Well, we are on the home stretch of our series entitled “Imitators of Love” where we are endeavoring to learn more about our loving God.
You see, we’ve learned that the high calling of every Christian is to imitate God as His dear children (See Ephesians 5:1). And since God is love (First John 4:8), we are essentially called to imitate love itself.
So what we’ve been doing is looking at verses where we are taught about the characteristics of love with the understanding that these must be the characteristics of God that we are called to imitate. Therefore, we have been coming to know Him more through looking at these verses that teach us how to love one another.
We’ve specifically been looking at First Corinthians 13:4-8, which gives us one of the most concise descriptions of love and, therefore, since God is love, it can be read like so – “GOD suffers long, and GOD is kind. GOD does not envy; GOD does not parade HIMSELF, HE is not puffed up; HE does not behave rudely, HE does not seek HIS own, HE is not provoked, HE thinks no evil; HE does not rejoice in iniquity, but HE rejoices in the truth; HE bears all things, HE believes all things, HE hopes all things, HE endures all things. GOD never fails …”
Most recently, we started looking at verse 7, with what seems to be Paul just quickly giving us a few more characteristics of love on his way to wrapping up his point. In it, he says, “(Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Last week, we looked at the phrases that say how love “bears all things” & “endures all things.”
We learned that love “bearing” all things literally describes love as covering, concealing, or hiding something—thus protecting them. In fact, we learned how the root word for this, that Paul used here in First Corinthians 13:7, was the word for the roof of a house. Therefore, the idea of both covering & protecting is what is being indicated.
Now this requires some explanation because in some ways, hiding or covering something might not be love at all. For example, if I am concealing truth in certain situations, I might be doing the exact opposite of what love demands because truth is not to be hidden. So I have to determine whether love would dictate whether or not speaking the truth in a situation is appropriate.
Now I know there is a large contingent of people who believe that speaking the truth is always appropriate, but that’s not necessarily true either. There are times where love will zip its lips, be slow to speak, etc., and not broadcast something even though it is 100% sure that it’s true.
We learned that the way the way we know when it is appropriate to speak the truth is found in Ephesians 4:15 when Paul taught us how we are to speak the truth in love. So how does this show us when we are to speak the truth? It’s when it can be done in love. In other words, ask yourself the question when you have the thought to speak something you know is true – Who am I loving by saying this, and how am I loving them? Asking this question can keep us from sharing things that aren’t what wisdom would have us share at the moment.
We also learned that one characteristic of love is that it will cover sin. In quoting from the Book of Proverbs, First Peter 4:8 says, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’”
So true, fervent love for one another is not going to expose sin; it’s going to cover it. And what are those things? The apostle Peter says, “a multitude of sins.” No, not just some sin, but a “multitude” of them. That means that it doesn’t matter how many times they have committed the same sin or how many times they have even sinned against us, love will cover their multitude of sins.
We looked at one of the greatest Biblical examples that illustrates this, which is found in Genesis 9:20-27—the story of Noah being uncovered in His tent and how Ham was a “ham” by exposing his nakedness.
So we learned from this how God covers the multitude of our sins and is our great protector. In fact, while I’m not a big fan of the King James’ choice of words in First Corinthians 13:7, as we’ve seen, the way we think of the word “bears” is a little different than what the word he used indicates, this word does reflect part of what this word means.
You see, like a mama “bear”, God’s heart is to protect His cubs. Yes, His great love for us leads him to defend & protect. Amen!
We then looked at what Paul says at the end of verse 7 of how love “endures all things.” Now this one sounds a little more like what love “bears all things” seemed to mean, and I made the point that this time, I believe the translators got it right.
You see, the word the apostle Paul used here was the Greek word hupomeno, and this word was a staple in the New Testament. In fact, in the early New Testament church, this virtue was treasured and highly valued by Christians. It’s the virtue most often translated “patience” in the New Testament. However, while patience is an “okay” translation, endurance is a much better one because the word literally means to “remain under” which denotes perseverance and endurance. So because of this, some have called this virtue, “staying under” power.
So, for instance, you have a lot of pressure put on you, yet you don’t let that difficult thing move you, but you endure it by resolving to “stay under” it. Therefore, I see endurance as more of the picture being painted by this word rather than patience. And one of the reasons I think this is important to understand is because, when it comes to love, there’s a little difference between being patient with people and enduring them.
