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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Matt's Messages “Love Always Protects, Always Trusts, Always Hopes, Always Perseveres”

“Love Always Protects, Always Trusts, Always Hopes, Always Perseveres”
Learning to Love
December 7, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:7

“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

What do you think is the key word in that verse? The repetition might give it away.

What’s the key word?

ALWAYS.

If you have the King James Version, it translates the word, “all things.” All things. All things. All things. All things.

In other words, “all the time.” Always.

Let me put it this way: CHRISTIAN LOVE IS TENACIOUS.

It doesn’t stop.

Like the Energizer Bunny, Christian love just keeps going and going and going.

Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Love is tenacious.

It’s a bulldog with it’s teeth in a bone.

It’s unyielding, adamant, inexorable, pertinacious.

Christian love keeps going and going and going.

Have you grown in your love this Fall? I hope so.

One of the chief goals for this “Learning to Love” series has been to improve all of our relationships: marriage, family, parenting, siblings, church, school, work, neighborhood–whatever we’ve got going.

Hasn’t it been good to apply what we’ve learned each week to a vast array of different kinds of relationships? Love covers them all.

As Christ Followers, our side of each relationship we’re in should be marked by biblical love:

Patient. Kind. Content. Encouraging. Humble. Respectful. Others-Focused. Joyful. Gracious. Holy.

And now we learn–tenacious.

It’s all of what we’ve learned so far, and it’s keeping on going at loving that way.

Have you grown at love in your relationships this Fall? ... Don’t stop now.

Keep going.

Love is tenacious.

Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Love doesn’t give up. ...

Isn’t love a powerful thing?

Sometimes we get to thinking that loving someone means being “weak.”

“Oh, they’re a loving person.”

Oh poor them! Saying it as if they were a doormat or a victim of a bad cold.

Love is not weak at all.

It’s unloving people who are weak. Because they have given up.

Love is tenacious.

Paul gives us four areas in which love is tenacious.

Let’s take those one at a time.

FIRST, LOVE IS TENACIOUS AT PROTECTING.

“It always protects.”

Now, if you have the King James, it translates this verb as “bearing.” It always bears up under difficulty. And that’s a highly likely translation of the Greek verb here. It would underline the need to persevere and endure.

But the NIV takes the same verb as “it always protects,” that is, love always “covers over” someone else’s sins, someone else’s faults or shortcomings or weaknesses.

Look “looks out” for someone else.

Do you know someone who is always looking out for others? A Big Brother sort of guy?

My son Drew turned 7 yesterday, and last night at bedtime we all spent a little time encouraging him with things about him that encourage us.

One that we ended on is that Drew looks out for others–especially those weaker than himself. He’s protective and covering and gentle with little ones. He’d like to be a shepherd someday. I don’t know if there is much call for that these days, but he’d be good at it.

Love always protects.

And that protective approach doesn’t fade away. It always protects.

It doesn’t play favorites. It always protects.

It doesn’t protect for a while and then give up in desperation. It always protects.

Now, that looks differently in different situations, different relationships.

This is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.

But the principle holds through all relationships. Love always protects.

SECOND, LOVE IS TENACIOUS AT TRUSTING.

V.7 “It always trusts.”

Love is determined to trust others in relationships.

Now, this does not mean that love is gullible!

Truly loving people are not ignorant and gullible. They are not taken in by someone’s smooth talking lies and deception.

They are not Charlie Brown trusting Lucy again to hold that place-kick!

But as far as is reasonable, loving people have a bias towards believing, towards trusting, towards placing confidence in other people.

We’ve certainly seen the opposite, haven’t we?

Do you know folks who don’t trust anyone? And they second guess the motives of anyone and their actions?

Here’s a great phrase to talk about what our default mode should be with others: “charitable judgments.”

A charitable judgment is a loving judgment of someone else.

Ken Sande says, making a charitable judgment means striving “to believe the best about others until you have facts to prove otherwise.” [From Ken Sande’s booklet “Judging Others.”]

The opposite is critical judgments–what is sometimes call “censoriousness”–assuming the worst of people.

Which one do you lean towards? Charitable Judgments or Censoriousness?

Love always trusts.

Now, again, that’s within reason. Love is not gullible.

If your teenager isn’t trustworthy, you don’t just give them the keys to the car and think of yourself as a loving person!

No. But, you want to trust them.

The inclination of your heart is a desire to trust them.

