A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.
Monday July 20, 2020
3 John 1-4
The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
A few months ago, not long after the beginning of of our home quarantine, our family decided to answer God’s call upon our hearts to begin the process of adopting a child internationally. This was a decision that we all feel is very important for us, as well as a wonderful picture of God’s adoption of us into His family. While many of the details are still being worked out, and we have quite a long ways to go, we are trusting that God will provide in ways that we cannot even imagine. In this process, we have been very open with our girls as to what we are doing and why we feel this is the right thing for us to do, and they have been 100 percent supportive. In fact, more often than not it is the girls who remember their future sibling, who is likely somewhere out there in the world, in our evening prayers. In light of this, I have a confession to make, and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if I have made this confession before and have simply forgot, which is that I am not very good at maintaining long-distance relationships. In my defense, it is not as if I don’t care about the people who aren’t in my close physical proximity, it’s just that I typically exert nearly all of my mental energy exclusively on my immediate surroundings. I tend to not reminisce too much on the past, or to dream too much about the future, but to focus on and live in each moment I am given. This type of present thinking has some positives, like not dwelling too often on past mistakes or becoming too upset when my best laid future plans are interrupted, but is not without its downsides. I frequently forget important dates like birthdays and anniversaries, I often fail to plan for things that appear to be too far in the distance, and sadly I simply neglect keeping in contact with or praying for the people I love who aren’t in my immediate field of vision, like my parents or my future child.
John, however, does not appear to have this same deficiency. He writes this letter, which we call 3 John, to a beloved brother in Christ named Gaius. It is clear from his opening line that Gaius is near and dear to John’s heart, and even though they are apart, John often prays for the well being and prosperity of his brother in Christ. Not only that, but John loved Gaius as his own child, and “rejoiced greatly” when he received word that Gaius was “walking in the truth.”
Although John’s second and third letters differ quite a bit from one another, to get a balanced grasp of John’s writing, it is best to read them together. While 2 John is written to an entire church, possibly even to a group of churches, warning of the dangers of false teachers, 3 John is written to one particular individual, Gaius, extolling the faithfulness of the true messengers of the gospel. At this stage in his life John is truly an elder, both in age as well as in status within the church. Throughout John’s relatively long life, he has seen the entire world transformed all because of the life and death of his former teacher, Jesus of Nazareth. It is fair to say that the one constant through John’s life has been the presence of opposition. When he was growing up in Israel, the enemy was always the Roman occupiers, but as a disciple of Jesus, it was the Jewish religious leaders. Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, as a leader of the early church John faced persecution instigated by the circumcision-party, false teaching from heretical gnostic teachers, and now finally there is the simple yet fatal matter of selfishness and pride. One particular church leader, who John later identifies as Diotrephes, has turned the gospel of grace into an opportunity for personal gain.
John takes special care to remind Gaius that, as he is praying for his well-being, true prosperity is not exclusively found in enjoying material blessings and good physical health. Although those are indeed good and important things, of greater importance is the status of the health of his soul. The great English preacher George Whitefield, a part of the Great Awakening movement in the 18th century, preached of this passage: “As for you who are quite negligent about the prosperity of your souls, who only mind your bodies, who are more afraid of a pimple in your faces, than of the rottenness of your hearts.” Just as it is rather easy for some of us to neglect to pray and care for those who are not in our immediate field of vision, it can be just as easy to neglect the care of our soul. While we are constantly reminded every time we pass by a mirror of the present state of our physical condition, for good or for ill, evaluating the condition of our heart requires much more intentionality and care.
Just as John takes great joy and encouragement from the spiritual health of his spiritual son, each of us should also be encouraged and uplifted at the spiritual growth and health of any and every member of the family of God. May we spur each other on, remain in the Word, and lifting each other up in prayer as we all face the unique issues and challenges that life in a fallen world presents each and every day. Remember, we do not ever rely upon our own efforts, but we are anchored in the finished work of the Son on our behalf. May we strive together today for the sake of His kingdom, that each day more and more will be added to His eternal family.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus,How easy it is to get focused and caught up with the challenges and issues of the world each day, even caring more for our physical health instead of status of our souls. We thank You that You are with us even in the trials and troubles of life, and we ask that You would help us to recalibrate and refocus our hearts upon You and Your Word. Help us to commit to lifting up our sisters and brothers before Your throne of perfect grace. We ask this in Your precious name. Amen.