How many times have we quit on a person in our lives because we simply didn’t feel we could take any more? So, like with the definition of hupomeno, we were unwilling to “stay under” the things that they did and just the way they were. Some of us have quit jobs because of a boss who was difficult to endure. Some of us have left churches because of parishioners who were difficult to get along with. Even some of us have left spouses because they were simply intolerable. Now some of those situations might certainly have been acceptable to move on from, but I think that in a lot of cases, we might not have abided by this attribute of love that “endures all things.” The fact of whether or not we are guilty of this from decisions made in the past is not the point. The point is, however, that from this day forward we ask the Lord to direct us into when it is time to endure in love or move on from the situation.
I’ve just learned in many situations how a lot of times when I was ready to throw my towel in on a person that by simply enduring through the tough seasons, we were able to make it through them and see a lot of fruit as a result. Therefore, those feelings & emotions that we experience when we are at odds with a person are not to be trusted. They will even try to trick us into thinking God is leading us to do this or that, which usually is in line with what our flesh would want in the situation. But the fact is, feelings are fickle, and emotions are not to be trusted. Just ask the Holy Spirit within you, “What would love do here?”
But our point from this was this is exactly what the Lord has done with every one of us! Did you know that Love Himself has had to endure plenty of things with us? Yes, the Lord has endured at least as much with you as He has with that person you have a hard time enduring. So if I live in that reality instead of being puffed up to think that I am better than those who irritate me, I’ll live in the sober reality that I need as much mercy as they do and will have an easier time tolerating their shortcomings. It’s tight but it’s right.
So yes, since God is love, He certainly endures all things with you and I. He does not quit on us when we “act a fool.” He doesn’t terminate His relationship with us when we annoy Him. No, He endures our inadequacies. He puts up with our flaws. He tolerates our mistakes. All because He loves us so! Oh, how He loves us! Yes, His love “endures” forever!
Now this week, I want us to cover the other two things Paul mentioned in First Corinthians 7 – “… (Love) believes all things, hopes all things …”
As I made the point of last week, the word “things” was added by the translators. So this actually reads – “(Love) believes all, hopes all.” This is important because like I said, the phrase “all things” can leave the impression that we are to believe & hope in EVERYTHING, and that’s just not true. Let me explain …
I believe it’s rather obvious that God does not expect us to believe and trust in “everything” that we hear from and about others. If I did that, I would believe every rumor, all the gossip, and every lie that people speak about other people.
In fact, God spent a good portion of the New Testament warning us that some of the things we hear are false and are to not be believed. First John 4:1 says, “My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world” (The Message Bible).
Not only are we to not blindly believe everything we hear, but we also cannot put our “hope” in people either. No, we cannot “expect” (Lit. definition of “hope”) people to do the right thing because human beings are flawed, and we are always capable of letting others down. Now we can look for it and desire it, but according to the literal definition of hope, we cannot have a confident expectation in man. Now we can place high expectations on Him, but expecting things from others is a recipe for disappointment.
So it is not that a Christian who is walking in love has stripped himself of all wisdom and discernment – that he or she has forgotten how to distinguish between black from white. Instead, this verse is descriptive of Paul’s view of love, and the main point is that God’s love believes in and hopes for the best – a point we will get into momentarily.
So, yes, it’s important to understand that love is what is being described here. So the subject matter is how love behaves towards the objects of its love. Therefore, this verse is not just a blanket statement that we are to believe everything we hear and hope in everyone we come across. This much is obvious. However, when it comes to how we are loving others, faith in people and hope for them are things that love will always do.
So let’s begin looking at these two phrases and discover a couple more of love’s attributes. Let’s start with “believes all things.”
This phrase “believes all” has different shades of meaning. Let’s look at a few other translations:
After translating this phrase “believes all things,” the Amplified Bible adds “looking for the best in each one.” Along these lines, the ISV says, “believes the best in all.” So from this perspective, “believing all” is to believe the best in all. In other words, love is not cynical by nature. No, it’s not pessimistic, but it trusts by default. Therefore, love tends towards giving people the benefit of the doubt. However, this does not mean that love is gullible and will accept just anything as the truth. What it does mean, however, is that while love might certainly be aware of the truth, it chooses to magnify something else instead. In other words, while love is not blind (contrary to what the world likes to say), it does focus on the positives in the other person more than their negatives.
