Charles Stanley - Love Lessons
Do you feel loved by anybody? Somebody? Maybe somebody that you could name, that you know in your heart that you're loved by them? Or maybe you feel like you're not loved by anybody. Why would you feel that-a-way about yourself? Do you believe God loves you? Do you feel His love for you? Or do you find yourself in a love wilderness? You're not too sure what's going on with that part of your life.
Well, it's a very important part of your life. And when I look at the Scriptures and see how many times love is mentioned, for example, in the Old Testament two hundred and fifty times, in the New Testament two hundred and thirty-four times. And it's interesting that John who wrote the Gospel and three epistles, just what he wrote alone, he in those few chapters, seventy-two times John talked about love. Must be important. And of course, you've heard this verse for years, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life". But you see, probably you've put that out there in generalities, "God so loved the world," you never thought about yourself.
Do you feel that God loves you? Are there some reasons you could say, "Well, I know God loves me for this reason, that or the other"? Or you just find yourself wondering about that, going about your daily life, not feeling loved by anybody. And for some people, you don't have anybody that you could put your finger on to say, "I love that person". If love is missing in your life, a vital part of your life is missing because it is an essential part of every person's life. In First John, this fourth chapter, and if you'd like to turn to that, the fourth chapter of First John beginning in verse seven, listen to what he says. He says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God," that's the source, "And everyone who loves is born of God and knows God". So that helps us to understand whether we know God or not. "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another".
So, I want to title this message, "Love Lessons". Maybe you know how to love, maybe you don't. But I trust that you'll listen carefully, and somewhere in here, you'll see yourself, you'll find yourself, you'll know that you've been identified because God loves you. He wants you to know what love is about, and surely, He wants you to love Him. So, I ask you this question: at this moment, do you feel loved, really loved, by anyone? And do you love someone that you can put your finger on, that you can name, "Yes, I know that I love that person". So, what I'd like for you to do is to follow along and see where you are in your ability, your capacity to love and to be loved.
And the first thing I would say is this: love is more than an emotion. Many people think, "Well, love is just an emotion". No, it's more than an emotion. It's a commitment to another person. So, I would ask you the question: are you committed to somebody? Can somebody rely upon you, trust in you? Do you have a loving relationship with anybody? Because love is a commitment, not just an emotion. Love also can discern true love in others like a radar. In other words, when you love somebody, you can discern that love in your life. You can discern in somebody else's life. You sort of know when somebody loves you or don't. And they may say that, "I love you," and they may say, "I cherish you," and so forth. But deep down inside, you may have a different feeling.
So, when I think about that, I think about what has God given us? He's given us sort of a radar. We know when we are genuinely being loved. It could be we're being bought off. We're being convinced, but the truth is do you know whether you're loved or not? And then of course, let me say that love's not free. God's love for us is free from Him, but all other love is not free. Love demands something of us. The very nature of love demands something of us, requires something of us. You can't live in a capsule and be loving toward someone else. And I think many people think they love someone. And if they should answer your question, "Well, who do you love"? Some people would have to say, "Well, um". And they clear their throat and bring up another subject or two and say, "Well, I'm sure I love so-and-so, but you know, I'm not quite sure".
So, let me ask you this: do you feel loved? Listen to that question. Do you feel loved? Does your emotional suit fit you perfectly, that you feel wonderfully loved? And I would ask this: are you going through the rest of your life feeling unloved? If you do, you will have missed what life's all about. You'll have missed what love's all about. And love starts in Genesis one one. God's creation was an act of love. It goes all through the rest of the books of the Bible, all sixty-six books, and ends up in the Revelation. God's still loving. And that same God wants you and me to know how to love each other, to love Him. So, I ask you the question: can you name somebody that you really and truly love? If you can't, you're missing something and you're causing them to miss something in your life. God didn't create us to live without love. When a person feels loved, it enables us to feel complete.
And I want you to listen to this carefully. There are three characteristics here that are very important. When a person really and truly feels loved, it enables them to have three other emotions that are very important. And the first one is you feel complete. Think about it for a moment. If you feel really loved by somebody, there's a completion emotionally in that. So, it makes you feel complete. It also makes you feel competent, capable; that is, love traverses every single part of your body, your mind, your will, and your emotion. It enables you now only to feel like you're complete, you feel competent. It gives you that surge to think, "I can do this. I'll be able to manage this. I can walk through this". And thirdly, it enables you to feel worthy. And those three words are very important. To feel complete, to feel competent, to feel worthy, no longer struggling to prove anything.
