Summary: Four ways to walk the spiritual life with confidence.
Learning to drive can be a very scary experience, especially for the parent who’s teaching his or her 15 year old to drive. But sometimes we forget how hard it is for the new driver, who’s suddenly introduced to a whole new world that the rest of us take for granted. New drivers start out lacking any confidence.
I first learned to drive on my motorcycle, and you could drive a motorcycle alone if you had a learner’s permit, you just couldn’t drive on the freeway or after dark. I still remember my first extended trip out of Upland: I drove all the way to Corona and back. Saying that I had a lack of confidence is an understatement...I was totally uncertain about what I was doing. But as you all know, gradually we learn to drive and we gain a certain sense of confidence.
Well in many ways the spiritual journey of following Jesus as His disciple is similar to that. You see, the Bible often pictures the spiritual life as being like a journey. And when we begin a journey, we lack confidence, we’re unsure of ourselves, doubtful of our ability to stay on the path. In fact it’s this lack of confidence that keeps many of my unchurched friends away from the Christian faith. One of my friends is an agnostic, and he knows that there’s something real spiritually, but he feels totally unqualified to figure out what it is...so he just lives like as an agnostic. Another one of my unchurched friends is totally confused because he’s run into Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, seminary professors, and his wife works at a new age store...so he doesn’t know what to think. Yet even those who take the time to investigate the spiritual journey and make a faith commitment to Jesus Christ often lack confidence in the spiritual journey. When they’re confronted with a teaching they often don’t know how to evaluate whether it’s taking them away from the journey or not. When they find forks in the road of the spiritual journey they become paralyzed with which way to go. In many ways they’re like new drivers, still learning and building confidence.
Ten years ago I was in a major car accident. A strange thing about that accident: I suddenly lost my confidence in my driving ability and it was like I was starting all over again. The first time I got behind the wheel after my accident my heart started racing, my palms got sweaty, and I realized that I was unsure of myself. In the spiritual journey when people go through a major spiritual crisis they often lose their confidence as well. So if you’re here today and you’re relatively new to the spiritual journey or if something has shaken your confidence in the journey, I’m going to share with you today how to walk with confidence. If you’re here and you already feel confident, use the message today to make sure your confidence in being found in the right source.
Today we finish our series A ROADMAP FOR THE JOURNEY through the New Testament book of 1 John. In this series we’ve seen how to find joy in the spiritual journey, we’ve listened to God’s call to authenticity, we’ve talked about focusing on the final destination and getting our bearings. But today we’re going to look at four ways to walk in confidence in the spiritual journey.
I. A Prayer Filled Life (5:14-17).
Let me just give you the first way to walk in confidence: We walk with confidence in the spiritual journey by DEVELOPING A PRAYER FILLED LIFE.
Now let’s look at verses 14 through 17 together. John starts by identifying a "confidence" that rightly belongs to followers of Jesus Christ. This word "confidence" means "a state of boldness and confidence, even in the face of intimidating circumstances" (Louw and Nida, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 25:158). This is the fourth time John has used this word, and it’s roots go back to the rise of democracy in ancient Greece, that every citizen had "freedom of speech" or "confidence to say what was on his mind" without fear of reprisal or retaliation.
This confidence that belongs to followers of Jesus is the ability to ask God for anything...to pray. Christians can come to God uninhibited, full of assurance and freedom of speech. Many Christians don’t know they have this privilege, they feel as if they have to get everything right before they ask God for something...the right setting, the right time, the right place.
But John says it doesn’t matter when or where, why or how, that the follower of Jesus Christ possesses this confidence.
Now the condition to receive what we ask is the condition of God’s will. The Greek word translated "will" here can be used two distinct ways. First it can mean someone’s inmost desire, someone’s heart’s desire (Louw and Nida 25.2). Or it can mean something that’s planned or intended (Louw and Nida 30.59). I think both meanings come together whenever we read of God’s will, because God’s will reflects God’s heart--what he desires--and God’s plan in our world. I believe that praying according to God’s will is exactly the same thing that the Bible means when it tells us to pray in Jesus’ name. To pray according to the will of God is to pray according to the heart of God and the plan of God. When we learn to pray this way God is responsive to our requests.