Remember to Ask
When I was a kid, my parents would take me to Portsmouth and drop me off at my Mamaw’s house for a couple weeks over summer vacation. It worked out well. Mom and Dad got rid of me and Mamaw was off for summer break just like I was. For the most part we’d goof around the house. Mamaw never had much in life as far as material things but she was rich in love – particularly for her grandchildren.
About the time Mom and Dad found out they were expecting me, was also around the same time that my grandfather passed away. And that’s where I got my name – Angel Baby. Mamaw believed that the timing of my arrival was God’s doing. And so regardless of how angelic or devilish I acted, I was always her Angel Baby.
I was also very spoiled!
But enough about that! Having that kind of closeness with her always made time spent with her stellar. It didn’t matter what we did. Just so long as I was with my Mamaw. Each summer trip, however, there was something I looked forward to while visiting. Something that was very practical and needed done on a weekly basis.
Go ahead – laugh – but it’s the truth! We’d get into her car and head to the local grocery store. I’d help load up the cart because I was an Angel Baby of course. But I also knew that if I was good at the store, I might have the opportunity to get something at the checkout counter! You know, those racks where the store puts all the candy at eye level to tempt kids and drive parents bonkers?! Yea, they are designed that way on purpose! I loathe them now, but then – oh! Then I loved them!
As we filled the cart and the distance between the checkout and our cart grew smaller, my anticipation grew larger. I would wait for her to say
“You were an Angel Baby! Go ahead and get something.”
One of the earliest memories I have of these trips was one that left me empty handed. It wasn’t because I wasn’t an Angel Baby, nor was it that I didn’t help fill the cart. And it wasn’t that Mamaw didn’t want to buy me something.
It was that I didn’t ask.
I expected that she’d ask me. After all, I was good and I helped! But she didn’t ask and neither did I. I could have picked out a delicious 5th Avenue candy bar. Those were absolutely my favorite! I was weird (still am depending on who you ask) but I’d want one of those and a can of Sprite from the vending machine. That was a treat worth grocery shopping ten times over. But I didn’t get it because I didn’t ask.
I’ve been studying the 9th chapter of Matthew. In verses 18-31 I’ve read three accounts where someone in need sought Jesus out and asked Him for something. The first starts with Jairus, a synagogue official. His daughter has died and he comes to Jesus, bows down before Him and asks Him to come and lay His hands on her so that she will live again.
Matthew 9:18 While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.”
In order to bring this into our lives, you have to read this verse with the emotions that had to be flowing through Jairus. This is his little girl! When I read this verse, I imagined Jairus sobbing through his plea and sounding something like…
“Jesus!!! Please…please! My daughter is dead! My little girl is gone! But you…Oh Jesus! You can come and touch her! You can lay hands on her and she will live again!”
Can you hear the hopelessness and sorrow in his voice?
You not only can hear it, but you can see it. The word “bowed” in this verse is a form of reverence, but means more than just that. It means to fall down. In other words, Jairus fell down and prostrated himself before Jesus. You have to think…this wasn’t a request spoken as calm as you or I can read it. Jairus is pleading! He’s desperately asking Jesus to do something!
Let’s continue through the passage.
Matthew 9:19 Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples.
Matthew 9:20 And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak;
Matthew 9:21 for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will get well.”
On the trip to Jairus’ daughter, a woman afflicted with a hemorrhage, seeks Jesus out. Again, let’s bring this into today. Here is a woman who is ceremonially unclean. She has been shunned by her church, by her family, and by her friends. She’s an outcast solely based on a physical affliction that as far as we can tell is not any fault of her own.
Imagine us turning someone away at the doors of BNC. That’s what she faced. Imagine she’s visited the finest doctors from Cincinnati to Cleveland and every where in between and she’s down to her last dime. She’s suffered tremendously painful procedures all resulting in the same outcome – the affliction remains. There is a hopelessness that can be read into her words.
“I have suffered for so long! I only want to be normal and have my family and friends accept me and love me! I want to sit down at church and worship! If I can just get close enough to Him, maybe, just maybe I can touch Him and just by touching Him, I will be healed!”
As with Jairus, we hear the hopelessness, but we also see it. The word touch, at its basic level, means to make contact with something. But it also means to cling to and take hold of. We can almost see that she intends to grab a hold of his garment and is not going to let go till she is well.
Let’s see what happens next.
Matthew 9:22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well.
Jesus says to her, “your faith has made you well”. Made you well literally means “has saved you”. She has been saved, through faith. This has to be a monumental moment in her life! Finally, she’s saved from being shunned and scorned! In her case there was never a moment of her asking Jesus with words. She asked and believed through her actions of clinging to the only hope she had – Jesus.
Back to Jairus.
Matthew 9:23 When Jesus came into the official’s house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder,
Matthew 9:24 He said, “Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.” And they began laughing at Him.
Matthew 9:25 But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up.
Let’s set the scene. The girl has died and professional mourners have been hired to come in and wail, cry, and play flutes. It was truly “noisy disorder”
Jesus comes in, dismisses the disorder and focuses on what He was asked to do – bring a man’s little girl back to life. And He indeed does just that. Let’s finish the passage that ends with one more request.
Matthew 9:27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”
Matthew 9:28 When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”
Matthew 9:29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.”
Matthew 9:30 And their eyes were opened.
