Every once and a while I clean up my old notebooks, tearing out the pages that have random scribbles or old, useless information on them. By doing this it is almost like I have created a 'new' notebook, albeit a little thinner than originally intended. Well, earlier this week I got the craving (yes, they are cravings) to do my clean sweep of notebooks when I came across a piece of paper that had Matthew 7:7-8 scribbled all over it. It wasn't my writing so I assumed it must have been Doug, and as one who is curious by nature I had to stop and figure out what exactly Matthew 7:7-8 was before crumpling up the paper! I was embarrassed to find out it was a verse that I knew all too well and read the overly familiar words of those two verses.
Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)
“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"
Every once and a while, even with those verses that we can recite off by heart, God puts a new lens over our eyes and exposes a new level of meaning. For years I have read this passage as... If we ask, we will receive; If we look for God, we will find him; and if we knock on opportunity's door, it will open. And yet I would continue to get confused every time God did not give me exactly what I asked for, I would ponder at why I didn't find him when I searched for him and I would rattle my brain when door after door of seemingly perfect opportunities would result in those doors slamming in my face. "But God, you SAID!!!" I would cry, "I see it right here in YOUR WORD!" What once felt like an empty promise proved to be a lack of understanding on my part. As I read through this passage today, God has revealed a different understanding as to what Ask, Seek, Knock actually means and one that has gifted me a new level of love for this passage.
I once believed that asking and receiving meant rattling off a 'Christmas list' during my prayer time. While some of my requests would be materialistic and what I determined to be needs; other requests would be a spouse, a great job, an answer to a hard question or general guidance on a tough situation. I believed that it was in the act of asking God that I would be in a position to receive exactly what I asked for, I mean, God said so right?
What I have come to learn is that asking God has really nothing to do with our request for stuff or an answer to prayer; in fact asking has nothing to do with the request at all. Instead, the act of asking has more to do with the disposition that we approach God with, and less to do with the question/request at hand. Instead of the act of 'Asking', I see it more as an act of Admitting...
We Admit that we need help and cannot do it alone.
We Admit that we don't know what the right answer is.
We Admit that we are lonely and seek companionship
We Admit that life is hard with what we currently have
By assuming the position of admittance we then allow God to give His answer. We come into a position where we are ready to receive what God knows we need, instead of the random stuff that we want. When we let God decide how to answer our request then we make way for greater blessings and we diminish our disappointment in not receiving what we asked for. Even though you may believe you know what is right or what you need, the reality is that God is the only one with true foresight into what you will need, and how to best bless you.
Looking back I find it rather amusing what my version of seeking God was. I can see myself now as I sat there, no Bible, no time in Prayer or Worship, just sitting there... asking God, "God, reveal yourself to me". I expect God was just looking at me going... "Jen... my Word is RIGHT THERE.... pick it up!". You see, I defined Seeking God as sitting and waiting for God. I expected him to do all of the heavy lifting, the tearing down of my walls and the coming to me as I sat there and did nothing. Reality is, God will not shoulder your relationship with Him for you, he expects you to participate in it. To do some work, to get off the couch and Go & Look for Him, and by doing that he promises you will find him.
And don't be lazy about it, don't "man look" as I like to call it (sorry men folk, but for most of you this is all too true). The man look being when you search for something and just scan the surface, not moving or lifting anything, and determining that what you are looking for is not there. Do not open your Bible once, look at one verse and expect a divine intervention. While that may happen, let that be the exception, don't expect it. Put some elbow grease on, get your hands dirty and seek God in His Word, in His people (your brothers and sisters in Christ), in Prayer, in Song, in Dance, try many different ways to meet Him. Seek is an action word, so ACT on it!
In my younger days I really only understood the meaning of the first two statements in this passage, mostly because I had no idea why I would need God's help opening a literal door (I was a wee dense at times). In fact I could imagine a door like the one to Noah's Ark that God had to help close and didn't expect to run into any of those in my lifetime. But as I grew up I began to realize that the door was not in fact a real, wooden door but a door of opportunity. So I thought, great! God will open all of the doors of opportunity that I come into contact with. I say Nay Nay (as the late, great comedian John Pinette would say).
Do not get conned into believing that God is going to open E V E R Y opportunity that you "knock" on. Why? Because he knows that not every opportunity is the right opportunity. Sometimes, you will have to knock on many doors in order to open the right one. "But God's Word says knock and the door will be opened to you." That is right... it says the door, not the doors. He will open the door, when we get to it and our job is to keep knocking.
There goes that action word again. You do not stand there, fist held out in front of you waiting for the door to come to you and knock on your fist... that would be ridiculous (You are totally picturing it right now though aren't you?) You have to walk towards the door, you have to take the steps and you have to put yourself out there to knock and make yourself known. There will be times when the door will stay shut, when it will open a crack and close again. There will be times when it seems like it is wide open and yet slams in your face as you come closer. There will also be times where there will be two doors open at the same time. When that happens don't race through either one, but take time to pray and consider, consult with mentors and step through confidently.
So this is your reality check.
If you have been expecting God to deliver on exactly what you have asked for, to experience Him yet having him do all the work or expect every door to open at the sound of your knock... it is time to step back and regroup. To be in relationship with God means two things; we must willing to participate and put the work in, and we need to trust that He knows best.