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Keep on

Keep on

There’s a lesson in the seeking.

As I walk around Houston this afternoon, I have a strong case of déjà vu. I’ve strolled here before for 8:18, and I wonder if the Lord has something for me today. I’m nearing my 400th posting. It has been hard lately to find new sights and insights.

Entering a riverside park, I pray my usual request: Lord, what you do you want to teach me through this place?  After a mile or so, nothing strikes me. The sky is overcast. The river muddy.  The landscape ordinary.

But the park on the other side of the river looks more promising.  I see ahead a traffic bridge I can use to cross over.

Climbing up to it, I realize this won’t work.  There is no sidewalk, so on one side is oncoming traffic.  On the other, a knee-high wall to keep me from plunging into the river.  Discouraged, I turn around and make the trek back the way I came.  (I’m adventurous, not stupid.)

Jesus’s command comes to mind:

“Keep on asking and it will be given to you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.”  Matt. 7:7

Today, I would add, keep on walking and you will discover.

That’s a curious verse. I’ve always pictured it like a parent withholding a treat until her child says please.  But Jesus teaches in this same sermon that God “knows what you need before you ask” (6:8) and “gives good gifts to those who ask him” (7:10). Why then this requirement of persistence?

I believe it’s because he wants to change our prayer from being transactional to being relational.  We are ever building monuments to our own self-sufficiency, finding our own ways to replenish ourselves.  Prayer is, too often, the run to the corner store for the few items we lack.

God wants to train us to turn to him for filling. Remember, this is what the love of the Trinity is: a constant giving and filling. He sees our need, he anticipates it, he is ready to respond.  But we need to learn the habit of turning to him rather than to our own devices.

Martin Lloyd Jones, in his excellent Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, says it well:

If we really want to be men of God, if we really want to know Him, and walk with Him, and experience those boundless blessings which He has to offer us, we must persist in asking Him for them day by day. We have to feel this hunger and thirst after righteousness, and then we shall be filled. And that does not mean that we are filled once and for ever. We go on hungering and thirsting. 

Persistence paid off for me today. When I finally get to the other side of the river, surprises await. None is more obvious than this five-foot-high command, dramatic and inviting.

It reminds me that God intends to keep joining me in these prayerful wanderings.

Even if sometimes, I need to take the long way around.

Lord, we will keep coming to you for filling.  Train us, through these times of delayed answers, to focus more on you than on the things we lack.

Reader: What lessons have you learned through your times of prolonged seeking?  Feel free to share them with me.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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