2018-4-15 Good Gifts from Our Good God

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          April 15, 2018

“Good Gifts from Our Good God”
Matthew 7:7-11

I find myself marveling at the goodness of God this week.  Our Session this week enjoyed four excellent candidates for our Cornerstone/Patricia B. Scott Memorial Scholarship—and Session enjoyed extending each of those deserving candidates an award.  You will enjoy meeting them here on Sunday morning, June 10.  It was a good week in the Session room, in the guidance office’s conference room at Franklin High School, and throughout our scholarship process.

Most of my family enjoyed Friday night at the home high school baseball game (played, as usual, at Macon Middle School) against Pisgah High (in Canton).  Prior to the game there was a dedication ceremony for the baseball field and the entire sports complex at Macon Middle School.  Then, under ideal early evening conditions, the teams treated us to a well-played game, with Franklin winning 3-0.  We enjoyed the pleasant evening, the game itself, and friends also attending the game.

Even my running, much compromised in recent years, was better this week.  Conditions were generally pleasant, and I can tell that the good work invested in late February and March now begins to pay some dividend.  I think I am as fit as I’ve been in two years—perhaps longer.  May this trend indeed continue.

God’s goodness, displayed to us in Christ through the Holy Spirit, ought not surprise us—though often it does.  Remember the Holy Spirit’s word, through the unnamed Psalmist, that our God is good and that He does good (Psalm 119:68).  Let’s look at this a bit more in this portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7-11, cf. 5:3-7:27).

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

The context for today’s text is prayer (cf. Luke 11:1-13)—and that as contained within the larger Sermon on the Mount.  First, let’s note concerning the commands generally that all are Greek present imperatives.  This fact implies both continuance and intensity.  In other words, do the things and keep on doing them—and keep on doing them intentionally and intensely.

Next, let’s look at the commands specifically.  First, Jesus tells us to ask.  We must keep asking the Father for good things, even to hoarseness—and we may rest ourselves assured that good things will be given from God’s good hand, for everyone who asks thus receives.  Second, Jesus tells to us seek—and we rightly infer that we must keep on seeking God’s good things, even to eyestrain, for everyone who seeks thus finds.  Third, Jesus tells us to knock.  We are to keep on knocking, even (figuratively, I hope) to bruised, bloody knuckles—and to the one knocking thus the way to good things will be opened.  Should we despair of our ability to comply with Jesus’ commands, we may cry out to God for the aid of the Holy Spirit to help us in our moments of weakness.

Jesus reinforces His teaching and His commandments with two illustrations.  What father, if his son asks him for bread, will give a stone instead?  The answer (“Not a one,” or similar) is assumed.  A stone upon request from a trusting, dependent child is cruelty.  Similarly, what father, if his son asks him for a fish, will give a snake (presumably a live one) instead?  Again, the answer is assumed.  A snake granted after a request for a fish from a dependent, trusting child is aggravated cruelty.

Jesus, God incarnate, then drives His point home.  The fathers in Jesus’ hearing, then and now, being evil, know how to give good gifts to their children.  How much more will God give good things to those asking Him?  Earthly fathers are both finite and fallen, yet generally they supply good things to their trusting, dependent children to the utmost of their ability.  How much more God, Who is infinite and perfect in holiness?  Now comes the fundamental attribute of God revealed and reinforced in today’s text: God is good—and that to infinite degree.

We who worship in the Presbyterian and Reformed churches—who are so deeply to God’s sovereignty—sometimes lose sight of God’s goodness.  This happens for a number of reasons.  We endure physical maladies, such as sickness, injury, and weakness—and these, if intense or protracted enough, tempt us to question God’s goodness.  We endure emotional distresses too.  Things happen in God’s providence that grieve us.  Our relational bonds with certain others at times stretch, strain, and, alas, rend asunder—and these bow our heads in sadness.  We also endure mental anguishes—from the inability to figure something out, on the one hand, to psychological and psychiatric difficulties (due to neuro-chemical imbalance, e. g.) on the other hand, and these vex our minds indeed.  We also endure seasons of spiritual attacks and spiritual dryness—and these try our souls to the apparent breaking point.  In each of these—or perhaps in some of them combined, or, horrors, in all of them endured at once—we may struggle not to question God’s goodness.

Here is some help.  First, pray to the Lord never to forget His goodness.  He can keep this uppermost in our minds at any time, no matter the circumstances.  God’s goodness, His never-failing goodness, is fundamental both to our prayer lives and to our overall relationship with Him.  Second, pray to the Lord that He may open your eyes to His goodness.  Pray that He may do this in seasons of apparent well, for the temptation in prosperity is to forget the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 8:11-20).  Pray also that He may do this in seasons of apparent woe, for the temptation under adversity is despair.  Let’s pray along these two lines when tempted to deny God’s goodness, and let us glory in Him when He again shows us special tokens of His goodness.

The Lord gives good gifts to His redeemed covenant people in Christ Jesus.  Let us then receive His gifts with thanks, and may your souls fill with joy and peace as He displays His goodness time and again in your life.  AMEN.

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