• Introduction: The Lord has promised us to grant whatever we ask.  In addition to the Mat 7:7 quoted on the front cover of your bulletin, you can check this out for yourselves in the Gospel according to John ch#s 14,15,16.  Those chapters are from when Jesus was speaking with the disciples on the night He was delivered over to the temple leaders and the Roman government to be executed on a cross.  He told them, and because it is recorded for us to read in God’s word in 2021, has also told us, if we ask for something by prayer in Jesus’ Name, He will give what is being asked.  Jesus was recorded by John 7 times in these three chapters alone to ask for something in prayer, and The Father would grant it. 
    • Additionally, He did *not* put conditions on exhorting the disciples to ask for something in prayer.  With essentially a blank check given to the disciples, would there be any reason why, those who pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus, to not receive what is asked for in prayer?
    • Our text chosen for today’s message is from the Epistle of James 4:3 with a slight revision to what was read earlier –  You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend on hedonism.  This verse of the New Testament would indicate there are some sort of conditions under which God would grant our prayer requests.  For example, if someone asks of the Father to win the lottery, and does so in Jesus’ name, why is are there so few who win the big jackpot?  Let us examine why in this example, we don’t win as Jesus seemingly promised us would happen.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, Your Son Jesus told us through the Word that we could ask in His name for whatever we want, and it would be granted. However, we have the text for today telling us we ask but do not receive.  Send to us the Holy Spirit so that we understand how this is possible without a conflict in your Word, and have us trust in Your word more than we ever have.  We pray this, Father, through Your Son Christ, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
  • Background: I have an example of someone who won in 2002 the biggest payout in lottery history at the time.  My source information is from a Washington Post article reprinted on 23 October, 2018 just after someone had won a $1.5B payout.  I placed the link to the on-line article on the back of your bulletin so you can look up the gory details on your own.  Andrew Jackson “Jack” Whittaker’s story[1] started with the purchase of a lottery ticket from his favorite convenience store a little before Christmas Day, 2002. The jackpot became huge with this particular lottery. Jack’s philosophy about buying lottery tickets is to only buy one when the jackpot got huge.  Otherwise, it was as if playing the lottery wasn’t worth it.  😊 The drawing was Christmas night which was a Wednesday that year.  His wife Jewell woke him up to tell him the drawing matched 4 of 5 numbers.  However, when Jack rose the next morning, he discovered all 5 drawn numbers matched instead of only four that were announced on the news the night before! 
    • The story about Jack originally ran on January 30th, 2005, nearly 3yrs after his big pay day.  Upon realizing he’d won, he made these promises as quoted from the article: “…he would tithe a biblical 10 percent of his winnings; donate millions to his family's favorite pastors and build big new churches. He vowed to start a charitable foundation to help needy West Virginians. ‘I just want to thank God for letting me pick the right numbers . . . or letting the machine pick the right numbers,’ he said as he claimed his check.”  He went from being the owner of a water and sewer pipe laying construction business with 100 employees, to being an instant celebrity with net gain of $113M lump sum lottery payment after taxes.
      • How long did it last Jack’s desire to do good in the eyes of the Lord?  It appears He received the $113M payout on the day after Christmas 2002 when he doubled-down on those promises I just read.  Per the 2018 article I’m quoting from, “He was determined, …to live as if nothing had changed, except that he could spend more time with his family. He was going to keep answering his own phone, opening his own front door, and turning to God for guidance. ‘He's still working on me,’ Jack said, sounding modest.” That was December 26th, 2002. Five days later, on New Year’s Eve, he visited a strip club named “Pink Pony” where he put onto the bar $50,000. I guess he was there to help people. After all, stripers are people too, aren’t they?
    • How many of us could withstand receiving $113M all of the sudden?
      • We have another example like Jack from the scriptures with King Solomon.  Solomon ruled a united Israel in the 10th century BC.  He was son of King David through Bathsheba. Solomon was not only the wisest person in the land, he was also the wealthiest (2Ch 9:22).