And if it’s reasonable, then you do, even if it means some risk.

D.A. Carson puts it this way: this “does not mean it is gullible, but that it prefers to be generous in its openness and acceptance rather than suspicious or cynical.” [Showing the Spirit, pg. 63]

Alexander Strauch picks up on Carson’s language and goes further: “In dealing with loved ones, love is not suspicious or cynical, but open and favorable disposed toward them. It seeks to understand each person in the best light with an understanding of life’s complexities. It believes people can change and improve. It sees their worth, potential, and future possibilities...It is not afraid of being proved wrong or being embarrassed by others.” [Leading with Love, pg. 82]

And it doesn’t stop trusting. Love always trusts.

Does that describe you?

The best example of this that I know is my parents. They have a consistent track-record of thinking the best of people–and I hope that I’ve picked up on it along the way.

By the way, the only way that we can love like this, with ongoing tenacious trusting–is if we trust in God more than we trust in people.

Because people will disappoint us.

But God, ultimately, will never disappoint us.

Love always trusts.

THIRD, LOVE IS TENACIOUS AT HOPING.

“It always hopes.”

Love always hopes for the best even through terrible disappoints.

You know that people will disappoint you, right?

The saddest stories about relationships are the ones that are marked by personal disappointments and abuse.

Not that someone got cancer but that someone committed adultery.
Not that someone was in an accident but that someone walked out on a commitment.

Those are the saddest stories about relationships.

But love...always hopes.

Love always hopes for the best for that other person and hopes for a turn around in the relationship.

Will that turnaround always happen? No.

Sometimes these hopes will not be fulfilled as we have hoped them.

But a loving person doesn’t stop hoping.

Love is tenacious at hoping.

I’ve lived a blessed life with few terrible raging conflicts in it so far.

But I have had, since becoming a pastor, a number of relationship that have gone South that are, as of yet, unreconciled.

Folks who have left the church for this reason or that or have stopped being my friend for this reason or that, too.

I’ve tried to walk with some folks through some painful family conflicts, and divorces, and what not, and sometimes have gotten a little burnt by them.

But you know what? I don’t stop loving them.

And I don’t stop hoping for full and complete reconciliation.

I know God can do it, and I hope in Him more than I hope in anyone else, but I hope that He does something with those situations to turn them around for His glory and our good.

Has someone let you down in a big way? Or even in a small way?

We know that love keeps no record of wrongs.

But more than that, love always hopes.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the relationship can be just like it was. Things change, circumstances change, consequences happen.

But we keep hoping. We know that God can turn things around.

In one church that my wife and I were a part of, one of the leaders of the church decided that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body and left his wife for a sex-change operation. You think that stuff is only on Oprah, but it shows up in real-life, too.

And for years, that man (and he is man whether or not he thinks he is or undergoes any operations because that’s how God made him–that man) ran from God and wouldn’t listen to anyone.

But his pastor was tenacious in loving him.

And so was, unbelievably, his ex-wife.

And he ran and ran and ran for years.

And then God saw fit to grant him repentance.

That man lives as a man again. He is married again to his wife.

And they are in a church where he actually teaches Bible studies now. He’s been restored to that level of usefulness in the Kingdom.

Love always hopes.

Would it have been wrong for her to re-marry someone else? No, I don’t think so.

But she would hoped for a reconciliation with him. And that’s exactly what she actually got!

Love is tenacious at hoping.

Did you notice the connection between faith (trust), hope, and love? That’s one of Paul’s favorite triads of things to mention. It’ll show up again at the end of the chapter (v.13).

And did you notice so far how positive this verse has been?

After love is patient and love is kind, it was negative for eight more qualities.

But this verse is all positive. Love is positive. Love is tenacious.

Tenacious at protecting.
Tenacious at trusting.
Tenacious at hoping.

AND FOURTHLY, LOVE IS TENACIOUS AT PERSEVERING.

It’s tenacious at being tenacious!

V.7 Love “always perseveres.”

Love hangs on. It endures.

It doesn’t close up shop, hang up, and give up.

Love “always perseveres.”

I had a successful hunt this week on Monday and Tuesday, because I came home in one piece and happy both days!

But I didn’t get a deer.

I saw a couple doe, and as I get better at this, I’ll probably be able to get one some time.

But I came home happy and in one piece, and I think this was a sign of success, I keep thinking about how I can get back out there and try again.

