Patience (Longsuffering)

Galatians 5:22, 23—But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

      The dictionary definition of patience is the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like; an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay; quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence.

      The Greek word in Galatians 5:22 is makrothumia [makro- (long, distant in time or space, large-view) + thumos (passion, rage, the emotions of suffering)]. So it literally translates as “longsuffering.” It has a usual meaning of having an enduringly calm temperament. Another Greek word for patience is hypomone, which is a compound word made up of hypo (meaning under) and moneo (meaning to remain or abide). Thus, the idea is to “remain under” or “abide under” difficult circumstances—as when it is impossible to escape or avoid them.

      I believe God intends for us to use a combination of makrothumia and hypomone. In other words, I think it is God’s intent for us to abide under difficult circumstances with an enduringly calm temperament. Essentially, we are to take everything in stride…with a smile on our faces. That, my friend, requires patience. Wait. Did I just say that it takes patience to be patient? Yup.

      They say patience is a virtue. I believe that to be true. But, if it is, then there aren’t so many virtuous people running around. We live in a fast-paced world with a “microwave” society that thinks it needs everything now, now, now! Folks want the fastest cars, the fastest food, the fastest technology, the fastest answers, and the fastest track to success. But, as the old adage goes, slow and steady wins the race. It is a marathon and not a sprint, by the way. Hebrews 12:1-4—Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

    Patience in the Bible is:

  1. Needed in a crisis (Luke 21:15-19—for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls)
  2. Rewarded (Romans 2:7—eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality)
  3. Comes from reading Scripture (Romans 15:4—For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope)
  4. Comes from being tested (James 1:3—knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience)
  5. Waiting for Christ’s return (James 5:7, 8—Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand)
  6. Is shown by the prophets (James 5:10—My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience)
  7. Will inherit the promises of God (Hebrews 6:12—that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises)

Christ’s patience is shown by His mercy toward all of us. I Timothy 1:16—However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

      In Colossians 1:9-12—“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light,” Paul and his colleagues pray that the Colossians may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, which will bear fruit and the Colossians may attain patience.

      In II Timothy 4:2—“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching,” those who preach and/or teach are given charge to do so with all patience. One of the most common descriptions of God’s own characteristic patience is found in Exodus 34:6, 7—And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”

      Longsuffering is not the spiritual fruit I exhibit the most easily. As someone who growls when a car cuts me off on the highway, I can’t say that I’m a completely patient man. Sidebar*: Surprisingly, I have no problem being patient in the “big” things. It’s the small stuff that I sweat. The problem is really rooted in selfishness. We can’t seem to get out of our own little worlds long enough to see that everyone is going through something. If we would be patient with people as we strive to be patient with circumstances, maybe we would see another’s open wounds.

      Our fleshly inclination is not to sit still while people go through their issues. Our instinct is to move on and let them deal with it. “What? Me suffer over someone else? Yeah right! Life’s too short. There’s too much to do, and to heck with anyone who gets in the way.” Today’s humanoid is unwilling to put up with what does not conform, is quick to ditch a spouse if things are not “working out,” engages in “get rich quick” schemes, dumps chemicals in a nearby stream instead of disposing of them properly, is unwilling to let the commercials finish before finding something more watchable on TV or more “listenable” on the radio.

      We cannot afford to be patient, according to this outlook. People who bear the burdens of those they love are fools who should “cut the dead weight loose” for their own good.  There is just no time to be tied down by all that junk. At least, that’s what human logic tells us. However, the Holy Spirit is not willing to just cut someone loose. Let us not forget, He was patient with us while He drew us closer to Christ. He’s been patient through all of our “growing up.” The Spirit counsels patience. We have eternity. We’re just getting started here on earth. Anything that produces weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

      Also, love demands patience. A whirlwind affair is simply not as deep and powerful as a relationship that builds over time. It takes time to go through the repeated, day-in, day-out confidence-building incidents that bind two people together. Just as we must be patient with a spouse, and they with us, so shall we be patient as we grow in God. Spiritual practices and the disciplines of devotion can help us grow the ability to become patient, because the gains from them cannot be rushed.

