He Hears

Reflections on 3 John

It felt like God wasn’t listening.

Scripture is full of verses about God hearing and answering our prayers. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15).

There was a time in my life when I could easily digest these verses. But one day, everything changed: My wife and I had a miscarriage. When one of the purest and legitimate prayers of my life seemed to go unanswered, I felt like God came up short. I had never had my faith shaken so badly.

It’s hard to reconcile these seemingly unanswered prayers with passages that declare God’s faithfulness. It’s even more difficult when anger and grief cloud your thinking.

Making our requests with confidence doesn’t mean that God will grant every request. John states that “if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (5:14). He may not answer our prayers in the way that we expect, but he will do what is right within his power and will.

The problems we face are even deeper than our tragic circumstances. What about basic necessities? Praying for those seems like something we shouldn’t have to do. John proves otherwise when he prays: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” (3 John 2). John’s prayers for basic necessities suggest that we should pray about everything—regardless of how God answers our prayers.

It may seem that God comes up short at times, but maybe it’s because we don’t understand the entire picture—the picture that God sees. Since we ultimately belong to God, our feelings or understanding isn’t what matters most. What matters is our belief. This is the context of John’s comment about prayer: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:14).

But how can we believe when horrible things happen, like losing a child? John hints at the answer: “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). We may be connected to God, but the world is not.

We can’t make sense of everything in this fallen world, but we can take hope that over time we will have more understanding. John says: “We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). In Jesus, we can find eternal life and hope. In Christ, God is expanding our understanding of precisely what it means to be heard by him.

The way God answers our prayers may not make sense to us now, or ever. In a broken world, we’ll experience pain. Living in fellowship with God means trusting that he hears us, no matter how he answers our prayers. It means patiently waiting for the day when it all finally makes sense.

MATT DABBS
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN BIBLE STUDY MAGAZINE MAR–APR ‘11
BIBLICAL REFERENCES FROM ESV

 

Temporary!

File:Temporary plate blue.svg - Wikimedia CommonsThis is what you should say to your circumstances when they don’t line up with God’s Word:

Temporary!

2 CORINTHIANS 4:18 NIV 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

You may not realize it — but problems often “speak” to you. They say things like, “You can’t get rid of me. I’ll be with you as long as you live.”

“Your parents died from this and you will, too.”

“Your family was poor and you’ll always be poor. You’ll never have abundance. You’ll never get out of debt.”

Actually, it’s the demonic forces behind the problems that speak to our minds — trying to keep us in doubt and unbelief. We must resist those thoughts — and the first step is to talk back!

We should speak to thoughts of doubt and unbelief that are contrary to what God has said in His Word — for His Word is truth.

Don’t be passive. Resist!

The Bible tells us to submit ourselves therefore to God. resist the devil, and he will flee from you. That means resisting his thoughts and ideas, too.

Long ago, God gave mankind dominion on earth. That dominion included naming things. You still have that form of dominion today. If you name your troubles as “yours” and “permanent” — they will stay. But if you call them “temporary” — they will eventually leave.

Jesus told us to speak to our mountains and tell them to be gone. But what should you say after you have spoken to the mountain and it’s still there?:

TEMPORARY!

SAY THIS: My circumstances are subject to change!

A Devotion

The Problem with Bible Clubs

A Bible is pretty versatile. It can be a file. Did you ever notice how much people stick in their Bible? I look at mine sometimes, and I find a number of things in there I don’t want to lose. Unfortunately, it does hurt the binding a little bit. Sometimes the Bible can be a record book. You see these Bibles where people put important dates, their family tree, weddings, deaths, and the autographs of people whose ministry they want to remember.

A Bible can be an antique. You can go into an antique store and drop quite a few bucks getting one of those old Bibles. And a Bible is a great gift. I’ve gotten several as a gift. A Bible can be your identification. I used to carry mine to school. My kids carried theirs to school; it sort of identifies you as a follower of Christ. And at some times in my life, the Bible’s been a textbook. Oh yeah, there are a lot of ways you can use your Bible. There’s one I hope you never use.

I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “The Problem with Bible Clubs.”

Our word for today from the Word of God, 2 Timothy 4:2 – “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” This is a call, I think, to Bible balance. First of all, Paul is saying, “Use God’s Word to help people know what’s right; that’s correct. To warn them about what they’re doing wrong; that’s rebuke. And to encourage them in what they’re doing right. Use this book boldly to change people’s lives. That’s certainly part of it.

Here’s the other part: Do it gently, do it patiently, do it carefully. Don’t use the Bible as a club! You can use it for a lot of things, but not as a club to win an argument, or beat a person down, or shame them, or corner them. I know it’s good to have some Bible clubs where kids meet to study the Bible around the school. I did that in high school. But don’t use the Bible as a club. Too many people use the words of the Bible but they lose the spirit of the Bible while they’re doing it.

