Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
John 12:27-33; 1 John 3:19-24; Job 15:17-35; Ezekiel 28-29
This section of John begins with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Many Jews recognised him as King, and some Greeks wanted to learn more about him. Then Jesus remembered the reality of what lies ahead of him. He is going to lay down his life – literally. He becomes troubled in his soul (John 12:27). He does not stoically march to his unjust trial and excruciating execution. The Greek word used by John expresses strong emotions of horror, anxiety and revulsion. What he is facing is terrible and frightening. Jesus shows us that we should not expect to feel at peace every time we see what God wants us to do. Sometimes we will have a calmness which overcomes our fears. Other times we will be scared. To admit to a mistake, to confront wrong-doing, to sacrifice something cherished, can leave us deeply unsettled.
Jesus did not just acknowledge his feelings or merely follow them. He turned to God in prayer. He asked his Father to save him from what he faced. Just as he does in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36), he asks God if there is another way to do this. Immediately Jesus remembers his commitment to doing God’s will. The most important thing is not what he wants, but what will glorify God. On a much smaller level, I get very nervous when I debate or give talks to an audience where I know many will disagree with me. I have to recall that this is the role I believe God has called me to, and then focus on what will bring him glory, not what will relieve my anxieties.
In his letter, John elaborates on how we can handle other emotional reactions. Sometimes our hearts condemn us. We say to ourselves that we don’t know what we are doing or that we are doing the wrong thing. Sometimes our conscience accuses us because we are wrong, but sometimes it is our thoughts that are wrong. Our conscience is not infallible. God’s omniscience should reassure us when we remember his love and forgiveness. John follows Jesus’ example and directs us to what God says and to prayer. When we feel such self-doubting in our hearts, John tells us to remember that God is greater than our hearts and he knows all things. What is most important is what God says about us, not our feelings. If we can look into our hearts and know that we are keeping his commandments and doing what pleases him, our hearts can be quieted. Out of the security of our relationship with him, we can go to him boldly in prayer knowing that what we ask we will receive.
This is not a ‘name it and claim it’ message. Other passages on prayer make this very clear (John 16:23-24; James 4:2-3; 1 John 5:14). But even here, the message is that those who abide in Christ and who live by the Spirit seek what pleases the Father. This leads them to ask for what is right, and that is why they will receive it. Living ethically and praying powerfully cannot be separated from an abiding relationship with Christ.