We have a few more publications in this series, but today’s focus is on Jesus’ last phrase of what it means to love God: “…with all your strength”. And that might sound least lovely. After all, shouldn’t love increase our ease and joy? Why would Jesus imply that loving will involve a difficult life ahead? The thoughts behind such questions about allegedly genuine love used to bother me deeply. At weddings, for example, I wondered, “Preacher, what are you doing asking them about ‘for worse’ and ‘for poorer’ and ‘in sickness’? You’re killing the moment, dude!” Maybe you’ve had similar thoughts.
Even in this study on “wholeness” in Christ, we sometimes seek our personal satisfaction, right here and right now. In other words, our fallen human nature is inclined to desire and believe that “If I think, act, and feel as a whole person, then I’ll be wholly satisfied.” Not on this earth in this body, we won’t. The Lord Jesus and His Apostles were repeatedly clear that this world is broken – including even the brains and bodies of believers. (Matthew 5:1-16, John 17:15-21, Romans 7:20-25, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, 1 Peter 2:10-12, etc.)
Complete satisfaction only comes when Christ brings us to Himself and paradise after this life. (Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 23:39-43, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, 2 Peter 3:8-13, Revelation 21:1-5, etc.) Whole satisfaction comes later. Love in this life calls for our strength.
We need to be very clear on at least two things, however: 1) the Lord doesn’t need our strength to secure His love for us, but 2) our great effort for Him and for others is one of the marks of real love. Let’s consider these one at a time so we understand their significance and also rejoice in their truth.
First, remember that God often calls the weak to show His strength. (His statement in Deuteronomy 7:6-8, big Saul compared to young David in 1 Samuel, Gideon’s reduced fighting force in Judges 7, encouragements and exhortations in Ezekiel 34:11-16, Matthew 3:8-9, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, etc.) Two other passages that I find particularly encouraging are Psalm 116:12-13 and Romans 11:34-36. Both address the silliness of thinking that we can repay the Lord for His goodness. Much of our confidence is like a toddler holding the hand of their father. The truth is that He’s holding onto us.
Second, anyone can say they love. Think of the types of strength a girl exercised for her enemy. “Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:1-3) And when Jesus said, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” He then said to the paralytic “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.” (Matthew 9:5-7). For love is a verb.
* How can Christ’s perfect strength encourage believers to love with all of theirs?
* When our strengths fail (and they always will), what passages above guide you?
* List and discuss our strength in being “yoked” with Jesus. (Matthew 11:28-30)
You can see other articles and the embedded videos in this series here.