For many of us who have been raised in the cities and suburbs of North America, autumn is about warm soup, brisk walks, colorful foliage, and hoping the winter snow will be manageable. But for those who have been raised in farm country, fall is the season of the harvest.
In much of the world, and for most of human history, a good harvest means being able to provide for the family for another year. An especially plentiful harvest may be enough to provide for several years, with careful planning. But a poor harvest comes as a harbinger of hardship and hunger.
When it comes to getting what we want, we often look for quick and easy answers. Solutions to our problems that sound too good to be true usually are, yet we still find them appealing. But there is a difference between getting what we want, and getting what we need.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorts the people not to worry about their needs, but to trust in God who provides:
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matt. 6:25-26)
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8)
Does this sound like an easy solution to all of your problems? Consider this promise:
“…ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7b)
Often, we hear these words, just as I have just given them – quoted out of context. They can sound like a promise that things will be easy if we just proclaim our faith in Jesus. We will just have to ask, and we can have anything we want. But when we read these words as they were spoken, in the context of a larger conversation, we get a more complete and accurate picture.
Jesus’ beautiful description of how our heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field is sandwiched between this warning about pursuing material goods:
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24)
And this admonition about priorities:
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Likewise, Jesus’ promise in the Garden of Gethsemane is given conditionally,
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)
These promises are given in the context of a life lived as children of our Heavenly Father. We may confuse our needs and our wants, but God sees them clearly. We may deceive ourselves when it comes to our motives and agenda, but God is not deceived.
God is a God who provides, but not always in the way we might ask or think.
God gives what He knows is good for us (Matthew 7:7-11). As a loving parent, He does not always give what we ask. Sometimes He says, “No.” Sometimes He says, “Wait.” And then sometimes, He surprises us by providing before we even ask.
Sometimes, He gives us exactly what we ask for. Sometimes He gives us what He knows is better.
There are times that God provides in miraculous ways. More often, He provides in common ways. He gives rain in its season. He causes crops to grow. He sends a neighbor to provide encouragement and a helping hand. Or He places an opportunity in our path.
If we are willing to prayerfully read and study it, He also plants His Word in our hearts to guide us in making right choices and to help us to recognize His ways.
If you are only interested in getting what you want, you are looking in the wrong place. But if you want to receive from the God who knows your heart and who has your best interests in mind, then ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. The answer may not come in the form or at the time you thought, but it will be worth waiting for.
This is something that I just went through on my move to Florida. I expected things to flow exactly how I planned, and it didn’t happen that way. But, God held me in the palm of His Hand during the rough times and brought me through. I have to grasp these words of His again, when my plan doesn’t flow as I expect. Thanks so much for this writing!
It is so much better to have exactly what we need instead of a bunch of useless stuff. Thank you, Father God for always having my best interest in mind when you consider how to respond to my prayers.