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*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-Four– Ask, Seek, and Find

“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.

“Which of you, if his 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!” (Matthew 7:7-11).

The model prayer encourages believers to approach God with this request, “give us today our daily bread”; this indicates that we should pray daily for our daily needs (Matthew 6:11). The teaching aligns perfectly with Christ’s message throughout His sermon: Release anxiety. God provides for His children’s necessities! Jesus’ suggestion that we should ask, seek, and knock, however, encourages us to go beyond a request for the basics. It implies that the Father desires us to seek His provision in overflowing measure.

James 1:17 states, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” But what constitutes a perfect gift? And what types of things does God want us to request? The answer rests in Matthew 6:33: “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” “All these things” refers to the divine blessings given to those who follow God and pursue His kingdom. These gifts include the pleasures of God’s dominion in us, Heavenly comfort, desperately needed mercy for our sins, supernatural satisfaction, relationship and intimacy with our Father, a hopeful eternal reward and, in essence, divine contentment (see the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12).

Unfortunately, some read Matthew 7:7-11 as a license to ask God for anything: luxury car, vacation cottage, yacht, new spouse. But the Lord never intended us to go to the Father with a wish list designed to enhance our comfort and increase our laziness. Our human tendency? To seek after the tangible and temporary. We often approach God with this mentality: Lord, please give me comfort, success, convenience, pleasure, and a pain-free existence. But in doing this, we miss out on the greater spiritual treasure of intimacy with Christ and undervalue the eternal provisions of His kingdom.

The broader context of “ask, seek, and find” centers around authentic spiritual vitality. As we seek true communion with our King and ask Him to let us experience the full power of His kingdom within us, God opens the door to real fellowship with Him, our Creator. This passage, then, could be loosely interpreted: “Ask for God and He will come to you … seek after Him and you will find Him in all of His beauty… knock on the door that is Jesus, and He will let you in to a feast of unimaginable fellowship” (see John 10:7; Revelation 3:20). When we seek after the best and perfect gift, the Lord, we find real treasure.

Our Father desires not to give His children just good things; instead, He wants to give us the best. Even evil people desire to provide good things to their children, but God—holy, caring, and generous Father—desires to shower lasting, life-changing blessings on His children. This should prompt us to ask, “Do I ask God for His best for me? Am I asking, seeking, and knocking after God’s greatest gifts; or am I selfishly seeking after things instead of what God really wants for me?”

Years ago I asked God for a good gift. I desperately wanted a spouse, someone with whom I could share the rest of my life. I constantly pleaded with God to fill this void. At the time, I wasn’t really concerned about the kingdom’s best for me. I allowed my selfishness to keep me from truly receiving what I needed most: a heart fully focused on my Lord and trusting dependence on Him in every aspect of my life. In that season I allowed the pursuit of a life partner to numb me to my own spiritual hunger. James 4:3 teaches, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” God stood capable to provide provision and help for my spiritual void, but He wouldn’t move without my surrender to His will. As long as I approached Him as a genie to meet my pleasures, I missed out on His best and undervalued His ability to thoroughly provide just what I needed.

Our King and Father stands ready to give us spiritual gifts far superior to the “good” gifts we so often seek. When we pursue Him and His righteousness we receive the greatest treasure of all—a fuller and richer experience of God and His kingdom. May the Lord change the desires of our hearts, compelling us to ask, seek, and knock in humility and with the right attitude. May we passionately pursue Him and His kingdom until all of our temporal “wants” fade.

Jesus Christ implores to us replace our fleshly requests with a hunger and thirst for Him. Our patient Father desires for us to seek after Him so that He can open the floodgates of His spiritual bounty.  

Apply It.

Read and internalize Philippians 4:6-9. When praying about life’s difficulties, we will not always get the situation “fixed.” Scripture does, however, promise us God’s peace when we seek Him. In what situation do you need to ask God to give you His peace, joy, and comfort to trust Him no matter how it turns out? Choose to place it in His hands.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

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“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground…the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading….Then [Nehemiah] said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:5-10). 

I know I’m dating myself but the 1980 Kool and the Gang Song Celebrate comes to mind when I think of a celebration. Its rhythmic chant tends to stick in your head. Unfortunately, I never really could connect with the song because I can’t dance (Trust me, I’m indescribably awful!). And the song tells me to dance. But I can identify with a New Year’s Eve party or the rejoicing that accompanies your team winning the Super Bowl (Yeah Packers!), NCAA Tournament (Go Vols! I still believe you can do it!), or World Series (poor Cub fans). Entire communities go nuts when that kind of thing happens. For many these are events deserving of a huge party. And that’s the point: we only celebrate those things we consider of great significance and worthy of our exuberant praise. And such should be the case with our faith as well; I think even more so! 

The Old Testament, like this example in Nehemiah 8 of Israel pausing to honor the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall destroyed by the Babylonians, is filled with feasts and festivals. They include Sabbath, Yom Kippur, Passover, Pentecost, Sabbath Year Feasts, Rosh Kodesh, Feast of Purim, and Jubilee (Ironically, there is no indication this celebration was ever practiced by the Jewish people. For a foreshadowing of my next post, see: http://captivatedbychrist.org/2010/12/28/jubilee-2011/). I would urge you to find a Bible Encyclopedia and do some research on these events. I think you will find the principles in these celebrations quite insightful and practical. God instituted these and others as a means to praise Him, unify, restore and cleanse His people, and build their faith. There are striking themes in these celebrations; focus on God’s goodness, eating and drinking, rejoicing in community, rest from work, praise, memorializing God’s sovereign guidance, the reading of His Word, and blessing. These celebrations were designated for certain times to commemorate specific events. 

Here are some things that I gather from God’s intention of His people celebrating: 

  • We often fail to stop from our labors and celebrate God.
  • We need to occasionally pause and rest in God’s goodness.
  • Celebration is facilitated by community.
  • Setting apart a specific time to rejoice in the Lord is a valuable spiritual discipline.
  • We need to practice celebrating Him as an overflow of the joy He brings to us and for His mercies.
  • Today, for His children, Jesus is the sum and source of our ability to joyfully celebrate: “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:4, 7-8). 

This is why we have “Celebration Wednesday” at our house. It was strategically chosen to fall in the middle of our hectic work week, when we are often prone to lose sight of God’s overwhelming goodness towards us. During dinner Rebekah and I shut down any possible distractions (TVs, mobile phones, computers, etc. – OK, our cats are sometimes hard to herd) and, while enjoying God’s provision of food, we start with a Scripture that speaks to God’s goodness towards His children. Then we begin to recite lists we’ve made during the week or spontaneous thoughts on the blessings God has showered on us, both “big” and “small” ones. It is a very intentional time of rejoicing in God and His goodness. We verbalize His blessings and then have a time of prayer for the specific things we have recalled. Then she creates a journal entry to memorialize what we discussed and celebrated. 

I encourage you to try it. This practice is not intended to be some obligatory duty, some religious exercise devoid of deep-seated and sincere meaning. It is designed to reflect genuine joy and marvel over God’s guidance and provision. I know it encourages and edifies us. It helps us to see the bigger picture of life and focus on an infinitely generous, caring, and loving God. And that, my friends, is truly worth celebrating. Because, after all, He is worth celebrating!

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