No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.
Becoming a leader was a great challenge for me. My first responsibility as a leader was as class president. My second was fatherhood, my third was team leader on several campaigns abroad while serving my country. I was blessed to have been raised by a leader in my home. LT. Cornell Johnny Pratt United States Army. Under his grooming I found excuses to rebel. It was uncomfortable learning how to follow not knowing in doing so I was being prepared for great responsibility.
“There’s an ego looking for a place to inflate,” my mom would whisper to me as my siblings entered the room, a prophecy that unfortunately soon proved itself to be true. “The long, dark corridor of life narrows at the end./ And those whose ego grow too tall will have to learn to bend.” I miss my mom who ultimately was the stronger vessel in our home due to all the humility she showed while ministering her faith in Christ to a Islamic domineered home.
I. A place of leadership is a place of honor
Imagine the honor of it. From what may have been two million people 12 men were chosen. One dozen, from two million. Surely, the crowd roared for each name called, the way sports fans cheer for their heroes, the way political rallies yell the name of their candidate. They had a cheering base of more than 150,000 to a man, and the sound must have thundered across the valley.
Moses called them, one by one. Shammua, Shaphat, Caleb, Igal, Hoshea (or Joshua), Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, Geuel!
Their heads held high, these 12 men chosen as leaders for God’s people, were honored for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of integrity, and a lifetime of courage. The applause must have been sweet to many of them, if not every one of them.
We already know the rest of the story, how 10 out of the 12 would fail miserably in their leadership role. Only Caleb and Joshua would lead with courage and God-led conviction. Before we get to the failures of the 10, however, focus on the truth of the honor. It is a great honor to be chosen as a leader among God’s people.
When Paul briefed Timothy about the qualifications of deacons, he said – If a man serves well as a deacon, he earns an “excellent standing.” (1Timothy 3:13) The phrase for “excellent standing” means, “A step above.” The leader, who would be a deacon or a pastor in a church, is not exalted over the Christians he serves. Instead, he is simply pulled out of the group, like these 12 leaders in the wilderness, and placed in the spotlight. He is given a small step stool so all who are near can see his example. It is as if God says of this leader: “Here’s the example of what it means to be a Christian. Here’s one we will use as a model.”
There is great honor in being selected as a model for God’s people. The danger arrives when a leader wants all of the honor, without taking all of the responsibility.
II. A place of leadership is a place of great responsibility
This is the cost of leadership. This is where the great leaders earn their place in history.
For the generation of God’s people on the edge of the Promised Land, there was never a bigger crisis of leadership than when their 12 leaders were given the responsibility of spying out the land. They were to seek out the land, come back with the reports, and then issue the challenge of faith to all the people. Two would be up to the challenge, but 10 would wilt under the heavy load of responsibility.
Be careful to note this: All 12 of these leaders were courageous, and all 12 took courageous action in the beginning. They slipped into the land of the enemy, managed to live for some time in a dangerous place, and they even stole some prime produce from land owners who were surely protecting their crops. All 12 came home safely, and the entire dozen completed the first portion of the task given them. They had been good spies and had full reports of what they had seen.
However, the responsibility of this group was not simply to spy out the land. They were not chosen to be geologists, real estate agents, or agricultural surveyors. They were chosen to be leaders of God’s people, charged with giving God’s people God’s message. Whatever godly leaders are charged to do, eventually their responsibility is to be faith-driven leaders.
That’s where this group failed. Instead of reporting faith, ten of these leaders would eventually report of the fear they felt. Only two gave the challenge of moving forward in faith. When the people sided with fear instead of faith, their opportunity to live inside the Promised Land vanished.
A place of leadership is a place of tremendous responsibility, for a leader’s faith is on public display. The responsibility of a leader to live in that faith is a great weight.
III. An effective leader does not let problems stop the promise
When the people listened to the ten frightened spies who made a case for fear, instead of the two leaders calling them toward faith, God wanted to destroy them all. Had God done so, the entire exodus from Egypt would have been wasted. The promise of the Promised Land would be delayed by centuries. The nation of God’s people would be destroyed, and God’s reputation, therefore, would be greatly damaged. This was no small problem.
