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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

 

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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