1 John 5:13-15 He Hears Us (Rev. Erik Veerman)
1 John 5:13-15
Rev. Erik Veerman
He Hears Us
Please turn to 1 John 5, verses 13-15. That’s on page 1213 in the provided Bibles.
Just 3 short verses this morning but they are a rich blessing.
Next week, we will finish up our study of 1 John.
Let’s come now to God’s Word. Please stand for this is God’s very Word.
Reading of 1 John 5:13-15
Last October, my son Caleb and I were invited to help serve at a ministry conference. We were part of a small team, which included a couple of you. It was on the island of Crete. Crete is in the Mediterranean Sea just south of the mainland of Greece. It’s actually the island where the apostle Paul stayed on his journey to Rome. After leaving Crete, Paul and crew got caught in that bad storm, they were blown across the Mediterranean and eventually shipwrecked.
Well, Caleb and I were not in a terrible storm, but we did have quite the experience.
On our day off, we joined a group of about 10 others on a hike. It was a 3-4 mile hike down a beautiful gorge. It was a pretty remote place… very dry and very rocky. And there were tons of fun places to boulder. Bouldering means you are climbing on the rocks but you are not tied in – so, of course, you try to stay close to the ground. I wasn’t bouldering but Caleb loves to climb, so he was having a good time.
Well, about half-way through the hike, Caleb was climbing maybe 5-7 feet off the ground, when suddenly, one of the rocks he was holding onto gave way. He came crashing down onto the rocky ground and landed on his arm. We didn’t know it at the time, but he broke his arm and dislocated his elbow. I’ll say, it was quite obvious something was wrong. It looked very broken.
So, what do you do when you are in the middle of nowhere, with no medical help, no sling, and still a couple miles to hike?
Well, we prayed. We prayed for God’s help, for his intervention into that difficult situation.
Literally, 30 seconds after we prayed, a doctor hiked by. Not only was he a physician, he was an ER doctor. He was very kind and helpful. He assessed Caleb’s arm, poking and prodding to see how bad it was. He let us know that Caleb’s elbow had been dislocated and his arm possibly broken. And with a slight twist of Caleb’s wrist, he popped his elbow back in place. The only problem was, this doctor didn’t have a splint or a sling.
Well, just at that moment, a second doctor hiked by! And guess what! He had a flexible aluminum splint and a wrap. Within a few minutes we had Caleb’s arm all wrapped up and there was enough wrap to make a sling around his neck to hold it up. We were able to hike the rest of the way.
It was a tremendous example of the Lord answering our prayer in quite an immediate way. And I want you to think about this. God orchestrated the answer to our prayer before we prayed it. Those two doctors were already on the path, right behind us, when Caleb fell and when we prayed.
Now, I’m not saying that God always answers our prayers in such a spectacular way. No, you know that. Sometimes God’s answer to our prayers are not what we hope or in the timing we desire. We’ll spend some time working through that in a minute.
But one thing you can be absolutely confident about is that God hears you. He hears you.
I’m not making that phrase up. It’s right there twice in these verses. At the end of verse 14 – look at it. “if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” And the apostle John repeats that phrase at the beginning of 15 – “he hears us in whatever we ask…”
He hears you when you pray. The sense of that word in the original Greek is not a distracted hearing. No, rather it’s an engaging listening. God attentively listens to your requests.
Before we get into what it means to pray according to God’s will, let’s first take a step back. I want you to see how this fits into this short letter.
This is not the first time that John has mentioned prayer, in the book. In chapter 1, we’re assured that “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us.” In chapter 3, there’s a very short statement in verse 22 about receiving from the Lord what we ask. But here in chapter 5, this is the first time that John elaborates on prayer. We’ll see even more emphasis next week.
The question is, how does it all connect? Why does he include this focus on prayer?
And here’s where I want you to look at verse 13.
It says, “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.”
Now at first glance, there appears to be absolutely no connection to prayer. In fact, verse 13 is John’s purpose statement for the whole book!
Multiple times throughout the letter he’s told them why he was writing to them. He’s said over and over. I write to you because you know the truth. I write to you fathers and young men because God’s word abides in you. And I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
All of his reasons are about assurance. John wants them to be totally sure that if they know and believe in Jesus, God’s Son, then they are God’s children - they know the truth and they have eternal life in him.
That’s exactly what verse 13 says. He writes to those who believe in Christ, to affirm that they have eternal life.
There’s a very interesting parallel, here, to the apostle John’s Gospel letter.
At the end of his Gospel, John chapter 20 verse 31, John writes this:
“these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Now, let me read you 1 John 5:13 again. it says, “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.”