Moses made his best case before God, desperately trying to ward off a deadly, righteous anger.
Amazingly, God relented. Instead of destroying the nation, God only destroyed a generation. Forty years later, Joshua and Caleb would lead the children and grandchildren of this experience into the Promised Land. They would do so only because Moses did his best to not let a problem stop the promise.
If you’re going to lead, you’d better comprehend the truth. There will always be problems along the way. The problems come, and the problems go. Moses might put it this way: Today they complain about manna, tomorrow they’ll complain about quail. One day it’s a problem of thirst, the next it’s a problem of idolatry.
Leaders learn that problems look very large in the present, and very small from the distance. Effective leaders simply refuse to let something that looks so large block out the big picture. If Moses had forgotten the priceless value of God’s promise, his people would have died in the dessert. An effective leader simply cannot let a temporary problem – no matter how large – block the promise of the goal.
Colonel George Washington Goethals, the man responsible for the completion of the Panama Canal, had stifling problems with the climate and the geography of Central America. Driving rains, incredible heat, and deadly disease were problems that never left his task. But his biggest challenge was the growing criticism back home from those who predicted he’d never finish the project. The voices of the critics appeared to be the biggest problem of all.
Finally, a colleague asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer these critics?”
“In time,” answered Geothals.
“When?” his partner asked.
“When the canal is finished.”
IV. The most important quality a leader must have is faith
Moses was humble, he was compassionate, he was consistent. But most of all, he was a man of great faith. The writer of Hebrews said the greatest mark of Moses was that he believed God, and that he led God’s people by faith. History’s summary of this great leader’s life was that he was a man of faith. (see Hebrews 11:23-29)
Moses had been a consistent man of faith among a people who had been consistently faithless. When God listed his complaints about the people, He said they had tested him ten times (see Numbers 14:22). How could people who had escaped Egypt, walked safely across the dry floor of the Red Sea, and eaten miraculous food doubt that God was with them? Had they not seen the Tabernacle, and the fire that glowed over it at night? Could they not remember the plagues that struck Egypt at Moses’ command?
Don’t be too hard on the people surrounding Moses. The disciples of Jesus had trouble walking across the bridge of faith, even after the Resurrection!
The followers around Jesus who were about to see the Lord ascend into heaven had seen the healing of countless sick people, the restoring of sight to the blind, and the raising of the dead. They had seen the crucifixion and the resurrection, and had reflected on the prophecy concerning the Messiah for more than a month. They had been with their resurrected Lord on multiple occasions, and could see him at that very moment. But just before Jesus gave his last instructions, Matthew records these words:
“The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted.” Matt 28:16-17 (HCSB) It seems unbelievable. How could they see all that they had seen, and still doubt the power of God?
The end truth is that faith is a tough quality to have, and that if a person is going to lead God’s people, he or she simply cannot lead without faith. You must believe, without doubting. You must be able to believe, and then act confidently upon those beliefs. Perhaps that is why Jesus looked at those struggling, doubting disciples, and then simply said … “Now, go into all the world …” Jesus called his leaders to a faith-based action, just as he does today. You may still have some doubts, but the instruction still comes, loud and clear: “Go!”
What a gift God has given us in the stories of the Bible. While we might be squarely in the middle of a crisis, a problem, or a great challenge, the record of God’s people before us reminds us of the course of action we must take, and of the great reward for the leader who holds fast to the challenge of faith.
When God issued his judgment against the people, he also issued his rewards:
Joshua had the privilege of leading a new generation across the Jordan River, through the crumbling walls of Jericho, and into the Promised Land. Caleb lived a long, vibrant life, and saw the passion of his faith greatly rewarded. Both men outlived every grumbler, complainer, and naysayer around them. They became the only two names we remember from the original 12 leaders who spied out the land. The rewards of leadership are priceless.
Life’s Most Difficult Lesson
Lessons are an ongoing part of life. Although an academic education comes to an end, we never cease learning vital spiritual lessons. The truths that God teaches us are invaluable and practical because they affect our character development, choices, and lifestyle. Their influence reaches beyond our earthly lifetimes all the way into eternity.