The last miracle in these verses is the healing of two blind men. They come to him crying out to Jesus to have mercy on them. What’s interesting to me is that Matthew never mentions them asking Jesus to restore their sight. Instead, they asked for Jesus to “have mercy” on them. To ask that of Jesus was to ask Jesus to respond to their deepest need. They needed to see, both physically and spiritually. And Jesus answered to both.
Jairus, the woman, and the blind men all had their needs met. They didn’t receive because Jesus knew their thoughts, although He most certainly did. They received because they asked and asked in faith.
At times, life can seem more like the noisy disorder that Jesus dismissed, than the peace that flows like a gentle stream. In the noisy disorder its hard to separate His voice from the noise.
Post high school graduation left me with my own car and a little bit of freedom. I wanted to take a trip that first summer out of school. While I couldn’t afford a trip to some fantastic beach or exotic getaway, I could afford a trip to see my Mamaw. So I packed my car and headed three hours south.
Driving has got to be one the most boring things for me. And so I found myself listening to the radio. I’d find a radio station that played music I liked and cranked the volume! What was frustrating, however, was due to the distance I was driving, static would begin to break through as I drove further from that station. I’d listen for as long as I could until other competing radio stations began breaking through along with the static. Before long I’d be listening to just a bunch of garbled noise. I could no longer distinguish the station I was listening to.
Life’s “noisy disorder” can make it hard to hear His voice calling out to us. The noise becomes a distraction, which ultimately is the enemy’s purpose. Distracted, we can forget to ask and seek out Jesus in the times we need Him.
At other times in life, we find that all we have left is to cling to Jesus. All other supports have failed and it seems as though it’s all crashing in. All we have left is Jesus and we cling to Him like the woman did. He was her hope. He is our hope. He is our hope when everything seems hopeless. In that hopelessness we cling to Christ and find that even if we lose everything, we still have all we need in Christ.
Now…I gotta ask myself – What if Jairus or the woman never asked Jesus. What if they had never sought Him out. Would Jesus still meet their needs? I’m certainly not qualified to answer that question. But I don’t know if I’d want to chance NOT asking. After all, I didn’t ask my Mamaw and look where that got me! We are created to need Him and in Him we find abundant mercy to touch and meet our deepest needs. It’s all there for the asking!
Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Look at verse 7. Ask, Seek, Knock. All three are active and present tense. This isn’t a one-instance prayer. This is a persistent, continuous act of prayer! Verse 8 lists the results of just such a prayer. Receives, Finds, Opens.
But persistent, continuous prayer alone is not enough. Look at Jesus’ words to the blind men.
Matthew 9:28 …Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”
Jesus asked if they believed He could do this for them. Jesus got into His robe and pulled out His faith-o-meter and held it in front of these guys. Did they believe in His power? Reading this verse I could hear Jesus asking me that same question. The only difference was the context of my “this”. And I’ll ask you the same question – What is your this? Take a moment and think about that before reading on.
The two blind men answer with a resounding “Yes, Lord”. Then Jesus,
Matthew 9:29 …touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.”
Matthew 9:30 And their eyes were opened.
According to your faith. Jesus healed accordingly to the faith the two men placed in Him. God’s power is truly limitless. However, it seems it is us that puts limits on what He can do. The fact that Matthew records it as being done according to their faith tells me that His power to heal was released in direct proportion to blind men’s faith. They believed Jesus could meet their need.
But what about the times God does not seem to answer our prayers, even though we believe with every fiber of our existence and we’ve prayed relentlessly? What about those prayers that seem to go ignored? Paul prayed three times to be released from his affliction and all three times he was told “My grace is sufficient”.
Yet Paul was victorious in his affliction. That’s incredibly clear in how he soldiered on for Christ. He wasn’t victorious because he was delivered from the affliction. He was victorious because of the awareness that the power of Christ within him was superior to any affliction he was facing or would face. In Christ alone he was victorious – irrespective of the outcome.
Each day before I wake up, God has already prepared the path for me. My problem is that I don’t always know what the path looks like. I may be my Mamaw’s Angel Baby, but I’ve never been able to see into the future nor do I plan on developing that ability. God prepares the path and I am to navigate it with the Holy Spirit guiding. Responding to Him and asking for His help along the way are my responsibilities. There is no Christian auto pilot.
To respond to something requires a return action, that in this case, is favorable to His will. This doesn’t mean that I live always in response to everything. Living that way would be reactive as opposed to proactive. God gave me common sense to use. That doesn’t change. However, my point is this. My soul ought to be content in the prepared path as I respond to His leading me. Trying to anticipate or predict the path only invites anxiety to the table. And anxiety, left unchecked, will bring discouragement to dine with it.
However, knowing that God has prepared this path, the one I’m walking today, brings peace. He knows what He’s doing. And He has my best interest in mind even if that means adversity. I’m learning faith and trust as it deepens. And each time I respond, faith grows.
I find peace in the prepared path. I am enabled to pray for God to heal or for God to deliver knowing that whatever His will is, faith tells me I’m in His utmost care. It is the path He has prepared that I must trust. It is faith that He is beside me, walking the path with me.
We don’t know what the path looks like that leads to deliverance or healing. And, like Paul, it might not lead that direction. But that should not stop us from asking. And it most certainly should not stop us from asking Him to provide exactly what we need to navigate the path – regardless of where the path goes or its context. We are to rest confidently and securely in the arms of the One that promised to never leave or forsake us.
Let faith grow in response to His lead. And watch as it grows, so to will your awareness of His presence and power.
The process starts with one step