Thursday, November 17, 2011

Asking the Right Question

"At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, 'Ask what I shall give you.'  And Solomon said, 'You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you.  And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day.  And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.  And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude.  Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?' " ~ 1Kings 3:9

When you go before the throne of God in prayer, what do you ask of Him?

I am not talking about petitions for those things that are common to prayer: healing, protection, comfort, peace, and usually presented with a plea for immediacy.  What if you already have all these?  What if, like King Solomon, God had already blessed you with position and that which comes with it, yet, like Solomon, you long for more and know that it is not within you to accomplish it?

Although Solomon's situation was a tad bit more complicated and God came to Him in a dream instead of the other way around, he carefully chose his words.  But do we?

God's response to Solomon, "Ask what I shall give you," gave the king the perfect opportunity to have anything and everything a man could want.  He could have just as easily asked God for diamond-studded chariots, a bottomless vat of wine, fields yielding crops year round, and a treasury overflowing with the earth's riches.  Solomon could have requested that God give him long life, or for the defeat of all his enemies without lifting a finger.  In other words, he could have employed what is being taught by today's blab it and grab it preachers who tell you to pray for health, wealth, and prosperity, demanding it to be given to you because you are told you are deserving of it.  But God had chosen Solomon for a purpose and, because His decision was a wise one, He also foreknew Solomon's response and gladly granted him that which he asked, and more.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that the vast majority of us would not have asked for wisdom and discernment.  The proof is best given by the multitudes who believe what they are being told by the prosperity preachers and are practicing it.  Our sinful nature would have compelled us to ask for a long life of ease, the fancier car, the bigger house, and an endless supply of cash to throw around on worthless things that bring temporary pleasure.

Because most of us consider our own wants and needs before we think about how we could use it to further God's kingdom, greed and covetousness would be our first reaction.  (If you think you wouldn't be prone to this, consider what you would first do if you won the lottery.) We probably wouldn't even be aware that it had crept to the forefront, overshadowing His purpose for asking the question.  That is, until conviction over just how depraved our hearts really are washed over us, or we later learned that what we thought we needed only brought temporary pleasure, more disappointment, or misery.

God isn't a genie in a bottle to summon and ceremoniously present us with everything that woos and tempts us.  If He was (and thankfully, He's not), our first request would always be for a better position in life, more money, more comforts (what was your first answer to winning the lottery?).  You may argue that Solomon already had more than most, a palace, wealth, and a position of authority, so what more did he need?

Solomon understood that it was his immaturity in leadership that caused him to lack the most important thing which would ensure God's will for His people was accomplished.  He needed God's wisdom in order to correctly discern the difference between good and evil.  With this precious gem, Solomon would be fit to rule and lead his adulterous kingdom with righteousness and Godly justice and his throne would be secure.  And because he recalled that God had fulfilled His promise to his father, David, and gave Him the praise for doing so, God was pleased and gave Solomon what he did not ask for - health, wealth, and prosperity, including the wisdom to properly dispense it.
"It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.  And God said to him, 'Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word.  Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.  I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.  And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.' " ~ 1Kings 3:10-14
Notice the condition at the end of God's announcement - the "if" attached to the beginning of the last sentence.  Considering that David had sinned many times against Him, it boggles the mind that God only mentioned David keeping His commandments.  After all, Solomon's mother was Bathsheba and we all know that story.  But Solomon would have his own problems that were brought about by disobedience to God's statutes, and he would struggle and prove his own weaknesses many times.  As his life concluded, Solomon gained the greatest piece of wisdom man can attain.  He  understood that the most precious thing man can possess is a right relationship with God and the wisdom He imparts upon His children to walk in obedience and righteousness.  All else is meaningless...
"The end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." ~ Eccl 12:13-14
A long time ago, I began to ask God to pour out His wisdom upon me.  Like Solomon, I knew that I was incapable of judging correctly without it.  I was no different because my life was also full of mistakes and errors in judgment.  Charles Spurgeon sums me up, and what I came to know, quite nicely:
"Many a man might have known if he had but been aware that he did not know.  A sense of ignorance is the doorstep of the palace of wisdom."
Because of my past and the folly I so energetically found myself in, I yearn for God's wisdom, asking Him to always keep my heart and mind firmly fixed upon Him and His desire for me.  Without it, I would be helpless and unable to live my life for Him.

In response, God is slowly but surely honoring my request, giving me only what I need at any given moment- no more, no less.   To be honest, I don't think my mind could handle the profound wisdom He gave to Solomon.  The term "information overload" has significant meaning in that regard; my mind is too puny to handle it, and God knows it.  However, it doesn't mean that I don't occasionally hit Him up for more comforts and ease.  But they are becoming less frequent because He places my focus on Him and the things He desires, rather than my own perceived lack.  Although it is often an uphill battle, God is helping me learn to be content and thankful for the bounty of blessings He has given me.

If God chooses to impart upon us His wisdom, what more do we need?  Buried within its eternal depths are the answers to everything, even those occasional unexpected and unwelcome things that life throws at us.  There is nothing we, with His help, can't overcome.  The discernment the Holy Spirit has given us is the necessary tool to understanding and applying the wisdom He chooses to give to those who ask.

God doles His wisdom out to us in predetermined increments according to the person and the need.  We will never know the length and breadth of it.  He is God and we are not.  But He wants to share much of it with us, and I gladly embrace it when He does.

Therefore, when you go before God's throne to present your petition, follow Solomon's example and first praise Him for the things He has already done for you.  Then ask Him for wisdom to discern between the waning good and the growing evil that is so predominate in this world and threatens to discourage you.  That request alone will assure the ultimate answer to whatever it is that sends you there in the first place.  The wisdom He blesses you with will help you understand the "why's" over the issues of life and better yet, equip you to handle the next thing that comes around. 
"God’s heart, not mine, is the measure of His giving; not my capacity to receive, but His capacity to give." ~ C. H. Spurgeon
Who knows?  As He did for Solomon, God may even give you a unexpected bonus for asking the right question.   There is no guarantee that He will and, if that is your purpose, it would be best to rethink what you are doing.  However, if He does choose to do so, count it as a blessing, then consider doing this:
Return the favor.  Take the gift He has graciously given you, lay it at His feet, and ask, "What is it that I can do for You, LORD?"

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