There is much that can be pondered from this passage but I will focus on verse 13:
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.
Jesus defines eternal life back in John 17:3 like this: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
So another way to say 1 John 5:13 might be like this: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you know God and His Son Jesus.”
Know that you know. It is important that we know that we know. That we have confidence and assurance that we are children of the King. So let me explore this word “know” a bit.
The word “know” can be pretty nuanced. I can think of at least three different ways this is true in relation to God…
1) It is possible to know about God and not really know God. It is even possible to express love for God and not really know Him. For example, when I was growing up my first favorite musical artist was Jim Croce. I did not know Jim Croce. But I did know a lot about Jim Croce and even had most of his songs memorized. It would not have been unusual for me to say, “I love Jim Croce.” Now of course what I meant was that I loved his music. In the same way, it is possible to know a lot about God and even have a lot of His Word memorized but to not really know Him at all.
2) It is possible to know God personally but to not know Him intimately. In other words, it is possible to have a relationship with God and that that relationship is only superficial. And it is superficial because that is the way that we choose it to be not the way that God chooses it to be. The Prodigal Son is an example of this. The father yearned for a close relationship with his son but the son kept him at arm’s length for much of his early life. Much like we do with our Heavenly Father. We know Him and have a relationship with Him but we don’t have the kind of relationship that the Father longs for.
3) It is possible to know God both personally and intimately. The Hebrew word for “know” in the Old Testament is an interesting word. It is transliterated “yada.” ( Some of you will remember the yada yada yada Seinfield episode from the 1990’s.) Genesis 4:1 says “And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” There was an intimacy in that kind knowing that husbands and wives (hopefully) experience when they make love. As believers we are the bride of Christ and designed to know Him not just personally but also intimately. The Lord longs for a closeness with us as a father does with his children. He doesn’t want to be kept at arm’s length.
May the Lord use this brick to help you discern the level of “knowing” that you have with the Father and to take the next step to know Him better.
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The context of this passage is really interesting. 14 years earlier Paul had an out of body experience that left him awed, overwhelmed, and speechless. It was the kind of experience that he could have boasted about; that he could have written a book about; that could have led to a lucrative speaking tour. But the Lord, in His sovereign care, made sure this did not happen. And Paul didn’t really understand why God did it the way that He did it.
Most of us have what we might call a “thorn in the flesh.” It might be a chronic physical ailment. It might be a person. It might be a “proneness” – some habit or inclination that we just can’t shake. It might be a financial or other life situation that makes life difficult. And no matter how many times we ask God to take the thorn away it seems that we are stuck with it – much to our dismay.
We don’t know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was but we do know that it was something that weighed heavily on him. I have written elsewhere what I suspect it was but we will never know for sure. So two questions come to mind:
What purpose might our thorn in the flesh serve? Paul is able to recognize God’s larger purpose which is always helpful. He knows that God is using his thorn to refine his character and transform him more and more into the likeness of Christ. And this is what God wants to do with us as well. So if we can get past the whining and grumbling stage and get to the gratitude and worship stage then the Lord will use whatever thorn we might have to do a good work in and through us.
How do we get to the gratitude and worship stage? 1) Remind yourself daily that God is enough! This is what the Lord means when He says “My grace is sufficient for you.” No matter what we find ourselves going through, God is enough to see us through it and to satisfy our soul while we endure. And make no mistake, sometimes it is a matter of enduring. Taking one day at a time. Putting one foot in front of another. And with each step we say a prayer to God, “Thank you Lord for letting me take another step. Do in my life what You want to do and use me to honor and magnify Your name.”
May the Lord use this brick to help you deal with the thorns in your life and to understand God’s greater purpose when the answer to your oft prayed prayer is “NO.”