Of Love and Faith

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“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends…” (I Corinthians 13:7,8a)

O.K.  So is this about love today or about believing?  It’s about both because You can’t keep believing with out love because believing is more than a statement; it’s an action.  It’s more than a way of life; it’s Someone’s life being lived in and through me.  And after I come to respect and honor and value that Someone above all things, once I come to see my need for You Jesus, and surrender my life and my all to You, then I come to experience Your love in and through me.

Maybe it seems as though this is giving license to toleration.  Absolutely not in the worldly sense.  But it does shoot us back to a particular characteristic of Yours, God.  John tells us in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love.”  He’s the beginning of love, the definition of love, the essence of love.  If it has to do with what love really is or what love really looks like, then look at God and you’ll know.  Amidst all the character traits of You, Lord, is love, all balanced perfectly with justice, righteousness, holiness, and all the rest of You.

Because of the love of God in me and for me, I am not ashamed to look forward to all Your promises and Your presence with excited anticipation.  Why?  Because, as Paul said in Romans 5:5, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”  Head on to Romans 8:39 and Paul reminds us that nothing, neither “height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Now it’s one thing to basque in the love of God for me.  But it’s another thing to apply the love of God in me and through me.  See, God set the example of love high, higher than it had ever been set before.  Let’s look at the standard of love that God set as put forth by Paul in Ephesians 2:4-7.  “But God, being rich in mercy, BECAUSE OF THE GREAT LOVE WITH WHICH HE LOVED US, (italics my own) even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Wait, let me understand again what this GREAT LOVE looks like again.  Here’s the real picture.  Perfect God.  Holy God.  God who is full of truth and compassion.  Yet You are Holy and You are Justice and You are Perfect and Righteous and without sin of any amount.  Absolute Light.  Absolute Purity.  So Holy that to look at You in our humanity we would not be able to withstand that purity and goodness and we would be so overwhelmed and terrrified by the truth of it that it would kill us, not because You wanted to but just because of the magnitude of the greatness of who You really are.  I would be overcome with fear.  Why?  Aren’t You a God of love?

Yes.  But remember all those other characters that are You also.  And there is such a big discrepancy between me as a person who owns sin just by my nature and You who are sinless.  And it’s not just that I naturally sin by accident.  That’s enough to separate me from You and condemn me.  But I deliberately deny Your deity either wholly in my life or in any one moment.  Forget the lies, the mean thoughts, the envy, and cheating.  To not acknowledge You for who You are at any moment in my life is sin.  After all, You are my Creator and You own every right to me.  My life was created by and for You.

So, does it look like God owes us a pat on the back?  I don’t think so.  We don’t deserve the love You have shown us, Lord.  But in Your mercy, because of the GREAT LOVE you have for us as Your creation, even when we were dead set against You and crusty with our sin, You offered us life with You in Christ.  That was no easy thing.  You designed that Your Son, Jesus, would suffer in my place.  That, though He was Perfect, and Sinless, and Love, and Goodness, and Justice, and Righteousness, and everything that You are, He would pay the penalty of death and separation and the weight of Your fury and wrath upon sin on Himself.  Talk about unfair!  But You loved us so much that Christ counted Himself of less value than me.  I was more valuable than His own life, than His own honor.  This is grace in action.  This is love in action.  This is what is called agape love, self-sacrificial love.  You gave Your life for mine and when I place my belief in You, I am raised up in newness of life in You and all the riches that belong to You in Your spiritiual kingdom flow into me from Your presence inside me.

Grace did that work for me.  Grace sacrified.  Grace broke the chains of sin and death.  Grace works in me by  the power of God in Christ Jesus in me.  But grace is only activated in me by faith, by acting in that belief, by living in that belief.  It’s the moment that belief becomes my life.  It’s that moment that Jesus, You become my Life and my Life Source.

So there’s the Source.  And I can know that I am in the Source by this evidence.  “…whoever keeps His word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: this is how we know that we are in Him.”  ( 1John 2:5)  How’s my love for Your word?  How’s my obedience to Your word?  And here is another evidence that His love dwells in me.  “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.”  (1 John 4:7)  So, how is my love for others?  Not such a simple question when I compare it to God’s standard through Jesus.  Am I demonstrating His agape, self-sacrificial love even when others aren’t accepting what I have to offer?  And maybe that’s where this original verse was heading me.

Love bears all things.  Does love put up with all things?  That’s not what this is about.  Remember, our mark that we’re shooting off of is God’s love.  God does not put up with things and brush things under the rug.  His righteousness and justice won’t allow that.  But the word bear means to cover over, not to hide.  It’s the way that God covers us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ and covers us in His protection and love.  No matter what demons or past or present bring, if I am living in Christ, He has covered me with His love and righteousness.  His grace continually rescues me as I am wrapped in it.  No matter the severity of the situation that I must go through, I am covered by the arms of Christ!  God is not passive.  He is actively covering me.  Am I acting like that toward others?

Love believes all things.  Now this doesn’t mean that love believes whatever it feels like.  The actual Greek uses “panta” with pisteuo (believe).  That implies that it “believes fully (completely)”  And we can’t start with my love or your love here.  Remember, it all starts with God’s love.  God’s love provides everything we need in our relationship with Him.  There is no lack in God’s love.  To walk in Your love, to be Yours, is to be filled with Your love and all that comes with it.  As I live in my belief in You, I am full of everything that exemplifies and is the love of my Heavenly Father.  This is what Christ has provided for me.  No matter the situation, I am full of Your active, continuing, overflowing, powerful love, that not only fills me but acts through me to others.  Am I allowing Your love to be fully demonstrated through me?  Am I fully trusting in the power of Your love.  Am I leaning all my weight on it?

