Love and Failure
Love Never Fails
“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
—1 John 3:17
1 John 4:9–11, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
God freely gave us the greatest gift ever—His love, which we can freely give to anyone to provide joy. He manifested this love to us by sending His only beloved son to pay the penalty for our sins. If God loves us this much we too should freely and generously give the gift away. While many other gifts and talents fall away through age or circumstances, love will not fall away because it is an action and the choice to give it rests with us. Despite all the circumstances in our lives, whether good or bad, agape love is always capable of being given.
“But I have been doing this for years and they still treat me badly.” Perhaps your husband or wife still decided to leave you. Perhaps your boss is still rude. Perhaps that person still criticises everything you do. If we make these statements we really need to examine our actions rather than the reactions of others. Have I really been totally sacrificial in my love? Did I really consider the interests of the other person as better than my own at all times? Was I really completely selfless? If the answer is “yes”, rejoice because God has done a good work in you. If “no”, keep persevering. When we make a commitment to love, it never fails to be an agent of change, whether in ourselves or in others.
If everybody thought that they had to get love before they would give love, how much love would there be in the world?
God’s love is meant to motivate us to respond in ways that are practical and sometimes uncomfortable.
What would you do if you accepted as absolute truth that love never fails?
Start with the people who are closest to you. Think of ways that you can actively demonstrate agape love toward them.
In The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman identifies five ways to demonstrate love to others. Write down some practical ways that you can do this.
Love Language Ideas
Acts of Service
Words of Encouragement
Love and Failure
Love Does Not Seek Revenge
“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.”
—1 Corinthians 13:11
Romans 12:14–21, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
As we have seen, agape love is based on a deliberate choice to be kind and caring, not on the worthiness of the person being loved. Note that this love covers over the sin of the other person. In other words it chooses to ignore the offence, commit it to God to deal with and keep on loving regardless. This covering over is something that God did on the very first day sin came into the world. God killed an animal to cover over Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Genesis 3:21). It was the first time that blood was shed to cover over the sin of man. The blood sacrifice continued as part of the law for the Israelites to remind them of their sins. A final perfect blood sacrifice was made when Jesus hung on a cross to cover over our sins.
The love of God is longsuffering because of the incredible compassion that He has for His creation. He wants to draw everyone to Himself. If we exercise revenge all we are doing is drawing people away from God. We are not giving them the ability to experience the love of God and we interfere with His supreme right to decide when enough is enough.
In Romans 12:20 what is meant by “For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head”?
Revenge is a childish way of thinking and acting. When we ask God to bless our enemies or those who persecute us we are being witnesses of God’s faithfulness and grace.
Make a list from Romans 12:9–21 of how to act when you feel like seeking revenge.
Love and Failure
Love Is Not Provoked
“But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
—1 John 2:11
Genesis 42:21, “Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.””
Betrayal can come in many forms: adultery, the attempted suicide of a loved one, dishonesty of a business partner, vicious gossip spoken by a friend about you. Pastor Terry spoke about how to deal with our feelings of desolation—by releasing them to God and exercising agape love. Let’s look at it from the other side—someone else feeling anguish because of what we have done to them. We see their pain, we hear the cry of their heart but because of our own pride we refuse to acknowledge their pain. Instead, we defend our actions, making up excuses to justify them.
This is what Joseph’s brothers did. They could only focus on what they thought would get rid of their problem. On Thursday of Week 5, we identified the way the brothers acted that did not show love. It wasn’t until many years later that they finally acknowledged their guilt.
We are members of God’s family. If we fail to show Godly love to others we are showing hatred. There is no room for hatred in God’s family. Anyone who lives like this is walking in darkness.
Read James 3:13–18. Where does bitter envy and self-seeking come from?
Our behaviour needs to be pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
Don’t think of your own pain here or what others have done to you. These questions are about what you have done to others: Who have you cast into a pit? Whose cries of pain have you turned a deaf ear to? Pray that God will take away any veil that you have over your eyes. If you are convicted of any situation where you have caused pain to others and have justified it, do as Joseph’s brothers eventually did.
Lord I am guilty of:
I saw the anguish that I caused and I would not hear. I repent of my behaviour. Forgive me and restore my relationship with _______. Help me to act in love and make things right again with them.
