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Life Upside Down

Our Good Father

Matthew 7:7-11



It’s always fun to watch the interaction of a good, loving, caring, and concerned Father with his children.  A toddler will pull on the pant leg of their Father in an attempt to get his attention.  When he realizes that his son or daughter wants his attention, he bends down or kneels, as if to get on their level to hear what they want.  He listens intently and responds to them.  If they want something, he either grants their wish or explains why it would not be good for him to give them what they want.  He may even tell them that they can have what they want, but not until later, and then tells them why.  We would call such a man as this, a good Father. 

One of the very serious issues we face in the world today is the absence of not just good Fathers, but the absence of the Father completely in the family unit.  If Fathers could only understand the influence they have when they are involved in the family.  It is always interesting how sons, who spent much time at all with their Father, will begin to reflect their Father.  They will take on some of the good aspects of their Father, and unfortunately, they will copy some of the things that they shouldn’t. That is just how it is.  Often, daughters have a high admiration of their Father, that is if he is a good man.  Sometimes they even like to do the so called “manly” things like camping and hunting because they like to be around their Father. 

Children who are close to their Father will begin to pick up certain character traits the more time they spend with him, whether those traits are good or bad.  Every child is unique, but there is an interesting blend of the Father’s characteristics in each of them if they spent much time with him at all.  I know when I am around my brothers, I can see certain of my Father’s characteristics in each of them, and I would assume they would say the same of me.  Now I know that not every Father/Child relationship is good and maybe you had an absent Father, abusive Father, or a bad Father, but what we are going to talk about today I believe is illustrated by a good Father/child relationship.  If you didn’t have a good relationship with your earthly Father, I hope that you have come to know our Heavenly Father, who is always good. 

When a child matures into adulthood and becomes a Father themselves, they begin to realize the wisdom of their Father which they may have misunderstood when they were teens.  But as young people become Fathers themselves, they emulate certain characteristics they enjoyed with their Father and at the same time, they develop certain characteristics that they felt were missing from their relationship with their Father.  And so, the cycle goes. 

I really like our passage this morning because it relates well to this Father/child relationship.  I think some people who read our passage this morning miss out on what Jesus is trying to tell us about our Heavenly Father and our relationship with Him.  They try to relate these verses to God promising to give us everything we want, everything we pray for.  But I believe that Jesus is once again showing us the tremendous value and holiness of our relationship with God.  This is the relationship we talked about last week, the holy and the pearl. 

As we think about our Heavenly Father and our relationship with Him, we are certainly blown away with the idea that He would even want to have this kind of relationship with us.  Yet, He is a Father to those who have become His children through their faith in Him and what Jesus has done for them on the cross.  Our Heavenly Father is everything our earthly Father may have never been or ever could be.  God the Father is infinitely powerful, perfectly righteous, absolutely good, unendingly wise, and His goodness is beyond anything we can measure.  When we pray, this is who we are talking to. 

Let’s read what Jesus says to us about talking to God in this kind of relationship. 

Matthew 7:7-11

7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?

10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?

11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 

We have already heard Jesus address the subject of prayer.  In Matthew 6:5-6, He warned us about hypocritical praying, praying only to be seen by others and never praying in private.  In verses 7 and eight of Matthew 6, Jesus says that we should not pray by heaping up empty meaningless phrases in repetition before the Father.  Then He gives a model or pattern prayer in verses 9-13.  So, prayer, is an important part of what Jesus teaches us.  But when we come to Matthew 7:7-11, though it certainly is talking about praying, I believe that this is more than just another passage about how to pray.  Just as Jesus has done over and over, He is focusing on our heart’s relationship with the Father. Jesus begins by giving us some imperatives and promises. 

Imperatives and Promises of Prayer (vv. 7-8)

7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 

We would say that this is a threefold invitation to pray.  But in reality, it is a threefold command to pray.  There are three words used here that are imperatives.  The three words are: “ask,” “seek,” and “knock.”  These words mean exactly what you would think they mean.  “Ask” is simply to request something.  “Seek” is to make an inquiry, searching for answers to something.  “Knock” means to strike on something seeking an entrance.  Ask, seek, and knock are in the imperative mood indicating a command to believers when it comes to prayer.  Many times, we want to soften His commands to make them look like invitations, but that is not what we have here. 

