To Those Who Ask
One of the most wonderful promises in the Scriptures is that of our Lord: "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children—how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!" Matthew 7:11
It is not the common things of daily need alone, that God is so willing to give. It is not bread and clothing only—He also gives pleasant comforts and luxuries, and the countless blessings of ordinary life. We can get along without any of these things. None of them are really essential, and when we have them they do not satisfy our souls. They cannot comfort us in sorrow, nor put a pillow under our head in death. A man may have many of life's good things—and yet be very, very poor.
The best gift God has to bestow is himself; and it is this gift that he is more willing to give than earthly parents are to give a cup of water or a piece of bread to their children. Why then, if this is true, should one life go unblessed? Does it not seem strange that men do not take what God is so desirous to give? It would not be so of earthly blessings. If Jesus had said that the Father would give riches to every one who would ask him—how many men would remain poor? Would not the gates of prayer be thronged perpetually with seekers for riches?
Do men really think, in their mad chase for money and power and pleasure—that God himself may be had for the asking? They toil and sacrifice, they wear out their lives and lose their soul to gain perishing riches—while by falling on their knees and turning their eyes toward God, and putting up an earnest cry to him, they would receive eternal possessions, imperishable crowns and treasures! It is only earth's worthless things, which cost so much. The truly enduring things, we may have as gifts of grace.
"Bubbles we earn, with our whole soul's tasking;
'Tis only God that is given away;
'Tis only Heaven may be had for the asking!"
"To those who ask Him." Does not everyone ask? No, there are some who never bow the knee in prayer. They ask nothing from God. They work away with their poor muck-rake—gathering earth's sordid things, with neither eye nor desire for the crowns and glories which hang above their head! They never ask God for anything—and never receive anything.
But do all who ask, receive? What kind of asking is meant in the promise? Is it the mere framing of a prayer into words? Is it the timid, doubting, reluctant, half-hearted asking that many of us know so much about, which receives from God His most blessed gifts? No, such indolent asking never gets such blessing.
Men are willing enough to be blessed—in a way; but is God himself that is offered—not merely God's good gifts. We are quite ready to pray for favors, for common gifts—for food, and health, and home, and friends, and prosperity—or, rising a step higher, to ask . . .
for help in temptation,
for strength in weakness,
for wisdom in perplexity, or
for pardon, purity, and peace.
But these are not the gifts offered in the promise. It is God himself that may be had for the asking—and many people do not want God at all; the receiving of such a gift costs too much.
Or, the asking is not earnest. Only the most intense earnestness can get such a blessing. Here is what God said about it a great while ago: "You shall seek me and find me—when you shall search for me with all your heart." No easy, dull quest will do. Nothing valuable can ever be gotten by a listless, indolent searching. Men do not find gold or diamonds easily; these precious things do not lie in the streets.
Christian people say they desire the filling of the Holy Spirit; but how much, how earnestly, do they desire the blessed gift? Earnestly enough to make any sacrifice to secure it? Earnestly enough to break away once and forever from whatever in business, in friendship, in affection or desire is opposed to this pure Spirit? No indolent seeking will ever get from God the richest of all blessings. The desire must grow so intense, so strong, so absorbing—that it will stop at no cost. There must be such wrestling as Jacob's with the angel—struggling, clinging, pleading, refusing to let God go until the blessing comes.
All of this is in the word "ask" in the promise. We must conclude, therefore, that it is because we do not really and earnestly ask, that we do not receive; that it is because we do not truly desire the gifts of the Spirit, that our hearts are so wintry and cold.
What, then, should we do? Surely we ought to call upon our souls to awake, to arouse ourselves to intense earnestness, to call mightily upon God for the gift he is so willing and so eager to bestow upon those who ask. It is the want of the personal filling of the Holy Spirit in full measure that makes ordinary Christian lives so cold, so comfortless, so dark, so weak in their influence, so listless in service. Were these same lives "filled with the Spirit" they would glow with burning fervor, they would be radiant with joy, they would shine like bright lamps in this world, their influence would be felt far abroad and their service would be patterned on His who went about doing good, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister.
Do Christ's disciples, in their poverty of blessing and their meagerness of usefulness, know what sublime possibilities of spiritual blessedness and power lie close to them, only waiting to be asked for?