You see, the idiom "love is blind" implies that people do not see the faults of the people that they love. Well, while that certainly can be the tendency, the truth is that love is not ignorant. No, all this means is that love will tend towards overshadowing any negative traits or actions. So the notion is that love will make one overlook or ignore the loved one's flaws, mistakes, or undesirable behaviors. Therefore, the phrase "love is blind" means that when people are in love, they are often oblivious to or tolerant of their loved one's imperfections. So the truth in this is that love chooses to overlook the wrong and focus on the good. Love chooses to pay attention to someone's strengths, rather than their weaknesses.
It is for this reason that I like the Living Bible’s translation. It says, “you will always believe in him (the person you are loving).” The New Living Translation puts it this way – Love “never loses faith (in others)” This obviously describes how love will believe in people, and never quit on them. To me, this is more of the idea that is being expressed here – believing in another person, not simply believing everything they tell you.
Which leads us to the next description of love – how it “hopes all.”
While the last phrase dealt more with having faith in people, this one deals with the subject of faith’s partner, hope.
Now this particular word is one that requires a deeper look – because our idea of hope is a little different than the Lord’s.
This Greek word for “hope” is defined in my study bible as- “hope, not in a sense of an optimistic outlook or wishful thinking without any foundation, but in a sense of confident expectation based on solid certainty.”
So based on this definition, Bible hope is not the way we use it in the world today. It’s not “wishful thinking” or having an “optimistic outlook.” No, hope is more certain than that. Bible hope has more of a foundation underneath it than that! When the New Testament speaks of hope, it speaks of having a confident expectation which is based on solid certainty.
I like to use the example that, for instance, someone has been promised by another individual that they would come pick them up at the airport. Well, if you asked that person who was flying- “Do you have someone picking you up at the airport?” and they responded with- “I hope my friend is” what would you think? You would be thinking that they are not sure. You would think that they doubt whether or not their friend will show up, right?
Yes, what you would hear them saying is that they sure would like for that to happen, or they had the desire for their friend to pick them up but weren’t sure if they would come through for them.
However, if we are “hoping” the way the New Testament speaks of hope, we are certain that it is going to happen, and we are expecting it as a result. Amen!
That’s a far cry from what we are saying when we say, “We hope something will happen.” If we are speaking elpis (New Testament “hope”), we are saying, “Oh yeah, I absolutely expect it to happen! I’m certain of it!”
So what does this mean to say that love “hopes all”? Well, when you look at hope as it is used in the New Testament, this “expectation” is usually tied to some future blessing like Heaven, the Second Coming of Jesus, the Resurrection, etc.
So when it comes to this description of love, we can see that love has more of an expectation of something good tied to it. Therefore, if I am loving someone else, then I will have a similar hope for them – that is, I will hope, wish, desire, and expect blessings to befall them. I will hope these good things will happen to them like I would that they happen to me. Yes, everything I hope for from God for myself, I will hope from God for the ones I love – which includes them reaching the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. In other words, I will expect them to reach their God-given potential.
Yes, if I love someone, I will desire that they are blessed, I’ll wish God’s best for them, and I’ll be optimistic that they will receive what He wants for them. But if I “hope all” for them, then that means that I will have a confident expectation of something good happening in their life.
DOES GOD BELIEVE & HOPE?
Now as we talk about how love will believe in people and how it’s hope is that they will reach their God-given potential, the question begs to be answered – Does God do this? Does God believe in all and hope for all? Sure, He does because if He is love (which He is) and this is what love does (which it does), then God believes & hopes all! No question!
I think it is interesting that one might acknowledge that God expects faith out of His people and commands us to hope in Him, yet they don’t think that He practices the same towards them.
I understand that is natural to just believe that faith & hope are solely to be aimed at Him since He is the object of our faith & hope, but I can assure you, God practices what He preaches. Yes, He doesn’t give us a standard that He will not live by Himself. So if He is pleased when His children believe in Him and what He has said (See Hebrews 11:6), then wouldn’t it also please Him to believe is us?
Well, the fact is, God’s faith in His creation and His hope in His people is all throughout the Bible if you have eyes to see it. So let’s look at some Scriptural examples that shows how God doesn’t lose faith in me, how He believes the best in you, and how His hope in us never wanes. Let’s start in the Beginning, where we see an example that this was even the case with His original creation:
We see in this first couple of chapters of this Book called the Bible that God began by creating this world and all that is in and around it. So, this planet was a good work that He began, in that, after He created it, He said that it was “very good.”