John Piper has said that “One of the great short-term tragedies in the church is how little inclination we have to pray.”  I don’t believe what John Piper says to be entirely true in our family here at the Chapel.  Many of you are on the email prayer chain and by the many comments of prayer and concern for the requests, I believe you are praying for those requests made.  Why are we praying?  Because Jesus has lovingly commanded that we “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” to the Father for the things that concern us.  

What is interesting is that these three imperatives are given not just one promise for each, but a repeated reaffirmation of the promise.  Did you see that?  If we “ask,” Jesus not only says “it will be given to you” (v. 7), but He says that “everyone who asks receives” in verse 8.  Jesus’ repetition of the promise emphasizes the fulfillment of it.  Also, if we “seek,” Jesus not only says that “you will find” (v.7), but He says in verse 8 that “the one who seeks finds.”  Again, repetition for emphasis and certainty.  And finally, if we “knock,” Jesus not only says “it will be opened to you” (v. 7), but He says that “the one who knocks it will be opened” in verse 8.  Why this repetition?  I believe it is an emphasis of these imperatives with promise. 

In other words, when we come in prayer to our Heavenly Father, He hears and responds to us.  The asker receives, the seeker finds, and the knocker gets an open door.  The Father will give you good things, come to Him.  Like a toddler pulling on the pant leg of their Father, we come to our Heavenly Father and we are guaranteed His attention.  Be encouraged that when you pray, God is listening.  I love the word “everyone” in verse 8.  Every child of God is welcome at the feet of the Father to talk to Him.  I hope you never lose the awe of this relationship we have with the Father. 

As is true with many passages of Scripture, we take this out of context and twist the meaning into saying that God will give us anything we want.  This is what prosperity gospel teachers want you to believe.  The just “name it and claim it” mentality that says God will give you anything you want, even wealth and health.  That is not what Jesus is saying here.  Remember the context of Jesus’ sermon.  He is talking about living out our faith from a heart that loves God supremely.  Whether we are helping someone remove a splinter of sin from their life, overcoming anxiousness, having the right treasures, practicing our righteousness, or any of the many things Jesus has talked about, it is about a heart of genuine faith.  We strive to live a life that reflects a genuine faith, a righteousness that comes from our heart, not our actions alone. 

In this context, Jesus says, “ask,” “seek,” and “knock,” it will be given to you, you will find it, and it will be opened to you.  As we strive to live the Christian life faithfully before God, we need His help.  That is all there is to it.  We cannot do this alone and we have the promise of His being there every time we come to Him in prayer about this.  One thing we miss in our English translations is that all three of these imperatives are in the present tense which means it is an action that is to be taking place right now and continuing on into the future.  In other words, asking, seeking, and knocking should be continual. 

There are many other passages that speak of God’s continual granting of what we need to live out our faith.  Notice the context of each of these. 

John 14:12-15

12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 

In the context of a Christian living the life of faith, “doing the works of Jesus,” God says, “Ask whatever you need to live the Christian life.”  His response, “I will do it.” 

James 1:2-7

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 

In the context of living for the Lord and finding trials of various kinds testing our faith, we are told to ask God for the help we need to live for Him, He will give it to us. 

Psalm 37:3-5

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. 

When it comes to being faithful to the Lord, if we delight in Him, He will give us what we need to fulfill the desires of our heart, the desire to live for Him. 

In our passage in Matthew 7, all three imperatives, ask, seek, knock, have promised results when seeking God for living out our faith.  If you want to live a life that accurately reflects the righteousness of God, we must be actively and continually pursuing the mind of God.  I don’t know about you, but this encourages me in my time praying to God.  If we are honestly seeking Him, with a heart that loves Him supremely, asking for help in living rightly before Him, He promises to give us what we need to do that. 

Now it is almost as though Jesus anticipates the question that would naturally come from this subject.  What about when bad things happen to me, though I pray for deliverance from them?  If God is truly a good Father, why do bad things happen when I am trying to live for Him?  Jesus gives us a couple of interesting illustrations. 

Illustrations of the Father’s Response to Prayer (vv. 9-11)

9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?

10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?

11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 

Jesus gives us two illustrations of what He is trying to tell us.  First, He uses bread as an illustration.  Certainly, this is a rhetorical question that does need an answer, because there is no good Father that would give his child a stone when the child requests and has need of bread.  No good Father would do such a thing.  Any Father that would do this is not good, not even if it was a cruel joke.  The second illustration concerns a fish.  Again, a rhetorical question that does not need an answer, because the answer is obvious.  No good Father would give their child a snake when they ask for a fish.  This would be ridiculous to even think about. 

