context.
Jesus has already used the word “ask” and the word “seek” in the Sermon on the Mount. In chapter 6, he says that the Father knows what you need before you ask Him and that we should not heap up empty phrases when we pray like the pagans do.
Later in chapter 6, Jesus says that we should seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, trusting God to provide for our other needs like food and clothing.
This is why context matters. It is safe to say that Jesus is commanding us to ask for and seek after the things God wants for us, not what we want for ourselves.
The central problem of all humanity is that we don’t recognize our spiritual need. We know something is missing, but we diagnose the problem incorrectly and we seek after the wrong solutions.
If someone walks up to you on the street and offers you the antidote for a snake bite in a glass vial, would you drink it? Of course not, unless you had been recently bit by a snake.
But if you have been bit by a snake, you will go to the emergency room looking for an antidote, from a doctor – not a stranger.
People need Jesus. But people don’t know they need Him. Even as Christians, we forget how much we need Christ, and it is seeing our sin that drives us to Him. We have a need and Christ meets that need by His grace.
Jesus has actually spent the entire Sermon on the Mount trying to show us our need – starting with the very first words.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. Need. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Grace.
Blessed are those who mourn. Need. For they shall be comforted. Grace.
Blessed are the meek. Need. For they shall inherit the earth. Grace.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Need. For they shall be satisfied. Grace.
Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Need. You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Need.
Jesus raises the bar impossibly high. But then He meets use there with His grace. Ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened. What Jesus? What is it?
The answer is everything you don’t deserve. The kingdom of God and His righteousness. But do you want it? That’s the real question here. Do you even want what God wants to give you?
There’s an important bit of information that we lose here in English. The verbs ask, seek, and knock are all present imperatives, and they are continuous. In other words, they imply persistence. Keep on asking. Keep on seeking. Keep on knocking. Don’t stop.
This can also be easily misinterpreted, so let me clarify. This doesn’t mean we are nagging or wearing God down when we pray. He finally gives us what we want because the squeaky wheel gets the grease. No.
Instead, Jesus places the emphasis on the type of person the Father will hear – His children. And how do children ask for things? With persistence.
All my parents can say Amen to that. When your child wants something, you are going to hear about it constantly. And their goal may be to wear you down.
But Jesus is telling us something important about the relationship we have to God. He reminds us that God is our Father. He has adopted us as His children.
This is another heart question. When we approach God in prayer, do we approach Him like a child going to a Father – asking in dependence and with persistence because we know He can deliver and because we know He wants to give us good things?
I think a lot of us forget this when we pray. We don’t really think God intends to give us the good things we need.
A few weeks ago, I read a story about a golf tournament in Arkansas. As part of the tournament, they offered a prize for anyone who hit a hole in one on a specific hole. The prize was a brand-new pickup truck. Of course, the odds of hitting a hole in one are very small, even for professional golfers.
The club assumed no one would do it and they decided not to buy the insurance to protect themselves in the unlikely event that someone did it. Well, some guy made the shot, and the club doesn’t want to give him the truck. I’m sure the man will sue and win.
But here’s the thing. I think a lot of people believe in their hearts that God is really holding out on us like that. He makes all these promises, but we’re not sure He is going to deliver on them.
We suffer and we blame God. We don’t get what we want, and we blame God.
And this is what it boils down to. Either God is keeping something good from His children, or we want something He’s not offering us because it’s not what we really need.
And that is the heart of the illustration – something every parent in the room can understand. Our kids want a lot of things they don’t need, things that may actually be harmful to them. How many of your kids would eat the entire bag of Halloween candy if you didn’t set some limits?
James, the brother of Jesus, clarifies this. He says, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
This is important, because a lot of Christians will tell you that God will give you anything if you have enough faith – money, health, you name it… you claim it. And that’s foolish. If that’s true, then God isn’t a very good Father.
“Faith” is not magic pixie dust that we sprinkle on life to get what we want. Prayers are not magic words that we use to twist God’s arm into making things happen. God is not a genie in a lamp waiting to bless us with a new car when we make the wish.
I can’t imagine that sort of thinking brings much glory to God either, because we have a lot of Christians now wondering why they’ve had to suffer and why God didn’t give them what they asked for and they are left thinking it must have been something they did wrong or that God doesn’t really hear them or care.
If you’re struggling to understand, please consider this.
On the night when Jesus was betrayed, the night before the cross, Jesus was alone in the garden of Gethsemane. He prayed to the Father, and He asked for something very specific. And what specifically does He ask God to do? Look at Luke 22:41-44:
41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Think about this. Jesus, God’s perfect Son, a man with a perfect, eternal relationship to God, asks for something very specific and He is denied. Remove this cup, Father. No.
Instead, he gets comforted by an angel and sent to His death. He is so physically distressed by what He is facing he sweats drops of blood. And the Father said, “No.”
But notice the qualification Jesus puts on his request, and this is the most important part – not my will but yours. In other words, I want this – but more so, I want what you want! Even if you don’t give me what I would prefer… I will have faith in your answer. I will trust you.
Ask and it will be given… what? Whatever the Father thinks is best. And that is enough.
Jesus wants us to pray. Prayer demonstrates a heart dependence on God. It proves that we trust Him. Prayer is the means of God’s provision and God promises to provide what we need for His mission in our lives. He promises us a kingdom and the righteousness of Jesus we need to gain entrance to that kingdom.
My future is secure. I don’t need a bigger answer to prayer than that. Everything else I do for the rest of my life is connected to that. Jesus is not just Lord over a part of my life. He is Lord over the whole thing. Let’s pray.