Yesterday we were looking at the wonderful truth that ‘receiving’ is at the heart of the gospel. We have also recently been considering the contrast between the tradition of Father Christmas, who brings gifts to ‘good children’, [although he does seem to turn a blind eye to a lot of bad stuff!] and our Heavenly Father who gave our broken fallen humanity His Son because ‘He so loved the world’ – so that ‘whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16. Because ‘to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.’ John 1:12.
Now there is one good thing that the Father Christmas tradition can teach us. Children are encouraged to write a letter asking for what they want for Christmas. Now when I was little, asking for things (other than necessities) in the normal run of life was not considered polite, so to be given permission, as a little child, to ask at Christmas and Birthdays was quite exciting. There was of course no guarantee that the request would be answered in full, there being many financial restraints.
How wonderful then that in the Kingdom of God we are actually encouraged to ask. Jesus Himself said, “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. Everyone who asks receives. In fact in this instance Jesus encouraged persistence, not reticence, by using the present continuous verb, He said “Ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you……” Matthew 7:7. AMP. Asking as a precursor to receiving is totally OK in God’s Kingdom. Remember how Jesus told the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” John 4:10.
In His discourse with the disciples at the last supper, recorded for us by John, Jesus tells them on three separate occasions that they can ask for things. In John 14:13,14, we read, “I will do whatever you ask in my name.” Then in John 15:7 Jesus tells them “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.”, and “the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” 15:16.
Finally, when He is explaining to His disciples that He is going to be leaving them, He says to them “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:23,24,26. Jesus clearly did not want to leave them without making this absolutely clear. He wants them to know that it’s OK to ask, even highly encouraged, and that they can ask, with a full expectation that their heavenly Father will say “Yes!”
The key here seems to be the mysterious phrase that Jesus used “ask in my name”. This is about asking with confidence for God to give us those things that the Holy Spirit stands ready to impart to us, because of all that Jesus has brought for us on the cross. It’s about asking for all those things ‘we need for life and Godliness.” 2 Peter 1:3, for ‘He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?’ Romans 8:32.
A good example of this is found in .James 1:5, ‘If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to Him, but when he asks, he must believe and not doubt…..’ If we know that something is definitely in God’s will for us, like wisdom, then we can ask with faith and receive by faith, because that is what God really wants to see in us. In fact when James is calling out the Christians for their bad behavior, (fights and quarrels), he says to them ‘You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives….’ James 4:2. They clearly were not asking God to give them love and patience with one another, but maybe to be vindicated and to be shown to be right.
God’s love and giving in Jesus is unconditional. He just wants us to receive Him, to receive His beautiful new life by the Spirit living within us. He gives to the sinful and wants them to receive so that He can take their lives and transform them into the people they were created to be. As it says in The Message, He wants His children to become ‘Their true child of God selves’. John 1:12. So today, as we ask for the gifts and grace that we need in all our differing circumstances, do let us ask with thanksgiving, because thanksgiving is a way of expressing our confidence and faith, which He loves, that He will not withhold any good thing from those whose desire is to walk blameless. Psalm 84:11.