Asking for GiftsSingles Alive! 12/00 Night 'O Dynamite Talk
By Nathan Mates 12/9/00
Welcome, everyone to this Singles Alive Night of Dynamite in this, the season of gifts. God was the one who started the whole process of gift giving: he gave us Jesus, and salvation through faith in him. However, that isn't the limit of God's gifts-- "every good and perfect gift comes from him" [James 1:17a]. God's blessed us with so much, that sometimes we forget that there's a rich set of spiritual and material gifts that may be available for us.
And so, that is what I'm speaking on tonight: asking God for gifts that'll help you draw closer to him. All of us have room to grow closer to God, all of us can take advantage of the many gifts God gives, and all of us can ask for those gifts.
Some would think it's not our place to ask God for gifts. To those people, I ask "Don't you want to be closer to God? Do think that your current condition is all you'll ever achieve?" Satan would just love for us to sit where we are, and fool us with false humility, saying to God "what you've given me is enough." Don't listen to that lie. Everyone has room to draw nearer God, and it's stupid to think that we couldn't accept any more gifts from God.
Jesus promises us this in Matthew 7:9 and following: "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?" But, how many here have asked your parents for a nice pile of cash at Christmas and get instead t-shirts and underwear? Raise your hand if you've ever been dissatisfied with the gifts you've gotten from others at Christmas... ok, a lot of you.
So, we may not like what we've received from others. But, listen to more of Jesus's words on gifts: "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!" It doesn't get much clearer than that: God gives good gifts! Ask for them!
Further, in Jeremiah 29:11, God says this: "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Does this not sound appealing? With such promises, why would anyone want to stay where they are, spiritually? Don't be satisfied with what he's given you so far: there's more!
God has those great plans for all of us, and yet we can mope around, thinking we've got enough, or we've got everything we'll ever receive. Let me give this analogy: why be satisfied with eating mere crumbs when there's a feast available just for the asking? For many, we've bought into Satan's lie that the crumbs we have now are enough and we're to be satisfied.
So, for those who aren't quite satisfied with where they are, what gifts does God have available for us? Quite simply, God's got everything available. God can give good material gifts, not just plenty of new underwear. Who'd like a new car? A new job? A fancy new computer or Playstation 2 with all the trimmings? A spouse? Yes, God can even find a spouse for us.
There's also the spiritual gifts we can ask for. There's the fruits of the spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." There's also the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12 and 1st Corinthians 12: prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, leading, healing, faith, miraculous powers, and much more. Or, there's general gifts, such as a deeper prayer life, knowing God's word better, having a regular habit of Bible reading, bold evangelism, or much more. Even if you've not identified with any of these gifts so far, you may be able to think of other areas you'd love to grow in.
So, if we've got room to receive gifts, and have a wide selection of gifts available, how do we get them? Quite simply, we need to ask God for them. Some may think that's blatantly obvious, but others need to be reminded of that from time to time. The Bible says that we "we [you] do not have, because we [you] do not ask God." [James 4:2c] We may not ask God for gifts because we've become satisfied with mere crumbs. We may not ask God because we don't feel worthy. We may not ask God because we didn't know we could ask God.
Not asking is the first hurdle we may have to not receiving God's gifts. The next hurdle is that you may ask God for things, but your motives are sinful. The Bible notes that "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." [James 4:3] Remember I asked who here would like a new car. To those of you who wanted one, let me challenge you to think over this question: why do you want one? Is it so you can have a red convertible with a loud stereo to cruise up and down the street in? Is it because you think your car isn't cool enough? Those reasons are probably wrong.
Also, those of you seeking a spouse-- I challenge you: what are your motives. Is it due to envy of couples who look cool walking into church holding hands? Is it dissatisfaction with where you are, and you think a change will fix it? Let me suggest that if you're envious and dissatisfied now, odds are, you'll be envious and dissatisfied after marriage. God wants you to be the best person possible for someone to marry, and also that you marry the right person, not the first person that comes into your life.
So, while we may ask for things, we may want to double and triple- check our motives before asking. And so, that is why Paul says that we should "eagerly desire the greater gifts" [1 Cor 12:31] What's a greater gift than a new car, a spouse? The non-physical gifts of fruits of the spirit, spiritual gifts, and the like are what draw us closer to God. And that's a good thing.
Is God faithful to answer requests? I can say that in my experience, he has given me some of the gifts that I asked for. A few years ago, at my minichurch, there were older Christians who seemed to be able to quote the Bible quite easily. Now, is that a good gift? Absolutely. So, I prayed to God that I'd know his word better. I can say that today, I'm better than I used to be. God didn't change me overnight. After that prayer, I started spending much more time in his word-- God gave me the desire for his word, and made it stick in my memory. Similarly, I've asked God for a better prayer life. Once again, I'm better-- thanks to God. I've still got a long way to go, and I'm praying for development in other areas now. But, I can testify that God has changed me by giving me good gifts.
God can change you, too. As I've said, it takes a realization that we can grow, we have room for God to pour more of his gifts into our lives. We should check if our motives are good, and we're praying within God's will. Then, we must ask. God may say yes, no, or wait. If we are faithful, and act on what he says, God can change us in marvelous ways. Are you ready to take a step of faith and ask God for more of him in your life? Now's the time as we continue to worship and seek God.