One of the most difficult faith lessons we will ever learn is to wait upon the Lord. Maybe you are facing a critical decision and don’t know which way to go. Or perhaps you have been praying about a certain matter, but God is simply not responding. Is a difficult or painful situation wearing you down because there’s just no end in sight?
At such times, the only thing we want is instant relief or immediate direction, yet Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” To wait for the Lord means to remain in your present circumstances or environment until He gives further instruction. Far from encouraging passivity, this verse calls for an active choice to be at rest, trusting in God and His timing. It’s not a cessation of daily activities but an internal stillness of spirit that accompanies you throughout the day.
Why God Lets Us Wait
Waiting is especially tough when a situation is stressful or a decision must be made soon. But understanding why the Lord hasn’t answered our prayers, brought relief, or given direction can help us trust in His wisdom and timing.
Sometimes we are not ready for the next step. God has plans for us, but there are instances when He stops us in our tracks until we do a little “internal housecleaning.” Maybe we have been tolerating a sin in our life or need to deal with bad attitudes or ungodly thought patterns. The Lord has places to take us, and He knows what baggage needs to be left behind.
The delay could also have the purpose of training us for His calling. David was anointed king when he was a young man, but he spent many years in the wilderness, fleeing from Saul. Through all the difficulty, God refined his character and sharpened his leadership skills. When the time was right, He brought him to the throne.
In the same way, God may keep you in an uncomfortable place, a boring job, or a challenging situation. But remember this: He is preparing you for something far better. Cooperate with His training program while you wait, knowing that His plans for you are good.
Perhaps all the details of God’s will are not yet in place. The Lord is the master of time and sovereignly works out all the specifics of His grand design for humanity. No amount of prayer or fasting will move His hand until He is ready. When Moses saw the oppression of the Israelites, he tried to right the situation by killing an abusive Egyptian (Ex. 2:11-12). But the Lord used this situation to redirect him to the desert for 40 years until the king of Egypt died (vv. 23-25). Then He set His plan of deliverance in motion using a much humbler 80-year-old Moses.
At times the Lord’s delays are designed to increase our faith. If He instantaneously gave us everything we wanted, we would never learn to walk by faith. But when we have only a promise from the Scriptures with no visible evidence to rely upon, then our faith is put to the test. Will we believe Him or our circumstances? By confidently clinging to God’s Word and knowing that He has never failed to fulfill His promises, we will eventually see the evidence of His faithfulness every time.
The Lord wants to teach us endurance. Like it or not, the ability to persist under difficult circumstances is an absolutely essential ingredient of the Christian life. Scripture tells us that “tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). Our hardships are designed, not to crush us but to refine us into the image of Christ. When we abide under the pressure with complete reliance on the Lord for His strength and perspective, we come out of the process looking more like our Savior.
Perhaps our attention needs to be refocused on Christ. It’s easy to become so absorbed in our own concerns that we forget about Him, but nothing grabs our attention like a difficult or confusing situation. If God doesn’t rush to give an answer or fix the problem, then we, in our desperation, start to make Him our main focus. However, there is a difference between seeking the Lord and seeking His intervention. If our thoughts are only on what we want Him to do for us, we’ve missed the mark. To wait for the Lord means our focus is on Him, not simply on our desired outcome.
My deficiencies in life are all a result of me not having patience and faith in God’s plan for my life. As He has matured me to understand that His word is my strength, knowledge and protection my life has been so much better.
How We Are to Wait
The fruitfulness of our time in God’s waiting room is very dependent upon our attitudes and mindset in the process. Fretting and pacing not only fail to speed things up; they also result in emotional turmoil. The Lord has a better way.
Wait patiently, quietly, and dependently. This kind of attitude is possible only for those who have submitted to the Lord’s authority over them. If we believe and accept that He has our best interests at heart and can work it all out for our good, then we are able to rest in His right to choose the method and timing. When we truly trust Him, there will be no maneuvering, manipulating, or rushing ahead.