But we all know what happened— Adam, who was given authority over this planet, allowed the serpent in and sinned, letting sin reign instead of him. This caused the curse to enter the world, which created a ripple effect to where everything in this physical world is dying. Yes, the sin has brought the curse and death in and, in the natural, our future looks bleak. But the gospel is this: God showed us that the good work He began in the beginning, He will finish in the end.
You see, just as the first two chapters of the Bible open up by declaring God creating His original creation, the last two chapters of the same Bible conclude with how God will provide the new creation at the end of time. Isn’t that interesting? So, it as if the entire Bible is surrounded with God’s purpose and plan for His creation—for it begins with God’s original creation and ends with His new creation. Therefore, everything in between is the process of God restoring what the First Adam lost in the fall. And the consummation is the new heavens and the new earth, when Christ will return and reign here from the New Jerusalem.
So, we can see that, with everything from this physical world we live in, to our very own lives, God began a good work and has promised to complete that good work when Christ returns. And what this teaches us is that all that is contained between these four chapters (Genesis 1-2 & Revelation 21-22) in no way indicates that God will not finish what He started. What I mean is this, that all of the bumps along the road where mankind would fail and where Satan would try and stop God’s plan seemed to indicate that God is not taking us to the other side.
But throughout the Old Testament, we see God never losing faith in His chosen people…
It started with God calling a man named Abram out of the pagan world he lived in and promising to make a great nation from him. He believed so much in this man that He changed His name to reflect what He saw in Him, calling him “Abraham” the father of many nations.
So, through a process of events, we get the Twelve Tribes of Jacob, and a nation was birthed – Israel. And they were far from perfect. Even though there were certainly good times in their kingdom where good kings reigned such as David, Solomon, Asa, Josiah, Jehoshaphat, etc., there were also bad times when there were bad kings on the throne.
And how many times in the Old Testament did Israel fail God? It can be somewhat discouraging to read how many times they made mistakes and turned from the Living God. Well, we need not make the mistake of thinking that we are better than they were. For one, how do we know how we would have responded if we were in the same situation? Secondly, we already do make similar mistakes. It’s just not as obvious because our lives are not chronicled like Israel’s was.
Yet, even though we clearly see their continual failure, their failure was never final. No, God gave them second, third, fourth, etc., etc., etc. chances. Why? Because love never says die. In fact, even though they made their mistakes, which led to them experiencing loss and captivity, this did not mean that God was finished with them.
In fact, we see through the Prophet Jeremiah, that even in midst of their failures, God’s faithfulness abounded. Some of our most popular & familiar verses paint a beautiful picture of His faith & hope …
In Lamentations chapter 3, we see how the Prophet Jeremiah had almost given up hope because of their circumstances. But then his hope was restored again, when He remembered the mercies of God.
This is that familiar section of verses when he said, “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lamentations 3:21-24).
So what Jeremiah was doing was recalling how it was through the Lord’s mercies that they were not completely consumed and, because of God’s great faithfulness, we should be instilled with hope.
How about Jeremiah 29:11, where in the midst of Israel’s failures, they had been carried away captive by Nebuchadnezzar & Babylon? This certainly seemed like a bleak & hopeless situation. Yet the Lord had Jeremiah write them a letter for Him, and contained in that letter is that very popular verse that says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
So by saying, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you …”, it is as if God was saying, “You guys think you know what I’m thinking of you. You act like you know what my plans are. But you have no idea. I, on the other hand, know the thoughts I’m thinking towards you and know the plans I have for you, and they are …”
You see, the Lord’s thoughts are usually higher than our thoughts. In other words, we think on this lower level of the earth where we are ready to quit on people at the drop of a dime. Therefore, we think God is thinking like we think. It’s just natural to think like that. Ya think?
But no, we see here that even though they had made their own bed – having gotten themselves into this predicament by turning to other gods and then not heeding the original words of Jeremiah – that God’s plan was NOT for them to sleep in it. No! His heart was “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give them a FUTURE and a HOPE.” Amen!
So do you suppose this way of thinking has changed with God regarding you? Do you think that perhaps that you are too far gone by your own poor choices? Well, if so, then the Lord is saying to you today – “I know the thoughts I think towards you. Yeah, you might think this is how I’m thinking, but I can assure you my plan is one of HOPE.”
