Posted by: Jack Brown | November 30, 2012

Ask Big

As we get close to the Christmas season I remember all the excitement this time of year would bring when I was a child. So many memories flood my mind: advent calendars with peppermint candies, the smell of a real Christmas tree, stringing popcorn with my grandmother…good times to be sure. Many of my happiest memories are of the holiday season–it was definitely the most wonderful time of the year in my mind. And there was one thing each year that I think I looked forward to more than anything else (which says something about me, but oh well): the arrival in the mail of the new Sears catalog.

Anyone else remember those? It was pure magic in paper form–the back section, anyway, which was where you found the TOYS. Oh my, the toys. Old toys, new toys, big, small…you name it, all printed in full-color glory on slick, glossy paper that before long was stained with saliva as I drooled over each page. On the day it arrived I would carry that thing in from the mailbox as if I was Howard Carter gingerly removing treasure from King Tut’s tomb. And of course, once the catalog arrived that meant it was time to make THE LIST. Although with my greedy little mind it probably would’ve been easier to just tear out the whole toy section and just mail it to Santa with a three word note: “ONE OF EACH.”

I’m probably a little hard on myself. I don’t think I was that greedy. And even if I was, I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of. After all, back then I had no concept of Christmas budgets, layaways, and credit card bills that arrived in January. In my mind you were supposed to indicate everything you wanted, and you simply had faith that the “big guy” would be able to deliver. And boy did I have faith–my lists were long, detailed, and full of expectancy and hope. To put it simply, I asked big.

Lately I’ve come to a realization that as I’ve gotten older I’ve also gotten less expectant and hopeful. Not with regard to holiday giving (since I’ve come to see that Christmas isn’t about presents), but just in general. And as I reflect on my childhood I find myself feeling wistful as I consider that young boy, pen in hand, writing out in careful strokes the things he wanted to find under the tree Christmas morning. So trusting, so sure that the magic of the season would come through. I’m not that boy anymore. I’ve grown cynical and suspicious, more inclined to expect the worst than the best of the season, of people, and sometimes even of God.

Not that I consider God a cosmic Santa Claus, mind you. I don’t think we’re called to approach God with a list of stuff we want and expect that He is somehow obligated to provide it. That’s my problem with churches that teach a “name it and claim it” theology–they treat God as if He is somehow beholden to our desires if we just ask and have enough faith. I think that’s a complete misinterpretation of Scripture, and in its worst form has more in common with witchcraft than the teachings of Jesus.

But here’s the thing–even though I don’t believe we should treat God like Santa, I fear I often whiplash around to the other end of the spectrum and end up not asking God for anything out of the ordinary or beyond what I think is “reasonable.” I approach God as if He’s on a budget, and I’d better not ask for too much. My expectations of Him are limited, and my hope for anything extraordinary or supernatural is minimal if sometimes not completely absent. To put it simply, I ask small.

And yet the words of Jesus point me to a different reality: the reality of a loving Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children, who responds to the requests of His people with abundance and generosity flowing from a heart of perfect love. And those words of Jesus pierce my cynical heart and remind me that while I shouldn’t make demands of God, at the same time I shouldn’t hold back in what I request of Him. After all, Scripture tells me that God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). And what’s more–He’s not only able, He is also willing.

So as we enter this season that reminds us how God gave us far more than we could have ever deserved, expected, or asked for, I find myself being challenged to approach God from a place of greater expectancy, hope, and trust. I’m not going to tell Him what he needs to do (as if I even could), but I am going to approach the throne of grace with confidence in God’s great love as I pray for my family, my church, my community, and my world. I’m going to be bolder as I come to him with my requests for healing, for peace, for intervention, for provision, and for guidance. To put it simply, I’m going to ask big.

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening.”–1 John 5:14-15 (MSG)

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Responses

  1. Thanks, Jack. I need to grow in this as well.

  2. Beautifully written. This is exactly the perspective I need to keep. Thanks, Jack!

  3. Thanks for sharing your heart, Jack. Definitely words I also need to hear these days…


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