Stand upon God’s Word. The Bible is our anchor in times of waiting. One of the wisest things you can do is to read the Scriptures every day, asking God to give you passages which will bring stability to your life. As I look back in my old Bibles as well as in my present one, I see marked verses that carried me through the tough times. Don’t merely rely on prayer when you experience difficulty or require direction. Hang on to a specific word from God that will give you His perspective and promise in your situation. Then you can confidently pray, “Lord, here is what You promised me in Your Word. And You can never go against Your promises, so I will cling to this truth while I wait upon You.”
Wait confidently, believing Him. Having submitted ourselves to God and anchored ourselves with His Word, we can confidently watch for His will to unfold. He knows exactly what to do and when to accomplish it. He has the power to rearrange any detail to bring about His desired plan. All we have to do is believe Him and watch for His intervention or direction.
Hindrances to Waiting
Knowing that the unfolding of God’s will comes to those who patiently wait for Him, why do we so often go our own way instead?
We live hurried lifestyles. Our culture is action-oriented. To be still and wait for direction from God seems counterproductive, so we jump in to get results. Besides, sitting quietly with the Lord takes too much time. We prefer to ask Him for guidance in the car on the way to work. Our schedules are full, and the prospect of spending uninterrupted, unhurried time seeking the mind of Christ seems impossible. But that is the only way to hear His voice and know His heart.
We have a short-term perspective. Fast food restaurants, express checkouts, and drive-through coffee shops are proof of the “have it now” mentality in our society. If you doubt this, watch the impatience of people standing in line at the supermarket or sitting at a traffic light. We want everything quickly, but there’s no fast track to spiritual maturity, and learning to wait on the Lord is a crucial element in the development of godly character. Our demand for immediate gratification has blinded us to the benefits of waiting for a greater reward. By learning to trust the Lord and rely on His timing, we will experience recurring benefits throughout our lifetime and in heaven as well.
We seek the advice of others. Where do you go when you don’t know what to do? If you get on the phone and describe your situation to three or four friends, you will very likely receive different advice from each one. Although the counsel of others can be valuable, it should always be filtered through the truth of God’s Word. Make it a habit to seek the Lord’s guidance before going to any outside source. After all, He alone knows the specific plans He has for you.
We doubt that God will come through for us. When deadlines for decisions loom or unwanted situations remain unchanged, we might begin to wonder if the Lord will ever intervene. Our circumstances shout, “God has forgotten about you!” However, just because we can’t see anything happening doesn’t mean the Lord is uninvolved. His eyes roam throughout the earth “that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chron. 16:9). When your eyes can’t see the evidence, trust what you know is true.
The Results of Waiting
What can we expect from the Lord if we choose to let Him direct our path? First of all, He promises to hear and answer those who wait patiently for Him (Ps. 40:1) and give them clear instructions so they can follow His path (Ps. 25:4-5). They will also experience all the good He has in store for them, since they’ve remained in His will instead of running in their own direction (Lam. 3:25).
One of the most surprising results will be increased strength (Isa. 40:31). Normally,we feel strong when we are actively taking charge, plotting our course, and making things happen. But the Lord’s ways are so different from ours. He promises to strengthen the one who remains still and quiet before Him, actively listening for His voice. He empowers us to endure the wait, and when He finally speaks, He gives us the strength to do what He says.
I don’t know what you are waiting for, but I do know that if you believe what God tells you in His Word and patiently rest in His choice and timing for your situation, you’ll experience a new spirit of joy and confidence. You see, the Lord is always faithful to those who seek Him and watch for His plans to unfold right on schedule. He never fails to come through. Believe His promises and rest confidently in the assurance of Isaiah 49:23: “Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.”
Questions for Further Study
To make the most of your time in God’s waiting room, ask yourself these questions:
- Where is my focus? Where is Jeremiah’s focus in Lamentations 3:19-20? What deliberate change does he make in his thinking, and what are the results (vv. 21-23)? How does this new perspective transform his attitude about his situation and the Lord’s purposes for him (vv. 24-26)?
- Where is my strength? Read Isaiah 40:27-31. When it seems as if the Lord has forgotten us, how can the description of Him in verse 28 stabilize our faith? What does He promise to give those who wait for Him? According to Isaiah 30:15-21, where is our strength found? Describe the outcome of refusing God’s way and running ahead of Him in our own strength. What will He do if we wait for Him?
