What Do You Expect?

Rev. Mike Godzwa
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Kay Spiritual Life Center
Luke 11

Luke 11:1–14 NRSV • He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

Illustration by Rachel Ternes

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

They’re coming in the mail. In fact, I think I’ve got all of mine already. No I’m not talking about Valentines.  I’m talking about tax documents.  The 1040, the W2s, 1099s, they’ve all arrived which only means one thing.  Tax day is approaching.  No I don’t have a lot of positive feelings about that one day in the middle of April.  I do not look forward to tax day.

According to the IRS, I’m self-employed.  I won’t go into my boring financial situation, but you know how you always wonder who needs to fill out the long form?  That’s me, plus a few extra documents for fun. Tax day for me usually means spending hours organizing receipts, and plugging in numbers into TurboTax, and praying that the numbers at the top of the screen will change from red (I owe) to green (I’m in the clear).  And even though, I’ve done the proper planning, I’ve paid in what I was supposed to, I have a knot in my stomach until the red goes away.  The knot is there because one day in April about 12 years ago the numbers stayed red–really red, to the tune of $1,300.  It’s the kind of memory that sticks with you.  With that kind of expectation, I’m not in a real rush to fill out those forms.

Experience determines a lot about our point of view, and the expectation that we form as a result can drastically determine our actions.  If we have a positive point of view about a person or upcoming event we look forward to it and we’ll have a greater chance of enjoying ourselves.  If you’re feeling negative toward something, you’re going to avoid it and if you can’t find a way out of it, you’re probably not going to have a very good time.

While there are a lot of factors that play into how we think about the future, I can’t think of any bigger one than our view God.  That’s what we’re going to look at tonight.  The question, “What do you expect?” Is answered in a large part when you ask, “What does God look like to me?”  If you’ve got your Bibles take a look at Luke 11.

1One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Did you notice what this disciple was looking for?  He said Lord, teach us to pray.  I think that is significant. G. Campbell Morgan points out that the disciples already knew how to pray.  They had heard instructions from Jesus a long time ago.  This disciple wanted to find the secret of praying.  He knew how to pray, but he wasn’t praying like Jesus was.  What is it that kept Jesus praying day after day?  What is it that moved him to keep the lines of conversation with God open on a regular basis?  We find the answer as we read on.

2He said to them, “When you pray, say:
   ” ‘Father,
   hallowed be your name,
   your kingdom come.
 3Give us each day our daily bread.
 4Forgive us our sins,
      for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
   And lead us not into temptation.‘ ”
 5Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’
 7″Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
 9″So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
11″Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

Jesus goes into an abbreviated model of prayer, probably one they heard of before, but then he tells them 2 stories to help them understand the God they’re praying to.

The first story is of a man who has a guest show up in the middle of the night.  This is something that would happen regularly because in the hot climate, people would travel at the coolest time.  When a guest arrives at my place in the middle of the night, I throw him a pillow, show him where he’s supposed to sleep and go to bed–Palestinians knew a little more about hospitality.  The guest is here, he needs something to eat, but there’s no bread in the house.  No problem, his friend the baker is down the street.  He’ll give him something.  So he heads over and starts knocking on the door.  He doesn’t get the answer he’s looking for:

7″Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’

How does the he get the bread he needs? By not taking no for an answer.  He keeps pounding on the door until he gets a loaf.

So what is Jesus saying here?  Is he saying the way we get things from God is by pestering Him until he responds? No, in fact Jesus is telling us the exact opposite.  In verse 2, Jesus tells us to address God as “Father.”  God is not a friend who will help us when it’s convenient.  He’s not asleep when we turn our attention to him.  He doesn’t give us what we want so he can get rid of us.  God wants a relationship with us and He is ready to respond when we ask because he loves us!

 9″So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 

This was revolutionary to the disciples.  The picture they had of God was not of a loving father, but as a distant lawgiver.  How did you get God to hear you?  Follow his commands.  The regular person couldn’t possibly keep all 600+ laws and if you’re not following God’s commands, why bother hoping that he might hear you. I think we have a tendency to think of God in the same way.

“God won’t listen to me, I’m not good enough.”

“I’m not going to talk to God about this, it’s not important enough.”

