I have a simple mind. I need time to process and think things through. I like bullet points and outlines. If there are two or three things to remember, I’m pretty good. Seriously, it’s a heavy task for me to remember all seven of the dwarfs that co-stared with Snow White. Simple is sweet.
Today my studies focused on one verse and three words.
Ask. Seek. Knock.
I have to admit that I was familiar with this verse before I really became a committed Christ follower and long before I knew where it was actually located in the Bible. I have probably accepted this verse more on what others have said to about it, than from what I have from actually found digging into it myself. Today I have rolled up my sleeves and have been doing some excavating. While I desire to share, I will warn you that it is going to get messy.
In the King James Version Matthew 7:7 reads, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” This is the classic version that I am sure was in a song somewhere back when I was in Sunday school. I probably had some sort of picture with this verse as well. It is very popular.
I tend to be more of an New International Version girl these days, in which Matthew 7:7 reads, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” As it turns out that it is not that different. This is one of those times when one realizes that the different versions of the Bible really are the same in heart and meaning.
As I was reading and writing and re-rereading this verse I was looking at three key words, or main points if you will. Ask. Seek. Knock. I like to think of myself as superbly intelligent, or at least with enough knowledge that if my second grade daughter inquired of me what these words meant, I could give an answer that would satisfy her. But, do I really know or just think I know? When in doubt, look it up.
I pulled out Webster’s fabulous reference dictionary and this is what I found.Ask: (Verb) To call on for an answer To make a request of To invite Seek: (Verb) To search for or try to discover To ask for To try to get or achieve Knock: (Verb) To hit something hard To hit in a forceful way
So these are all verbs. Interesting. Verbs are action words to express doing; a physical or mental action.
Now this is where things started to get uncomfortable for me in my study. I had to really reflect and question my belief in this promise that came from Jesus’ own lips.
Frankly, doubt started to creep in. No, that is not a good description. Picture instead hoards of negative thoughts stampeding and thrashing through my mind creating a dust filled disruption to my studies. Here is a little sampling of what I am talking about:
“I have asked, again and again and again, but I still have not received.”
“It’s too hard to seek. I tried that too. It was so exhausting. I just could not go on. So I went back to the easier path.”
“I knocked, but no one came to the door. So I left. It did not work.”
The biggest doubt of all – how can I possible write about this and share if I am not even sure that I believe it with all of my heart, mind, body and soul?
Here is what I know. I am a broken, messed up human. I have major struggles with fear, insecurity and doubt. This morning I just finished reading the book of Genesis in its entirety (it has taken me weeks). In the front of my mind it is very clear and fresh that God used messed up, sinful and mistake ridden people to do good works and tell the good news. News about how patient God is, about His redemptive powers and about His willingness to allow us to walk with Him.
I became convicted to keep going, in the hopes that my honesty and doubts will be something that we can use to relate to each other.
I want to continue in a candid and direct fashion. If I am really honest, my actions are likely some of the biggest reasons that I have doubt. It’s not a God issue, it’s more of a me issue. God does not force us to Him. He so sweetly waits for us to choose Him.
When I ask, what have I asked for? I have asked to be wealthy, to be skinny, to be gloriously beautiful, to be in vibrant health, to find success in all of my work and to have rich relationships. I really have not even been fervent in asking for these things. I do ask a lot when I am down, alone or in pain. But I tend to get distracted with other things much of the time.
The definition of ask that hurts the most to read, is to invite. Actually, I am not even sure that I call on for an answer or make a request of. It is more so forcing my demanding wish list upon God, complaining that I do not like these circumstances, I want new ones. What if I do not like the answer or the request? Do I really want God to be along side of me in my mess?
How about seeking? Have I searched for the things of God with as much intensity as I search for my keys when I am running late? Well…on rare occasion…maybe. Most of the time, not so much.
So at this point I was feeling that my count was about 2 strikes. Strike three and I am about to be called out. Do I dare continue?
How do I do when it comes to knocking? The majority of the time I tap lightly and then run for the hills like I am being chased by a wild animal! It is so uncertain who or what will be on the other side of that door. Most of the time I believe the What If Monster lives behind the door I knock on. What if this? What if that? What if? What if? What if?
That is it. Three strikes. I am out. Maybe now is the time to stop. Or not.
My thoughts have got me so spun around I am not sure which way is up. Let me go back to the truths from the Bible.
So I tried the Message translation of Matthew 7:7, “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in.”
What if the key result is in the inputs not in the outputs? What if the lesson is to learn about asking, seeking and knocking? Maybe it is not about what we are given, what we find and what lies behind the door?
Confused. Me too. Sort of. Please do not leave yet, I think we will clear it up soon.
Maybe God wants to teach us to ask. That we would ask for what we really long for and not just what we think we should ask for. That we would ask for the the things that He wants us to. That we would invite God in no matter what kind of mess we are currently.
When it comes to seeking, perhaps God wants to take me from my lazy self who does not like to feel dirt upon my hands to a mud caked treasure hunter willing to excavate mountains if called to.
It is possible that God wants to teach me to knock with resounding persistence and force that I could get whole neighborhoods to open their doors.
Could it be that I need to focus more on what I can do for God, than what I can get from God.
Let me illustrate this for you with one of my biggest struggles. My body. I struggle with my weight. I wrestle with food. I am weak in avoiding and declining temptations. I eat for an emotional outlet more than I eat to nourish this temple God has given me. Sadly, my temple is a mess and could use some renovating.
I asked God to make me skinny and as fit as a marathon runner, well maybe I have more wished it than really asked it. I resorted that asking did not work, so I stopped. I have briefly had times where I have sought a solution, but it was uncomfortable so I stopped. I knocked on some doors for help but I did not really want to pay the cost financially or with my time or choices, so I stopped.
Matthew 7:7 from the New Living Translation reads, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Keep on. Keep on. Keep on.
I want to keep on. I want to ask. I want to seek. I wanted to knock.
So what if I changed or modify my inputs and actions.
Ask: God help me to have the courage and the strength to choose that which is good for my body. Help me to really treat what I have been given from You with honor and respect. Help me to choose the fresh salad and victory when the greasy cheeseburger & fries threatens my demise. I invite you to eat with me at every meal and I ask that You would remind me not to binge alone on that bag of Doritos.
Seek: God help me to find creative ways to fit movement and training into my schedule. Help me to search until I find what works for me. Help me to push through the emotions of not wanting to so that I may find what You have for me. Help me see it as a way to discover who it is I was made to be in You.
Knock: God help me to take this challenge seriously. Help me to put force and effort into it. Help me to exert myself for You, because You have said that You will give rest to the weary. I know that You will be there for the recovery, so please help me to be willing to do the work.
Dearest and Beloved Lord,
Thank You. Thank You so much for helping me to be painfully honest. I need to go through all of this and I admit that is was not easy, or fun, or even very encouraging during the process. Lord, please take these words, this meager offering of mine. Please use them to reach a heart God. May it touch one life in an incredible way.
May I not dwell on the outcome, but simply praise You for all that You have helped me to pour into it. May I be content to know that You have touched my heart and have blessed me.
Lord for anyone who reads this who is struggling. Lord, pour Your mercy, Your grace and Your abundance upon them. May they not feel condemned or guilty. Instead may they experience renewed hope and strength to continue to face this day with the knowledge that they are not doing it alone.
In Jesus’ powerful name, amen.