- Where is my hope? In Psalm 130:5, where does the psalmist place his hope while he waits? How can we know God will keep His word (Isa. 55:10-11)? How do the preceding two verses (vv. 8-9) reassure us when the delay is long or the process is confusing? What are the benefits of believing God while we wait (Rom. 15:13)?
The Message (MSG)
22 God grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “Get up. Go out on the plain. I want to talk with you.”
Have you ever heard of anyone being greatly used by Christ who did not experience a special time of waiting, or a complete upset of his plans at first? From the apostle Paul’s being sent into the Arabian wilderness for three years-during which time he must have been overflowing with the Good News–down to the present day, it seems those who will be used have a time of waiting. Have you been looking forward to telling about trusting Jesus, but instead He is asking you to show what trust is by waiting?
My own experience is far less severe than Paul’s but reveals the same principle. Once when I thought the door was being thrown open for me to enter the literary field with a great opportunity, it was just as quickly shut. There have been recent accounts of periods of waiting for God’s direction that have left me baffled and anxious to move even though I hadn’t heard from God to do so. I was put on pew status, taken from the pulpit and left to sit and wonder what is taking place? There was another time when I couldn’t afford to live, but God met my immediate needs and nothing extra, not going to church on a regular bases due to gasoline and finances, not getting to engage with other believers as I felt I should be doing at all the men’s group functions and church ministry functions. I was put into a serious period of isolation with high aspirations of getting my first book written and Second Chance Alliance “Felon” business opened, but God had me still. I can see tonight the distinct wisdom of having to wait for His shade to manifest itself in my life.
God’s love is unchangeable, and He is just as loving even when we do not see or feel it. And His love and His sovereignty are equal and universal. Therefore He often withholds our enjoyment and awareness of our progress, because He knows best what will actually ripen and further His work in us.
I laid it down in silence,
This work of mine,
And took what had been sent me–
A resting time.
The Master’s voice had called me
To rest apart;
“Apart with Jesus only,”
Echoed my heart.
I took the rest and stillness
From His own hand,
And felt this present illness
Was what He planned.
How often we choose labor,
When he says “Rest”–
Our ways are blind and crooked;
His way is best.
Work He Himself has given,
He will complete.
There may be other errands
For tired feet;
There may be other duties
For tired hands,
The present, is obedience
To His commands.
There is a blessed resting
In lying still,
In letting His hand mold us,
Just as He will.
His work must be completed.
His lesson set;
He is the Master Workman:
Do not forget!
It is not only “working.”
We must be trained;
And Jesus “learned” obedience,
Through suffering gained.
For us, His yoke is easy,
His burden light.
His discipline most needful,
And all is right.
We are to be His servants;
We never choose
If this tool or if that one
Our hands will use.
In working or in waiting
May we fulfill
Not ours at all, but only
The master’s will!
I have found in my quest to be a serious committed and surrendered vessel that God provides resting places as well as working places, So rest and be thankful when He brings you, tired and weary, to streams along the way. When God gives me no special guidance, I stay where I am.
Paul in chapter 12 laid the foundation – that we are all part of a system and that to do God’s work we need to let the Holy Spirit work through us collectively in whatever way or with whatever gifts He chooses. There are no Lone Ranger and there are no Superstars. Each part of the body and each gift is just as important – even if it is not as “flashy” as others.
Paul ends chapter 12 by saying: And now I will show you the most excellent way.
No matter how gifted you are – no matter how successful in ministry – no matter how close to God – there is one overarching principal that should guide everything we do. Otherwise anything you do for the Lord is a waste of time.
That, of course is love. 1st Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous passages of Scripture. It’s quoted as weddings routinely. So much so that it begins to sound like the trite phrases of a Hallmark card. “What the world needs now is love sweet love” as if just saying the word “love” is all that’s needed.
This chapter is far more than that – it is far more challenging than you may have imagined.
The Need for Love
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
No matter how much I know – or how much great wisdom I speak, no matter if I utter incredible mysteries that wow the masses – I might as well be just honking my horn in bumper to bumper traffic unless I do it with love.
No matter what I can do – healing, miracles – without love it is meaningless.
