To move towards loving one another…we must move away from false definitions of love and let love be defined by the death of Christ. Human love is selfish…it desires something in return and has strings attached. But if we look at this verse, we see that we had nothing to do with the unconditional love God showed to us by sending Jesus to die for our sins. In fact, it says that God loved us before we even knew anything about Him…while we were still rebelling against anything Godly, it says, He still loved us. So to love one another as Christ loved us, our love must be as limitless and absolute as His…as selfless and merciful as the Cross.
The king of the Moabites, Balak, had attempted to hire Balaam, (a soothsayer who used divination and sorcery for personal gain), to pronounce a curse on the tribes of Israel. But every time Balaam tried, out came a blessing instead. Try as he might, Balaam was forced to conform to God’s will and he realized that nothing he did would change that…no matter how much King Balak offered him. We may think evil is running amuck on the earth…unimpeded by anything. But God is still in control, ruling and reigning over every situation, every detail, every person.
What Jabez prayed was pretty simple and straightforward. He asked for divine guidance, protection, and for the Lord to expand his circle of influence around him. And guess what? God gave it to him! Don’t ever think that God is too busy with the breaking news of the day to listen to your prayers…He’s not. Your prayers are equally as important to Him as anything happening in the world today. And remember, there’s tremendous potential power within a simple heartfelt prayer.
If you have ever been part of a marriage conference or counseling…they teach you the art of active listening. Each has the others undivided attention as they converse back and forth…repeating back to the person what they heard and asking, “Is this what you meant?” There is much more listening done than speaking, and more unselfish attention given than self-centeredness. Listening to the Lord is a lot like that. It is not blabbering on incessantly about our own feelings and emotions…it’s listening with all our being…taking the time to be quiet…hearing and then heeding His voice.
Jesus taught the crowds that clamored around Him with parables…but when He was alone with His disciples, He would explain the meaning behind them. It tells us in Mark 4:10 that, “When He was alone, the Twelve and the others around Him asked Him about the parables.” Reading about God from some author isn’t the same as being alone with God yourself. Solitary time with God and His Word enables you to ask those tough questions you’re confused about. And as you probe deeper into His Word, that alone time with God becomes even more important…for it’s then that He can teach, edify, and exhort you.
Natural human love expects something in return. To sacrifice for you, you must first be really special to me, and then I also expect to be reciprocated for what I did. But in this Scripture, Paul was willing to give it all…that I may be able to get you to God. The real test here isn’t one’s willingness to teach or preach, but one’s willingness to serve. Service to others takes our time, energy, and emotional strength. It encroaches on our personal space…robs us of “me” time, and turns our carefully crafted schedules upside-down. Expending yourself for the Gospel… helping, and supporting others is a thankless job by human estimation…but it’s counted as everything in the eternity of God.
God is a generous giver and His desire is to bless us. It says in James 1:17 that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” So as big-hearted as God is towards us, we need to reflect that generosity in our giving to others. But He’s not just talking about money here…for it’s easy to give money. No, He’s talking about our time…and we’re probably more tight-fisted about that than any amount of money we’d give. Proverbs 21:26 tells us, “The righteous give without sparing.” So if you’ve been stingy with your time for the Lord…think of this…you will never be able to out give God.