Love does more than make “the world go round,” as an old song says. It also makes us immensely vulnerable. From time to time, we may say to ourselves: “Why love when others do not show appreciation?” or “Why love and open myself up to hurt?” But the apostle Paul gives a clear and simple reason to pursue love: “These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Follow the way of love” (1 Cor. 13:13–14:1).
“Love is an activity, the essential activity of God himself,” writes Bible commentator C. K. Barrett, “and when men love either Him or their fellow-men, they are doing (however imperfectly) what God does.” And God is pleased when we act like Him.
To begin following the way of love, think about how you might live out the characteristics listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. For example, how can I show my child the same patience God shows me? How can I show kindness and respect for my parents? What does it mean to look out for the interests of others when I am at work? When something good happens to my friend, do I rejoice with her or am I envious?
As we “follow the way of love,” we’ll find ourselves often turning to God, the source of love, and to Jesus, the greatest example of love. Only then will we gain a deeper knowledge of what true love is and find the strength to love others like God loves us.
During World War II my dad served with the US Army in the South Pacific. During that time Dad rejected any idea of religion, saying, “I don’t need a crutch.” Yet the day came when his attitude toward spiritual things would change forever. Mom had gone into labor with their third child, and my brother and I went to bed with the excitement of soon seeing our new brother or sister. When I got out of bed the next morning, I excitedly asked Dad, “Is it a boy or a girl?” He replied, “It was a little girl but she was born dead.” We began to weep together at our loss.
For the first time, Dad took his broken heart to Jesus in prayer. At that moment he felt an overwhelming sense of peace and comfort from God, though his daughter would always be irreplaceable. Soon he began to take an interest in the Bible and continued to pray to the One who was healing his broken heart. His faith grew through the years. He became a strong follower of Jesus—serving Him as a Bible-study teacher and a leader in his church.
Jesus is not a crutch for the weak. He is the source of new spiritual life! When we’re broken, He can make us new and whole (Ps. 119:75).
Chinese philosopher Han Feizi made this observation about life: “Knowing the facts is easy. Knowing how to act based on the facts is difficult.”
A rich man with that problem once came to Jesus. He knew the law of Moses and believed he had kept the commandments since his youth (Mark 10:20). But he seems to be wondering what additional facts he might hear from Jesus. “ ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ” (v. 17).
Jesus’ answer disappointed the rich man. He told him to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Him (v. 21). With these few words Jesus exposed a fact the man didn’t want to hear. He loved and relied on his wealth more than he trusted Jesus. Abandoning the security of his money to follow Jesus was too great a risk, and he went away sad (v. 22).
What was the Teacher thinking? His own disciples were alarmed and wanted to know “Who then can be saved?” He replied, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (v. 27). It takes courage and faith. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
In 1952 Florence Chadwick attempted to swim 26 miles from the coast of California to Catalina Island. After 15 hours, a heavy fog began to block her view, she became disoriented, and she gave up. To her chagrin, Chadwick learned that she had quit just 1 mile short of her destination.
Two months later Chadwick tried a second time to swim to Catalina Island from the coast. Again a thick fog settled in, but this time she reached her destination, becoming the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel. Chadwick said she kept an image of the shoreline in her mind even when she couldn’t see it.
When the problems of life cloud our vision, we have an opportunity to learn to see our goal with the eyes of faith. The New Testament letter to the Hebrews urges us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (12:1-2). When we feel like quitting, this is our signal to remember not only what Jesus suffered for us but what He now helps us to endure—until the day we see Him face to face.
In January 1915, the ship Endurance was trapped and crushed in the ice off the coast of Antarctica. The group of polar explorers, led by Ernest Shackleton, survived and managed to reach Elephant Island in three small lifeboats. Trapped on this uninhabited island, far from normal shipping lanes, they had one hope. On April 24, 1916, 22 men watched as Shackleton and five comrades set out in a tiny lifeboat for South Georgia, an island 800 miles away. The odds seemed impossible, and if they failed, they would all certainly die. What joy, then, when more than four months later a boat appeared on the horizon with Shackleton on its bow shouting, “Are you all well?” And the call came back, “All safe! All well!”
