Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"What do you want from God? … "

Day #200:  Daily Bible Reading - July 16th

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 84 - 86 …

Some people can't imagine asking God for anything, while others will ask God for everything … except what they SHOULD.  Maybe you have asked God for something and you didn't receive what you asked for, so you don't ask any more.  Those who don't know God will often avoid prayer, while those who claim to know Him may abuse the privilege, asking selfishly with only themselves in mind.  As you read through the Psalms, you quickly discover that to the writers of the Psalms prayer is almost like breathing!  It's such a normal, natural, everyday part of life that you can't imagine not doing it.  So it's important to hear what the writers of the Psalms often pray for and to know what God wants you and me to pray for today.

Most people go to John's Gospel and hear Jesus telling His disciples, "I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:13-14).  Jesus also told them that there would be a time, after their time of grief (when He was crucified and buried), when "the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete" (John 16:23-24).  So did Jesus give His disciples a "blank check?"  Could they really ask for ANYTHING and He would give it to them or do it for them?  And what about us?  Do WE get the same promise?

Obviously, this can't be what Jesus meant … then or now.  Surely the disciples asked for things in Jesus' name that they did not receive.  Most of them were martyred for their faith in Christ.  Surely they prayed that God would deliver them and other believers.  The Apostle Paul and the disciples of Jesus and the early believers faced the same trials and the same temptations you and I do today.  They were not perfect people, any more than we are, and they must have prayed for health and peace in the world and other things that they didn't get!  So what did Jesus mean?  Let's look at two more verses and then come back to our Psalms for today …

I John 5:14-15:  "This is the confidence we have in approaching God:  that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of Him."  

Jesus wanted His disciples to ask for "anything" … "in His name."  That meant that their minds were on HIM when they were praying and they were asking for what He had promised to give them.  Sometimes your children ask you for something, knowing that your answer will probably be, "No."  But the older they become the more aware they are of what you have taught them is good for them and what you are willing to give and do for them.  You still want them to ask, but they ask with much more assurance, knowing that you are willing to give them what they NEED.  In a similar way, God desires to give His children all they need, and since unlike us, He knows exactly what we need, He always answers in the very best way possible.  So John writes, "if we ask anything according to His will."  With that in mind, let's look at Psalms 84-86 and see what the Psalmist asked for.

Psalm 84 is such a beautiful expression of the believer's relationship with God.  "How lovely is Your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God" (84:1-2).  Can you say that?  Do you believe that those who live in God's presence, who praise Him, who understand that we are His … do you believe these are people who are blessed, no matter what may be happening in our lives?  Are you always asking God TO bless you, or are you thanking Him that you ARE blessed?  The writer of this Psalm loved worship, loved drawing near to God.  He believed that the Almighty, the God of Jacob, looked with favor on him and he rejoiced that God was his protector.  "No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless" (84:11).

Who of us can say we are "blameless?"  All who trust in the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ!!  That's why he ends the Psalm by saying, "O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in YOU!" (84:12).  We are not blameless, but God's promise of forgiveness through the blood of the Savior makes us blameless in His sight.  Apparently the Psalmist, hundreds of years before the Gospel was ever preached, understood God's grace, mercy and forgiveness as the Spirit moved him to pen these words.  When you know you are forgiven, you know that "the LORD bestows favor and honor" (84:11) and you rejoice in Him.

THEN you are ready to pray for that which God has promised, knowing that He hears your prayers and answers in the best way possible, in His time and in His way.  Psalm 85 begins by stating truth:  "You showed favor to Your land … You restored the fortunes of Jacob … You forgave the iniquity of Your people and covered all their sins.  You set aside all Your wrath and turned from Your fierce anger" (85:1-3).  Prayer that God hears and answers flows from a knowledge of the truth.  So what do you pray for?

"Restore us again, O God our Savior! … Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?  Show us Your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us Your salvation" (85:4,6-7).  This was foremost on the Psalmist's mind and should be foremost in OUR minds!  We need to recognize that we are here for God, that our very existence is for His purposes.  Then we will ask for those things that will glorify Him, advance His kingdom and draw people to put their faith in the God of Jacob, the only true God, our Savior and Lord.  "He promises peace to His people, His saints" (85:8).  So we pray for those things that lead to peace with God … for wisdom, for holiness, for strength, for guidance …

Psalm 86 is another prayer of David … one that you and I could pray every day of our lives.  "Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy" (86:1).  Who of us cannot confess that?!  So he asks God to "guard my life" …  Why should God do that?  " … for I am devoted to You" (86:2).  In fact, David prays in verse 11 for "an undivided heart."  Living in this world we face the constant temptation of losing our first love and taking our eyes off of Jesus.  We forget about being part of God's plan and instead want Him to bless OUR plan.  So David prays for mercy and for joy (86:3-4).

Note the confidence in David's prayer:  "You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to You.  Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy.  In the day of trouble I will call to You, for You will answer me" (86:5-7).  Do you have that confidence?  We should understand God's grace and mercy even more than David, for we know that the Savior has come and His name is Jesus!  "All the nations You have made will come and worship before You, O Lord; they will bring glory to Your name.  For … You alone are God!" (86:10).

With all the gods of the nations in David's day, he knew and testified that there was only ONE true God, the God of Jacob.  When You know God, your heart's desire will be that others know Him, too.  Those today who would mix the worship of other "gods," who are not gods at all, with the worship of the one true God, do not know the God who has revealed Himself in His Son Jesus Christ and by His Spirit through the written Word.  David, like true believers today, trusted in the mercy and grace of God to save him from the grave (86:13).  He rested in God's faithfulness and so do we.

The world around us will crumble and people will scorn our "narrow-minded" faith in God, but because we know Him we will ask for that which we need, trusting Him to provide, according to His will, for our good and for His glory.  What do you want from God?  If you ask for anything according to His will you can know that He hears you and that you have what you have asked for.  As a loving Father He will give you all you need to love Him, to serve Him, to fulfill His calling on your life as a disciple of Christ, as you come to Him in the name of Jesus.

"Father, I come, confessing my need and rejoicing that You have met my greatest need in the cross of Christ, when Jesus suffered and died to pay the penalty for my sins.  In His name, I come to You, trusting in Your mercy and testifying that Your love and faithfulness are truly all I need.  With the Psalmist, I can say, 'Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere!'  Give me an undivided heart, that I may praise You with all my heart and serve You with joy all my days.  Give me strength to endure, to persevere and to overcome, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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