Ephesians 4:15 is a perfect balance, “Speaking the truth in love.” The problem is that often the truth-bearers leave out the love, and the lovers leave out the truth. It’s important to be sure that you measure everything you believe and behave by God’s Word. There is no room for, “Well, in my opinion…” Or, “I don’t feel like it…” Or, “It doesn’t seem right to me.” Or, “I just read this great Christian book and it says…” No, show me what the Bible says. God has spoken – the final word.

It’s important to remind each other of what the Bible says about how we’re living. But it’s important to be gentle, non-condemning and patient like God has been with you. We want to make sure that when we’re communicating the truth, we’re also communicating, “I care about you. That’s why I’m doing this. That’s why I’m giving you what the Bible says, to correct, or to rebuke or encourage. I want God’s best in your life. You’re made for more. You’re better than this.” Not, “I’m sitting in judgment, and here are my verses.”

Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Bible penetrates between soul and spirit.” It’s a sword that does that; it judges. We don’t judge, God’s Word judges. So let God’s Word do the judging. Share it and then let it do the penetrating work God has promised.

Use God’s Word to love people with the truth. Don’t use it as a club.

 

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, Inc.

Our Prayer Is Our Life

“Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10 NKJV).

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He instructed them to begin their prayer with these three phrases. Hebrew poetry, like prayers, often utilizes parallelism; it is a way of conveying various nuances of the same idea. The three statements Jesus began His prayer with are parallelism; they represent variations on the same theme.

In the Bible, God’s name is hallowed—sanctified—either by how He acts or how we act. Since He always acts to sanctify His name, His name is at stake in us. By our actions, we either sanctify His name or profane it.

Too often we blame the world around us for God’s name being profaned, but that’s not necessarily accurate. His name is profaned when His people live disobediently to His will. The opposite is also true. When we obey Him and do His will, His name is sanctified in the world.

Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries described God’s kingdom as His reign. They said that whenever Israel did His will in the world, they caused Him to reign. The Bible is written from the standpoint of a king’s court. The king ruled supreme; he made the rules. His subjects followed them.

God is King in the Bible. Our job, as His servants, is to do His will. When we do, we establish His reign in the world. Thus, establishing His reign through our obedience also sanctifies His name.

God’s name is sanctified, and His reign is established when we do His will. Is that our deepest passion—our heart’s desire? To seek His kingdom and do His will? The phrase, “on earth as it is in Heaven” refers to all three requests; it represents the realization that God’s heavenly servants live to do His will perfectly, obediently.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, he instructed them to begin with a request that through our obedience God’s name will be sanctified, His reign established, and His will done. They say the same things, but with slight differences. To follow Jesus means that we seek to sanctify God’s name in all we say and do.

Prayer has little to do with the words we say; prayer is more about how we live our lives. When we pray, do we tend to focus on ourselves, our families, our situation, even our world? Or do our prayers passionately seek to have God’s name sanctified in our world? Those are the prayers Jesus taught His disciples to pray.

Prayer

Father, may Your Holy name be sanctified in our lives and in everything we say and do. Amen.

CBN Israel 

Is the Phrase ‘The Promises of God Are Yes and Amen’ Taken Out of Context?

God’s scriptural promises are “yes,” and believers can adamantly proclaim “amen.” However, Christians need to be careful about personally declaring a scriptural promise for themselves in their own desired expectation.

Woman with arms raised in excitement

Songs, blogs, and books often affirm that “the promises of God are yes and amen,” to inspire people to keep going in hard times or to hold on to dreams. In today’s culture, people often claim specific things as “promises of God,” such as the assurance of healing, comfort, or financial security.

They would argue that declaring “Amen” and having faith ensures that Christ will answer yes to these supposed “promises.” However, people who take this perspective often take verses like 2 Corinthians 1:20 out of context, ignoring what the verse is saying to readers. All God’s promises are “yes” in Christ, but He fulfills all biblical promises, not personal desires.

What Is the Context of 2 Corinthians 1:20?

An important aspect of reading and interpreting the Bible is to keep verses in context and consider the background setting of specific verses. In 2 Corinthians, Paul was writing to the Corinthian church about false teachers and the accusations they were making against his character and apostleship.

As the Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament edition states, “One reason Paul wrote this letter was to answer insinuations raised in Corinth about the authenticity of his apostleship, the propriety of his conduct, and the sincerity of his commitment to those Christians.” By keeping the overall purpose of the epistle in mind, will help readers to better understand passages and verses in 2 Corinthians.

