The Door Will Be Opened…

Ask, Seek, Knock

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 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! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

(Matthew 7:7-12 NIV via biblegateway.com)

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A couple of years ago, I took on a part-time, temporary job with the Census Bureau in which I had to make visits to various households and ask to conduct an interview. I knocked on a lot of doors. Few of them were ever opened. Many of the houses were unoccupied– either the family wasn’t at home, or the home was vacant or even abandoned. At others, there were clearly people at home, but they wouldn’t come to the door. At still others, a person would come to the door, or respond via intercom or speaker, but they would not open up or consent to do the interview. This occurred during the height of the pandemic, so some of the fear and evasion was expected. But even though I was wearing a mask and promised to practice social distancing; even though the interview was less than 10 minutes, and would help their community and country, they would not speak to me or let me step up to or across the threshold. *(For the record, I was not required to actually enter anyone’s home to conduct an interview; most took place across the threshold or through a screen door or even out on the front steps.) A select few, however, were gracious and welcoming. They opened the door, invited me in, offered me a seat, and refreshed my spirit. I knocked on the doors of the wealthy, and those in extreme poverty. I knocked on fancy doors with cyber-security, and doors that were hanging off their hinges. I knocked on the doors of large families, and lonely widows. I knocked on the doors of the dying, and the doors of families with newborns. I knocked on the doors of mobile homes, and lake cottages, and apartments, and old farm houses. Some of the kindest people I found were in so-called “bad” neighborhoods. Some of the people who were the most gracious were those who were in the most pain, and had the least to gain by being kind. Those who were threatening and rude were quick to point out that their time was more valuable than mine– that they were too important, or too comfortable, or too busy to answer a few simple questions. In a couple of cases, I had to leave because I was threatened with harm or faced verbal abuse.

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My job required me to knock on a lot of doors! And throughout our lives, we will have to “knock” on doors– seek out opportunities, ask for needed help, go to places outside our comfort zone– and many of the doors will remain closed. Others will require that we knock several times, or even return another day to knock and seek entrance. But God will never turn away those who knock at His door. God will never tell us we must stand outside or come back at a more convenient time. He will never have a sign that says “No Trespassing,” or “Keep Out!” In fact the only thing keeping us from entering His Courts is our own refusal to accept His invitation; our own pride or guilty conscience, or resentment and rebellion; our own reluctance to approach the door, let alone knock. We don’t need an appointment, or an official summons to “Come!” The invitation is always open, and the door is not locked.

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God is not “too busy”, and our questions, requests, and praises are not “too small” to get His attention. God is gracious. God is available. God is accessible. And God’s opened door is so much more than an entry to someone’s hallway or front room or kitchen. God opens the doors to His very throne room! He invites us to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise”! (Psalm 100) He invites us to the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelations), and to everlasting life (John 3:16).

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Jesus also “knocks” at the door of our hearts, asking to “come in.” (Revelation 3:20) What does He find? Are we “away from home”– so busy chasing after foolish things that we don’t even inhabit our own hearts? Are we ignoring Him, hoping He’ll go away? Are we telling Him to come back another time, or coming up with excuses why we don’t need to speak with Him? Do we try to chase Him away with our anger or bitterness? Or do we open the door, invite Him in, and offer Him a seat?

Jesus urged His listeners on the Mount to Ask, Seek, and Knock. And then, He challenged them to “do to others what you would have them do to you.” How are we treating those who “knock” at our door? Those who need a friend, or a listening ear? Those who need to hear the truth, and the hope that is in us? Trust me– how we answer that “knock” at our door will leave an impression. It will testify to our true nature.

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God doesn’t just hear us knocking, He opens the door and gives us all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). What are we giving to those who knock on our door?

I Stand At the Door and Knock

I was being pestered by telemarketers the other day, and it struck me that God is the exact opposite of a telemarketer. Telemarketers call, generally when it is inconvenient, to sell you a product you did not know you even wanted! They may ask polite questions, but their goal is not to help you– rather, their goal is to sell you their product. They may have your name from a list (they usually slaughter the pronunciation of mine) , but more often than not, they simply call your number at random. They’ve never met you, nor do they intend to develop a long-term relationship with you. They are not interested in your family, your background, or your most pressing needs.

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God is not a telemarketer. He isn’t trying to “sell” you anything. He cares deeply and personally about who you are, and what you need. He knows you– even better than you know yourself! And He says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) He doesn’t say that He will make an appointment to come to your door at His convenience. He doesn’t say that He will pound on your door and insist that you answer. He doesn’t say that He is there to make you a “limited-time offer you won’t want to miss…” The image in Revelation is that of a close friend who is always as close as your doorstep and waiting to fellowship with you.

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The wonder of prayer is just that– God is ALWAYS, ALWAYS available and ready to listen, comfort, protect, encourage, forgive, advise, and just “BE” present. He invites Himself, but waits for our response to His gentle knock. He doesn’t walk away in disgust when we pretend we’re not at home. He doesn’t break in to our house, or peer through the window or blow up our voice mail box with frenzied messages.