What held those men together and kept them alive over those months? Faith and hope placed in one man. They believed that Shackleton would find a way to save them.
This human example of faith and hope echoes the faith of the heroes listed in Hebrews 11. Their faith in the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” kept them going through great difficulties and trials (Heb. 11:1 nkjv).
As we look out upon the horizon of our own problems, may we not despair. May we have hope through the certainty of our faith in the One Man—Jesus, our God and Savior.
One evening my friend showed me one of the three decorative plaques that would be part of a wall arrangement in her living room. “See, I’ve already got Love,” she said, holding up the plaque with the word written on it. “Faith and Hope are on order.”
So Love comes first, I thought. Faith and Hope soon follow!
Love did come first. In fact, it originated with God. First John 4:19 reminds us that “We love [God] because he first loved us.” God’s love, described in 1 Corinthians 13 (known as the “love chapter”), explains a characteristic of real love when it says, “Love never fails” (v. 8).
Faith and hope are essential to the believer. It is only because we are justified by faith that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). And hope is described in Hebrews 6 as “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (v. 19).
One day we will have no need of faith and hope. Faith will become sight and our hope will be realized when we see our Savior face to face. But love is eternal, for love is of God and God is love (1 John 4:7-8). “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”—it’s first and last (1 Cor. 13:13).
The young mother sighed as she scraped together lunch for her 3-year-old daughter. Spying the empty fruit basket on the table in their tiny kitchen, she sighed and said aloud, “If we just had a basket of fruit, I would feel rich!” Her little girl overheard her.
Weeks passed. God sustained the small family. Still, the struggling mom worried. Then one day her little girl bounded into the kitchen. “Look, Mommy, we’re rich!” she exclaimed, pointing at the full fruit basket on the table. Nothing had changed except that the family had purchased a bag of apples.
When Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, was about to die, he shared a message from the Lord that recounted all God had done for them. And he noted, “You lived in the wilderness for a long time” (Josh. 24:7). Then he said, “[God] gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant” (v. 13). Joshua set up a large stone to remind Israel of God’s provision (v. 26).
Like the Israelites, after a time of challenge and scarcity, that family now lives in a different place and enjoys fruit trees in a spacious yard, planted years earlier by a previous owner. If you visit them, you’ll find a bowl of fruit in their kitchen. It reminds them of God’s goodness and how a 3-year-old infused her family with faith, joy, and perspective.
Two workmen were asked what they were building together. One said he was building a garage. The other replied that he was building a cathedral. A day later there was only one man laying bricks. When asked where the second was, the first replied, “Oh, he got fired. He insisted on building a cathedral instead of a garage.”
Something similar happened on the ancient worksite of Babel. A group of people decided they would build a city and a tower that would reach to the heavens and unite their world (Gen. 11:4). But God didn’t want them working on a grand, self-centered plan based on the idea that they could rise to the heights of God and solve all of their own problems. So He came down, stopped the project, scattered the people “over all the earth,” and gave them different languages (vv. 8-9).
God wanted people to see Him as the solution to their problems, and He revealed His plan for them to Abraham (12:1-3). Through the faith of Abraham and his descendants, He would show the world how to look for a city “whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:8-10).
Our faith does not rise out of our own dreams and solutions. The foundation of faith is in God alone and what He can do in and through us.
On August 4, 1991, the MTS Oceanos cruise ship ran into a terrible storm off the coast of South Africa. When the ship began to sink, the captain decided to abandon ship and left with his officers, failing to notify those onboard of any problem. Passenger Moss Hills, a British musician, noticed that something was wrong and sent out a Mayday signal to the South African coast guard. Then, taking matters into their own hands, Moss, his wife Tracy, and other entertainers on board helped organize the evacuation of all passengers by assisting them as they were lifted into helicopters.