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“...good things...”

“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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7: 7-11
 

After a wet winter the daffodils are out. So are the crocuses and the camellias. Have you looked closely at them? Have you felt their smoothness? Have you seen their vibrant colours? Have you realised that they are alive?

For months they have been, to all appearances, dead. Not so. They were waiting for the right moment to be given to us.

In his first major Keynote Address to start his public ministry in Israel, Jesus asked his listeners whether they knew how to give good gifts to their children. See bold above. If they did, then it surely followed that their Father above would know how to give good gifts to his children on earth below. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

If you had been a disciple of Jesus in the crowd back then (AD 30 Galilee) you might well have become very enthralled with Jesus’ instruction to you to ask, to seek and to knock. His instruction was not to sit back but to be active in asking, seeking and knocking.

And he gave a wonderful promise to those who did these three things. “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
 
 
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‘God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.’ (Elisabeth Barrett Browning, poet, 1806-1861)

But wait a minute! Is that really the case? Will my heavenly Father answer when I ask? Will I find what I’m seeking from him? Will doors open when I knock? I wonder.

And even if I do receive an answer, even if I do find, even if the door opens when I knock, will the answer be a good answer, will what I find be good, will the opened door be good?

Is that why the next two sentences from Jesus’ Keynote Speech begin with “Or …” I think that Jesus knew that his hearers, although they were following him because he was such a good man and a good teacher and a good healer, had grave doubts within themselves.

So he pre-empted their (and my) unspoken objections. “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?”

Can you picture it? Your young son has just come down for breakfast. He asks for toast and marmalade. You give him a large pale-brown beach pebble spread over with mustard. Your face remains serious. He looks at you. You don’t relent. That’s it.

Can you picture it (2)? Your young daughter asks for a goldfish. You bring her a piranha in a large bowl. She plays with. You watch. She touches it and has the flesh removed from her index finger - at a stroke. You remain serious and unconcerned. That was your plan.
 
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‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake./ Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me./ You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows./ Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’ (King David of Israel, c. 1000 BC)

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Later today, if you have a moment, take another look at the daffodils, at the crocuses, at the camellias. Are they good things? Are they alive and well?

Then turn back to your heavenly Father… Why not ask, seek and knock?
 
 
Richard Syvret

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