In the latter part of chapter one of 2 Corinthians, Paul discusses his travel plans and intention to visit the Corinthian church twice as he went to and from Macedonia (2 Corinthians 1:15-16). The false teachers accused Paul of being unreliable and careless, claiming he had made these plans but never intended to keep them (2 Corinthians 1:17-18).

Based on these false accusations, the Corinthians were being told that Paul and his fellow workers were “yes” and “no” people who made commitments but didn’t keep them. The false teachers used this reasoning to make them doubt Paul’s preaching as well.

Paul made his travel plans with the intention of keeping them if God did not change his plans. Evidently, the Lord did change Paul’s plans (2 Corinthians 2:1). The apostle did what was right by listening to God and waiting to visit the Corinthians.

Although the false teachers tried to use this to discredit Paul, he asserts that he had conducted himself in sincerity to God and not according to worldly values (2 Corinthians 1:12). Paul then ended his defense of his travel plans by reminding the Corinthians of his own trustworthiness and reliability, which is based on the Lord God Himself.

Jesus always said what He meant to say, and Paul and his workers had diligently proclaimed the truth of Jesus to them in the past (2 Corinthians 1:19). Since their ministry was established by God, their reliability as workers of God was established.

As he wrote, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him, the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NIV).

What Is the Meaning of ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’?

Central aspects of the verse deal with “Yes” and “Amen.” All promises in Scripture are “yes” in Christ. Fulfilling numerous prophecies in the Old Testament, Jesus is truly the “Yes” of the Law and Prophets (Romans 10:4).

As He stated in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (NIV). He is the promised descendant of David, born in the line of Judah as the King of kings (Matthew 1:1; Romans 1:3; Revelation 5:5; 19:16).

Christ is the promised child who would crush Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15), and the seed of Abraham who would bless all nations (Galatians 3:16). Significantly, Jesus is the Messiah and the Savior of the world foretold in the Old Testament (Isaiah 53). Even the remaining prophecies that are going to be fulfilled in the future will be fulfilled by Christ (Zechariah 14:4; Revelation 19:11-16).

Through Jesus, Christians also declare “Amen” to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 1:20). This term means “very truly” or “let it be so.” Declaring “Amen” affirms a believer’s agreement with God in what He has accomplished through the fulfillment of His promises.

Paul often ended a doxology of praise with “Amen” (1 Corinthians 14:16), which fits with the overall flow of the first chapter in 2 Corinthians. In Christ, believers can be assured that the promises of God will be accomplished, and they can offer their own affirmation of the certainty of the promises because of the Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).

Thus, by understanding the context and examining the verse, people can understand that Jesus is the One who fulfills prophecies and is the assurance that the yet-to-be fulfilled promises in Scripture will be accomplished.

Through Him, the promises in the Bible are “yes” and believers can confidently proclaim “Amen.” The Apostle Paul not only showed that Christ was the basis of his ministry but also affirmed Jesus’ central role in the promises of Scripture.

The Promises of God Vs. Personal Desires

Through close study of 2 Corinthians 1:20, one can plainly see that the promises that are “yes” and affirmed are those that are referred to in Scripture, which Christ fulfills. Specifically, these promises are biblical, not mere personal desires or affirmations.

For instance, some people believe that “God has promised me health, wealth, and happiness,” “The Lord has promised me a spouse,” or “I will be victorious over every struggle with sin because of the promises of Christ.” However, God does not promise any of these things.

While the prosperity gospel teaches that Christians will have health and wealth, Jesus reminded His followers that they will have trouble in the world (John 16:33). Many Christians around the world can testify to this fact, since following Christ often involves sacrifices and even persecution. Likewise, the Apostle Paul was neither rich nor kept from illness.

In fact, the Lord allowed Paul to have a “thorn” in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). God reminded the apostle that “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).

God’s promises are sure, but Christians need to be careful about personally declaring a scriptural promise for themselves in their own personal circumstance. For example, an athlete can misuse the promise of having renewed strength (Isaiah 40:31), since they are taking the verse out of context and not considering what the promise means.

Also, a believer may wrongly assume that since the barren couples Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:19) or Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:13) were given the promise of a child, that their own barrenness is assured to be healed. Christians need to be careful in interpreting the promises of God and not misuse them for their own personal desires or wishes.

Remember to Consider Scripture’s Context

God’s scriptural promises are “yes,” and believers can adamantly proclaim “amen.” Jesus Christ fulfills the promises of the Bible, both past and future. Christians can be assured that all the promises in Scripture will come to pass just as the Lord has declared.

However, believers need to be careful to consider the context of biblical promises and not to confuse them with personal affirmations or their own desired outcomes for a situation. By treating the Bible with respect as the Word of God, followers of Christ will better understand the promises of God and not misuse them.