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The Overflow

James 4:2 NASB You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.

The latter part of James 4:2 is very familiar to most of us. In many church circles and throughout my life, I would often hear someone retort, “You have not because you ask not.” The message they were trying to convey is that there are many times that the unmet needs we have, or any unfulfilled desires remain as such because we never asked anyone to help us with them. While well intentioned, this is not the whole of what James was trying to convey to us.

I remember one day my three-year-old daughter was whining about a snack she wanted. It was the typical time of day when either I or her father would allow her to have a “special treat,” typically gummy fruit snacks. This day was no different, but we were a little behind schedule. Emory, in expected toddler fashion, began to fuss and was visibly agitated by the tardiness of her snack. When I noticed her mood, I immediately realized she’d not gotten her snack. I started towards her, snack in hand, when I realized we were entering the beginning stages of her becoming hangry. As her mother, I knew exactly what she wanted. But also, as her mother I wanted to teach her to articulate her needs rather than just lash out because of how she is feeling. In times like these, we say, “Emory, use your words.” She was resistant at first, but eventually, with a little coaching and coaxing, I was able to get her to reveal that she was sad because she wanted gummies. Much to her surprise, I had the gummies right there in my hand the whole time. I was just waiting for her to ask me for them.

As God’s children, how often are we like the people James mentions in James 4:2? Or Emory? We need or want something and rather than just ask for what we need, we begin to instead develop strong desires for that thing we want and lash out when we ultimately do not get it. If only we could realize that God, our Heavenly father, is standing there all along. He already knows what we need. However, He wants us to recall His faithfulness and trust Him enough to just ask. How quickly would we ask God for those things we need and desire if we could really get a revelation of how He is standing there with exactly what we need, patiently waiting on us to just ask Him for it. After all, Matthew 7:7 says that “If [we] then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will [our] Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”

James 4:2 is not just about God giving us what we asked for. To limit the frame of this scripture in this way would sell God short. God wouldn’t be God if He gave you what you wanted and left it at that. Philippians 4:6 instructs us to “let [our] requests be made known to God.” When we continue to the next verse, we see that our requests are rewarded with “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, [and it] will guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus.” Our gracious God not only, receives our requests, but He honors them and grants us His peace. This is the perfect display of the God of Ephesians 3:20 (“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. . .”) We may pray for a career promotion, and God may indeed grant that. In addition, however, He grants us wisdom so that we are good stewards of the financial increase and operate effectively in a leadership role. God knows how to bless us fully, in excess of what we even thought to ask of Him to give us, wisely giving us what we need and what we want. God wants us to think of Him as not just the God of the overflow. But He is the overflow. More than things, God wants to give us more of Himself. Luke 11:13 reframes how we should read the scripture as quoted earlier in Matthew 7:7. Luke puts it this way: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who as Him?” From Luke’s account of his time with Jesus, we learn that the very thing that we have for the asking is God Himself.

Call to action: Thank God for hearing you when you pray. Recall the heart of David in Psalm when he asks of God, “Teach me your ways.” (Psalm 86:11) When given God’s ear, and before asking for any specific thing, consider asking God first for more of Him. Then, trust that because you have delighted yourself in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) He’s just that good.


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