        • God visited with Solomon not long after he had become king.  It has been calculated Solomon was a bit shy of 20yrs old when he became king over Israel[2].  God said to Solomon in a dream, “Ask what I shall give you.[3]”  Can you imagine if God were to appear to you in a dream and said the same to you?! Well, actually, God has appeared before us all in His word found in John chapters 14-16 inclusive as mentioned at the start of this message.  So, it would appear we have a similar blank check from the same God who spoke to Solomon.
        • Solomon responded by not asking God for riches, wealth, honor, or death of enemies (2Ch 1:11).  For a 19yr old at the time, it would be very pleasing to God that Solomon’s focus was on being a good king over God’s chosen people, and not a laundry list of hedonistic pleasures.  Solomon had what appears to be a blank check from the Lord, but he asked for wisdom and knowledge to rule over the people of God (2Ch 1:10).
        • God blessed Solomon with immense wealth in addition to wisdom and knowledge, which similarly for Jack Whittaker, wound up being Solomon’s downfall.  In 1Ki 11:1-10, we read about Solomon having 700 wives and 300 concubines.  These wives worked on Solomon to turn away from the one, true God from whom all blessings flowed, and instead turned his heart to follow other gods.
        • Let’s face it, there are people attracted to wealthy people just so they can get a piece of it.  Back to Jack for a moment, not only did he start visiting the strip club, he also started visiting a “gambling mecca” called “Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center”. Per the Washington Post article, “Jack was in the high-roller room with a woman, not his wife, [according to] floor attendant Kitti French. He seemed to have been drinking. As his comely companion played the slots, Jack grabbed at her breasts and crotch, French contends. Jack's lady friend got lucky at a slot machine, and a floor attendant named Ronda Lilly waited for the go-ahead from security before counting out the woman's winnings. Lilly alleges that Jack grabbed her hair and laid hands on her backside.”
        • Since Solomon had a weakness for woman probably like we see in the Jack Whittaker story, he lost focus on what should have been important to him. He had the wisdom but stopped showing it.  From an early portion of our Epistle reading - 13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.  17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits,  impartial, free of hypocrisy[4].
        • We need to think about how we are displaying the wisdom granted to us by the same Lord who blessed King Solomon with exceptional wisdom.  The wisdom from above can easily transform, through the corruption of our soul by sin, into earthly wisdom like Jack Whittaker was displaying.  This is a major reason for staying in the Lord’s word and being reminded regularly that we are sinners.  If left to our own devices, we will turn away from God in even less than the five days Jack took to turn from wanting to building churches to keeping the strippers financially happy at the Pink Pony.
  • Analysis: In these two examples of King Solomon and Jack Whittaker, who needs God when they have everything of their own?
    • Asking of God for something is done in prayer, or in signing of a hymn as we sang in the 3rd stanza of the sermon hymn.  God has promised to hear our prayers.  This is why it’s such a shocker to read where the Lord instructed the prophet Jeremiah to *not* pray for the people of Judah.  I noted in the bulletin outline three different places recorded in the Book of Jeremiah (Jer 7:16, 11:14, 14:11) where God said, “…do not pray for this people, and do not lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not plead with Me; for I am not listening to you.[5]” Can you imagine being so disgusting in the Lord’s eyes that He wouldn’t want to hear your prayers.
      • The people of Judah were two-faced and thoroughly corrupt.  God said of these people at the time “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, offer sacrifices to Baal, and follow other gods that you have not known, 10 then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are saved!’—so that you may do all these abominations?[6]”  These people with one face were thoroughly corrupt, but then with their other face would appear before the Lord in His house and claim His salvation.
      • Apparently, as Solomon once wrote, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc 1:9).  It wasn’t just the people of Jerusalem in 6th century BC whom God could describe as evil. The Holy Spirit inspired James to write in the 1st century AD -  You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask[7].  
      • Jack Whittaker joined the ancient Judahite population in having another God.  That god - was himself.  In our text for today, there was a word in the Greek that is the basis from where we get the English word, “hedonism”.  The Greek word, ἡδονή (hay-don-ay') means sensual delight; and by implication, desire, lust, or pleasure.
