God’s Gift of Certainty
What does it look like to be gripped by the certainty that you are God’s craftsmanship? It means that from inside of us there is a source that can dissolve or deliver us from the bondage of sin and shatter any power that worldly fear or pleasure might have over us.
If you’re like me, your faith comes under threat. Sometimes it’s my sin that causes me to ask questions about God’s work in my life. “How can a believer sin in this way?” Sometimes my experiences cause me to question the benefits of belief. “Why is my life filled with so many challenges?” Sometimes these internal and external threats to my faith cause me to question the very character of God. “If God is good, why would He allow such things!?”
Whether we have questions about our faith, our situation, or our God—uncertainty is the fruit of a faith under threat. Thankfully, God doesn’t desire that we harvest such “uncertain” fruit. Rather, it’s God’s desire that we harvest the fruit of certainty. This is possible as we rehearse what we know about God’s gracious gifts to us.
I believe this is what the Apostle John is instructing in 1 John 5:13–20. John is writing to an audience with their faith under threat. Apparently there were antichrists and false teachers spreading lies in the church (e.g., 2:22, 26; 4:1). In an effort to combat the uncertainty that such lies would cause, John highlights five of God’s gracious gifts.
God’s Gift of Eternity
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 (5:13)
First off, John wants us to know that we possess—here and now—a present certainty of the life we have received in Christ. This is not a knowledge that John intends for us to grow gradually into. It ought to be fixed permanently in our minds. Believing in the name of the Son of God means we have eternal life (cf. 5:11-12).
Uncertainty has a way of pulling our focus downward. Some of us, like Martha, busy ourselves with serving. We fill our calendars. We take action. But, often our actions are not in faith. Rather, they are our attempts to find certainty in our own strength. Others close their hearts to the needy (cf. 1 John 3:17–18). In a world of uncertainty, we may hold on to tangible things, our goods and possessions. We close our hearts because we don’t know what tomorrow might bring.But by possessing eternity, we don’t need to trouble ourselves with controlling every detail of our lives. We don’t need to worry if things don’t go as planned. With eternity in view, we don’t have to cling to worldly goods. Although we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, knowing that we have eternal life allows us to release the white-knuckle grip we have on our plans and our goods. The gift of eternal life liberates both the controller and the hoarder. It frees us to trust and to give.
God’s Gift of Prayer
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us (5:14).
Having obtained eternal life means we can approach God with confidence. The gift of eternity secures access to God, and we can ask anything according to his will. You and I are free to pray whatever we wish. Yet, the requests to be answered are those that lay not within our will, but God’s. We’re reminded how Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done…” (Matt 6:9–10).
Important as it is to understand that our prayers are answered in alignment with the will of God, John’s main point is more general. John continues, “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” (5:15). If we know he hears us, then we know he has our requests. The point is not that our needs are under debate with God, rather it is enough just that he hears us!