Sunday, June 7, 2015

Our greatest need... a sermon from 1 Corinthians 13:7

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Every day for 20 years, Antonio wrote a love poem to his wife. He had written literally thousands of poems in which he professed his love for her.

But before you think him sweet… at their divorce hearing, he revealed that he didn’t compose these verses to celebrate the joys of marriage, but more to pacify a domineering wife.

The judge granted the divorce, declaring that their marriage had nothing more than the ‘appearance of love.’

Sadly, what that judge said about Antonio’s marriage could also be said of many Churches. Christians have to FIGHT against falling into the selfish patterns of our world. Our calling is to love – with all our being – the God who first loved us – and OTHERS - as we love ourselves. This is KEY to experiencing the joy of our salvation, the peace and blessings of God. Nothing else will do.

Jesus said this world would know we are His disciples by the love we show one another. He also said, “A new commandment give I unto you that you love one another even as I have loved you.” Love for our Christian brothers and sisters is not optional. It is how we PROVE our love for God.

In the interest of obeying Christ, we should ask “What does real love look like?” And for the answer, we turn to the love chapter AND our text, which explains, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” In that one sentence Paul offers four outstanding qualities of love.

1. And we learn FIRST that real love protects. Paul says love, “Love bears all things.” He is painting a picture with his words. The word “bears” comes from a Greek word that literally means “roof.” He is showing us how True love shelters or protects – just like a roof protects a family from storms – love protects us against the storms of life.

It would be easy to love others so long as conditions remain ideal… so long as the the sun is always shining. BUT, the moment life gets hard, all bets are off. To US, love is something we show when conditions are favorable. But according to Paul, love shelters REGARDLESS the weather.

A roof would be of little value if all it did was provide shade in the sunshine but the moment it rained it started leaking. We wouldn’t be satisfied with that kind of a roof. Why then would we settle for a LOVE that is so conditional?

Real love bears up under the storms of disappointment, through the rains of trial, against the winds of discouragement. Real love provides a covering that shields from all extremes – it offers shelter in the worst circumstances imaginable.

We long for this, don’t we? It is one of life’s BASIC needs. We ALL need a place where people will care for us and minister to us and help us cope with the harsh realities of living in a broken world. CHURCH should be a place where people can heal.

While we cannot protect people from the consequences of wrong choices, we CAN offer refuge to them. They need to find in us a people who genuinely care for their well-being and refuse to run away when life gets messy. Love offers even the worst of sinners a place to shelter repentant hearts.

Is our church like that? Do those who turn to us feel compassion or condemnation?

This is what the Christian HOME should be like. The call to “bear all things,” is a call to never stop forgiving. True love keeps seeking the welfare of others even when it is painful to do so.

So I want you to think about your relationships for a moment. Think about the many times you have done loving things for others only to feel used and frustrated when they didn’t respond in the way you THOUGHT they SHOULD. Think about that spouse who neglects - the child who rebels – or that Christian who seems bent on destroying himself.

Does your love “bear all things?”

2. But not only should love Protect, it should also be Positive, as Paul explains, “Love believes all things.” There are at least two possible meanings to that statement:

First, real love is not cynical or suspicious. It takes the high road – it anticipates the best possible outcome when it suffers wrong. Love moves us to look for the best in people.

Here’s what I mean – whenever we feel hurt or see someone do something we don’t understand, we often jump to conclusions about them – we get angry and find fault with them, and assume the worst about them. We are suspicious of their motives and take things in the worst possible way.

THEN we get OTHERS involved and say, “Let me tell you what so-in-so did…” like the situation EVER has a chance of improving with us gossiping about it – and what makes matters even WORSE – we force others to choose sides.

You will be much happier in life and much more pleasant to be around if you will make the effort to be less cynical. You say “But, it’s my personality and others just need to get over it.” No – its sin. God would have us believe the best about people.

But even more than that, Paul may be giving us insight into WHERE the ability to love comes from – it comes from our faith in God – His work in our lives. Our ability to love others comes from HIM filling our hearts and helping us love with his love.

