“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
—Matthew 7:7-8 (KJV).
As children of God, it is our inescapable lot to rely on Him for things we need. As long as we are on Earth, there will be things we seek from our Father above.
But over the years, there have been many theories and doctrines concerning exactly what it means to “receive from God”, and how to go about it. Some of these theories are un-doctrinal and unfortunately misguided. In the Church today, these doctrines cause a lot of harm and frustration for God’s children.
In today’s post I’ll examine some of these misguided doctrines, then lay out what I believe is the way God expects us to approach the topic of receiving from Him.
There are three main misconceptions I see in the Church today when it comes to receiving from God. Two of them are doctrines commonly taught from the pulpit, and one is a mindset commonly picked up from the world.
With the doctrines, there’s the “Name It, Claim It” approach and there’s the more passive, “If it is the Will of God, it will be” approach. The third one, the “mindset”, can be called the “If it is to be, it is up to me” approach.
Let’s address them one by one.
- Name It…Claim It?
This is a very popular doctrine in the modern church. It goes something like this:
“God has given us the power on Earth to make things happen, so all you have to do is identify what you want, release a Word of Faith, and voila! It’s yours. Receive it!”
The main problem with this doctrine is that it put what we want front and center. It doesn’t so much take God out of the picture as it plants Him firmly in the backseat.
This doctrine teaches us that we should get whatever we want for the simple reason that we want it, and that God is totally okay with that. It makes our desires sovereign. It makes what we want the final say, instead of what God wants. And it makes us very self-centered people.
Let’s say you want a new car (or job, or spouse, or whatever). You are not given the right as a child of God to go pointing at any car you want and say “It is mine, in Jesus’ name.” This line of thinking ignores the very real possibility that God may not want you to have that car. He may have a different plan for you.
But by reducing God to a spiritual ATM—someone who exists to grant our every wish—we take the King of the Universe and make Him a glorified servant. We look at the Great One and see someone who exists to make us happy.
The Bible tells us we were created for God’s glory and pleasure, not the other way round. (Isaiah 43:7; Revelation 4:11)
Also, there’s the undeniable fact that the “Name It, Claim It” doctrine does not work. (If it did, we would have everything we have tried to claim in Jesus’ name.) And the reason it doesn’t work is simple:
You can only claim what belongs to you.
You can only claim what is yours by right. If everything you have is given to you by the kindness of another person, you cannot claim it.
Well guess what? The Bible tells us the Earth and everything in it is the Lord’s. (Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1; Psalm 89:11; Psalm 50:12)
Nothing on Earth is ours by right. So can we really “claim” anything we want, when we have been freely given everything we possess? (John 3:27)
A common scripture wrongly used to justify the “Name it, Claim it” doctrine is Mark 11:23-24 (or Matthew 21:21-22, it says the same thing there.)
“For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he said shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
—Mark 11:23-24 (KJV)
At first glance, it looks like Jesus is telling us that we can have anything as long as we open our mouths and say it in faith. But a quick look at v24 shows us that Jesus isn’t talking about making declarations here. He is talking about prayer.
He doesn’t say, “What things soever you desire, when you declare, believe that ye receive them.”
Instead He says: “What things soever you desire, when you pray…”
And prayer is not about making a proclamation. Prayer is not about releasing a “Word of Faith”. Prayer is about humility and submission to our Father.
Jesus tells us that when we pray, we should believe that the answer to our prayer is as good as ours already, because God is faithful. It is not a blank check to go around declaring things and expect them to just fall in our lap.
In fact, Lamentations 3:37 puts bed to the silly notion that we can make things happen solely by the might of our own words.
“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?”
—Lamentations 3:37 (NIV)
- “If it is the Will of God…”
The second misconception about receiving from God, at first glance, seems to be more Biblical than the first because it does look to put what God wants first and foremost. This doctrine goes something like this:
“God knows best, and we do not. Since we can’t presume to tell God what He should do—and since no one really knows what God wants for us—we’ll just sit here and let God do what He thinks best. If God wants it, it will happen. So I’m waiting.”
But this is no less flawed than the first.
Because when you look through the Bible you realize that God does not want us to sit idle and “wait”, but to actively ask Him for things.
At no point does Jesus ever tell us to burden ourselves with some vague notion of “God’s will”. But over and over in the Bible we are told to ask.
Ask, and it shall be given you.
Seek, and ye shall find.
Knock, and the door will be opened.
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask Him?
—Matthew 7:11 (KJV)
So if this doctrine was really concerned with doing what God wanted, it wouldn’t tell you to sit around with its hands in your lap. It would tell you to ask. If God wanted us to passively wait around till He gave us things, He would have told us in His word.
