7-Eleven stores are not only popular in America, where there are thousands of these little convenience stores attached to gas stations, but there are now more 68,000 “7-Eleven” stores in seventeen different countries around the world! The stores first used the name 7-Eleven because they were open between 7:00 am -11:00 pm, but now most locations provide 24-hour access to food, gasoline, and various small necessities you might discover a need for in the middle of the night when other stores aren’t open.
In Matthew 7 and Luke 11 (7-Eleven), Jesus gives three invitations with promises attached: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” As I pondered Jesus’s teaching, I couldn’t help but notice the 7-Eleven theme—on several counts! First, the teaching is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 7-Eleven (which makes it easy to remember)! 🙂 Second, Jesus’s seemingly carte blanche statement is so much more extravagant than what any 7-Eleven store could possibly hope to provide! Third, these promises follow Jesus’s teaching on prayer and are couched between two parables in Luke’s gospel, the first of which is a story about a man needing something in the middle of the night:
“And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, 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” (Luke 11:5-10).
Back in the time of Christ, you couldn’t just head to your local 7-Eleven store in the middle of the night if you needed something, so you had to bother your closest neighbor instead. As Jesus explains, even your favorite friend is unlikely to be thrilled if you show up on his doorstep at midnight looking for food. However, if you persist (and he doesn’t heave a rock out his window to drive you off 🙂 )—since he really is your friend—he will get up and give you what you need. He won’t actually throw stones, he will give you bread. If you ask for a fish, he’ll check out his fridge and share his leftover fish’n’chips. He won’t fish around in the dark corners of his house looking for a spare snake or scorpion to pawn off on you instead. True? Yes! Tired and cranky and selfish as we are, most of us will come to the aid of those we love if they ask.
Jesus starts by recommending perseverance in making a clamor until we get the help we need, and he ends by assuring us that our heavenly Father is a kinder, more compassionate, more capable, and more generous giver than the best earthly father. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13).
There are two seemingly insignificant codicils at the end of Jesus’s statement that are actually immeasurably important. The first is a reminder that the best gifts are spiritual, and the second is that we must ask! If aren’t humble enough to ask, at some point, God may withhold His graces. Why? Because God loves us too much to continue showering us with his daily benefits while we blindly refuse to recognize his bounty for what it is—love gifts intended to draw us to Himself! God wants us to seek for him like we would search for hidden treasure, and if we will, He promises that He will reveal himself to us! But, if we refuse to acknowledge His existence or obey the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit, at some point He may withdraw such that we no longer recognize him for the great and wonderful God that He is! Why? Because he is better than buried treasure, and He doesn’t want us to continue callously through life without recognizing him as the source of all goodness. God wants us to knock, and knock, and knock until He answers. Why? Because He wants us to trust Him. To love Him. To wait on Him. To know that He is good, even when things are going wrong and we’re in great pain. Can you believe this? Are you willing to ask?
The second point that’s probably overlooked (at least, I’ve tended to over the years) is that God offers to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. What’s that? Who’s He? Why do we need the Holy Spirit? God gives us the Holy Spirit, but it is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we are actually born again and receive eternal life. It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive all spiritual blessings and graces! Blessed Holy Comforter and Guide! The One who seals us and insures our safe delivery to heaven! Don’t miss out! There’s something greater than even our need for daily bread, health, and security!
One last thought . . . but perhaps the most touching of all to me. In Revelation 3:20 we see Jesus reaching out to us too, knocking patiently at the door of our hearts: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:17-22). Will you ask? Will you seek? Will you knock? Will you open the door?
Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Also: Luke 11:5-13, as quoted above.