Love Endures

Matt GallagherHelen GallagherPosted on Thursday, February 21, 2013 by Helen and Matt Gallagher

Life has trouble

God never promised us a life filled with sunshine and roses, that’s why He tells us in Ephesians 6 about a set of armour to help us walk through this life and we are told that when we have done all things, we should stand.

Over the last month, reference has been made to the sign above the front door of St. Luke’s that says, “Here to love God and people” – and a lot of the stuff we’ve been looking at together has focused on our love for each other. In this post, we also want to take a look at how we love God when we are walking through tough times.

Endurance isn’t a very popular word. When we hear it, we think about hardship and suffering; at the very least, it means we’ve had to try hard at something; we think about people who have run through the desert or undertaken feats over a long period of time. Like Eddie Izzard running multiple marathons or David Walliams swimming the English channel to raise money for charity.

We don’t have to ‘endure’ easy things – at best, the word means having to tolerate something unpleasant – at it’s worst, it means actual suffering. It also means to bear, stand, sustain, or undergo. I don’t know about you but none of those words make me immediately want to jump up and down with excitement.

We can’t avoid trouble

We read in James 1 an encouragement to

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides…”

Notice that James says, ‘when’ tests and challenges come. Not ‘if’.

He goes on to say,

“…You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

In this life, there will be tests and challenges. We do not live in a perfect world, bad things happen, sometimes to good people. Sometimes we make decisions that go on to cause us trouble. Sometimes we encounter trouble as the result of other people’s decisions. Sometimes trouble just seems to come along all by itself (though ultimately, it may all simply stem from some bad decisions made right at the beginning of time).

God doesn’t always do what we want

Romans 8 talks about what life looks like on God’s terms – we read,

  • Vs 2-4: How God has intervened in the world, personally – through Jesus;
  • Vs 8-11: How we can choose to be a part of what God is doing – but that means life on His terms, not ours;
  • Vs 15-18: How, even though we go through hard times now, God’s terms for our life mean that we get an inheritance, with Jesus, that will make anything we go through now seem worth it;
  • Vs 28: How God is at work, shaping our lives along the same lines as the life of Jesus; making us more like him;

Hebrews 12:2 encourages us to,

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God. He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”

Hebrews 12:4-11 tells us that God is the process of training us; that the troubles we face are not punishments, but training. Not that I think God sends trouble to teach us a lesson, but that because He loves us so much and is committed to helping us become more like Jesus. He makes it possible for us to learn and grow through the troubles we face. Part of the promise of His kingdom is that He WILL bring good out of the things that happen to us and I think this is one of the ways this happens.

Of course, we’d much rather not have bad things happen to us, but God is using the bad things that do happen to bring good things out of us, and for us. The promise of heaven in Revelation 21 is that we will dwell with God and he with us – he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain. Everything will be made new – separated permanently from everything vile that is a part of what we endure now.

Elisabeth Elliot put it like this,

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering… the love of God did not protect His own Son… He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”

No wonder we need reminding, as Jesus did, of the good things promised to us in the future – because our calling is to endure.

What does all this look like in real life?

It’s okay to read about this stuff in the Bible and believe it in our heads, but is entirely different when we have to live through it.

The Psalms show us that David had his fair share of trouble as we read in Psalm 43,

“Clear my name, God; stick up for me against these loveless, immoral people. Get me out of here, away from these lying degenerates. I counted on you, God. Why did you walk out on me? Why am I pacing the floor, wringing my hands over these outrageous people? Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map, so I can find my way to the sacred mountain, to the place of your presence, to enter the place of worship, meet my exuberant God, sing my thanks with a harp, magnificent God, my God. Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God — soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.”

We haven’t had a trouble free life – we’ve faced some very difficult circumstances; things that have happened that we still live with years later.

Do I think God was punishing us in some way? No.

Do I think he sent trouble to us as training? No.

But I do think he has used what we’ve been through; He has proved his faithfulness in all we have been through.

If you had asked us, at the time we were going through it, where God was in our situation, I am not sure we could have told you. But as we look back on those times, we can see God in lots of small things. As we walked through these circumstances, we have been able to hold onto the one thing we did know – that despite how things looked, God was still all the things He said He would be.

You see, it’s in these times – when ‘the rubber hits the road’ – that we either believe that God is who he says He is; good, faithful, loving, true, just and kind or we don’t! As has been mentioned previously, love is not just a feeling – it’s an intention!

We didn’t always feel God’s love directly when we were going through difficult times, but we did feel His love through the love and support of our friends in whom He lives and his enduring love in them.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT) says,

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.”

Love is not a passive thing, sometimes love takes guts and determination. Enduring love is the kind of love that enables us to stand up and keep going when we feel like falling down; the kind of love that keeps going when we have prayed all the prayers we know how to pray, done all we know how to do and nothing seems to change.

God’s love is everlasting and in times of trial it holds us even when we can’t see it; sometimes you just have to hang in there and remember God’s faithfulness in the past to help you endure the current situation.

In Joshua 8, we read that after God had parted the river Jordan for them to cross over (even though the river was in flood), the Israelites were told to collect some rocks from the river bed and stack them on the river bank to remind them of what God had done for them. It seems to have become a recurring theme and we read on various occasions that they would build a pile of rocks (and name the place they’d piled them), to remind them of what God had done in those places. In times of trial, we need to remind ourselves of those previous experiences where God has proved himself faithful, the times He’s come through for us, remind ourselves that HE is the same today as he was yesterday, and will be forever.

Perhaps you are waiting for God to fulfil a prophetic word you have received, and perhaps you have had the same word time and time again and are still waiting for it to be fulfilled, it’s likely that God keeps sending that word to you to help you endure the waiting. It may be that he has some things for you to learn in the waiting and you will need to keep reminding yourself of the word you’ve been given.

Sometimes enduring just means standing your ground, holding on to all that you know Father Jesus and Holy Spirit to be. The great thing about our God is that none of the circumstances we walk through are ever wasted. We have been able to stand with others who have been through similar struggles, or experienced what we have. We have been able to stand with them, pray with and for them, mourn with them and rejoice with them.

What is enduring love for you? You will have different trials and troubles to us, no less painful or difficult, just different. Perhaps you are walking though such a time now. Father’s love is there, even if you can’t feel or see it. He is there in the love and comfort of your friends, He is there in the moving of circumstances you can’t see yet, but will see as you look back, He is Faithful.

So where does that leave us?

Actually, back where we started – in Ephesians 6! This is how verses 10-18 are presented in the Message,

A fight to the finish
And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting, you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up, so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Charles Swindoll put it this way,

“Choose to view life through God’s eyes. This will not be easy because it doesn’t come naturally to us. We cannot do this on our own. We have to allow God to elevate our vantage point. Start by reading His Word, the Bible… Pray and ask God to transform your thinking. Let Him do what you cannot. Ask Him to give you an eternal, divine perspective.”

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