Love and Failure
Love Does Not Seek Its Own
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
2 Corinthians 12:9–10, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Our accomplishments, our strengths, our talents, our degrees, our things, our positions in society—if we see these things as gained through our own effort, we will desperately try to hang onto them. If we don’t have a sense of who we are in Christ, we desperately try to prove who we are in front of others. We will try to manipulate circumstances and gloat when we think we have gained some advantage over someone else. If we live our lives this way, when circumstances fail us—as they will—we will feel as though we have failed.
Circumstances do not define who we are or how we are to act. Jesus turned this thinking completely around. He wants us to understand that when we are weak, His strength is made perfect in us. We shouldn’t be boasting about our achievements, rather we should boast in our failures and distresses that the power of God may rest upon us. When we acknowledge that we can’t love on our own, that’s when God steps in to help us. When we acknowledge that our circumstances do not define who we are or how we act, that’s when God’s blessing rests on us. When the world would think that our life is over, that is when our life in Christ has just begun.
At the age of 17 Joseph’s life as dearly beloved son was over. The dreams of greatness appeared to be over. Go back and look at the answer you gave to the Looking Up question, Wednesday, Week 5. How do we know that Joseph believed that his apparent failures did not define who he was or what would happen to him?
If we selfishly believe that our achievements are the result of our own effort and try to hide our failures, we miss out on the exceedingly great power of Christ to work in us.
Write a list of some of your greatest failures when it comes to loving others. Acknowledge to God that you cannot love the way He wants on your own and ask Him to be strong where you are weak.
I have failed to love others in these areas:
Lord I acknowledge I cannot love the way You want me to on my own and ask that You be strong where I am weak.
Love and Failure
Love Suffers Long
“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.”
Matthew 6:25–34, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
If you were a child growing up in most parts of New Zealand you would probably have had a worry free childhood. For the most part you didn’t have to make any decisions on your own and you had everything done for you. You didn’t worry about getting to school, when or what you would eat, where you would sleep or what you would pack for a holiday. You knew that your parents would care for these things. We need to have this child-like faith to understand that God will care for everything. He is omnipotent—He sees the evil and the good. We have to trust that when we love as God wants us to love, He will work by allowing His love to flow through us into the person. We make a choice to lose our rights or our reputation and trust that God will take care of everything else.
Joseph gained a reputation as a rapist and a criminal. He did not allow that to impact how he chose to act towards others. He found favour in the eyes of the keeper of the prison. Eventually God made sure that Joseph’s reputation was restored and that he gained a much greater reward than he would have done had he fought for his rights and tried to clear his name.
Read John 14:15–18. In the context of a childlike faith, what does Jesus promise to do if we love Him and keep His commandments?
If children did not have anyone to care for them they would worry. Jesus’ promise is that He will not leave us orphans. He will care for the things that need caring for.
Have you given your life wholly to God or are there some things that you couldn’t bear to part with if He asked you to? Consider this carefully and then ask Him to help you surrender all things to Him. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you, to control and direct your life.
Love and Failure
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
Joel 2:25–26, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”
A consistent theme throughout the Bible is that when we repent, God’s grace will abound and former feelings of pain and heartache will be replaced with joy. What man intends for evil, God will use for good for His children. We see from the story of Joseph that not only did Joseph receive a blessing for his obedience, but his brothers also received grace and restoration.
God’s love enables us to forgive others. Ultimately God’s goal is restoration of our relationship with Him. Despite our disobedience, God is always there ready to accept us back and restore our relationship when we repent. Trials and tribulations will still happen because these are God’s transforming tools, but we do have the ability to live at peace with others. We have the power to choose not to keep a record of wrongs, to forgive and to show the love of God to others.
What does John 10:10 teach about failure and the love that Jesus has for us?
Satan makes us feel guilty about our past failings and tells us that God will reject us because of them. God desires to restore life in abundance to us.
Are you ready to restore the relationships that are broken in your life? Here’s how, God’s way:
1 Truthfully examine what has occurred and be prepared to accept full responsibility. Stop justifying or making excuses for your own behaviour.
2 Confess your sin to God and the person concerned.
3 Offer to make amends in a way that shows the fruit of repentance. One way is to be prepared to lose the argument and do what the other person wants. This may be uncomfortable or embarrassing but a humble spirit will always soften the other person’s heart.
4 Accept that you now have the freedom to start afresh and the ability to obey Him.
5 If you are still not spending time in prayer with God every day, make today the first day of the rest of your life that will see you waking and speaking to Him each morning.
6 Ask God to restore life to you in abundance and to continue completing the good work that He has already started in you.