“God’s not going to listen to me. He’s got too many other things going on.”

And because of this wrong picture of God, we close ourselves off from the good things he wants to give us.

Jesus says: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

What are you looking for?  Is it a provision? Is it peace?  Is it a forgiveness or healing for yourself…for others? Is it to know Him better?  Whatever it is ask him, and know he’s ready and willing to respond.

My wife Jen and I dated a long time–6 years through most of high school and all of college before we got married.  Jen was one year behind me so we dealt with the long distance relationship when I was away at college during my freshman year.  It was hard!  We wrote letters to each other and talked on the phone once a week for an hour on Saturday mornings. But that distance provided God and opportunity to work powerfully in both our lives.

It was at a missions service my freshman year that I had what I can only describe as an encounter with God.  I caught a vision of God’s heart for the people who still don’t know his love, and I wept for an hour at an altar after the service.  That’s when I knew I had to be a missionary.  I got up wiped my eyes and found my brother Dave and I told him what happened.  When I got to the missionary part, he said, “that’s great Mike, what do you think Jen will say.”

I had no idea.  I never talked with her about this before.   I wasn’t sure how she would feel about living in a strange place, making little money, and having a job that wasn’t well-liked by a good portion of society.  The next day was Saturday so we were supposed to have our weekly phone conversation and I remember thinking about not telling her.  Or maybe I’d ease her into it.  “What do you think about seeing different parts of the world?”  I knew that God was speaking to me, but I also didn’t want to lose this relationship that meant so much.  I prayed before the phone call and felt like I should go ahead.  It was a huge step of faith.

After I finished, Jen didn’t say anything right away.  Then she said she wanted to read something from her journal.  She shared how God was steering her towards missions too.  She read a prayer she wrote that she said she was willing to give up our relationship if I wasn’t going in the same direction.  As we surrendered those things to him he showed us both where we were going and that we would go there together!

I’m not sharing this story to persuade you to go into missions.  If you become a missionary it won’t guarantee that you’ll find a spouse.  It’s about trusting God for your future.  Because Jen and I trusted in God’s goodness we opened the door for a supernatural assurance for our careers and our lives together.  I can’t imagine a better reason to pray than that.  We have a Father in heaven that loves us and is eager to respond to us.

But even the title, father, can be a stretch for some.  Some of you have had wonderful fathers who have guided you and helped you to see a glimpse of what God is like.  But there are too many of us who have had a very different experience.  Did you notice that Jesus doesn’t say that God is just like earthly fathers.

11″Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

For as much as I love my three kids, Sam, Levi and Nate, I know I fail them far too often.  If they think that God is exactly like me, they’ve got a pretty skewed picture.  I can’t imagine anyone thinking of me when they think of God.

Jesus says, sure, earthly father’s don’t hand their kids snakes and scorpions.  That’s the kind of stuff you call child protective services over.  If that’s the way normal human beings, who are flawed act, God goodness is insurmountably greater.

Holy Spirit – what the disciples were waiting for…

This doesn’t this mean that if you open yourself up to God you’ll get whatever you want.  God won’t give you a harmful things when you ask for food, but he won’t give you a harmful thing when you ask directly for it either.

My son Sam is 8.  My very unscientific study suggests that all 8 year old boys are obsessed with guns and bombs.  I hate to see him disappointed, but if I gave Sam everything he asked me, half of DC would be in ruins right now.

I’m so thankful that God didn’t give me everything I ever asked him for.  Sure it was disappointing not to get what I wanted, but I know now that there’s no way I would have experienced the goodness that He’s shown me all along the way.

So remember how we started talking about taxes?  Last year I dove into them 3 days before they were due–early start!  Still with the knot in my stomach, but this time it was doubled because not only did I not have any money to pay for taxes that I might owe, but I also needed to pay to get my family to Phoenix for a ministry conference in July.  The plane tickets alone cost $1,500.  When I sent the taxes to the IRS that afternoon, not only were the numbers in the green, but thanks to a couple of new tax credits this year, I had enough pay for the entire trip!  The funny thing is we had been praying for a few months for the money we would need.  I never thought in my wildest dreams that it would come through my taxes!

So what’s your view of God?  Jesus says: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 

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