Be Careful What You Ask For…

“Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.”

More than likely you have said or at least heard the phrase above. For me, it generally had to do with my mouth getting way ahead of my brain, which unfortunately happens all too often. Most of us can remember getting into situations where we wonder why we asked for something. Has that ever happened to you in your prayer life?

In the 20th chapter of Matthew, Salome, the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John, came to Jesus to ask a favor of him.

Jesus asked, “What is it that you want?” She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
– Matthew 20: 21 (NIV).

This encounter is also recorded in Mark, chapter 10, but he does not mention Salome. He writes that James and John made the request. It is possible she made the request before they did, regardless of that it is clear that the “Sons of Thunder” are seeking a prime spot in Jesus’ kingdom. Interestingly, this is made right after Jesus predicted His death for the second time. This request was also made after the argument among the Disciples as to who would be the greatest among them.

You don't know what you are asking.

Jesus would reply to them, “You don’t know what you are asking.
– Matthew 20:22a (NIV).

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard that statement, Warren Buffett would be cutting my grass. We often think we know what is best for us and if we can just have insert answer here, everything will be great. We are so short sided, thinking only about the immediate gratification, oblivious to any long term plans God might have for our lives that would be so much more beneficial. Then, we often complain about getting it. People, you just can’t make them happy.

It looks like confidence was not something that James and John lacked. Jesus would then ask them a question and that confidence was still present.

Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered.
– Matthew 20:22b (NIV).

Clearly they had no idea what the “cup” was that Jesus was about to partake. The “cup” that Jesus would take was for the sins of the world. The sins of James and John, my sins, your sins, the sins of everyone. Only He could take that cup. Jesus would then tell them that they would both drink “from” His cup.

Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.
– Matthew 20:23 (NIV).

The ones who would be at His right and left would be the two thieves crucified with Him. The “Sons of Thunder” might have re-thought their request had they known exactly what they were asking for. Are there times you regret asking for something that you received?

There is also another side effect for a request like this; it causes conflict with others. The other ten Disciples were not real happy with sons of Zebedee. Both Matthew and Mark use the word “indignant” to describe how the other Disciples felt.

Have you ever asked for something to only have it upset someone else? Maybe you felt like you were “owed” or “deserved” something. But when others found out it caused conflict. This often stems from a heart of selfishness or self-centeredness which are exactly the traits that as followers of Christ we are not to possess. As my Pappaw Armstrong would say, “They were getting too big for their britches.” That is a statement I heard many times, way too many times.

For us, just like for James and John, a lesson in humility is near.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
– Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV).

Ego and pride may get us far in the world but it will put us in direct conflict with Jesus. We are called to serve. We are called to be Servant/Leaders to our families, to our church and to each other. If you want to see who is “winning” the race of being a servant, don’t look at the front of the line, look to the rear. Or more accurately, look to who is working, doing the things most of us don’t want to do and doing it with no fanfare, nor seeking any credit.

James and John would go on to drink from the cup. James would be the first Disciple to be martyred. He would be beheaded for spreading the gospel. John would live to a very old age, some say over 100 years old. He would be exiled to the island of Patmos where he was given the Book of Revelation. Legend also says that before he was exiled, the Roman Emperor Domitian had him put in a vat of boiling oil only to have John come out of it unharmed.

When we pray are we asking for what we want or are we asking for what the Father wills? Are we praying out of ego and greed or out of service and humility? Our prayers should line up with the will of the Father. In doing so, we will be asking for what He wants to give us and for what He knows is best for us.

Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.”
Sidlow Baxter

ReadActMinisterPray and run to the Cross!


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