Every year on January first, I ask the Lord to give me a verse, a Scripture that He wants me to study, meditate on, and be my focus for the year. This year as I lay with my face to the floor, I told the Lord I would do whatever He wanted me to do in 2017. I told the Lord I was completely surrendered to whatever He wanted for my life, whether it looked like what I wanted or not.
I got up, sat down, and heard this verse in my spirit:
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
I immediately knew what God was telling me–I had been hearing the same thing in my heart for weeks. God is calling me to a greater level of love. He wants my focus not on ministry but on loving people; not on tasks and teaching and writing, but on those He puts in my path. God wants me to love like He loves, even if that task requires giving up my dreams for myself. So what does that mean?
I could just give a few Scriptures on love and be done with it, but, honestly, I really believe this is something God would have me search out this year. I can say that I know what it means to really love God and love others, but do I? If so, then why don’t I love that way?
What if love means telling the truth, even if I risk making a friend upset with me?
What if love means putting my spouse’s needs ahead of my own?
What if love means giving up my hopes and dreams to be the answer to someone else’s dream?
What if love means that I don’t get my own way?
What if loves means I don’t control, manipulate, or gossip anymore?
The truth is we don’t know how to appropriately love others because we have no idea the depth of God’s love for us. We will always seek to view His love through the opaque lens of those who have loved or failed to love us. If we’ve been rejected, we’ll fear that we’ll never be enough. If we’ve been betrayed, we’ll fear trusting Him. If we’ve been ridiculed, we’ll fail to believe His promises to us. If we’ve been abandoned, we will fear that God will leave us high and dry.
We can’t love others until we learn to accept God’s love for us.
I do believe that God has great plans and tremendous ministry in store, but we can’t have a ministry if we can’t minister. Ministry is about humbling myself and becoming a servant. It’s about giving up my needs for the sake of someone else. Ministry is not about me and my gifts and abilities, my plans and purposes.
My son and I just finished the Extended Edition of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy–twelve hours and seven minutes of film. I’m sure you know the story, but let me give you a little background. The story is about the future of civilization resting in the hands of a tiny Hobbit who comes into possession of a ring. The ring has the power to corrupt anyone who possesses it, but Frodo has a virtuous heart and desires only to destroy it by throwing it into the fires of Mordor where the ring was forged. He sets out on this quest with eight companions, but an evil power seeks the ring and hinders their journey.
My favorite part is at the end, when only fellow-Hobbit Samwise Gamgee is left on the journey with Frodo. They have sought out the guidance of a creature named Gollum, who was formerly corrupted by the ring and is actually seeking to get it back. Sam doesn’t trust him and tries to convince Frodo, but in his compassion, Frodo continues to protect and follow Gollum. Yet Sam stays by his side. The ring becomes a heavier and heavier burden because of the evil power associated with it. Frodo is tired, hungry, and weary from carrying the ring and fighting the temptation to be corrupted–barely able to take another step toward Mordor.
Sam looks his friend in the eye and says, “I can’t carry your burden. But I can carry you.”
He then picks Frodo up and carries him the remainder of the climb up the mountain so that Frodo can be relieved of the burden of the ring, and it can be destroyed forever. As I pondered the call to greater love this week, all I could think was, “I want to be a Sam.” Sam was honest with Frodo about the evil that he saw in Gollum, but Frodo wouldn’t believe him and in his anger left Sam behind. Yet Sam turned back and continued to stay with Frodo on the journey. Sam would have rather remained in the shire than go on a journey that led to pain, discomfort, hunger, and near death. But Sam remained by Frodo’s side. That’s love.
I want to be willing to lay aside my comfort to serve someone else. I want to be able to speak the truth in love. I want to be able to love those who don’t love me back. I want to be able to love, even when it hurts. I want to be willing to carry someone else’s burden when they can’t carry it anymore.
You know what it takes to have the courage to love like that? Understanding how desperately we are loved. God’s love doesn’t hold anything back from us. Jesus laid aside His comfort to serve us in His torture and execution. He loved us even when we didn’t love Him back. He loved us, even when it hurt. He carried our burden up a lonely hill to the cross. Until we understand the depth of His love for us, we will never be secure enough to give it to someone else.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be a better lover. And as much as I have been encouraged by the sacrificial and unconditional love of Samwise Gamgee, my greatest example is the One who laid down His life for me.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love…” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Do you want to be a better lover in 2017? Join me on the blog as we continue to study love this year. After all, if we don’t imitate God and live a life of love, how can we ever show the world Who He is?