And when I think about that, I think about how generous and unselfish love is. Love is generous. Love is unselfish. Love's not about me; me, myself and I. And if you'll think about it for just a moment, think about the conversations you have with people, how often it's I and me, myself. And when you get into a conversation with someone whose favorite word is me, myself, and I, then you probably need to be very serious in the way you listen to what they say. Because more than likely, they're going to end up wanting something from you. Love is always thinking about the other person, what's best for them. And I don't know of any more beautiful relationship than two people who fall in love with each other, genuinely love each other for who each other is, not because of what they want from one another, because they want to give themselves to each other in the right way, in a godly way and a holy way.
And so, when I think about how generous and unselfish it is and I think about, love, for example, is more fulfilled because it's giving to someone. And you ask yourself this question, to be honest. What pleases you most? What makes you the happiest? What do you get the most gratification out of is when somebody gives you something you want, or maybe you didn't particularly ask for it, but there it is, a nice gift? Or are you more satisfied by the fact that you were able to give somebody else something? What satisfies you the most? What's the most fulfilling? Is it receiving or giving? Giving; well, I got two people say that. The truth is, listen, when love is at the core of your heart, you love giving to somebody, especially if they have a need and especially if you can surprise them. And especially if they have been longing for a certain thing a long period of time and God has made it possible to meet a need in their life.
You see, we never think about the will of God in giving or asking. We just give or we just ask. But before you give somebody else something, you should ask, "Lord, is this the proper thing to give? Is this the right way to give? Is this the right thing to give to somebody"? You don't give to get paid back. Love, when I think about this, love does not give in order to receive. Love just gives because it's love. And then of course, love is forgiving. Some people live their whole life with anger, bitterness, resentfulness, and jealousy in their heart. Maybe they were wronged as a child. Maybe their parents wronged them, whatever it might be. And every once in a while, I meet somebody who has lived a lot of years in their life and carried with them the whole time this weighty burden of unforgiveness.
Watch this carefully. You must always forgive. You say, "But you don't know what they've done to me". Let me ask you this: what about the cross? What did He do for you? Has anybody else ever done that for you? No. Jesus died that you and I may be forgiven of our sins, our errors, and our wrongs. He loved us enough and loves us enough to forgive no matter what. And so, love is forgiving, doesn't hold grudges. And likewise, love desires to express itself. And when you think about that, think about Christmas, for example. Why do you give at Christmas? And let me ask you this question: I believe there was a time probably, watch this carefully, when we didn't have much in this country. We were sort of an agricultural nation. And so, we weren't rich, and people didn't have very much, and so they gave, and it cost them to give for what they did get. And so, they had to sacrifice a little bit in order to give. And when a person genuinely gives out of love, they don't consider it a sacrifice. You, watch this, love is like this well inside of you that's either all chupped up and doesn't flow, or it becomes like a spring: it just keeps on flowing and keeps on flowing.
If you love somebody, you're like an emotional spring. That is, there's something that flows from you that you can't really express. If you don't know how to love and to be loved, there isn't anything else in the world that can take the place of genuine love. And so, the truth is, you're in need. And many people think their need's physical. That's not their need. They think their need's financial—that's not their need. If they learn to love, here's what would happen. Watch this, mark it down. When you learn to love, it's amazing how God changes the direction of the flow in your life. And it's not always one way, it's both ways. But also, there's a flow toward you simply because you've learned to love. And when the love of God flows in you and through you to others, there's going to be love. You're going to feel love. You're going to experience love. You're going to begin to experience life at its best.
Until you learn to love someone genuinely, purposely, with all of your heart, sincerely, and purely; once you learn that, you're going to discover what life can really be like. And then love hurts when somebody else hurts. When you genuinely love and there's love in your heart and you see someone else hurting, the natural result of a person who knows how to love is to reach out some way. It may be a distant — you can only pray for them. But if at all possible, you want to do something for them. It's like a person with the gift of mercy. And you can have all the seven major gifts together, but when there's a person hurting, the person with the gift of mercy is the first one there. That's just the way God made us.
And so, when you see someone hurt, how do you feel? Watch this, sometimes when somebody's hurting and it's a tough situation, if you don't have love, you want to walk away. Now, the reason you walk away is not because you don't particularly care, you can't handle it. Because you don't know how to express love. You may be frustrated and you'd like to express love. You don't know how. So, the best thing you can do is escape, walk away, which is an indication a person's never learned how to love. You hurt when other people hurt. Willing to sacrifice when necessary because, watch this, listen carefully, love does not keep accounts. I did this for you, expect you to do that for me. That is not love. I've done this and this and this for you and you've done none of that for me. That's not love. Doesn't keep records.
And think about this, here's a good example. Christmastime, what do we do? You get you a Christmas list going. And here's one of the questions you ask. You can't deny it. What did they give me last year? And who do I need to give to so they won't get their feelings hurt. And is it not true we make lists, and oftentimes those lists are governed by the fact that somebody gave us something. Maybe you can't remember what it was, but they gave you something and so you make a list because you want to pay, you want to not give them back, pay them back. Love is not in the business of paying and receiving. Love is in the business of giving with not any real expectation of return.
