Matthew 7:7-12, Proverbs 8:12-21, James 1:5-6, Revelation 3:19-20
There is an old Puritan prayer, recorded in a wonderful little book called The Valley of Vision, which includes these words:
“I thank you that many of my prayers have been refused.
I have asked amiss and do not have,
I have prayed from lusts and been rejected,
I have longed for Egypt and been given a wilderness.
Go on with your patient work, answering ‘no’ to my wrongful prayers, and fitting me to accept it.”
Where is God saying no to you, and what does that make you think about Him?
In today’s Scripture, Jesus tells us something we can trust about the character of God—He is a good Father. He knows what we need before we do, and cares about us more deeply than we could ever care about ourselves. This is a theme that runs throughout the Sermon on the Mount: God is deeply invested in our lives. We were created to know Him, love Him, enjoy Him, be led by Him, be cared for by Him, and be kept by Him. This is the nature of the relationship between a good father and his children.
Because we were made to relate to Him in this way, Jesus tells us to ask God for what we need. A good father gives his children what they need, and usually more, too. So ask Him for things—for resources, for help, for wisdom, for community, for healing, for forgiveness, for rest for your soul.
But Jesus also teaches us that a good father is someone who will say no when we ask for something that will harm us or work against us. Sometimes the best response a loving father can give to a pleading child is to say no, because sometimes the child unwittingly asks for a serpent or a stone.
How do we respond when God says no? We might be tempted to interpret His no as God being disinterested in us, but that can’t be true. That is not the way of a good father. Or we might think He isn’t listening, or worse, isn’t real. But that logic breaks down quickly. We cannot disprove the existence of God simply because He doesn’t give us everything we ask for. What kind of God would He be if He did?
We miss the goodness of God when we begin to evaluate His faithfulness based to what we perceive He has done for us lately.
Even in our deepest seasons of confusion or want, we have good reason to believe that God has already addressed our greatest need—salvation. He met this through the sacrifice of His own Son in this way:
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:8).
The God who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, is the same good Father Jesus is talking about in the Sermon on the Mount. The “yes” he has already given in Christ will forever outweigh a million “nos.”
Written by Russ Ramsey