Date:    9/14/03

Text:     Matthew 7:7-12

Title:     Results Guaranteed

Theme: Since he is our good heavenly father, God is able to give us beyond what we ask and imagine.



            Bart Simpson did not do well in the 4th grade. After a meeting, his parents, teacher and the school psychiatrist concluded that Bart should repeat the 4th grade. Bart was horrified. “Look at my eyes,” he said. “See the sincerity? See the conviction? See the fear? I swear I’ll do better!” You see, nothing could be worse for a 10 year old than being held back in school. Yet, if he could pass the American History exam, he would be allowed to graduate.

            One can imagine how hard he tried to study. The night before the big test, Bart was sitting at his desk and he realized it was too late, he had ran out of his options. So, he knelt down and prayed, “This is hopeless. Well, Old Timer, I guess this is the end of the road. I know I haven’t been a good kid, but if I have to go to school tomorrow, I’ll fail the test and be held back. I just need one more day to study, Lord. A teacher strike, a power failure, a blizzard---anything that will cancel school tomorrow. I know it’s asking a lot, but if anyone can do it, you can. Thanking you in advance, your pal, Bart Simpson”

            Then a single snowflake fell to the ground. Then another, and another. And suddenly it was the biggest snow storm in the city. And school was called off the next day. Bart studied hard. At the test time, he did his best, but he came up one point short. It looked like he had failed—until at the last possible moment, he miraculously scored one more point and got a D minus. He passed. He was so happy, the father was so happy and posted the paper on the refrigerator and said, “I am proud of you, boy.”  Bart replied, “Thanks, dad. But part of this D minus belongs to God.”

            Don’t we do the same? When we are at our road’s end, we turn to God and pray. Who doesn’t need a God like this? God is supposed to listen and give us what we want, right?

            The passage before us is very familiar to many of us. We have held on to these verses in times of need. When prayers are answered, we point to the truthfulness of these verses, and give credit to God. When we don’t get what we have asked for, we are disappointed, and try to justify and explain why God failed to do so.

            Let’s take a closer look at this passage, and we want to learn a simple truth: Since he is our good heavenly father, God is able to give us beyond what we ask and imagine.

We want to explore this passage in the context of what we have been studying during the past 6 months.

I.          Believers are to pray for what is lacking I our Quality of life .

            vs7-11 is about prayer. When we think of prayer, we think of our needs. We think of tight financial situations, jobs, health problems, travel safety, and relationships with those who are important to us. They have prompted us to prayer. When problems are resolved, or when life moves on smoothly, we sometimes feel that we run out of things to pray, until another crisis arises. Or we pray for others’ needs. When I ask individuals how I can pray for them, often if their life is smooth and under control, they tell me they are fine, they don’t have much needs. Therefore I don’t need to bother to pray for them.  

            As we study this passage, we may want to ask, what did Jesus have in mind when he teaches the disciples about prayer? To understand this, we have to review what has gone before this.

            Last week we reviewed that in the beatitudes, we learned about characters expected from God's children. Poor in spirit, mourn over our sinfulness, meekness, a merciful, and pure heart, a person of peace.

            Then Jesus moves on and instructs us about our moral integrity. He reminds us of our need to control our anger and lust, commitment to our marriage partner, and how we should love those who hate and hurt us. He calls our attention to the importance of praying, fasting and helping those in need. We don’t do these to show off, like the Pharisees. These are to be done in secrecy, it is between us and God. At the end of Chapter 6, we are being challenged to put our trust in God for our daily needs. Because he is the faithful and loving God, he will certainly watch over and provide for us.

            As Jesus was coming to the end of his sermon on the mount, he must have sensed his disciples’ anxiety about the expectations and challenges before them. How could anyone achieve such standards? How could anyone make such drastic changes in one’s characters and morality. Facing such expectations, how can one avoid being hypocritical and judgmental?

            It is in this context we read, “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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Jesus is saying, are you having difficulty developing some of the characters that are expected of God's children? Come, ask God for it. Are you having difficulty being humble, meek, gentle, merciful and peace-loving? Come, and ask God for it. Are you having difficulty controlling your anger and lust? Come and ask God for it. Are you struggling to be faithful and to keep your marriage covenant, and the temptation to call it quit is so overwhelming? Come, ask God for it. Are you still bitter and resentful towards the ones who have offended you? Come and ask God to help you to forgive. You have tried so hard, but still worry sick about your financial and career situation, Come to God and ask him to help you to rid the unhealthy habit of worry over the wrong things.

            You see, Jesus is saying, these standards and expectations are high and lofty. They are the hallmarks of a heavenly kingdom. This is not a kingdom in the east, in Europe, in north America. It is the heavenly kingdom. It is God's kingdom, therefore its standards and principles are different. Humanly speaking, it is hard or impossible for us to live up to and manifest such standards. For this reason, Jesus teaches us to come to God to ask, seek and knock.

            If we read Paul’s letters, this is what he prayed for. He prayed that the Christians in Philippi will have more love, knowledge and discernment, be pure and blameless. He prayed that they will be like Christ, manifesting his love and purity.

            How about our physical needs? We certainly need to bring all of our needs to God. God wants us to tell him of our needs. We pray for our lacking in material resources, but it is equally important to pray for what we lack spiritually.

