Jesus, as recorded in Luke 11, shared a hypothetical, yet realistic, situation with his disciples.
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity (boldness- NIV 84) he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
“So I say to you: 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 fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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 the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” - Luke 11:5-13
Jesus points his disciples toward the importance of praying; seeking God in persistent prayer to provide the good things He makes available to us (especially His Holy Spirit).
But let's consider the one who finds himself needing bread for a visiting friend in a moment's notice.
In America, most of us are only one or two generations removed from a time of storing up and sharing abundance. You may have neighbors, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, or other relatives who planted huge gardens each year. When the produce was ripe to pick, much of it was canned and stored away to provide sustenance out of season, or to share with friends, family, or neighbors. Many would store up for themselves and for others at the same time. It was a time when a mindset of healthy storing up and/or sharing abundance (for the sheer joy of it or to meet the needs of others) was valued more greatly than it seems today.
Today, our culture tells us to "live for now," or "get only what you need for today." Sometimes we see this played out when people make multiple trips to a bank, grocery, or shopping store during a day or week. Some people also handle relationships with this type of mindset. But the "get what I need for today" mentality can extend far beyond financial, relational, or practical things- even into the spiritual.
In our modern thinking, abundance is seldom stored up; it's picked from and devoured at a moment's notice. Many Christians consume just enough spiritual content each day or week to reach a point where they feel they'll "get by" or have just enough. Whether it's listening to segments on Christian radio, consuming a five-minute devotional, going to church for fellowship one or more times per week, or something else, a brief time of "plugging into God" or "touching base" with Him seems to satisfy a momentary want or need.
Yet the abundance God makes readily available in continual relationship with Him and His Word isn't stored up to share with others when one only seeks for their own spiritual needs to be met in the moment!
What happens when a friend, acquaintance, or stranger personally approaches with a need (maybe the need to hear the gospel clearly or lovingly presented- but that need is masked or contained within another need)? Do we have any spiritual bread or sustenance left in the cupboard to share?
If we only consume (keeping for ourselves) what the Bible, church leaders, pastors, or writers tell us, we can be found empty-handed with nothing extra to share when need arises- and we'll likely need to outsource or find someone else to help meet the need.
If we're unprepared, with nothing of substance to offer, someone with an unmet need (spiritual, or otherwise) will likely move on to seek another answer or source of provision. Often times, those other sources they discover will meet needs without a Christ-centered foundation or biblical worldview. That could lead to a double defeat- especially if the seeking person is greatly influenced by the non-Christian worldview they encountered simply because the Christian was not originally prepared when opportunity arose.
Preparation happens before a need arises. If it begins at the point when a need occurs, opportunity and blessing will be lost.
Paul, in 2 Timothy 4, tells Timothy to be prepared.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. - 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (emphases added)
As friends to others, how prepared are we to pray with someone, to accurately and lovingly share the gospel, to give patient and careful instruction in season and out of season (when we feel ready and when we might not feel so ready); to discharge all the duties of our personal ministries?
While many outsource to pastors or church leaders for answers and solutions (it's not totally wrong to do so), as maturing Christians- if we're maturing beyond only consuming for ourselves, we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to those in a lost world all around us. This includes storing up and growing in biblical truth, sharing it with others as we learn, and assisting others in their maturation in Jesus Christ. It's not only a pastor or spiritual leader's responsibility! We all share in this abundance.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, - Matthew 6:20
It's more than consuming spiritual food for ourselves for today- but storing up and sharing for eternal treasures.
Seeking Who Provides Instead of Only the Abundance Itself
In a consumer-based culture, it's easy to become distracted by the items of abundance. While we pray, "give us our daily bread," let's keep the Provider forefront in our thinking and worship instead of only obsessing over the bread or material items alone.
...how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
As we daily seek God to provide for our physical and emotional needs, let's remember to ask Him to fill, shape, and guide us with His Spirit living and working within us. There's the abundance we can have and offer to others! It may produce an internal battle at times when our flesh resists a leading, prompting, or direction He gives, but His Spirit helps us to pray, to speak the gospel in truth and love, to read, ingest, apply, share His Word, and more. Let's ask with Him in mind!
By ourselves, we do no better than when we make a New Year's resolution. Try as we might, we eventually become tired, distracted, exhausted, and lose drive. By the Spirit's empowering, God is glorified through our weaknesses as He helps us through and past them- to do what He empowers us to do by His power. And His outcome is always better than what we attempt to produce on our own!
Ask, seek, knock. He provides. But as we seek God, let's also be sure to ask for His perspective for ours, and others', needs- and how He might work in and through us to draw others to Himself for His glory alone!
Father, you are God of all. In you we have all we need. Help me to see beyond myself, my perceived needs and desires, and to see with your perspective- with vision far clearer and wisdom-filled than my own. I expect I'll be wowed and amazed with what you show me and how you draw me closer in relationship with yourself. I want you to fill my day; may waking and sleeping hours alike. Have your way in me, and help me to store up treasures in heaven; to approach today with an eternal perspective that only you can give me. Thank you for your grace, patience, love, mercy, truth, and so much more. Continue to meet me where I am- for your glory alone. In Jesus' name, Amen.
*Portions of this originated from sermon notes by Pastor John Parker of Westfield, Indiana.