I’ve noticed that perseverance is a sign of a good hunter.

A number of you have shown me that over the last 10 years. Try and try again.

Don’t give up.

I’m planning to go back out tomorrow morning on my day off.

I’m going to (within reason) persevere.

We need to do that in our relationships, too.

Don’t give up and give in.

Love always perseveres.

King James, love “endureth all things.”

Love is not for pansies. It’s tough. And it’s powerful.

Love is tenacious.

Is there a relationship you’ve considered giving up on?

I don’t mean “changing your stance towards”–often that’s really wise.

Love looks differently in different relationships.

Love for an enemy looks different than love for a friend.

Love for an business rival looks different than love for a business partner.

Love for a rebellious teenager looks different than love for a faithful teenager.

But. We don’t stop loving.

We don’t give up on loving.

We don’t throw in the towel on loving.

Love always, always, always perseveres.

Right?

Maybe there is some repentance needed in your life right now.

You’ve given up loving someone. You decided that it was just too hard, too difficult, too time-consuming, too painful.

Now, I’m not telling you that you need to have the old relationship with them, or pretend that it’s there.

But I am saying that you are not allowed to just give up loving them.

Love always perseveres.

Aren’t you glad that’s how Christ loved you?

I sure am.

Love is tenacious about being tenacious.

Love is tenacious in protecting.
Love is tenacious in trusting.
Love is tenacious in hoping.
And love is tenacious in persevering.

Now, right at this point, I would imagine that some of us are despairing.

Some of us are feeling terrible.

You’re feeling this, “I can’t do that.”

“I can’t.”

This is too much. I can’t love like that.

I think it was last week, our family was reciting 1 Corinthians 13 together, and my oldest son, Drew, pointed out that it was really long and really hard to do.

“There’s a lot in there.” Love is patient, love is kind, and so on...and so on.

And now, we learn that love doesn’t give up at being all of those things.

That’s a lot.

I can’t do that.

I fail at that.

I’m a failure at loving like that.

I’ve had some successes, but I can’t do this, “always, always, always, always” stuff.

I can’t!

I told Drew that it was great that he saw that in 1 Corinthians. And if we didn’t learn anything else this Fall, just learning that love was more than just a warm fuzzy feeling, it was a powerful and full thing that is hard to do–love don’t come easy–then we’ve learned a lot about love.

We can’t love like this. We are failures.

And that’s why we need what this table represents...

That’s why we need the gospel.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our failures to love.

On the Cross, He took the punishment that our failure to love had earned.

But more than that, at the Cross, He exchanged our unloving record for His perfectly loving record!

He never failed to love like this. He loved to the very end. He was tenacious to the nth degree!

He always protected, always trusted, always hoped, always persevered.

And that love gets put on our account!

My sin on Him. His righteousness on me. The Great Exchange.

That’s what this Table represents.

His death and His life for you and for me.

His love poured out and placed upon us.

And if we belong to Him, then He will work this love into us as we trust in Him.

He will work protecting into us.
He will work trusting into us.
He will work hoping into us.
He will work persevering into us.

He will make us tenacious lovers of others.

Imperfectly, with fits and starts and ups and downs, yes.

But truly. And authentically.

And tenaciously.

8 comments:

I just want to thank you for this series. I'm doing an extended definition essay and I chose love based on 1 Cor. 13. This series has given me some great ideas on arranging the paper and on interpreting verses. Not to mention that it's interesting, well-written, and inspiring. Thank you. :)

sawyerlove,

Thank you!

You know how to encourage a preacher!

I'm glad it's been helpful to you. It's been challenging to prepare, and even more challenging to live out.

Blessings,

-Matt

You're welcome, Anon. Glad it helped you some.

Blessings,

-P/Matt

So true. I just walked through this in my own life. I had forgiven but couldn't trust the person enough to remove the walls of protection I had built up. They desired restoration of the relationship but I just couldn't trust them enough to work toward this. The Holy Spirit pointed out "always trusts" and "keeps no record of wrongs" to me. I finally understood that God desired me to trust Him to protect me in this situation. It was his will for the relationship to be restored and He supernaturally changed my heart toward this person.

Anonymous, thanks for your comment and testimony. I'm glad the message was helpful. It's not easy to love, but it sure is good.

Blessings,

-Matt

Great message Matt and one that we never grow out of the need for in each of our lives. Thanks for the reminder.

Thanks, Marty! You are an encourager.