      Patience is also a key piece to prayer. We, who demand instant responses, have to deal with the truth that any answer will come on God’s schedule, not ours. In Psalm 40:1, it says “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.” Yes, the wait feels so long sometimes. But, anything truly worth having is worth waiting for. The Psalms say it over and over again: wait for the Lord, be still, etc. As James put it, wait like the farmer waits for the coming crop.

      God’s timing is always perfect, so it helps to be in tune with Him. Spiritual practices can help you develop that sense—it’s like you’re exercising your “patience muscles,” sort of adjusting your inner antenna. This in turn fills you with contentment and a more balanced way of looking at the matter. You won’t just look for instant results; you will want the issue resolved in as positive a way as is possible. Patience comes easier when you think about God’s timing rather than your own. It also comes easier knowing that going through trial is one of the ways you develop patience.

Challenge: Part One—This week, take up a hobby that helps build patience. For instance, put together a big puzzle, read a book, do some gardening, or try fishing. In each, the results do not come quickly…or on demand. You have to wait. Part Two—Seek to be patient with your loved ones, no matter how much they try your patience.

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Peace

Galatians 5:22, 23—But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

      The word “peace” comes from the word eirene, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew shalom, which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by the outward circumstances. The word eirene strongly suggests the rule of order in place of chaos. When a person is dominated by peace, he has a calm, inner stability that results in the ability to conduct himself peacefully, even in the midst of circumstances that would normally be nerve-wracking. Rather than allow the pressures of life to break him, a person who is consumed by peace is whole, complete, orderly, stable, and poised for blessing.

      Peace is the result of resting in a relationship with God. Peace is tranquility—a state of rest—that comes from seeking after God. It’s the opposite of chaos. Peace (eirene) is God’s gift of wholeness and is derived from eiro (to join, tie together into a whole). When all parts are joined together as one or as whole, when they are properly aligned, true peace comes.

       Peace is the legacy which Christ gave to His disciples in John 14:27—Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. After all, Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Happy is the man who has received the heavenly gift of peace; it will, in the midst of external storms and troubles, preserve his mind in a tranquil state. It is independent of external circumstances. It is most especially enjoyed in times of affliction and persecution. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

      A Christian’s life should not only be characterized by outward peace with others, but also a personal, inward peace. A Christian with a troubled, fearful mind dishonors God. We need to understand that to be troubled means we do not trust God’s sovereignty, wisdom, faithfulness, or goodness. It is an indication that we have not yet completely surrendered our lives over to the Lord.

      Philippians 4:6, 7—Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

      We are not to have anxiety. We are not to worry. We are not to fear. Worry and fear does much harm. Besides being proven that it is destructive to our physical health (worry is a large contributor to heart disease, weakening of the immune system, gastro-intestinal diseases, migraines, ulcers, high blood pressure, etc.), it is destructive to our spiritual lives as well. Why?

      A mind that is occupied with worry is a mind that is not focused on the Lord. When we fret, we lose sight of God’s providential working. We stop seeking His input and are tempted to handle our issues with fleshly wisdom. We try to correct our circumstances when, perhaps, they were ordained by the Lord to correct us. We get distracted from carrying out the Lord’s purpose and plan for our lives. We lose sight of the Lord’s goodness and we are tempted to become negative and ungrateful. Ultimately, we take our eyes off the source of true and lasting peace.

      The peace of God acts as a soldier on guard to protect our hearts and minds. It will not allow anxiety and despondency to sneak in the back door. The peace of God is stronger than the worry of the flesh. Just as God is greater than our circumstances, so is God’s peace greater than our fears. We can experience inward peace in the midst of the most trying times.

      This does not seem possible or rational. It is hard for the world to comprehend or understand how all seems to be collapsing around us, yet we can be perfectly calm and composed. But, that is why Paul says “…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding…” Since the world does not understand it, it is incapable of teaching us how to experience divine peace. You can chant, do yoga, practice your bio-rhythms, listen to meditation music, burn aromatic candles, consume your herb, pop your pills, take a drink, or “shop-til-you-drop,” but you will never find the inward tranquility that God gives. It comes from Him alone.

      There are four basic keys to living in peace:

1.      Prayer

Paul says, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).” Brethren, whatever is bothering us, we should take it to God in prayer. Whatever we are facing—whatever we have need of—we must bring it to the Lord. We ought not be bashful about bringing any troubling matter to Him, however great or small. God is interested in the big things and the small things in our life. If it concerns us, it concerns Him, period.