This one really kills me – no matter how much I give of myself – I can be the humblest most giving person on earth – even give up my life for my faith – but if I am not flowing in God’s love I might as well not do it.
What kind of love is this? Every time the word “love” appears in this chapter it is the word “agape.” This is different from the other forms of the word “love” in Greek. Phileo is the idea of brotherly love or friendship. The city of Philadelphia gets its name from this word. Eros is the idea of sexual love – we get the word erotic from this word. Agape as a word didn’t really appear until the New Testament. It is selfless love – the love of God towards Jesus and towards us. It’s not a love of word but a love of action without regard to self interest.
It is the character of God. 1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Everything you strive for, who you want to be, what you want to do, how you want people to think of you, what you want to accomplish – everything should go through this filter – “am I doing this with agape love?”
And before we go on – remember that it is from the Holy Spirit that we get the power to live this kind of life. Don’t think you can find it in worldly philosophy or philanthropy or religious piety. Only a person who says “Jesus is Lord” can exhibit this kind of love.
So now let’s look at the character of this love.
The Character of Love
Paul defines for us what agape means. He does it in terms of what it is and what it is not. There are 8 things it does, 8 things it does not do.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
The 8 things love is: Patient, Kind, Rejoices in truth, Protects, Trusts, Hopes, Perseveres, Never fails.
The 8 things love is not: Envy, Boasting, Pride, Rudeness, Self seeking, Anger, holding grudges, delighting in evil.
You could form these around four basic concepts:
How you deal with others (patient, kind, protects, vs. rude, angry, grudges)
How you deal with life (patient, hopes, trusts, perseveres, never fails)
Your relationship to yourself (never fails, patient, kind, vs. envy, pride, self seeking, boasting)
Your relationship to God (hopes, perseveres, rejoices in truth, vs. pride, self seeking, delight in evil)
Let’s look at these one at a time:
This comes from two Greek words: “long” and “tempered”. Vine’s expository dictionary says patience is “self restraint in the face of provocation … the opposite of anger.”
Do you have a short fuse? Do you get easily frustrated when things don’t go your way or don’t happen fast enough? Do you retaliate easily and quickly against those that hurt you? That’s the opposite of patient.
Patience means you wait out trouble and you don’t strike out against adversity. I like how Peter describes it in his letter:
1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
You wait under God’s hand – you don’t from trouble or run from God. Certainly God is patient with us, isn’t He? That’s love.
The Greek word for “kind” means “to show oneself useful.” Taking patience one step further – not only are you long tempered against trouble, but you actually reach out with a benefit to someone else. It comes from a root word that means “employed.”
It reminds me of something Paul emphasizes over and over in this letter:
1 Corinthians 10:33 For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
Most of the time we think “what’s in it for me.” But kindness thinks, what can I do to benefit you? That’s love.
Paul next strings 8 negatives together. Often we learn by contrast – we see what love is by carving away what it is not – and when we find ourselves acting in these ways we know we are not acting in love.
It comes from the word “to boil.” It’s kind of the bolstered idea of “what’s in it for me,” in the sense of “it’s all about me.” When we become so self focused that anything anyone else has that we don’t have makes our blood boil and is the opposite of wanting to benefit another. Envy is when we only want to benefit ourselves at the expense of others.
Boasting is really a corollary of envy – “if you’ve got it flaunt it – even if you don’t have it, pretend like you do.” The Greek word has the connotation of “play the braggart.” Often times boasting is playing a part – something we are not but want to be or think we are.
This is the same word Paul uses in chapter 8 – “knowledge puffs up.” It means to inflate – like a bag of hot air – no substance but a lot of fluff. It’s increasing your sense of self importance well beyond your hat size.
The word here is “unshapely.” You could say “not pretty to look at.” Do people have a hard time being around you because you do things that are unpredictable or embarrassing or unbecoming? That’s rudeness.
This could be rendered “worship yourself.”
Not Easily Angered
It means to “exasperate.” The Greek word can translate “to sharpen alongside.” This is really the opposite of patience.
Keeps no record of wrongs
The suggestion from the original here is thinking poorly of someone else – or really pondering and dwelling on someone else as evil. The old story goes that Santa Claus keeps a list of whose naughty and whose nice. Sometimes we keep those lists too. How quick are you to forgive?