Sometimes love is very painful. You can love somebody who doesn't love you and that's very painful. You do one of two things: you keep on loving them and forgiving them and loving them and forgiving them and loving and forgiving them. And you may have to do that a long time in your life. You may do it the rest of your life and the person never love you. But you know how to love. The person who, listen, the person who loves, wins. They win. And because it hurts, people want to give up and quit. Sometimes love is very painful because the way we get treated, for example, in return. And really and truly, love doesn't require anything in return. If I love you, watch this carefully, if I love you, I'm not going to say because, if, when, where and a whole lot of other words. If I love you, I just love you because you're you. Think about this: Jesus loves you for no reason in you. He just loves you. Now, here's what we do. We have a difficult time with this love business because it's like I want a payback. In other words, if you really love me and I feel that love, my first response, humanly, would be, "Well, what can I do for them? What"? And you know what, when somebody says, "You can't do anything for me. You can't do anything for me".
God knows exactly how to love us. The issue is how do we learn to love Him in return, and each other? Love is patient. That's a tough one. Love is patient. Love knows how to wait. Lust does not know how to wait. Love knows how to wait. Love is willing to wait. So, ask yourself the question: do you find yourself in situations where you don't want to wait? It's dangerous not to know how to wait for love to fulfill itself. You can love somebody and they can draw a line. Or they may say to you, "Well, if you're not willing to do this, then this is over". You can just say, "Well, thank you very much because you didn't love me to start with". When people draw lines, they draw circles. And if you don't get in my circle when I want you to, then you can just forget it. But love is very patient. Love is willing to wait.
Now, watch this. When I hear the stories and see people who weep and weep and weep over things in their life, you know, you can't help but weep with them because they've been deeply hurt. And one thing loved us, does not hold grudges, is we said it doesn't keep an account. It's willing to forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive. Love is very patient; and love, in essence, is really a choice we make. It's not a feeling, it's a choice. Now, there is a feeling that goes with it, but ultimately it's a choice. It's a choice based on who you are and what God wants it for your life, wants to accomplish in your life, not on the basis of anybody else, no matter what they may say. And the best picture of love is the cross. Jesus's death on the cross is the perfect example of love. He loved the world and nobody seemed to appear to love Him.
And you may be in a situation or circumstance in your life that you don't feel loved at all. And you're asking the question: well, why should I keep trying and trying and trying when nobody cares, nobody appreciates me, nobody loves me? Listen, you just keep on loving and something will happen. Because remember this: when you love, you're acting the most like Jesus. And therefore, He's on your side. Not loving to get, loving because that's who you are. And loving has an awesome effect upon us. It makes it possible for us to give, it makes it possible for us to love in return, because you see, love is not all about me. And this is where most of the world is. Most of the people in this society we live in, for the most part, it's all about me. Watch the advertisements. Listen to what they say. It's all about me. If you want, if you want to look this way, if you want to feel this way, if you want to purchase. In other words, you, you, you, me, me, me, me, me. Read the New Testament and see how that absolutely is a contradiction to everything Jesus talked about. Jesus has the most awesome way of being an intimate, loving, genuine, indescribable, awesome friend.
So, I would simply ask you the question: do you love someone? Do you love Jesus? Have you ever accepted His love? If you want to really love in life, here's where you start. Not reading a magazine, read the Bible. Here's where you start. Not talking to others, talk to Jesus. If you really want life at its best, it has to be rooted and grounded in the foundation of godly love. And that is my prayer for you. And that's where it all starts: accepting the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the greatest act of love ever known. And He died to pay our sin debt in full. All the mess you've made of your life, all the bad things you've done, all the regrets that you have, His love just washes all that away. He's willing to forgive you. Listen, and He will remember your sins no more when you repent of them before Him.
And I would ask you to look at your life. It's not what you want it to be. It's empty in a lot of ways. You've got everything money can buy, but you don't have the most important thing, and that's love, love for God and the ability to receive the love of God, the ability to love other people and to receive their love. If you don't have love, you are empty. You are poor. You are wretched. You are needy. And the only person who can satisfy that is the One who went to the cross for you, and that's Jesus Christ. And I pray that you'll ask the Lord to forgive you of your sin, surrender your life to Him, let Him help you begin to live life at its best. And that's with Jesus Christ as your savior, your lord and your master. Amen?
And Father, how grateful we are that Your love for us is beyond our explanation and beyond our ability to explain fully. I pray that every person who hears this message will take it to heart, get honest with themselves, get right with You, Lord, and begin living for the first time in their life. Whether they are sixteen or eighty-six, life begins at the cross with Jesus Christ. And we say thank You for that, in His name, amen.