      Philippians 4:6 says, “let your requests be made known to God.” How would you like that to look? What changes would you like to see? What would you like for God to do? We need to be specific in our requests. We need to tell God exactly what we want. If it is not an unrighteous desire, we need not be timid in stating our requests. We may ask whatever we wish of God (according to His will). Once we have made our requests known in faith, we need to with faith wait patiently and calmly for Him to answer.

2.      Thanksgiving

      The second key to acquiring peace is also found in Philippians 4:6. Paul says that we are to submit our requests along “with thanksgiving.” Too many times we fail to count our blessings. We fail to acknowledge how good God has been to us already. I am reminded the stanza in “Amazing Grace”—“Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come. Tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.” We need to reflect on how God has faithfully brought us to this moment and thank Him. We must think of the many dangers, toils, and snares He has delivered us from and be grateful. We cannot only thank the Lord for deliverances of the past. We should also thank Him for our present blessings. No matter how harsh may our current situation is, surely we can acknowledge that we are enjoying the love of God and His blessing right now.

Psalm 28:7—The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him. Psalm 118:29—Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

3.      Dwell on the positive

      When it comes to our thinking, we must dwell on the positive. Paul commands, in Philippians 4:8, Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

      I believe that this point is where we fail most. Too often we allow our minds to dwell on the negative in our lives rather than the positive. We seem to be quite skilled at seeing our glasses as half empty rather than half full. However, we all can find a silver lining in the darkest cloud, if we’re willing to look for it. This should especially be so with Christians. After all, if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

4.      Obedience to God’s Word

      The last key to enjoying divine peace of mind is striving to obey the Bible. Paul says, in Philippians 4:9, The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. There are three ways that obedience leads to peace:

A.     If we obey God’s Word, we will avoid many pitfalls in this life that bring unnecessary heartache. We can avoid so many problems if we would simply apply the teachings of Christ to our lives. Psalm 119:165—Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble. Proverbs 3:1, 2—My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you.

B.     True peace comes when we know in our hearts that we are doing all that you can to please God. Paul says, in Acts 24:16, “This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.” With obedience comes a clear conscience, and a clear conscience promotes peace of mind.

C.     Lastly, the teachings of Christ emphasize looking beyond self and serving others. The more we take our focus off ourselves—our predicaments, our troubles, our difficulties, our afflictions—and focus on how we can make life brighter for someone else or how we can glorify God, our minds will be liberated. We need to put into practice Christ’s demand for selfless service. Galatians 6:2—Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

      Now remember the four keys to living in peace: prayer, thanksgiving, dwelling on the positive, and obedience to God’s Word. These four things will help you continually hide peace in your hearts. II Thessalonians 3:16—Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.

Challenge: Seek to live in harmony with everyone in your sphere of influence this week. Be slow to anger and slow to speak, no matter how chaotic the situation becomes.

Joy

Galatians 5:22, 23—But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

      The Greek word for “joy” is chara, derived from the word charis, which is the Greek word for grace (derivative for the English word charity). This is significant to note, because it conveys the idea that chara is produced by the charis of God. In other words, joy is of divine origin—“the joy of the Lord.” It springs from God and has God for its object. The believer rejoices mainly in God himself; he is happy because there is a God, and because God is in his person and character what he is.

      A further source of joy is found by the Christian, who is living near to God, with a deep sense of reconciliation to God, of acceptance with God, and, beyond that, of adoption and close relationship to God. The joy of the Lord in the spirit springs from an assurance that the future, whatever it may hold, is guaranteed by divine goodness, that being children of God, the love of God towards us abides and remains unchangeable. Essentially, we can be joyful knowing that God has everything under control.

      This means that joy is not a human-based, emotional exuberance that is fickle in nature, ebbing and flowing as the situation changes. Joy is not predicated upon the favorability of our life rhythms. Rather, true joy is divine in its origin. Basically, joy is God’s grace recognized. Most people equate joy and happiness. Joy and happiness are two different entities. Real joy actually has nothing to do with happiness.

