Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Three Portraits of Promise

The Bible is full of promises: The promise of everlasting life: The promise of the Kingdom of Heaven: The promise of Salvation, and many others. But there is one promise that holds great fascination for us as Christians. This is the one that we really want to believe: The promise of asking and receiving.

God has promised that what we ask for we will receive. So why does it sometimes seem that we ask and God doesn’t hear our prayer? There is no response, at all! Have you ever experienced that?

You pray something like, “God please save my friend. Bring him to You; to a place of salvation so that he can put away his sin and begin to serve you.” But year after year he continues to be an unrepentant sinner. Or, you pray for a financial breakthrough and yet you still continue to struggle financially. Or, you ask God to restore something that has been lost and it seems like that thing is gone forever.

Where is the promise? Where is the answer to prayer? “What’s up God, I have faith, I’m praying, I’m living for Jesus, but I’m not seeing the things I’m praying for.” We all feel like that sometimes and it leads to a type of spiritual confusion. Jesus gives us a view of how God looks at prayer and I want to share that with you today.

Matthew 7:7-8
7 “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 he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

So there it is! That’s the promise: Ask and it will be given to you.

John 14:13-14
13 “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14 “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

Whatever you ask will be given to you; whatever you ask in My name I will do it. These are pretty powerful promises. Jesus says that if we ask anything in His name he will give it to us. But then, why doesn’t it always seem like that? We read this an we’re encouraged to ask, “God give me the desires of my heart.” But sometimes it seems like God isn’t even listening, much less answering that prayer and we think, “Maybe God is angry at me, that’s why he isn’t hearing me.” But it isn’t like that. Or we think God is unkind, He’s aloof, and He’s not interested in my needs. But that isn’t true. Jesus uses three parables to instruct us in the way God views our prayer and His desire toward us. Let’s look at those parables.

In the first parable, Jesus paints a picture for us of a God who seems uninterested in our needs.

The Parable of the Persistent Friend

Luke 11:5-8
5 And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves;6 ‘for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;7 “and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’?8 “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.

In this parable, God is portrayed as the friend. He is the one we come to with our need, “Friend, give me three loaves.” But we’re confused by His reaction. There is urgency to our need; we see that because we are asking at midnight. It must be an emergency. Have you ever gone to neighbor at midnight and asked to borrow a cup of sugar? No, you would only go and wake up the neighbor at that time if there was an urgent need. So this man comes to his friend in urgent need. The friend seeing that need tells him, “I can’t do it now.”

What is this parable saying? Is it saying that God is unconcerned about our needs? Is it saying that God doesn’t want to be bothered with our petty little problems? We read this parable and we see God as a God that says, “Don’t bug Me.” This is what confuses us, how can God on the one hand say, “Ask and you shall receive,” and on the other hand say, “Don’t bug Me!” The answer is found in the very next verse.

Luke 11:8
8 “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.

That word persistence means to request with urgency. So this parable is saying that the friend didn’t respond to the simple request, but did respond to the urgency of the need. What it is saying is that the man continued to knock; he became troublesome. “You don’t understand this is urgent. I must have something for this traveler.” Because of that urgency the friend got up and gave him all that he needed.

God is like that. He isn’t a spiritual gumball machine; where you put in a quarter and turn the prayer crank and God spits out a gumball blessing. But God will repond to the urgency of the need. Everyday I pray for people to come into the church. I pray that God will bring those who need salvation, those who will respond to the call of God, those with a desire to hear and live out the word and will of God; and the church has grown, God brings people almost every service. The church is growing.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

God brings the increase…God answers prayer.

The Parable of the Unjust Judge

Luke 18:1-5
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.3 “Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’4 “And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man,5 ‘yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ”

In this parable we see the Judge, and this widow comes to him and asks him to avenge her of her adversary. Some enemy is tormenting her. That woman is a picture of us. An adversary torments us; someone who seeks to destroy us; to destroy what God is doing in us. That adversary’s name is Satan. Satan literally means adversary or enemy.

So this woman brings her complaint to the judge and he refuses her.

“Will you avenge me of my enemy, today?” “No!” “Fine.”
“Will you avenge me of my enemy, today?” “No!” “Fine.”
“Will you avenge me of my enemy, today?” “No!” “Fine.”

Finally he says, “I will avenge this woman, just to get her off my back.”

What is interesting about this parable is that Jesus assumes that we’re praying. Because God’s people are a praying people, Jesus assumes that we pray. His intent with this parable is not that we pray, but that we remain steadfast in our prayer; that we contend in prayer for relief.

Luke 18:6-8
6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said.7 “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?8 “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

This is an unjust judge and even he responds to this widow. How will God, who is a righteous judge, respond when we cry out and contend for relief. God doesn’t want us to be tormented. Look what Jesus says to Peter, when Satan comes against him.

Luke 22:31-32
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.32 “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Jesus prayed for him that his faith not fail. Now look at the last verse of the text and look at the interesting question it asks, “When the Son of Man returns will He really find faith on the earth?” Faith is the key: Faith in the sense that we can trust God; but also faith in the sense of being faithful. He is looking for us to steadfast, reliable, loyal…

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

…that we continue even in the evidence that isn’t seen. Will He find faith in you?

These are the keys to seeing prayer answered: Praying with a sense of urgency; in urgent, persistent need and praying in faith; remaining until you see the promise answered; faithful, steadfast contending in prayer. That’s when you’ll see God pour out his blessing.

The Parable of the Good Father

Finally, the third thing I want to show you is that God desires to bless us. He wants to meet our needs, “Ask and you shall receive: Whatever you ask, in my name, I will do it.” This is what leads us into confusion. That God has said I want to bless you but we don’t immediately see a response to the prayer. But God does want to bless.

Luke 11:9-13
9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.10 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.11 “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?12 “Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

There is a picture of God here. It is in the picture of the father who wants to give good things to his children when they ask. What this is saying is that human fathers are sinful, just like everyone else. They can have evil lurking inside. Let’s face facts we are all sinners. We have all fallen short of the Glory of God. But even in that state we want to meet the needs of our children. We still want to give good things to our children. How much more, God, who is righteous?

God has adopted us.

Romans 8:15
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

God, who has made us co-heirs with his son, how much does He desire to meet our needs?

That word “abba” expresses warm affection, a sense of intimacy. It is like the word “Daddy.” That’s the relationship that’s portrayed, a sense of confidence in the love of the father. That confidence is there because we know that he is there for us. My children never have to question whether or not I love them. They can see it in the things I do for them; going to work, sheltering them, providing for their needs. God does all this and much, mush more. He even sent his only begotten son to suffer and die for us, to redeem us from our sin and win us back to a relationship with Him.

God is our Heavenly Father, that name alone denotes the relationship. Sometimes our earthly fathers will let us down, even walk away from us, but our Heavenly Father desires to pour blessing into our lives.

Sometimes, though, we don’t see the blessing until we look back, from the place of blessing. Even though, it may not be what we had in mind when we prayed, maybe it didn’t fit the picture of what we wanted; we can look back and see that God had the best thing in mind for us. The blessing is there. God is a God who desires to bless like a father who loves his children. God is like that.

No comments:

Post a Comment