Trust and obey
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 1 John 3:21-22 ESV
As the chorus of an old hymn goes, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” John from the text discusses the importance of having a heart that does not condemn us. When our hearts are free from guilt of sin because we are in fellowship with God, loving our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and are obedient to His Word, “we have confidence before God.” This does not mean that our good actions merit rewards by earning answers to our prayers. What it means is that in our fellowship with God, loving others, and our obedience to His Word prove that we are indeed in Him and we are living in His will. In this way, we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence “and whatever we ask we receive from him.” “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We can freely speak before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords knowing that there is nothing that hinders us from coming to His throne. “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18). God listens to our prayers “because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:22). What a promise! Whatever we continue to ask for we receive from God. Note that John writes the present tense “we receive,” not “we will receive.” The promise is certain because God keeps His word. John in the epistle echoes what Jesus said in the Gospel: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). This verse does not, of course, give us all the condition for answered prayer, but it emphasizes the importance of trust and obedience. The answer that God provides in our prayers will lead to His glory because our desire is that in whatever answer He provides, we will honor Him. Obeying God’s commands and trusting Him in His Word must never be done under compulsion or for the purpose of receiving rewards. The Christian fulfills God’s command with a cheerful heart that expresses gratitude. John is saying that when we trust God and obey His commands, we are doing what is pleasing to Him. We please God because we love Him.