      “Happiness” comes from the root word “happen.” Happiness, therefore, is based on circumstances. If something pleasing is going on, then we are happy. Happiness is tied up in emotion and “feelings.” However, God says that joy occurs even in the midst of trials—when the car breaks down, when the cupboards are bare, when the kids get sick, when the boss cuts your hours, when your spouse is in a bad mood, etc.

      James 1:2 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” Why is James telling us to count it all joy when we fall into trials? He knew that joy allows us to fight in the midst of those trials. If we fight through the trials, we will overcome. James continues, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (v. 4). The ultimate goal here is victory over trials, not acceptance of them.

        

     You see, we are called to “fight the good fight of faith” (I Timothy 6:12). The problem is that many people in the body of Christ have grown tired of fighting the good fight. Their struggle is not one of stamina, though; they have lost their joy. Perhaps you are fed up with your spouse and your marriage is too far gone to fight for. Maybe you have been sick for so long that you no longer remember what it is to be healthy and you are too exhausted to fight for wellness. Possibly you once waged war against your mountain of debt. Sadly, there has not been much progress and you have become too discouraged fight for financial freedom. You may be having trouble with your rebellious children. They have been disobedient for so long that you can no longer fight for harmony. You are ready to throw in the towel.

      So, what does that have to do with joy? Simply put, joy produces strength. And strength is needed to fight. Joy, in fact, is a source of great strength. One of the most popular verses in the Bible is Nehemiah 8:10—Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Joy gives us strength in several ways (Spurgeon):

  1. Joy strengthens our spirit—A man who walks in the sunlight of God’s countenance, for that very reason is warm and strong. The sunlight of joy usually goes with the warmth of spiritual life. As the light of joy varies so does the warmth of holy strength; he who dwells in the light of God is both happy and strong. He who goes into the shade and loses the joy of the Lord becomes weak at the same time. So the joy of the Lord becomes our strength, as being an indicator of its rise or fall.
  2. Joy fortifies us against temptation—What is there that he can be tempted with? He has more already than the world can offer him as a reward for treachery. He is already rich; who shall ensnare him with the wages of unrighteousness? He is already satisfied; who is he who can seduce him with pleasing baits?
  3. Joy gives us resolve against persecution—They may well afford to be laughed at who win at such a rate as he does. Such a man is, moreover, made strong to bear affliction; for all the sufferings put upon him are but a few drops of bitterness cast into his cup of bliss, to give a deeper tone to the sweetness which absorbs them.

      A joyous man is to all intents and purposes a strong man. He is strong in a calm, restful manner. Whatever happens, he is not ruffled or disturbed. He is not afraid of evil; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.

      Joy is a Spirit-given expression that flourishes even in hard times. I Thessalonians 1:6—And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. The Thessalonians were under great stress due to persecution; yet, in spite of it all, they continued to walk in great joy. The Greek implies that their supernatural joy was due to the Holy Spirit working in them. Paul called it the “joy of the Holy Spirit.”

      Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” How often are we to rejoice? You know the answer—always! Why? Joy is the easiest fruit to lose. We must renew it daily. You cannot live off of yesterday’s supply of joy. Just as God’s mercies are renewed daily, so are we to renew our joy. Joy can give you strength only when you possess it. To possess it, you must walk in it. You might say, “I don’t feel like rejoicing.” God didn’t say, “Rejoice if you feel like it.” He said very clearly, “Rejoice always.” Obviously, God knows that you do not always “feel” like rejoicing. So, leave feelings out of the mix.

      Habakkuk 3:17-19—“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls…” It sounds like this fellow has problems. But look at the most important word in the next verse—yet. “…yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Notice, Habakkuk refuses to surrender to his problems. He says, “The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” In the NHT (New Herb Translation), Habakkuk 3:17, 18 reads like this: “Though there is no food in the pantry, no money in the bank; though the sickness gets worse, and the pain persists; though my children are hellions, and my spouse does not appreciate me, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

 

      The difference between defeat and victory is attitude. An attitude of gratitude will put you over in life. This is the kind of attitude that Habakkuk had. Though no good could be found—no fruit, no crops, no sheep, and no cattle—he still had joy. After all, even if all seems lost, we still have the love of God and the hope of glory. That alone should be enough to make us shout!

