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Genie in a Bottle

James 4:3, “Or when you ask, you do not receive because the reason you ask is wrong. You want things so you can use them for your own pleasures.”

A man was late for a job interview because he couldn't find any place to park. “Please God, this interview is important. If you'll provide a parking space, I'll be in the front row of church every week!” Just as he spoke those words, a space opened up in front of him. “Oh, never mind,” he said. “I found one.”

Have you ever prayed to God as if He were a genie in a bottle that was there to simply grant your every wish? How do you react when your wish doesn't come true? Do you thank God when He answers your prayers or like that man feel you got there on your own?

There's a joke about three men that were stranded on an island. A bottle washes up on shore. When they uncork it, a genie pops out offering three wishes. The first man wished to be taken to Paris. The genie snapped his fingers, and the man suddenly found himself standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. The second man wished that he were in Hollywood, and with a snap of the genie's fingers, he found himself on a Tinsel Town movie set. The third man, now alone, looks around and says, “I wish my friends were back.” Of course, much to the dismay of the first two men, they all three we're suddenly back on the island again.

The punch line makes us laugh, but it reminds us that things don't always go the way we want them to. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be open to you.”

Does this mean God will automatically give us everything we ask for like a wish granting genie? After all, God is obligated to give it because I asked, He tells us that in the Bible. I believe this is the world's point of view but as we study God's Word, we begin to see what Jesus means more clearly.

If we don't get what we “want”, do we grow angry with God? If things don't turn out our way, do we begin to doubt God's love for us?

We must never forget God's ways are above our ways and He knows what's best for us, even when we don't.

Let's look at what the Bible tells us after Jesus makes that statement. Looking through verses of Luke 11:9-11, Jesus uses the illustration of a parent and their child. As parents we love to give our children everything, but also as a parent, we know what is good for them and what can harm them. So, we give them wonderful things that are good, and when we can, we give plentifully. As God’s children, Jesus says that He will always give us good things, not injurious things. Like our children who get upset when they don't get everything, we too can become clamorous, yet Jesus will still give us good gifts- Luke 11:13. And like our children must trust us, we must trust God to provide what is beneficial, because He loves us.

There are a few conditions Jesus tells us to follow when we ask for anything.

Seek God's Kingdom first. John 14:14 “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Jesus doesn't promise us anything and everything we ask for; He instructs that we ask in His name first. In doing this we are acknowledging Jesus’ authority and asking according to God's will and that God's will, be done- 1 John 5:14. Our requests need to be coinciding with the will of God.

Also, we need to have faith. Matthew 21:22, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Faith is very important when talking to Jesus. We must believe in the infinite power of God and knowing, no matter what the answer or outcome, God's plan is the best for us.

Third, we need to have prayer. Jesus says we need to take all our needs to God, and trust when we pray according to His will, He answers. We need to pray persistently- Luke 18:1, unselfishly- James 4:3, and in faith- James 1:6.

Lastly, Psalm 37:4 tells us we need to delight in God. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This doesn't mean Jesus will give us whatever we crave, rather when we delight in God, we find we have everything we need in Him. Our hearts change and we find God's desires become our own and our prayers are aligned with His will.

Another thought came to my mind as I wrote this. There was a show called ‘I Dream of Jeannie’. Basically, an Air Force captain finds a genie on the beach. She follows him home granting him wishes whether he wanted them or not. He had to hide her from everyone so many times, if he didn't need her or want her around, he'd send her to her bottle.

So many Christians have that same attitude towards God. They want blessings, they want God to perform various tasks and miracles in their life. But, after God has done those things, they want to place Him back away (in the bottle), so He won't interfere in their lives.

This thinking has man putting themselves at the center, above God, but God is not that way, we have no power over Him, we can't order Him around or manipulate Him with our faith, prayers, or praises. It is God who created us, we didn't make Him. It is God who has the authority over us and chooses to give us the blessings or withhold them for our greater good. It should never be what God can do for me, rather who He is in my life.

Jesus will not give us everything we want. When we knock on heaven's door, we are asking God to provide for our needs and if it aligns with His will for us, He will give us some of our desires. That is when we pray, ‘Thy will be done.’ This is when we see the blessings, big and small around us.

I found this song from Mercy Me, that fits this so perfectly called, Even If. Click the link and you can hear it too.

Jesus is not a genie in the bottle but He is true to His promises to take care of us and provide all we need. We just have to open the Bible and we can learn about those promises, see those promises being fulfilled and grow in Jesus so we will have the full assurance He is with us daily. He is better than a fictious genie in the bottle any and every day. Today let's continue our study with 3 John 1-8.

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