Love Is… patient

Throughout the new year, we’re going to focus on our core values in order to become the type of people that God desires us to be here at New Hope. 

We’ll learn all about how to practically live out unconditional love, sacrificial integrity, and be truly Spirit-lead.  As a result, we’ll all become more healthy spiritually and emotionally and we’ll begin to reach our full potential in Christ individually and as a church together.

This morning, we begin with a new message series helping us to better understand and live out unconditional love.  It’s entitled, “Love Is” and it is based on that familiar passage found in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. 

We were created by God with the need for love that can only be expressed through relationships.

As there are different types of relationships, there are different types of love.  The romantic love that we express toward our spouse is a distinct type of love.  The friendship love that we express toward our friends, co-workers, and community is a distinct type of love.  The family love that we express toward our siblings, parents, children, grandchildren, and so on is a distinct type of love. 

There is a type of love, however, that we are to express toward anyone and everyone.  This distinct type of love is the love of God; in the Greek language, agape.  It is this type of love that we’ll be covering through this message series.

To be able to possess and express this unconditional love, we’re going to break it down into parts as Paul chose to do in his letter to the Corinthians.  He taught all about spiritual gifts and said that it is not using these gifts that truly matters, but rather using them with the right motive that matters to God.  We can do all sorts of good things for God, but if we do not do them as an expression of God’s love, then they are pointless and useless.

1 Corinthians 13:1-4

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  14 Love is patient…

The first attribute of God’s love is defined as patient, or in some translations, long-suffering.  The Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines this as “that quality of self-restraint in the face of being provoked which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God. Patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial; it is the opposite of despondency and is associated with hope.”

Before we go into our ability to express God’s unconditional love through patience, let’s first consider how patient God is with us.  Let’s think of how God loves us. 

Let’s face it, we’re not always the easiest people to love, right?  We test the patience of others including God.  If God weren’t patient with us, let’s be honest, we’d all probably be in hell already.  Instead, because of His unfailing love toward us, God gives us chance after chance after chance patiently waiting on us in hope.

He restrains Himself from promptly punishing us although we provoke Him to it often.  He extends His mercy instead of anger.  He remembers the potential that He created within us and always hopes that we choose to embrace it instead of surrendering to our circumstances. 

Although we test God’s patience often, His love bears all things, endures all things, and hopes in all things (ESV).

God, then, simply calls us to love others as He first loved us.  He pours out His love on us and expects us to allow it to flow through our lives and into the lives of those around us.  God is incredibly patient with us.  How patient are we? 

Patience isn’t something that our culture values much.  We try to shove 20 hours of activities into a 16 hour day.  We try to shove 8 days of work into a 7 day week.  The moment that something doesn’t go right, the pressure is on.  Simple things like a credit card reader not working at the store or a weather-related traffic slow-down throw our plans and schedules into a tizzy.  All of the sudden, we aren’t very loving.  Why?

Love is patient.

Patience trusts God and His perfect timing.  God gave us the perfect tool to help us express love through patience.

It was His plan from the very beginning.  God used this tool, Himself, as an example for us to follow.  It’s known by many names; the 6:1 ratio, the work-hard, play-hard principle, the family day, the Lord’s day, a day off.  God called it the Sabbath Day.  For six days, God created everything and on the seventh day, He rested. 

Pretty simple, right?  However, few of us observe a true Sabbath day of rest where we do no work.

Did God rest because He was tired?  Nope.  Did God rest because He didn’t have the strength to just keep working?  Nope.  God did it because it is the right thing to do.  God may not have needed that day off, but mankind which He created in His image did need it.

Genesis 2:2-3

2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

To refuse to take one day off every week is to curse what God blessed; to blaspheme what God made holy.

For time’s sake, we won’t read the whole thing, but I highly encourage everyone to read Jeremiah 17.  God called out one of the keys to living a blessed life, to receiving healing for sickness, for living a fruitful life in the midst of any challenges, for overcoming deceit, for passing along a legacy for generations, is simply to take one day off from work once a week.