 

      Isaiah 12:2, 3—Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’ Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.  Did you know that there are “wells” (plural) of salvation? When you got saved, you inherited many wells. Each well contains a unique blessing. These are the benefits of salvation.

      Draw from one well for healing. Draw from another for prosperity. Draw from yet another well for a sound mind. Draw a big bucket from the well of restoration. Draw a double-bucket full from the well of peace. The more you look at the wells you inherited, the more your heart rejoices. It’s joy that keeps you strong and enables you to draw from the wells of salvation.

      Do not let your heart be troubled. Do not get discouraged. Why? Joy produces results.

  1. Joy leads to great praise. Remember Paul and Silas? In shackles, in the deepest dungeon of the jailhouse, cold, wet, and weary, they began to sing praises to God in the midnight hour. What happened? The shackles fell off and the prison doors flew open. What does that tell me? Praise breaks the chains of bondage! Where does that praise come from? The joy of salvation, the joy of hope, causes the spirit to rejoice.
  2. Joy leads to great sacrifice. There are people throughout the world who have sacrificed their very lives for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and did so joyfully. We may never have to give up our life’s blood, but we will give up something. Our sacrifice is typically one of time, talent, money, resources, goals, hopes, dreams, plans, etc. These things we are compelled to give cheerfully in gratitude to a God who causes all things to work together for our good (Romans 8:28) and has given us so much.
  3. Joy leads to family happiness. Nehemiah 12:43—Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off. Happy is the household where the joy is not confined to one, but where all partake of it.

Challenge: Remember Habakkuk 3:17-19, and find your “yet” moment. Seek to remain joyful in the midst of a trying situation this week. Make an effort to praise God through pain, no matter how severe the situation becomes

Love

Galatians 5:22, 23—But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

      The dictionary defines love as a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. It also means to have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for. Love is given the characteristics of a noun and a verb, meaning love is not just a thing, it’s an action as well. If it is an action that one performs, it is also a choice. You see, there is no action man can perform that cannot be chosen to start or stop. So, love is not involuntary, as many would claim. Therefore, the question remains…what is the kind of love we should choose to give? To answer that, we must go to the Scriptures.

      The Greek word for “love” in the above context is agape. In the New Testament, agape was frequently used to mean the unconditional, self-sacrificing, love of God for humans through Jesus, which they ought also to reciprocate toward God and among themselves. In early Christianity, agape also signified a Eucharistic (referring to the Last Supper or Holy Communion) love feast shared by members of the community. Agape is not to be confused with eros (romantic/sexual love), storge (natural affection, much like parental feeling toward a child), or philia (friendly/brotherly love). These are other Greek versions of the English word love.

      So, what is unconditional love? The full breadth of love is found in I Corinthians 13, where agape is described at length. The responsibility of agape is never more evident than in these 13 verses.

I Corinthians 13:1-13—Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

      How did God show agape to us? Two verses come immediately to mind: John 3:16—For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, and  Romans 5:8—But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. How can God show this kind of selfless love to us? God is love (I John 4:8). So, how are we able to love this way? Because His love is in us.

  1. Love is patient—Love never gives up
    1. Love overlooks petty human frailty and finds the heart
    2. It bides its time
    3. It waits for necessary change, but doesn’t nag during the process
  2. Love is kind—Love cares more for others than for self
    1. Love does not act out of spite; it acts out of compassion
  3. Love does not envy—Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have
    1. Love doesn’t covet
  4. Love does not parade itself—Love doesn’t strut
    1. Love is not arrogant
    2. It does not look for an audience
    3. Love doesn’t have to tell you its loving
  5. Love is not puffed up—Love doesn’t have a swelled head
    1. Love has no ego; it doesn’t need recognition to exist
  6. Love does not behave rudely—Love doesn’t force itself on others
    1. Love is a gentleman
    2. It does not overstep its bounds
  7. Love does not seek its own—Love isn’t always “me first”
    1. Love is unselfish
    2. It delights in pleasing others
  8. Love is not provoked—Love doesn’t fly off the handle
    1. Love never reacts in anger
    2. It’s never defensive
  9. Love thinks no evil—Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others
    1. Love wants the best for everyone
  10. Love does not rejoice in iniquity—Love doesn’t revel when others grovel
    1. Love never takes pleasure in the pain of others
  11. Love rejoices in the truth—Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth
    1. Love never gossips or backbites
  12. Love bears all things—Love puts up with anything
    1. Love has no limit
    2. It doesn’t run out
  13. Love believes all things—Love trusts God always
    1. Love takes God at His word
    2. It knows the promises of God will come true
  14. Love hopes all things—Love always looks for the best
    1. Love gives the benefit of the doubt
  15. Love endures all things—Love never looks back, but keeps going to the end
    1. Love perseveres
  16. Love never fails—Love never dies
    1. Love can’t be killed