Just as the “Name It, Claim It” doctrine provides an efficient smokescreen for laziness, this doctrine provides a convenient excuse for spiritual laziness.
And then it turns round and sets God up as a scapegoat for whatever goes wrong.
After all, if God wanted it to happen it would have happened, right?
There are people who take jobs they know they shouldn’t take, then turn round and say: “Oh God, if it your will, let this job not work out.”
Or alternatively, they don’t take an action they know they should take, then when things go wrong they sit back and say, “Ah well, it is God’s will.”
In Proverbs 19:3, the Bible delivers a very harsh rebuke to people who blame God for things like this:
“People ruin their lives by their own foolishness, and then are angry at the Lord.”
—Proverbs 19:3 (NLT)
- “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
The third mistake I see Christians make is to neither try to spiritually claim anything nor wait passively for God to give us things, but to set a goal before our eyes and then push to make it happen by ourselves.
This, to me, is the worst approach of the lot. Because as wrong as the first two may be, they at least introduce God into the picture somehow. This third one puts God aside completely and chooses to fight the battle purely on human strength and ability.
And we never call it what it is. We give it names like “being resourceful” and “being hardworking”, and we justify it with sayings like “God helps those who help themselves.”
Firstly, “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible. So stop quoting it like it is scripture.
It’s not. It never will be. Stop it.
Secondly, by trying to do it all ourselves we are effectively confirming that we ourselves are our own gods, the rulers of our own lives.
The Bible says “Unless the Lord buildeth the house, they labor in vain that build it.” (Psalm 127:1)
We say, “Unless I build the house, that house ain’t gonna get built.”
It sounds so good, doesn’t it? It sounds so darned hardworking. But the reason why it sounds good to us is because it is what the world considers good. When we think like this, we adopt the world’s way of thinking. We adopt the world’s values.
God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
The world teaches us to say: “If you like be still, and life will pass you by.”
And yet James 4:4 tells us that friendship with the world is enmity against God. So why are we so eager to adopt the way the world does things?
The Correct Way To Receive From God
Now that we’ve covered the wrong ways to think about receiving from God, let’s look at the right way to do it.
Like everything in the Kingdom of God, it is inherently simple. What it isn’t always is easy.
Here’s the formula:
- Ask God for what you want.
Ask freely. Ask unselfconsciously. Whatever it is, no matter how foolish or “unspiritual” is sounds, just ask. Ask without fear, knowing that if what you’re asking for is not good, God won’t give it to you. (Matthew 7:9-11)
You can even ask Him for the wisdom to know what to ask for! (James 1:5)
This approach may sound too simple to be true, but there’s biblical proof that this is the only way God expects us to approach receiving:
“…yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.
And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”
—James 4:2b-3 (NLT)
The King James puts the verse 3 more succinctly, and reveals why so many of our direct requests may go unanswered:
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
—James 4:3 (KJV)
Inasmuch as God encourages us to ask freely from Him, He doesn’t expect us to come with requests that we seek only to fulfill our selfish desires.
(So if you’re looking for that pay raise just so you can dress more expensively to impress your colleagues, chances are you’re not going to get it.)
- After you have made your request known to God, sit your butt down until God gives you a response.
After you have asked, WAIT. Do not start making plans, do not start working toward the goal. Do not try to make anything happen. Have faith that God hears your prayers, and if God has heard you then He will respond when the time is right. (1 John 5:14-15)
So if God hasn’t yet given you a response, your job is to WAIT.
I can’t stress this enough.
So many people have made trouble for themselves just because they tried to make things happen before God’s appointed time. Just look at Abraham sleeping with Hagar and producing Ishmael just because he grew tired of waiting for Isaac. (Genesis 16)
Wait. Wait. I can’t say this enough. After you’ve prayed, wait.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
—Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)
- Finally, when—and only when—God gives you a response, then it’s time to work hard toward the goal.
If the thing you asked for requires hard work to maintain, by all means work hard. You have no excuse not to.
If it requires a plan, make one.
If it requires a spreadsheet, learn Excel.
Do you get the point? God gave us a brain and expects us to use it, but only on those things He has given us the go-ahead to do.
That’s all there is to it.
See? I told you it was simple.
One more thing: it should go without saying that if God’s answer to your prayer is no, then you should just forget about the whole thing.
God is your Father, and He only wants the best for you. Better yet, He only allows the best for you.
So trust me, a no from God concerning something is better for you than any “yes” in the entire universe. Don’t take His refusals and try to turn them into acceptances. You’ll only make trouble for yourself. Trust God.
That’s it from me for today. Thanks for reading to the end.
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God bless you!