Sometimes, WE are like the telemarketer– calling on God, insisting that He come to our rescue, or answer our doubts and questions, only to speed off without so much as a “Thank you.” And God still waits on the doorstep, waiting to come in and “sup” with us. So often, we have an agenda; we believe that God must have one, as well– that He wants a certain phrase or certain action, and then He will “go away” again, satisfied that He has “made a sale.” But God wants us to walk with Him in relationship (see Genesis 5:21-24; Genesis 6:8-9; Micah 6:8; Matthew 9:9; John 8:12; John 10:27; 1 Peter 2:21, etc.) In this sense, prayers is not an activity, but a pursuit and a way of life– an ongoing conversation between companions along their journey.

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May we enjoy today’s journey and welcome the company of the One who created us, pursued us, redeemed us, and who loves us best!

Knock…

Matthew 7:7-12 New International Version (NIV)

Ask, Seek, Knock

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 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! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

I have heard many sermons using this passage, and the sermons always focus on our (active) end of the directive–Ask!  Seek!  Knock!   But what does this passage say about God?

God is omnipresent, and He has revealed Himself in creation, and through the lives of His people.  But God is also reserved– He does not give us all the answers; He doesn’t spoil us by catering to our every wish; He keeps certain things behind closed doors.

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“Knock, and the door will opened to you.”  There is no mention of a key or key card, a pass code, or any need for ID– just knock.  God will open the door.  I imagine thousands of (figurative) doors in my life– opportunities, blessings, challenges, relationships– each beckoning.  But the doors cannot be opened from the outside.  I can strain and push, yell and shake my fist at the closed door in front of me, kick at it, even try to break it down.  But if I knock, the door will be opened.

This doesn’t mean that I have no choices or free will as I go along.  I can find hallways, roadways, even freeways on which to travel.  And there are opportunities along those paths and roads that are not waiting behind a door.  But just like the questions we need to ask, and the quests for which we seek, the closed doors cause us to make a choice– will we knock or walk on?  Will we try to open the door in our own power, or knock and let God open the door from His side?

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Ask, seek, knock– God desires that we take steps toward Him.  He will not walk away, or reject those who sincerely desire His presence.  He will not give us “bad” gifts– though He allows us to walk through “the valley of the shadow of death”, He will not leave us there with no comfort or hope.  He will not “lock us out” of His goodness or His Grace.  In fact, HE stands at the door and knocks– waiting for US to open the door, as well.

Someone may say– “I turned away from the door, walked down my own path, and now I’m trapped behind a wall of doubt and guilt and bad choices.  There are no doors left for me”.  Jesus stands ready to change all that.  There are no walls or dungeons He cannot enter– He will make a door, if that’s what it takes– just ask!  You may have to climb over some of the debris, but He will pull you up and over any obstacle you can imagine.

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Someone else may say, “I have prayed and prayed, and God hasn’t opened the door for me…”  I don’t have an “easy” answer for you, and I don’t want to give a canned response– God isn’t a “one size fits all” God– His ways are good, but they are not always comprehensible.  I can only give an example from my own life.  I prayed for years that God would “open the door” for me to be married and have children.  I met several wonderful men, some godly, others just really nice guys who don’t follow Jesus.  I could have fallen into, or schemed my way into a marriage or sexual relationship with one of them– I could have tried to get pregnant for years before I found out I was barren.  I might have made a marriage work, might have adopted children, might have…But I kept knocking on THE door– the one that God set before my heart and soul– the door that called me to enter and be close to Him– to do it His way or not at all.  For over 25 years I knocked– sometimes faintly and with fear that the door would stay closed– sometimes with a sort of desperation.  And one day, the door opened– God’s door, God’s way.  I have no doubts or regrets about knocking at that door, or waiting for it to be opened from God’s side.  I had imagined what was on the other side of that door–what I have received is perfectly sufficient, even as it is totally different from what I imagined.  I never had children of my own– but as I waited for God’s timing, He led me to work with hundreds of children who blessed my life beyond description.  And in waiting, He led me to opportunities I would never have had if the door had opened in MY timing.  All I can say is this– God led me to desire something worthy and good and to His Glory.  I believed it was marriage and family–but even if I were still unmarried today, I would not stop praying; not stop knocking; not stop trusting in God’s goodness and His wisdom for my life.

inside of an abandoned building
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Another may say, “I knocked on a door, and God opened it, but it only brought me pain and misery.”  Once again, I don’t have a quick or easy answer for you, and there is no answer that will magically take away pain and misery.  I don’t want to invalidate or deny your experience, and I don’t want to claim that I know why God has allowed you to go through such an experience.  I would only challenge you to be like Jacob, who wrestled with God and would not let go until he got a blessing.  I don’t know why God withholds some answers and allows pain that seems needless and senseless.  And even though I know of many instances where God has brought resolution and healing out of tragedy, I also know that it doesn’t erase all the tears and questions.  My own experience brought years of depression, bitterness, and isolation even as it brought incredible growth and opportunity– I still have memories that bring tears and painful thoughts–but I know that healing is possible, and I still believe that God is “good”– I believe that God is with us even in our pain and sorrow.  I believe that Jesus suffered greatly, not only on the cross, but throughout His earthly life– He faced rejection, betrayal, frustration, misunderstanding, hatred, bigotry, injustice, loneliness, homelessness, poverty, hunger, and more.  Pain is intense, but it is not eternal.  Evil is real and it is miserable, but it is not victorious.

Keep knocking.  Your door may seem like the ultimate barrier, but God wants to open it for you.

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