      Love makes the world go around. Love created man. Love redeemed man. Love gets us to Heaven. Love builds relationships on earth. Love is the most important commodity on the planet—more important than faith or hope. Love is at the root of God’s will for all mankind. The two greatest commandments, according to Jesus Himself, are that we love God and love people. Matthew 22:36-40—“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Everything else feeds off that. It’s the life flow of God. If we allow ourselves to be fully immersed in the love of Christ, we then (and only then) have the capacity to love as He does.

      Think of the five most important people in your lives. Then think of how you love them. Think of how they love you. Do you or anyone else in this group of five ever hit the mark on all sixteen characteristics of true love? We have some work to do.

 

Challenge: Take the first two points from I Corinthians 13 and work on them (with spouse, children, family, friends, co-workers, etc.) for one week

 

1. Love is patient—seek to be patient with your loved ones no matter how strenuous the situation is or becomes

2. Love is kind—seek to be kind to your loved ones in all situations, whether kindness is given to you or not

Jesus

Chronicled in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; referenced throughout the

Old and New Testaments

      King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Alpha. Omega. First. Last. Omniscient. Omnipotent. Provider. Healer. Wonderful Counselor. The Way, The Truth, and The Life. These are a few of the monikers that accurately describe Jesus. He has been clothed in majesty since before time began. That should have never changed. For thirty-three years, it did. He became a man so He could die.

      I’ll set the stage: He’s in the Garden of Gethsemane after dark. It’s the night before Jesus goes to the cross. He’s praying for strength and grace. The man has such stress and pressure heaped on Him, His sweat turns to blood. In His humanity, He does not want to go to Calvary. In His divinity, He knows it’s the only way to save mankind. The traitor Judas has led the soldiers right to Him. They seize Him and drag Him away. So, it begins. Over the next day, Jesus suffered such horrendous abuse, it’s scarcely imaginable. He was punched, kicked, spat on, cursed, and His beard was plucked out. He was mocked without mercy. Then a crudely fashioned crown of two-inch-long thorns was driven deeply into His skull, piercing skin and bone.

      This was all before the REAL punishment commenced. He was tied to a whipping post and beaten with a rod. When that didn’t inflict the desired damage, the centurion exchanged his rod for a cat-of-nine-tails, a torturous weapon unlike any other. It was a nine-piece leather whip with glass shards, jagged stone, nails, and broken bone fragments woven into the ends of the “tails.” With a fearsome flick of the wrist, it lashed into Jesus’ flesh. The demonic device was then ripped violently out of His back, side, shoulder, and wherever else it had become lodged, bringing with it skin, muscle, and sinew. Jesus’ insides were literally left hanging and exposed. At this point, He barely looked human. Oh, the pain! Blood oozed from every inch of Him.

      A woolen robe was thrown over His back, left on long enough for the blood to dry; then, just for kicks, they snatched it off, opening fresh wounds. Finally, a heavy wooden crossbeam was thrown over His shoulders and He was forced to drag it up a long hill. When He reached the top of the hill, He was tossed down onto the cross, where eight-inch spikes were driven cruelly into His wrists and feet. The cross was lifted up and dumped into a deep hole, throwing Him downward. Jesus’ shoulders and elbows were separated from their sockets. He heaved for breath as His lungs began to collapse. He hung on that cross for hours before finally giving up His life…for you and me. By choice. He bore our sin, our shame, and our punishment so we wouldn’t have to. And He won. Death lost. Hell lost. The grave lost. We are redeemed!

So, how do we triumph in the midst of trial? We have the love of Christ in our hearts, His blood coursing through our veins, His authority is on our lips, and His power is in our hands. NOTHING is impossible!

