In yesterday's sermon (available for viewing on Vimeo) we worked our way through Luke 11:1-13, where Jesus answers the disciples' question, "How should we pray?" After providing a basic pattern for prayer (Lk. 11:1-4), Jesus proceeds to tell a parable (Lk. 11:5-8) and then supplies a comparison (Lk. 11:11-13). What he does here is brilliant, for rather than furnishing mere mechanics for prayer, he offers us a foundation for hope-filled "asking, seeking, and knocking" by showing us the character and quality of our heavenly Father. Thus, by understanding who I am praying to, then and only then am I best prepared to pray.
Which is exactly what Jesus encourages us to do! Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you (Luke 11:9-10). Great promises for the children of God!
But then, we struggle.
For our circumstances don't always line up with these promises. We ask, and don't receive. We seek, and don't find. We knock, and all the doors seem to close in our face. What is a Christian to do?
You'll have to check out the sermon to hear my extended answer to that question. But what I'd like to add here is something I ran out of time to say yesterday, and it comes from that little bit Jesus says at the end of the story: "...how much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
You see, what I think Jesus is saying is that the Father gives us himself, what we need more than anything else that we need.
And it is exactly the lesson another disciple learned:
5 ...The Master is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah, Jesus....11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church, 4:5-7, 11-13; from the English Standard Version)
"Not that I am speaking of being in need."
That, my friends, is a stunning statement. It seems brash, almost arrogant. How can that be true of Paul?
Because Paul has learned that in whatever situation he finds himself, whatever the circumstance, he can be content. He is content. Satisfied. In a state of peaceful happiness.
Whether brought low, or abounding.
Whether facing plenty, or hunger.
Whether in abundance, or need.
In any and every circumstance, Paul is happified.
He has learned the secret.
Did you catch that?
He has learned it.
Which means there were many times that he did not know how to do this. How to face lowness, hunger, and need. Many times when he wondered why a particular situation was happening to him, feeling discontentment, for Paul did not exit the womb happified. He tells us that - he had to learn this and grow in it. And that is hard, hard to be in the unfinished state of growing into a place of contentment. But I find hope in the testimony of Paul that this secret is learnable. Great hope!
Now, just what was the secret?
Trust in what he had been told. Of God. By Jesus.
Make your requests known to God, and believe that you can do all things (read: make it through any and every circumstance that God puts you in) through Jesus who strengthens you.
Friend, having proclaimed Jesus, you are in Jesus, and he in you! You are united to him! A child of your Heavenly Father! And all of this is meant to bring a peace from God that passes all understanding, guarding your heart and mind in Messiah, Jesus.
I pray that we all, with Paul, may learn this secret, and find the contentment promised to us in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.