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 he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
There are two very important aspects to this passage: if you want it ask God and if it is good He will give it to you. Many times we only focus on one part and walk away disappointed in God because He didn’t give us what we asked for. Yet, we forget that He will give us when we ask Him and He will only give us what He knows is best for us. I liken it to a child asking for an ice cream cone right before bed. In general, a “good” parent will not give the child what they want because while yes, ice cream is good, it is not good right before bed because the child will not sleep and then have a bad day at school as a result. But, as the child only can focus on what they want in the moment, they cannot think ahead to the consequences. The parent, with wisdom, knows it is not what is best for the child even if the child is throwing a tantrum on the floor. The parent wants and knows what is best for their child and therefore refuses to give in. God does the same with us! I know, it’s hard to imagine an adult throwing a tantrum like that, but we do it in our own “grown-up” way. We get angry with God, we say we don’t believe in Him anymore (as if that spites God), we may even stop going to church for a while. But He just patiently waits us out until we get over it and He shows us that He really knows and wants what is best for us. Let’s take a look at Luke’s record of this passage in chapter 11 and see what he captured about God giving us what is good:
13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Instead of “what is good,” Luke records what is the best: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our connection with God here on earth. If we can learn how to remain connected with the Holy Spirit, then we will know what to ask for! By having the Holy Spirit inside us and upon us, we can have eternal communion with God. We can know His will. We can ask God what we want according to His will and never be disappointed because we will know what He will give us and we will be asking for it. As children, we would play the game where we ask one parent or another for something because we knew they would grant it to us when the other wouldn’t. Maybe dad was busy fixing the car and preoccupied so he would say “yes” to practically anything just to keep us out of our hair. Or mom would let us get our favorite cereal in the store just so we didn’t cry the whole time she was stopping. We learned the character of our parents at a young age and we used it to our advantage. Our relationship with God is similar, except He cannot be taken advantage of. By having the Holy Spirit and developing a relationship with Him, we get to learn more about the character of God and His will. We know what He will and will not give us and therefore will learn to only ask for what He will give us, knowing He will give it! I love James’ explanation of how to ask God for things in chapter 1 of his letter:
5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James knew that God wants to give us wisdom and encourages us to ask for it. But, he says, be careful in how we ask. Think about knocking on a door to a house; if you don’t believe anyone is inside, will you knock loudly or just lightly tap the door with your knuckles going through the motions? If we don’t have faith that God will answer or is even listening, then why do we ask at all? If we don’t trust Him to hear or answer, then we won’t ask with faith, but doubt.
Our biggest problem with this concept is accepting God’s rejection of a request as something good. We still want that ice cream cone even though God says no. This is our spiritual battle against our flesh. Somewhere in the back of our minds we know what the answer is going to be, but we crave it and want it so bad. What if what we ask for is not given to us? What if the door we knock on isn’t opened for us? What if the things we are seeking we never find? It isn’t because God has abandoned us; it is because He wants us to ask for something else, knock on a different door, and seek in a different direction. In Matthew 5:6 Jesus said that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. If what we are asking for, knocking for, and seeking for is not righteous, He will not grant it to us. If it isn’t according to His will for us, we will not get it. There are some things He may let us experience so we can grow and learn, but ultimately it is about honoring Him. If we are trying to accomplish something that doesn’t honor Him, then He will not grant it to us, regardless how much of a tantrum we throw.
So, don’t be dismayed if God doesn’t give you what you want. He knows what you need. He knows what is best for you.