Did you catch the difference? In his Gospel, John’s goal is that his readers may believe in Jesus. In 1 John, John’s goal is that those who do believe might know of the eternal life they have. Different target audience, different purpose. Now, to be sure, there are many themes that overlap. And both books make the case for Christianity and both books talk about the abiding we have in Christ.
But the primary reason that John has been writing this book, 1 John, is to give the church assurance. They desperately needed that assurance. Spiritual wolves had entered their flock, the congregation was in disarray. False teaching had been propagating false beliefs. The church was weary, disunified, they didn’t know who to believe. So John tells them the truth and assures them of the sure foundation of the Gospel upon which they stood. Jesus is the Son of God AND as we studied last week, through Christ, believers are reconciled to God and given eternal life. Nothing could take that future promise away from them.
Now, some of you are probably thinking, “Ok, I get the assurance thing, but you still haven’t answered the question! Why does John all of a sudden switch from talking about assurance to talking about prayer?”
And the answer is, he’s not switching topics!
Look at verse 14. It begins, “and this is the confidence that we have toward him.” That word confidence can also be translated assurance. “and this is the assurance that we have toward him.” A cheerful courage because we know that we are his and he therefore hears us.
In other words, John was just writing that they are assured of eternal life… out there, in the future. They have that future promise. And what he’s saying next is their future assurance has immediate benefits. We are assured that now, right now, we can go to God, and we can know that he hears us.
This confidence to go to God in prayer, comes out of the assurance that we are his children. If you believe by faith in the Son of God, not only do you have eternal life, but you have access to God the Father, now, because you are beloved by him through Christ and given his Spirit.
What an amazing thing to consider, especially as we think about who God is.
The God of the Scriptures, the true and living God, created all things in heaven and earth by the word of his power. Indeed, he created all of time and space out of nothing. The billions of starts in the billions of galaxies – he created it all - from the vast expanse of space to the smallest of subatomic particles. And there is not one square inch or one square nanometer in all of it that he does not know intimately. He is present in all of it and sovereign over all of it.
Everything created finds it’s life and being in him. Our God is the only being in all of the universe whose existence is in and of himself. Everything else, everyone else, every living creature relies on God. Every breath, every heartbeat all come from him. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end - infinite and eternal in his glory and knowledge and justice and truth.
Nothing is beyond his reach and purview. Nothing is hidden from his sight. He’s King of kings, Lord of Lord. Perfect in holiness, utterly righteous and just. Set apart as the perfect standard of truth and goodness. As the apostle John has declared, he is light and he is love. He illuminates all things. He defines what is right and good and true by his very being.
And his wisdom and power and holiness and goodness are beyond measure. Yes, God is knowable, but the extent of his power and knowledge and being are beyond our finite minds to grasp his eternal nature…. beyond our ability to fully comprehend his glory.
This is who God is, the one true and living God, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
And this God, our God, in all of his grandeur, has called you into his very presence in prayer. He promises to you who believe in Jesus as God’s son, that he hears you. You, who are one of 8 billion people in the world, hardly a blip in all of his vast universe, yet he knows you, and he promises that he will hear you when you come to him with your requests.
Is that not utterly mind blowing and inspiring? It speaks volumes of God’s nature and his care and concern for you.
Let me put this in perspective with a little comparison.
The President of the United States receives tens of thousands of letters, packages, and emails per day (tens of thousands!). As of a few years ago, the White House Correspondence department had 45 full time staff members, 35 interns, and 300 rotating volunteers - all of them dedicated to read and filter through this glut of correspondence. That was about 8 years ago, it’s probably grown since then. The President who was serving at that time asked to read 10 letters per day. So, his team would cull through all those letters and pick out examples from a variety of types of letters and provide them to the president. That’s 10 out of tens of thousands. A infinitesimal fraction of the letters written to him. Now, I’m not critiquing just reading 10, that’s actually quite encouraging considering all the responsibilities of the President. I’m merely pointing out the contrast.
Think about this, there are roughly 3 billion Christians in the world. If each Christian prayed on average three times per day, that would be 9 billion prayers that God receives each day. And he hears them all. In fact, that is nothing for him. He could hear a gazillion prayers, and intimately hear them all. All of your prayers, all of your requests, whenever you pray.
Now, part of the condition of verse 14 is we need to ask according to God’s “will.” That could mean God’s revealed will, meaning his commands and precepts - what God reveals that we should be pursuing in righteousness. But I think more likely, John is referring to God’s secret will –his hidden will. Sometimes we say God’s decretive will – what God decrees will come to pass. Put simply, what God allows and pre-ordains to happen in the world.