God told Jeremiah to go to the city gates of Jerusalem and to remind everyone not to work on the Sabbath day, but to keep it holy and set apart for rest.  God said, “Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline.”  As a result, God chose to destroy all that the people of Jerusalem were diligently working hard to build.

This 6:1 ratio applied not only to getting a day of rest a week, but also for giving a field a year of rest after six years of being planted and harvested.  The seventh Sabbath was also a special day of rest known as Pentecost.  A week every seven months was also to be a time of celebration and rejoicing that we recall every Palm Sunday.  The number seven represented for God’s people a time of rest and a time of completion.

Jesus reminded us that man was not made for the Sabbath, but rather that the Sabbath was made for man.  It’s good to work hard, but it’s also good to rest hard.  Take a day off every week. 

There will always be something that needs done and there will always be an excuse not to rest.  However, God did it as an example for us and commands that we also do it.  Let’s cooperate with Him and trust in His ability to enable us to get everything done in the six days that He has given us to do it within.

Choosing to take one day off a week is a way to express patience and to love God.  It expresses trust in God and in His timing. 

Choosing not to take a day off every week is a sure way to get frustrated and to watch our work fall apart.  God isn’t afraid to destroy all that we worked so hard to build if we remain, as He put it, stiff-necked, disobedient, and unresponsive to discipline.

God loves us and wants us to work hard six days a week and rest hard one day a week as an expression of His love.

Love is patient.

Beyond our schedules, we aren’t always very patient with one another.  We want everyone to be patient with us while we work on overcoming areas of our lives, but we don’t always extend that same degree of patience to others. 

We expect  people to be patient with us and extend mercy when we are late for meeting them.  However, when someone shows up 15 minutes late to meet with us, our patience is gone and our irritability levels are at an all-time high. 

Love is patient.

We expect our spouse to be patient with us and extend mercy when we’re trying to get free from our addiction.  However, when we catch them making yet another unnecessary purchase that we didn’t even have the money for, our patience is gone and our rage is in full swing.

Love is patient.

You can now begin to understand why patience and long-suffering are truly synonyms in this case.  Patience always requires a sacrifice on our part.  Paul wrote:

Ephesians 4:1-3

1 …I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Love requires that we bear with one another.  Love requires that while the Holy Spirit is doing His work in the lives of those around us, that we be patient with that process.  We’re called to help expedite the process of sanctification by praying for them, encouraging them, and doing whatever we can to come alongside of them to help.

Love is patient.

In our microwave, throw away culture, patience is nearly a curse word.  However, patience is a critical part of faith.  Patience is a critical part of receiving any good thing from God. 

After speaking of the need to mature and to move beyond the elementary teachings about Jesus, Paul reminds us:

Hebrews 6:9-12

9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

How did these people show love to God?  By helping people.  How should we show our love to God?  By helping people.  Not manipulating them or forcing them to do things that they do not want to do.  Not by complaining about them or murmuring against them.  Not by condemning them for their poor choices.  We show love to God by genuinely helping and serving the needs of others.

11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Every promise of God is received by faith, that we know of full well.  However, we like to skip over that second key ingredient to receiving God’s promises; patience. 

Romans 8:24-25

24 … But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Patience in receiving God’s promises expresses trust and love toward Him.  As we faithfully follow and serve Him, we express that we trust that He has a purpose and a reason for our season of waiting.

God loves us unconditionally.  Paul wrote:

Romans 8:38-39

38 …I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God’s unconditional love is expressed toward us through His great patience.  The challenge is will we choose to express that same patience and long-suffering with those around us; especially those who test it often?  With God’s help, we can and we will!

This year, we’ll love unconditionally, choose integrity sacrificially, and truly be Spirit-lead.

As we learn together how to express unconditional love, we remember that love is… patient!