Paul

Chronicled in Acts; authored half of the New Testament

      He started out as a devout Jew and persecutor of Christians. He was there when Stephen was stoned to death. He loathed Christianity and thought he was doing his religious duty by trying to shut it down. Then, Jesus got hold of Saul and he, quite literally, “saw the light.” Saul became Paul and was never the same man again. He went on to write half of the New Testament and is recognized as arguably the greatest apostle who ever lived.

      Saul did not endure much hardship. He was a professional man (a tentmaker by trade) and was well respected in the Jewish community. Paul, on the other hand, was a radical Christian who the Jews despised for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a blasphemous betrayal in their eyes. The Roman Empire was not fond of Paul either. It was the Romans who eventually beheaded him, but not before untold thousands of souls were saved by this powerhouse of the faith.

      In II Corinthians 11:24-27, Paul tells us that during his ministry, he went through all of this: “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”

      Did I mention that he was imprisoned no less than four times (for a total of 5-6 years) as well? He suffered all those things for the sake of the Gospel. Honestly, most of us would not endure a fraction of that before we contemplated walking away from ministry. Paul relished it. He knew that his suffering would only magnify God. After all, it was he who wrote “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (II Corinthians 12:9).”

      Paul knew that he would be persecuted for Jesus’ sake, both by the religious folk and the heathens. His message was confrontational. Paul had no problems telling you like it is, so he was prepared to face the consequences. People don’t like to be called out. They get defensive. In Paul’s day, they would beat you, jail you, or kill you. Was he treated unfairly? Yes. Did he deserve to suffer? No. Did it matter to him? No. God got the glory. “Count it all joy,” he said, “when you face various trials.” Paul counted the cost. He could afford it. The reward was worth the hassle. Now, his legacy is among the greatest ever.

So, how do we triumph in the midst of trial? Through every hardship, stand strong. God will honor your sacrifice.

Job

Chronicled in Job

      I don’t know that anyone has been at the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in such a short time span as Job. He had it all and lost it all, in a matter of days. And, he never cursed God. Could we make that claim if the same happened to us? When I say Job had it all, this is what I mean: He had seven sons and three daughters. He owned 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and a very large household. Job was a blessed man. Even by today’s standards, the dude had it going on.

      Not only was the man exceedingly wealthy, he was righteous to boot. He praised God with all he had. He was a true servant of the Lord. Job even went so far as to make burnt offerings to God on his children’s behalf when they had eaten and drank too much. What a guy! He was one of God’s most prominent examples of goodness on earth. Job was the kind of guy I aspire to emulate.

      Satan had taken notice. He saw all that Job had and surmised that he would not praise God if he had carnage and chaos instead of blessing and peace. The devil challenged God to allow him to take all Job owned, believing that Job would walk away from God if his riches were gone. God did allow the devil to rage, knowing that Job’s faith was not tied up in his possessions. Satan wiped it all out. One right after the other—literally—everything Job had was taken in a whirlwind of calamity. All of his animals and every one of his children were gone, just like that. What did Job do? He tore his robe, shaved his head, and worshipped the Lord. Astounding!

      The devil was in disbelief. So, he approached God again with the theory that if Job’s body forsook him, then he would surely curse God. God allowed Satan to inflict Job with boils from head-to-toe. In his torturous pain, Job still did not speak ill against the Lord. Job’s own wife told him to “curse God and die,” but he refused. Three of job’s close friends came to “comfort” him. In reality, they came to judge him. They began to speculate that he was being punished for some great wickedness or folly he was engaged in. They urged him to repent. Job, in his suffering, lamented. He bent, but he never broke.

      He rued the day he was born, he hated the circumstances he was in, he felt bombarded and unfairly treated, he prayed for relief, but he never cursed God. In fact, Job continued to trust in God’s sovereignty. His only flaw in the series of events was that he developed a spirit of self-righteousness as he continued to defend himself against his accusers. But, he also began to understand God’s omnipotence. Job repented of losing sight of God’s providence and power. At this, the Lord restored back to Job double what he had to begin with: 14,000 sheep, 6000 camels, 1000 yoke of oxen, 1000 female donkeys, seven more sons, and three more daughters.

So, how do we triumph in the midst of trial? Praise God, even on your worst day.