The intent of these two illustrations is to drive home the point that no good Father would respond to their child’s request in this way.  If earthly Fathers would not respond in this manner to a child’s request, then the conclusion is obvious, how much more will you heavenly Father give the things you ask of Him.  God will never, never, give us what is bad for us. 

Jesus characterizes people as evil in verse 11.  What does He mean by that?  This is a general description of the nature of humankind.  We are sinners and we do not naturally do the righteousness of God.  We can only stand as righteous in the blood of Jesus Christ.  There are many who claim that people are basically good.  But though we may do some good things in our lives, we are sinners in opposition to God and we are separated from God. 

Psalm 14:2-3

2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.  3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. 

Isaiah 64:6

6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 

Our true nature is sinful and in comparison to God’s nature, we are evil.  If, in our natural state as human sinners, we give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Heavenly Father give us the things we ask of Him in striving to live righteously for Him?  God, our Heavenly Father wants us to succeed and will give us what we need to live for Him.  He will not necessarily give us what we want unless the desire of our hearts are aligned with His.  Isn’t that what Psalm 37:4 says that we read earlier?

4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.   

The problem many of us face is that we look at verses like this and take them out of their context and take it to mean God will give us anything we ask for.  But what if we ask for something that would be bad for us?  Let’s say I want something like a million-dollar lottery winning so I can help missionaries meet their needs, so I can give to churches that are struggling and they can experience freedom from debt, or any number spiritual prospects for a million dollar winning?  Have you ever dreamed about what you could do with a million dollars?  Now I know none of you would think about how to spend it on yourself, right?  You would only dream about how you could give it into ministry?  Haha!  I believe all of you know the stories of the people who win large amounts of money only to lose most of it to poor investments and foolish spending and find themselves broke and out of work.  That would be a situation that would be bad for us. 

God wants us to hunger and thirst for righteousness, He wants us to be holy and live for Him.  God wants good things to result from our lives.  If you diligently ask, seek, and knock for these things, your Heavenly Father will give you everything you need to help you do that.  Why?  Because He is truly a good Father.  We may see some of the things that happen in our lives as bad, but in reality, God always has a good purpose for it in our lives.  We may not know what that purpose is, but we are promised that it is for a good outcome. 

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

We can trust our good Father with our lives.  We need to continue to ask, seek, and knock.  He hears us and will respond to what we need to live for Him. 


Do you know what is foundational to these answered prayers from our good Father?  It is Jesus Christ.  The reason I say that is simple.  Verse 11 clearly tells us that we are evil, yet at the same time we are being told that God is our Father and we are His children.  How can evil people be the children of God?  It is only through Jesus Christ.  Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock at the Father’s door, seeking and pursuing His will, but this can only be done when we put our faith and trust in the shed blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all sin.  Then we can have this kind of relationship with the Father. 

Jesus death, burial and resurrection is foundational for all promises from God the Father.  This is why we pray in “Jesus name.”  To me, this passage is really not so much about prayer and getting what we ask for . . .  as it is about having a relationship with the Father, through our Savior Jesus Christ.  It may be that you are here today and you are not sure that you have this kind of relationship with the Father.  Will you come in faith believing today?  Will you put your trust in the good Father? 

If you are a Christian here this morning, do you spend time in prayer with the Father?  Remember what I said earlier, “Every child is unique, but there is an interesting blend of the Father’s characteristics in each of them if they spent much time at all with him.”  This is true of our heavenly Father.  Spend time with Him and you will begin to develop His characteristics in your life.  You will in turn emulate those characteristics to those around you.  People around you will begin to see God the Father in you! 

Maybe you are struggling with some things happening in your life today.  I want you to listen to something John Piper said. 

“When we pray as needy children looking away from our own resources to our trustworthy heavenly Father — he will hear and he will give us good things.  Sometimes just what we asked. Sometimes just when we ask it.  Sometimes just the way we desire.  And other times he gives us something better, or at a time he knows is better, or in a way he knows is better. 

And of course, this tests our faith. Because if we thought that something different were better, we would have asked for it in the first place.  But we are not God.  We are not infinitely strong, or infinitely righteous, or infinitely good, or infinitely wise, or infinitely loving.  And therefore, it is a great mercy to us and to the world that we do not get all we ask.” 

We have a good, good, Father.

Maybe you know Christ Tomlin’s song “Good, Good, Father.”  Feel free to sing along with it.