You see, God always believes in His people, and He always has hope. He never says die. He abounds in hope, and He wants His people to abound in hope as well.
This reminds me of a New Testament verse where God is called the God of Hope. Yes, Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
So that means that God has hope to give because He has hope to give. In other words, all true hope comes from Him as He is the God of Hope. Thus the reason we see love described as “hopes all things”—because God is love and He hopes all things.
Now let’s look at a few New Testament verses that describe God’s faith & hope in the work that He started in us …
Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Notice that this is something we can all be confident in—that if God started something, He will finish it. It’s not something we have to wonder about. It is without question. If God began it, He will complete what He started. We can absolutely put our faith and trust in this! And the reason we can be confident in this is because we see it throughout the Scriptures: Time and time again, we see in God’s Word that the things God starts, He either completed them already or He plans to finish them.
Now regarding Philippians 1:6, let’s look at what the apostle Paul said we can be confident in: He said that the good work God began in them, He will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
In the case of the Church of Philippi, it was God who started the good work in them. This church was not started because these Philippians willed it. Nor did it begin because the apostle Paul wanted it to happen. The good work that began in the Church of Philippi was because of God.
Now I understand that this needs to be clarified because, sure, both the apostle Paul had to be willing to go and preach to them and they had to be willing to hear and believe him, but what we must also understand is that even though our wills are involved in anything God desires to do in our lives, all the grace for these things to happen comes from God and, therefore, all the glory goes to Him as well.
Yes, God began this good work in the Philippians by both equipping, anointing, and calling Paul to preach the gospel to them and by gracing the Philippians to hear and receive the gospel. Sure, it could be viewed that if Paul would not have been willing to go to Macedonia, this church never would have been established. But that’s assuming God would not have sent someone else. Sure, we can choose not to go where God sends us and do what He sends us to do, but God is going to accomplish His purposes. And even when it comes to Paul being willing to go, it was all God’s grace that enabled him to be effective in the first place.
So, my point is that this good work that began in the Philippians had begun because of God. It truly was He, and Him alone, who had begun this good work.
Well, just as He Himself began it, He Himself will complete it: Notice the verbiage in the second half of Philippians 1:6 when Paul says, “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
This is essentially saying that the same One who began the good work in the Philippians will be the One who completes that good work in them. In other words, God Himself will finish the good work He began.
Now how did He begin this good work in us? It was by His grace and through our faith, right? It is crystal clear that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). So, if this is how we were saved (which the Greek word for “saved” is also translated “made physically well or whole”), then this is how we live the saved life, right?
Colossians 2:6 teaches us this: It says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” So, how did you receive Him? By grace! So how are you supposed to walk in Him (speaking of our everyday conduct)? The obvious answer is by grace! God sanctified our spirit completely by grace when we received Him and now, He is wanting to sanctify our soul by grace while we are living in this body.
Let’s now look over at First Thessalonians 5:23-24. Paul says in this epistle in verse 23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless…” Notice that Paul put the pronoun “Himself” after mentioning God. Why did he include that pronoun? I believe it was because Paul was attempting to clarify that God was going to be the one doing the sanctifying without any help from us. God was going to do it HIMSELF! He is not going to even let us help Him! Why? Because He wants all the glory! God is going to make sure that our whole spirit, soul, and body is going to be preserved blameless! Notice what verse 24 goes on to say – “He who call you is faithful, who also will do it!” God is faithful to complete the good work that He began in us! He absolutely will do it!
My point is that their mistakes did not nullify God’s plan and purpose for them. Sure, it led to some delays, but those delays were in no way to be considered denials—for God remains faithful even when we are faithless (See Second Timothy 2:13). He has promised that in the end, He will restore His original covenant people, and there will be a revival in Israel.
You see, sometimes we think God is done with us because of the mistakes that we’ve made. We think we’ve nullified His plan for our lives because we’ve turned from His plan too many times. But when we consider Israel, we must conclude that God will never quit on us—especially when our covenant is written not in the blood of bulls and goats, but in the precious blood of Jesus Christ! Amen!
Praise God, church, God will never, ever, quit on us! If He began a good work, He will see it through! He is faithful even when we are faithless, and He was, is, and evermore shall be the God of hope! Amen!