    • The 1st Commandment from Ex 20:3 is “You shall have no other gods before Me[8].”  Was the 1st Commandment anywhere near the hearts of Solomon or Jack at the end of their respective lives? How about the 6th century Judahites God told Jeremiah not to pray on their behalf?  Moses wrote the 1st and the other commandments by inspiration around 1450 BC.
      • 40yrs later, Moses’ restatement of the 1st Commandment in Deu 5:7 went further to say, “You shall have no other gods before my face.[9]” The one, true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, will not tolerate any other god in His holy presence.  To have the face of God is to have His favor.  To have Him turn His face from something is to completely banish it from His Holy presence.  That’s why God instructed the priests to bless the congregation with the Aaronic blessing you hear at the end of each church service here at Christus Rex.  God wants His people assembled here in His name to go with His face directed toward us.  It is infinitely more likely we will turn our face from Him toward a god made with human hands.  In Jack’s case, he had the god of money which then made favor with the ladies who would meet his hedonistic pleasures along with booze and gambling.  We don’t need to have an idol of gold or silver in order to worship other gods.
    • Conclusion: Jesus instructed us through His word - 24 Therefore, I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you[10].  
    • You can believe that you *have* received that for which you prayed if you pray about things consistent with the Lord’s will.  The Apostle John wrote - 14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us[11].  It’s worth repeating, “if we ask anything according to His will.”  We can’t be asking God for a laundry list of hedonistic pleasure items or experiences, and expect that He will make our wish His command.
      • Jack Whittaker in particular, lost the desire to ask of anything according to the will of God.  There is a lot of evil revealed in the article about him, but $113M bought Jack intense hurt which is probably diluted with the alcohol he regularly indulged in as of 2018.  He is split from his wife of 40yrs.  His beloved granddaughter who lived with them, died of a drug overdose at 21yrs young.  One friend of hers also died of an overdose. Many lives were ruined as one reads the on-line article.  People wondered aloud whether it would have been better had Jack never won the huge jackpot.  But at least the tiny church he attended had a nice new facility some dubbed the “Church of the Powerball”.  The new edifice seats 10x the capacity of the old church.  Maybe it’s God’s divine fatherly goodness and mercy devoted to us when we ask for something in Jesus’ name and He says no.  God doesn’t want us to be the cause of so much devastation and ruin in the lives of many people because one person is blessed with a gift they cannot handle.  He does have to think of each of the 7.7 billion people living on the planet at this very moment.
    • Thankfully, the Spirit intercedes for us when we are at a loss on what to pray.  The Apostle Paul wrote of the Third Person of the Trinity - 26 Now in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God[12]
      • The Triune God is true to His word.  Each prayer we have ever prayed has been heard.  Each person of the Trinity works in our best interest.  It should come as a relief we probably don’t have to worry about being “blessed” with a huge windfall of money that would bring the downfall of ours and many others around us.  God’s blessing to us from the Apostle Paul is a fit closing to this message - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus[13]. Amen.

[1] Source material for this story taken from https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2018/10/24/jack-whittaker-powerball-lottery-winners-life-was-ruined-after-m-jackpot/

[2] Source including details from https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/51218/how-old-was-solomon-when-he-became-king

[3] 2Ch 1:7 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2ch+1&version=NASB

[4] Jas 3:13-15,17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jas+3&version=NASB

[5] Jer 7:16 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jer+7&version=NASB

[6] Jer 7:8-10, IBID

[7] Jas 4:2 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jas+4&version=NASB

[8] Ex 20:3 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+20&version=NASB

[9] Deu 5:7 from an original translation from the Greek of the Septuagint found at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/deu/5/1/t_conc_158007; emphasis that of the author

[10] Mark 11:24 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+11&version=NASB

[11] 1Jn 5:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1jn+5&version=NASB, emphasis of this author

[12] Rom 8:26-27 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+8&version=NASB

[13] Phil 4:6-7 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=phil+4&version=NASB