Without faith in God, love quits and dies. Our love will not survive the disappointments or injuries of life unless we allow God to love people through us. HE is the source – therefore, the inability to love like we ought is a clear reflection of our spiritual condition before Him!

Paul said in Romans 5, “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Only through the help of the Lord can we love like we ought.

What will keep us serving the Lord when things get hard or discouraging? Our love for God and each other.

What will help you forgive someone who hurts you, whether intentional or unintentional? Your love.

What will keep you pushing along when you feel unappreciated and overworked? As Paul said, “The love of Christ constrains us.” No other motivation is necessary!

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers said, “If we are devoted to the cause of serving others, we shall soon be crushed and brokenhearted… but if our motive is ... no ingratitude can hinder us from serving...”

So, ask yourself, is your love positive? Do you assume the worst or the best about people? Do you find yourself pushing through or quitting when life gets difficult?

3. Third, not only does love protect and is positive, it is also Prayerful, indicated by the words “hopes all things.” Even when belief in a loved one’s goodness is shattered, love still hopes. As long as God continues to touch hearts, I must believe that human failure is never final… that people CAN change.

The parents of a backslidden child know what I am talking about.

That wife with an unbelieving husband, knows what I’m talking about.

The church with members who have gone astray understands what I am talking about.

Love refuses to take failure as final. As long as there is life – there is hope. Real love hopes because we, of all people, understand what God can do in a person’s heart.

Hope moves us to pray and NOT give up. We've seen God move too many times. We’ve seen Him answer too many prayers for us to lose hope. As the psalmist cried out to God in psalm 39, “My hope is in you, Lord.” Paul also wrote, “Hope does not disappoint.” Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has begotten us again unto a living hope!”

Hope is God’s gift to those who trust Him. As long as I am breathing, there is hope for my relationships no matter how frustrated, disappointed, or hurt I may be – because God still hears, still saves, and still restores. Rather than take matters into my OWN hands, I must keep trusting He will work things out for His glory and my good. THAT – is love.

4. And then finally, real love perseveres. Paul said, love “endures all things.” He uses a military term for troops holding their position. When in the heat of the battle, a good soldier endures – he holds his position regardless the hardship because of his loyalty, his concern for his fellow soldiers.

I must hold FAST too – because you are counting on me and I care about you.

It is a term that means “to remain under the load.” Love doesn’t collapse under the weight of obligation. It was LOVE that kept Jesus on the Cross when men hurled insults and shouted for Him to “come down from that cross if He really was the Son of God” – it was his love for us that made Him “remain under the load.”

It’s the kind of love that kept Paul shepherding the Corinthians though they resisted his leadership and attacked his character.

It is the kind of love you demonstrate to a spouse who doesn’t meet your needs.

It is a love that refuses to look for a way out…that refuses to quit or give up… that perseveres in ‘all things.’

A love that can’t be tested is a love that can’t be trusted. A love that runs away when circumstances aren’t ideal isn’t REAL love. Stop telling yourself that you deserve better treatment – keep persevering.

YES there are risks to this kind of love. You will most certainly be taken for granted. But real love protects, stays positive, prays, and perseveres.

Yes, you will be hurt. This kind of love led Christ to a cross even when all his followers fled in the night. He kept on loving until his last breath. And remember what He told US? “Love one another as I have loved you!”

If the question of your heart is “Where can I find such love?” I've got good news for you. Jesus loved you before you were born. He loved you while you were away from Him living in sin, living for yourself. He loved you enough to die for you even though HE KNEW you would fail. And even now, He wants to come into your heart, forgive you of your sin, and make you new.

Will you trust Him? Will you give Him your hurts and your heart and let Him forgive you and live IN you? We are going to give you that opportunity in just a moment.

OR maybe you are struggling to love others with the kind of love you see in this passage. You recognize that you haven’t been the mate, the parent, the church member or friend that God has called you to be. Recognizing it is a good place to START. But NOW you need to DO SOMETHING about it. Will you ask God to help you love the way you should?