The most profound issue for Christians is Godâ€™s love, which is biblically the most powerful force that binds us together in Him.
When we first came into the faith, His word moved and changed us. Never before had we been so determined that we wanted to live for Him. Or, for some, it was His merciful and miraculous healing that made us feel empowered by His wonderful love.
However, life goes on, and circumstances do change after conversion. Whenever we face adverse situations, we long for God to intervene so that things turn out the way we want them to turn out. This is a natural response. When things fall short of our expectations, it can be painful.
The prospect of looking for solutions in time of sorrow can be dauntingâ€”especially when the understanding is not illuminated (Ps 73:16). Understanding comes from knowing that God is faithful; His love for us remains the same.
There is so much to learn about love. Appreciating divine love demands a personal knowledge of Godâ€™s will and His involvement in our faith. Since He is our creator, His way for us is the best.
KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS
Nowadays, there are many who utterly despise the commandments. Flouting these divine laws has become a captivating norm. In every action-packed movie, the word 'Jesus' is one of the most recurring swear words.
There is a constant increase of people flooding bars and clubs and engaging in businesses in every nook and corner. Breaking every restraint on morality forms the fabric of society, and these are only a few sinful examples of appalling perversion.
Even genuine Christians are being assimilated. The commandments are increasingly a burden for them in this world, where the norm is a desire for a total break from all restraint.
However, the teaching of the apostle John is starkly opposite: "For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments" (1 Jn 5:3). Clearly, there must be some concrete reasons for the giving of the commandments.
"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Ex 20:2). The affirmation of His position and work for the Israelites in their lives, prior to stipulating the commandments, disclosed Godâ€™s ultimate purpose for His people.
He, being their Lord and Master, set them free from bondage in the land of Egypt. He alone was capable of such deliverance. The people of God were required to distinguish themselves from the pagan world.
The commandments were given to remind and guard them against forfeiting the privilege of belonging to the Lord, for this was His loving intention. Should they fall back to any form of bondage, their distinct identity as Godâ€™s people would be erased (Ex 19:5, 6).
Wherever corruption exists, it clouds our vision of God. The truth fades into oblivion, causing us to struggle to make sense of the greatest promise of inheriting His kingdom. Slowly, we drift away from the Lord and lose the freedom that He once traded His life to gain.
Keeping the commandments puts us in a right relationship with God. This relationship allows us to know and see His will from His perspective with clarity. Then, we will know who Jesus is and what He requires of us, and His love will be perfected in us (1 Jn 2:3-5).
ENDURE GODâ€™S CHASTISEMENT
Sometimes, we encounter sufferings, which are the direct result of our disobedience. These are the design of God. They may seem painful but the motive is love.
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives. (Heb 12:5, 6)
Chastisement is beneficial to us on two counts. First, if He corrects us, then we are His legitimate children (Heb 12:8). Second, aspects of our character that we are unwilling and incapable of correcting can be improved.
We may stumble and lose our salvation if our faults are not rectified. God, in His love, does the work for us as He sees best, that we may be partakers of His holiness (Heb 12:10).
His Higher Purpose
There is an inclination to associate all misfortune with wrong choice or sin. Even the disciples were guilty of such misjudgment of others (Jn 9:1-3). They questioned Jesus about the source of the wrong doings, which had caused the man whom they met to be born blind.
The answer from Jesus cleared the air of such an inaccurate interpretation of the event: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the work of God should be revealed in him" (Jn 9:3).
Misfortune in the eyes of the world can be a blessing in disguise for those who trust in the Lord. More often than not, He brings to pass His higher purpose in human weaknesses.
In receiving Godâ€™s first answer to the sins of Judah, Habakkuk was in a state of complete shock. How could God, being righteous, utilize Babylon, a nation more sinful than Judah, as an instrument of wrath to punish His own people?
Overwhelmed by confusion, he questioned the very core of Godâ€™s attributes in a desperate attempt to clear his doubts over Godâ€™s incomprehensible initiatives (Hab 1:12-13).
Upon hearing the second answer, Habakkuk knew that God had a right to do anything He contemplated to do. God was righteous, and He would execute judgment upon the wickedâ€”including His own sinful people.
Habakkuk understood an all-time important truth: the just shall live by faith. When he was given insight into Godâ€™s surpassing will, he could not help but rejoice in Him who truly was his strength (Hab 3:18,19).
Undoubtedly, out of love, the Lord guided Habakkuk out of confusion into trust in His sovereign decision.
His Mercy and His Will
Difficult situations may not be all bad for us, and they can be channeled to our benefit.
Living with difficulties and enduring trials without succumbing to them qualifies us for the heavenly kingdom: "But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Mt 24:13); "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
Moreover, enduring long-term illnesses or terminal diseases are also reminders of our need to trust and abide in the Lord. Inheriting eternity takes precedence over physical livelihood.
This conviction comes through constant training, trial, and refinement in our spirituality. Viewing plights with such understanding lessens the pain of the soul and flesh, and it presents a window of opportunity vital for us to see the love of God.
Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lordâ€”that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. (Jas 5:11)
It is always a blessing to endure, and especially for those who love Him. Sometimes, God places us in challenges against our will and in situations where we have to face our fears. The blessing comes when we see Godâ€™s grace and His will unraveled before us at His own dispensation.
How did God reveal His compassion and mercy to Job? Was allowing Satan to destroy all of Jobâ€™s possessions a mark of love? Was not loosing Satan to take away Jobâ€™s children the trait of a heartless God?
Did inflicting Job with boils reflect an act of mercy? Did allowing the prolonged interrogation from Jobâ€™s friends in his moment of extreme suffering prove His compassion?
After listening to the lengthy exposition of Godâ€™s deeds and works in the universe, Job realized that God had the right to do everything He willed, and His purpose could not be withheld (Job 42:2).
Jobâ€™s submission had grown to perfection. This was reflected in his strength to pray for his friends at the instruction of the Lord in spite of the fact that he was still in great suffering.
Surely, accepting the decision our Lord makes is a life-long lesson we all have to learn, even if it means continuing in faith at the expense of all that we have in this worldâ€”including our physical lives.
His mercy is not merely about how He meets our desperate requests; rather, it is His guidance, regardless of what we may have to endure, that unfolds the higher purpose He has for us.
FOLLOW JESUS' EXAMPLE
The key facet of Godâ€™s love is the salvation that He has provided for us at the cost of Jesus' life: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).
Appreciating Jesus' love involves our active response to His love: â€œWe love Him because He first love us" (1 Jn 4:19).
A Sense of Sacrifice
The immeasurable value that the Lord Jesus places on eternity over life in this world is clear, for He traded His physical life for our eternity. Although He does not in any way neglect any aspect of our lives, His most fervent desire is for us to obtain eternal life.
The love of Jesus that we seek to emulate is one that does not expect reciprocity. "But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8).
We should not love others for the purpose of having that love returned. The catalyst of our love is the sacrifice of Christ.
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 Jn 3:16)
By putting ourselves in Christâ€™s shoes, we realize the immensity of His love towards the church and us. What is deemed foolish by the worldâ€”to lay down oneâ€™s lifeâ€”is the best way to experience how much Christ loves us.
Sacrifice is the key to the source of love. To achieve this divine and yet emotive standard, we should commence by caring for our brethren in their daily needs:
But whoever has this worldâ€™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 Jn 3:17, 18)
Love One Another
The more we give in love, the deeper our experience of Godâ€™s love will be. Sometimes, a simple and kind gesture tells us a lot about what love really is. Our appreciation of Christâ€™s love is proportionate to our level of love shown.
Loving one another, moving beyond merely providing for the needs of others, deepens our experience of love. Coming together as a church, it is inevitable that misunderstandings occur at times.
When we love someone who has offended us, we begin to comprehend how much Christ loves us despite our constant rebellion. Seeing His love in our love for the offender propels us all the more to put the commandment of love into practice (1 Jn 4:11).
We will find purpose and meaning in loving others, for it will deepen our relationship with Christ, confirming for ourselves that we are born of Him. When we become knit together in love, we reveal the mystery of His will (Col 2:2, 3), and our knowledge of Him will grow in leaps and bounds (Col 1:9; 1 Jn 4:7, 8).
Rely on the Holy Spirit
In the process of growing, the Spirit plays a pivotal part in providing the full extent of His knowledge. It works in us simply because we abide in loving one another (1 Jn 3:23, 24; 4:12, 13).
Our motivation to love is inspired by the Holy Spirit, who works mightily within the community of believers by pouring out the love of God unceasingly in our hearts (Rom 5:5), so that we also may not lose hope and become discouraged.
Imagine how compelling it can be when the Spirit works! Here, we are talking about the same Spirit that created the universe and raised the Lord from the dead, and who continues to work within us today.
Without a shadow of doubt, our conviction in Christ and His word grows ever stronger, and we are convinced that Christâ€™s love is powerful. There is nothing comparable to it, for His love surpasses all knowledge (Eph 3:19). What His love can achieve for us who believe is something that the world cannot understand.
Godâ€™s spirit empowers us to love one another with mutual reciprocity even though we may be ethnically different. There is a clear sense of oneness in the Spirit amid diversity. In every endeavor we make, there is an absolute respect for God and care for others.
Knowing what manner of love the Lord has given us, we purify ourselves just as He is pure (1 Jn 3:1-3). There should not be any loose living or willful violation of the commandments, nor senseless twisting of the truth and taking the grace of God for granted.
The love overflowing the church reflects the love of Christ for us, and the church is then filled with the fullness of God (Eph 3:19). We must become beacons of love and extend our care and concern to the loveless world through the gospel.
This prospect is appealing because people will be able to see that we are the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The unbelieving world will be awestruck at the emanation of love among us, and more lost souls will be drawn to Christ. When this happens, the church will give thanks and praise God for His miraculous love.