John 3:16 is an amazing verse, spoken straight from the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ. But is it becoming so over-familiar that you are at risk of losing the wonder contained in it?
This Lent, we invite you to join us as we delve deeper into John 3:16 through a short series of short weekly reflections. Let's pray that its truths will stir our spirits afresh as we approach that time of year when we marvel at the greatest gift of love the world has ever seen: the sacrifice of Jesus.
Lent reflection week 4 - ‘...that whoever believes in Him...’
‘...that whoever believes in Him...’
Nicodemus discovered an important lesson during his secret meeting with Jesus – there is a very big difference between knowing and believing.
‘We know you are a teacher who has come from God…’ he announces at the start of their conversation.
As a Pharisee, Nicodemus knew a lot of other things too – including the hundreds of man-made laws, commands and traditions the Pharisees upheld so rigorously. Surely such righteousness would earn him a heavenly reward?
But John 3:16 says that eternal life is a gift for ‘whoever believes in him’. The meaning of ‘believe’ in the original Greek manuscripts is closely linked with faith and trust.
It means far more than simply agreeing with the facts. It implies absolute confidence, complete surrender and heartfelt obedience.
Author John Piper unpacks this further when he affirms that:
‘True faith is not just believing in the fact that Jesus is the Son of God but delighting in that fact, embracing that fact and making Christ the treasure and the Lord of your life by surrendering to Him.’
It must have been a real shock for Nicodemus to discover that living by all those rules and regulations counted for nothing.
Although Scripture doesn’t specifically say that he became a believer, John tells us enough to suggest that Nicodemus was on a journey towards faith.
It was Nicodemus who defended Jesus’ right to a fair trial (John 7:51) and who brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes to help prepare Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39).
True faith in God doesn’t leave us unchanged, but reveals itself in our thoughts, actions and priorities.
There is a challenge to us all in Romans 10:14 (ICB): ‘But before people can trust in the Lord for help, they must believe in Him. And before they can believe in the Lord, they must hear about Him. And for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them.’
For MAF, sharing the Gospel often means flying pastors and evangelists to and from remote and isolated locations, providing them with Bible resources or helping MAF partners meet physical needs.
Jesus encourages people to lean on Him and look to Him for answers.
The more we rely on Him and set aside what we think we know, the more He uses us. Doing so can be both exciting and terrifying – the beginning of a journey into uncharted territory – but it is something MAF pilots and partners do each day.
Please pray that whole communities will be transformed as they respond to the invitation to trust in, cling to and rely on Jesus for forgiveness and salvation.
Prayer ideas for this week
✈ Meditate on some of the words which derive their meaning from the Greek words for belief and believe – ‘confidence’, ‘trust’, ‘surrender’, ‘commitment’, ‘obedience’, ‘reliance’, ‘dependence’. Ask God to show you any situations where you are depending more on yourself than Him.
✈ Pray for an opportunity to share your faith or to help someone who is struggling to believe and trust in God.
✈ There is always a next step in our Christian journey. Prayerfully consider how God might be encouraging you to move forward in your faith.
Video: Ruth Whitaker, Chief Executive, MAF UK
Reflection: Helen Hay, Research Programme Leader, MAF UK