Love hopes all things.  The Greek word for hope is “elpizo”, to expect or confide.  But what am I expecting or confiding in?  Am I expecting that all things around me will work out well?  Well, Scripture tells us that sometimes we are delivered and sometimes we have to face the lion.  What kind of hope is that?  Am I waiting for that day when I will be in Heaven?  How can that be?  I’ve heard that some people wanted to get there so much and leave their troubles that they have attempted to take their own lives in that “hope.”  But what if this is all about You, God, again?  What if this is about all my expectations and confidence being in who You are and that You will show Yourelf True and Faithful.  So, no matter the severity of the situation I must face, whether it be hard by life or death, I have full (panta) confidence in Your character.  I have full confidence in the truth and power and presence of Your love in me, over me, for me.  I have full confidence in all that You are, not only for me, but for the world.  You are God, no matter what fails in my life or around me.  You will never fail me.

Love endures all things.  Wait a minute!  Love puts up with anything?  The Greek word for endures is “hupomeno” and it means to stay under, to bear.  The essence of the word means ‘to stay behind, to stay alive, to expect, to stand firm, to endure, to bear, to suffer’.  It’s saying that love stands firm while it actively waits.  Isaiah 7:9b says, “Without firm faith you will not be firmly established.”  Skip Moen shares, “It bears.  It suffers.  It never, never, never gives up.  The sense is courageous endurance, active patience, bearing the wound, accepting the strokes of a world out of sorts with its Creator, knowing (believing and hoping) the righteousness of God.  English might better render the phrase as “love steadfastly bears”.”  It’s also the mark that I trust Your character, God, so much, that I exhibit it myself by standing fast in Your word.   But also, part of faith, part of enduring is suffering.  Remember how God is love?  Remember how Jesus endured the cross?  What about me?  1 Peter 2:21 reminds me that “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.”  Peter is talking of Jesus’ suffering and how I am to follow His example in suffering.  And I can in the power of His love because it is living in me as I live in faith in Him, in His word.

But Love didn’t just endure the Passion, God’s love did not just endure the cross.  From the minute that sin entered the world, You, Lord, have patiently endured and are still enduring.  Hmm.  Your example takes supernatural strength to be able to follow.  I’m so grateful that Your love gives that supernatural strength in You.

Love never fails.  But the word translated as fail here is actually the Greek word “pipto.”  I’ve looked into that word before.  It means to fall.  We fall down or trees fall or buildings fall or walls fall down.  It hurts.  Relationships fall apart, plans fall to ruin, civilizations fall into ruin.  But Love never falls.  God, in love, stands firm.  Your relationship is held together by You and You never fall.  You don’t even slumber or sleep!  You don’t need to.  You never tire.  You never lie.  You never make a mistake.  You are constant and always stand strong and firm and true no matter what.  Nothing can move You.

Now, people fall away, people can be unfaithful.  But You can and never will be unfaithful.  But if my relationship is anchored in Your love, then it can never fall, it can never fail, because You will keep it.  It’s wrapped up in Your divine character, not mine.  It’s not going away because You are forever.  It’s about Your character and compared to that, what is mine?  It’s less than a pale comparison.  My character falls.  I am insufficient.  But the truth is that You are sufficient for me!  Your grace and Your love are sufficient to turn my character upside down!  Your character of love is flowing from who You are.  Skip Moen puts it so well when he says, “And so we are blessed, knowing that ultimately Love does not depend on our performance, on our inner character.  Love is not anchored to us.  It is anchored to God.  That means that, in spite of our falling, we can always count on Him.  Rejoice!  God is there.  Love prevails.”

God, Your are love and You are more.  But Your love is continually active.  Your love will never cease to be.  Your love is continually acting in and through the hearts and lives of those who surrender to You in belief, who entrust their whole being to Your being.  Your love is so much more than my love.  My prayer is that You would change my love so that I learn to love like You.  These truths about Your love today, are only part of that truth, but if I only exhibited even that part, my life would be gloriously changed and have a glorious effect on others.  Lord, I’m learning and may I be constantly yielding to Your teaching, to being changed into Your image more and more moment by moment.  May I learn to cover others the way You cover me, to stand firmly in You no matter what goes on around me,  to bear patiently and with active love every situation that You bring into my life, and to live believing that You will never cease to uphold me in You and that above all, You will never cease to be God not just in my life, but over all things.  I am so glad that my God is love to the fullest.  There is no love like Yours.  Thank You beyond measure.

One more thought, Lord.  Sometimes I feel as overwhelmed as those men probably feel because of typhoon Mario right now (Yes, that’s a current picture from the Philippines right now, thanks to whoever took it).  And in my feeling overwhelmed, I start letting go of that love that never falls.  I’m so glad You never let go of me.  I need You to keep me focussed on the power in Your love and not to worry so much about the effect of “things” on me.  Take me to the point where I can flow with Your love to others, regardless of what’s going on around me.  So that I can love others with Your agape love whether they love me or not, whether they mistreat me or not, whether they understand me or not.  Because the truth of the matter is, when have I really totally understood Your heart and met all Your expectations?  I can’t.  And if You shower me with Your grace and love regardless of my shortcomings, regardless of my lack of ability, then, Lord, let me shower others with Your grace and love through me regardless of their shortcomings and their lack of ability.  Let me love others as You love me, in all Your fullness, by Your power, and in Your grace.  You are sufficient to make me efficient in You.

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