Does not delight in evil
It means to be happy when an injustice or wrong occurs. In a sense this is the ultimate form of “anti-love.” We want, we get, we hurt others to get it – and we’re happy that we stomped over them to get what we really deserve in the first place.
The thing that all these negatives have in common is that they all focus on us – what we want, who we are, who bad everyone is in comparison to us, what bad things people are always trying to do us – me me me! This is the opposite of love.
Rejoices in the truth
This is interesting because the word “rejoice” is a compound word – part of it is the same word used in “delight in evil.” When put together with the other word it means “to sympathize with gladness.” When you delight in evil you are holding yourself apart from the other person – glad they are suffering and you aren’t. Rejoicing in the truth means you are drawing close to someone as they come to know the truth of God and about sin, come to know the love of God, or have something good happen to them.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
This is really neat – these four words form a related pattern. “protects” means to “roof over,” “trusts” means to “put your faith in” something, “hopes” means “to confide in” and “preserves” means “to stay under.” These are all things God does for us – and things we should do for others – throwing a protective blanket, physically, emotionally – over someone else; being willing to put our faith in someone else – be real, confide in them – know that God will work good in their lives – then stick it out with them to see the love of God change their lives.
You see all this business of love isn’t some magical, rose-colored-glasses kind of “feeling.” It’s actually very specific: love and trust God no matter what, seek the best for and the best in those around you – then help benefit their lives as they draw closer to God. That’s love!
So this begs the question – why does Paul put this in here – smack dab in the middle of a section on spiritual gifts? It has application far beyond a discussion of spiritual gifts but it speaks directly to an attitude that believers can have, especially when they start talking about how God has gifted them – that they speak God’s words and bring about miracles.
Hey, if you reached out your hand and someone was healed it might happen to you too – you start to feel pretty special about yourself. Instantly the focus moves off of the real purpose of the gifts – to see others benefited and drawn close to God, even if it means you get hurt or get less in the process.
We as humans are basically selfish. Paul is telling us that God is basically unselfish and will bring about good in others lives even if it hurts Him in the process – and we should be like Him!
So to further illustrate this – Paul says “look – all this neat stuff you are experiencing is going to go away, but the need to love unselfishly will never go away.
The Supremacy of Love
But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
We seek to know the deep mysteries of God and think by our knowledge we are better. We seek to do mighty miracles, thinking that we must be more favored. But in reality – when you really being to mature as a Christian, what you find is that love is the ultimate expression of who God is – selfless, other-focused, always giving, love.
Paul says – when you start to see who God really is, what maturity really is about, you see that it isn’t about you after all – its about what God does through for others.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
These three ideas were favorites of Paul – the “essentials” to life. Faith in Jesus as God and Savior, hope of the good things He is doing in our lives and is going to do – but love is the greatest – it is the driving force for everything.
Remember? God so “loved” the world that …
• Love doesn’t happen overnight
After reading this you might be thinking – “man, how can I ever live up to this stuff – I might as well give up.”
Remember what Paul says – “when I became a man I put away childish things.” Growing up in love is a process as we mature. It takes time and experience – don’t beat yourself up, just know that this is the direction your should be heading if you have a vibrant relationship with the Lord.
• Love is an action – but it’s not fireworks display
Let’s not make the mistake that the Corinthians and, for that matter, the Pharisees, made. Showing love means an attitude and actions – but love is more often a very quiet, unobtrusive affair. We don’t need to broadcast the depth of our love and the amount of our selflessness to the whole world.
Don’t expect fireworks to go off as you show and grow in love. But do expect lives to begin to grow and heal and change – that’s the pay off.
• Needing & Asking for things isn’t bad
Acting in love doesn’t mean you take a vow of poverty. James said “you have not because you ask not.” Jesus said (Matthew 7:7)
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
The problem isn’t with the asking – it’s with the motivation.
James goes on to say: (James 4:3) When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
We err when we seek to fulfill our desires from the wrong source – or we ask God for things for the wrong reasons.
So search your heart – then ask – then wait for God to respond to what you really need.