II.         Believers are to pray Persistently for what is lacking in our life.

            We all have prayed that God will change some of our characters and personality traits. We ask God to help us control our anger and lust. We have asked God to help us to be more disciplined, humble and gentle. We pray for the pastors, church and fellow Christians. Then we slowly stop. Sometimes it is easy to forget what we pray about. When someone or the group is in a crisis, we immediately mobilize others to pray. If the situation continues on for another 6 months to 1 year, we slowly forget and our prayers stop. It is always easy to start praying, but to continue for several months or years, is difficult. Its like that 5-minute fever.

            Jesus is saying, keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. Don’t stop. Be persistent in your asking, in your prayers. Keep asking God to help you be a humble and gentle person. Keep asking God to help you to control your anger and lust. Don’t stop asking God to help you to be faithful to your marriage covenant. Keep asking God to free you from the slavery of a judgmental spirit, and become one who is loving and discerning.

            In these two verses, we are also told to ask and it will given, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. The focus is: it will be given to you. If it is given, it means it is not out of our merit. It is God's grace.

            Sometimes we hear individuals say, if I can change, you can change also. If I can follow the 5 steps to spiritual maturity, you can too. Yes, the 5 steps or 10 steps, or other self-help books can certainly help us grow, but at the core, it is God who enables us to grow. He is the one who helps us control our anger and lust. He is the one that enables us to be humble and gentle. He gives us the wisdom of knowing the difference between a discerning and judgmental person, and empowering us to become a discerning person.

            Not just about quality of life, but he is the one that provides us with our material resources. Our jobs, health, financial stability, a place to live, are all given by God. Therefore they are God's grace. We are recipients of God's grace in every aspect of life.

III.       Believers are to pray Persistently with the assurance of God's goodness.

            We are to pray for our lack of love, lack of control over our anger and lust, our arrogance and pride. We are to keep praying for our physical and spiritual lacking. What is our motivation to pray?

            Vs 9-11, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Here Jesus tells a story. No father, even though we are sinful and broken,  will give the son a stone when he asks for bread. No father will give his son a snake when he asks for fish. That is, a father will give the children what is good. He will never give the children anything that is harmful. It is always good gifts. It is satisfaction guaranteed. How much more so for the father in heaven?

            Our motivation for praying is the understanding that God will guarantee us that the result is good.  

1.         God is our father in heaven.

            The Christian God is not only the creator God, but also our father in heaven. There is this personal and close relationship with him. He is high above, but is also personal that we can communicate with him. He tells us about his thoughts in the Word. We tell him about us in our prayers. We bring our needs to him and tell him how much we need him.

2. God is the good father in heaven.

            Very often our perception of God as father is tainted by our experience with our earthly father. On many different occasions, either in the privacy of counseling or in public teaching, I have asked you, including myself, not to let our experiences with our earthly father define what the heavenly father is like.

            This and other passages tell us that our heavenly father is a good father.

3. The heavenly father gives us what is good.

            Moreover, he will give us what is good. Please note, the perfectly good heavenly father will give us what he considers good.

            We usually ask for what we think is good for us. We want this job or that house. We want this to happen to our family and want that to be under our control. We want this particular relationship to flourish.

            The teaching here is that God will give us what he considers as good for us. We see things with limited perspective. We only see what is good for us here and now. but God see things from the eternal perspective.

            I think the parents among us understand this well. Most children like Twinkies. Twinkies have high sugar and fat content. Eating too much is really not good for their health. Children don’t care about it; they only know it tastes good. Do we give them what they want or what is good for them?

            God, the good father, always give us what is good for us. We want this job? But he may have another one ready for us. We want this ministry very much, but he has something better in mind. He gives us what he considers is good.

            During the last 20 minutes, we have read and heard the word, “good” repeatedly. It points to us that behind this is another truth; the one that under girds all truths. That is the most important thing in life, the ultimate good for us in life, is our relationship with God. We are to be at peace with God. In Romans 8:32 we read, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Since God has already given us his best, his only son, so that we can be reconciled to him. For our ultimate good, he has given his son to us. Now, he will also give us the rest. He will change us and develop those characters and quality in life that reflect his beauty and holiness. He will certainly provide us with what we need to live in this world. He cares for the flowers in the field and the birds in the sky, how much more will he care for us.


If you were sitting by Bart Simpson when he prayed, you probably would say to him, “Bart, he can do better than just give you one more point. Your God is too small.” When I look at many of our prayers, including mine, sometimes I can’t help but feel, our God seems to be too small. Its like coming to a billionaire and ask him for 10 dollars.

There was a story about a minister making an appointment to meet with someone with great financial resource. He wanted to challenge this person to give generously toward a certain project. This individual asked the pastor how much would he suggest to give? The pastor struggled over how much to ask, for he was afraid of asking too much. Eventually he gathered his courage and suggested a figure several times more than he originally thought of. And with no question, this individual took out his check book and wrote the check. As he was writing, he said, “I was afraid that you may ask for a smaller amount.”

Dear brothers and sisters, when we come to this all powerful, all loving and good God, let us not put him in that small box. Tell him about our physical needs and wants, But remember, he can do much more than that. Who we are, is much more important than what we have or don’t have, what job we have or don’t have. You know, God is in the business of changing lives, so, ask him, keep on asking him to change us; to change our characters, to change our behaviors, helping us to obey him, that we become more like him.

And you know, when we ask, seek and knock, he listens and will give to us. He will give the best, for he has already given us his one and only one son. He will withhold nothing from us. And moreover, the scripture tells us, “, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think….” ( Ephesians 3:20) His answer to our prayers is beyond our understanding and imagination.