What If You Asked?

May 2, 2017

I spent the morning at the dentist being “crowned.” Nothing traumatic to report; in fact, Dr. H. did a great job numbing my lower left jaw with three Novocain shots. This is why I am known in her office as the woman with nerves of steel. Afterwards, I delayed going to work at the hospital, since I did not want to drool on patients while my mouth was anesthetized. Just as that tingling sensation of tissues waking up started, I jumped in the car for the five-minute and 1.25 mile drive to John Muir Hospital for my Monday shift.

Within a half hour, the pain was throbbing and I bemoaned the fact I did not have any ibuprofen with me. So it was a long afternoon, and I was beat when I finally got home at 6 p.m. [Another reminder of how much the experience of pain exhausts a person.] I looked for the Advil, and finally discovered that I had a bottle of it with me all along, in the purse my kids call my “Mary Poppins bag”! Sheesh.

Isn’t it just like us mere mortals to miss the reality that what we need has, in Christ, been given! We already possess what we need in order to thrive: as Peter wrote in his second letter: “[God’s] divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, . . .” (1:3). But as my sad tale today proves, it is possible to have something important in our possession but not know it.

The Apostle Paul introduced his letter to the Ephesians with the affirmation, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places . . .” (1:3). Yet, here we are, moping around with a throbbing spiritual pain or emotional ache or even physical sickness, forgetting to tap into the supply of God’s provision.

James, the Lord’s brother, put it this way: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Jesus himself said, “For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Mt 7:8 with parallels).

I know, I know, you are thinking that it can’t be that simple. We all have a list of prayer requests that came back “No.” But even so, we are called upon to trust that God has our best interest at heart. The promise is repeated often enough in the New Testament, and by numerous human authors, that it must be true. Remember Jesus’ teaching on prayer?

11“Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If 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!” (Luke 11:11-13).

If I had prayed for the Holy Spirit this afternoon, what sort of answer would I have gotten in my moment of need? First of all, the Holy Spirit dwells in my heart by faith, so I do not have to ask for him to come again. But I am urged to ask the Holy Spirit to act, and how does he do that? By filling me with spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Peace and patience definitely would have helped this afternoon. The Holy Spirit would also have helped me utilize spiritual gifts already given to me: wisdom comes to mind, for starters. Wisdom, if appropriated, would have moved me to search my purse “just in case.” But then, there are times when circumstances cloud our spiritual acuity or we forget what is available to us. It is a sure thing that if we do not ask, we will continue to suffer. But if we do ask, God has something helpful to give! This is not rocket science, and theological gymnastics are not required. We do not receive, because we do not ask. God is faithful to give us everything we need for thriving.

So today, don’t forget to ask God for what you need. Expect a fresh wind of the Spirit to guide you through your challenge, roadblock, or infirmity. Ask yourself the question, If God has already given me what I need for life and godliness and I have received every spiritual blessing, what do I have in my possession now that can help me at this moment? You might be surprised at what you find in your Mary Poppins bag!

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