If that’s the case, what does it mean to ask according to God’s will? Does that mean that God will give us whatever we ask for? No. Rather we are to submit our situations to God’s sovereign will. We pray with an open hand. To be sure, we pray boldly for specific outcomes, specific needs, but we do so trusting that God will answer us in accordance with his will and in his wisdom, not ours.
But to be sure, you should not lose the confidence that God hears you when you pray. He considers your prayer in his will. What a mysterious and wonderful thing. Before the foundation of the world, the Lord heard your prayers – and has worked them into his sovereign plan. So you can pray confidently, yet pray submitting your will to his.
God heard our prayers on that hike. He answered by sending two doctors right then and there. Could God have chosen not to do that? Of course! God’s will could have been for us to carry Caleb out of the gorge (that would have been hard, he is a pretty big kid for a 15-year-old). Caleb would have learned what it is to receive the care and love from others, and we would have learned how to work together and trust God. Yet, God answered beyond what we could imagine, well, at least beyond what I imagined!
This verse is pretty clear that we should ask! But when we ask, we ask trusting in the Lord’s will. The Lord’s will may be to heal you or your family member. Or it may be to not and instead to help you to trust him more and more. Or God’s will may be for you to be a Gospel example to others of what it means to rest secure in your eternal life. Or it could be that the trial or need you are experiencing helps you to minister to someone else in a similar situation…. all the while sharing the sustaining and saving grace of Christ.
Look at verse 15 – it continues that promise: “if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
That word “requests” is a little tricky to understand. It’s easier to understand if you replace the word “requests” with the phrase “answers to our requests.” If we know that he hears us, then we know that we have the answers to the requests that we have asked of him.
Let me say the whole verse a little differently. If we know that God hears us when we submit our requests to his will, then we know that whatever comes about, it is God’s answer to what we asked of him.
I really like how John Stott put it - late pastor of All Souls church in London. He wrote, “Prayer is not a convenient device for imposing our will upon God, or for bending his will to ours, but the prescribed way of subordinating our will to his. It is by prayer that we seek God’s will, embrace it and align ourselves with it. Every true prayer is a variation on the theme ‘your will be done.’” When we pray submitting our requests to God’s will, we are submitting ourselves to God.
The ultimate example of submitting to the Father’s will is Jesus himself.
As you know, over the next two weeks, we will be celebrating Easter. That includes the events leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. One thing is clear from the Scriptures, Jesus, as God’s Son, knew what was coming. He knew the death he would experience. He knew the judgment that he would endure on the cross on our behalf.
After the last supper with his disciples, Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane with them. And he was praying to his Father. He knew of what he called “the cup” that he would endure. That’s referencing the cup of God’s wrath.
Listen to his prayer in the garden on the night before his death. This is from Luke 22. Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Jesus prayed for the removal of what he knew was about to happen. In his humanity, he knew that he would endure physical death but even more that he would endure the weight of sin’s consequences. So he prayed for deliverance, but he submitted his prayer to the Father’s will.
That is a great encouragement. Our Lord and Savior Jesus sympathizes in our weakness. He went before us in submitting his will to the Father’s will. In him we can rest assured that God’s will is good. The suffering and death that Jesus endured, ultimately resulted in his glory and our eternal hope.
And so, when we pray, when you pray, you can submit your prayer to the will of God, just as Jesus submitted his to the Father’s will.
Let me summarize:
•First, the assurance that the apostle John has been writing about is both long term and near term. Long term, it’s the eternal life we have in him. Near term, we are assured that we can come before God now.
•Second, God promises that he hears us. That is an amazing promise from the eternal God who made the heavens and the earth.
•Third, when we come to God, we come presenting our request to him. Small requests, big requests. He hears them all. We can have confidence that he graciously ordains to use them in accomplishing his sovereign plan.
•And finally, when we pray, we submit our prayer to God’s will – trusting in him to answer according to what is pleasing in his sight, for his glory.
What is the main takeaway in these verses? It’s the confidence of knowing all of that. That word “know” is all through these verses. Knowing your assurance in Christ for eternity, having confidence to come to him knowing that he hears you. And knowing that his will is perfect.
In closing, there’s one more thing. One more takeaway. One more consequence of the confidence we have. And it’s pretty simple.
We should pray! The one true living God, creator of all things knows you and hears you. You should pray. Pray because of the confidence you have in him. Pray because he calls you to come before him with your requests. Pray because he listens to your needs and desires to works them in his will. And pray, knowing that Christ has gone before you in prayer. He submitted his will to the Father’s, so that we can come to him in prayer, and submit ours requests to God’s will.