Robert Jeffress - True Love Never Waits - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". The word love is difficult to define. Is love a feeling? Is it a choice? Or is love nothing more than a chemical response that's triggered by our brain? Today we're going to return to Romans chapter 12 to discover what love is and what it isn't. My message is titled "True Love Never Waits" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
"If the money isn't spent the way I think it ought to be spent; well, I'm picking up my marbles and I'm going to go play church someplace else". That's the heart of conflict in churches today. Paul says no genuine love will place other people's preferences above our own. You see, ladies and gentlemen, God has not called us to uniformity. Did you know that? To be a Christian, to be a member of First Baptist Dallas doesn't mean you have to believe the same way everybody else believes, like the same things everybody else likes. God has not called us to be cookie-cutter Christians that all look like one another, think like one another, behave like one another. He hasn't called us to uniformity, he has called us to unity.
And unity means even though we're different we are melded together by a common love for one another, and the way you maintain that unity, as Paul commands us to do, is by constantly saying, "Not my will, your will". By giving honor to the preferences of other people. It means when there are people in the church that you disagree with, you have a different opinion about the way things ought to be done, it means, first of all, you attribute the highest not the lowest motives to those people with whom you disagree. Maybe they actually have a good reason for believing what they do. Maybe they have a good reason for having a different priority than you have. It also means allowing for the possibility that just maybe they're right and we're wrong in that situation.
Paul was writing to a group of Christians who were experiencing trouble in their church, the church at Philippi; and to solve the problem, look at what he said to those Philippian Christians. Philippians 2, verses 3 and 4, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each one of you regard one another as more important than himself. Do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also the interests of others". That is a mark of genuine love. Third, Paul says genuine love persists instead of giving up. It persists instead of giving up. Look at verse 11. "Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord". A guy was asking his friend. He said, "Do you believe the two greatest problems in the world are ignorance and apathy"? And the friend responded, "I don't know, and I don't care".
Now, Paul said we're not to have apathy. We're not to be unfeeling, uncaring about things, lazy especially when it comes to being a Christian. Instead, he says we are to be fervent in spirit, we're to be diligent. Romans 12:11 is translated this way in the King James Version: "Don't be slothful in business". Now, when he's talking about business he's not just talking about your vocation and earning a living, he's saying don't be lazy in any part of your life. One writer says he's talking about don't be lazy in the business of being a Christian. You know, becoming a Christian takes no work. It's by grace. Living as a Christian takes a lot of work. It's very hard work.
Henry Drummond once said, "The entrance fee to God's kingdom is nothing, but the annual dues are everything". Takes a lot of work to live for Christ. Don't be lazy in the art of being a Christian. We're not to be lazy in the business of rearing our children. If you just let your children go whichever way they want, do whatever they want to do, it's like leaving a garden untended. It will become overgrown with weeds and things that will choke out its life. It's the same thing with your children. It takes diligence in the business of child-rearing. That's why Moses said in Deuteronomy 6:7 we are to instruct our children diligently in the ways of the Lord. We're to be diligent in the business of church. You know, in so many churches today, the members of the church give their best efforts to their jobs, to their civic activities, to recreational pursuits, and if there just happens to be any time or money left over they might give it to the church.
I'm so glad that's not true about First Baptist Dallas. You know, the reason this church has been so blessed by God for 150 years is because of you the members who have always taken the business of God's work seriously. You've given this church not your last efforts, not your leftover efforts, but your best efforts through your giving and service. I think about the thousands of people in our church who work to make this church what it is. Whether it's people who are in Sunday school leading our Sunday school, or our music ministry, or first impressions, or the media ministry, or our committees, or our deacons, or a thousand other things, they take the business of church seriously and God honors that effort. They are, as Paul said, fervent in spirit, boiling over in enthusiasm as they serve the Lord.
Fourth, genuine love perseveres instead of giving up. That's a slight variation. It not only persists instead of giving in, it perseveres instead of giving up. Look at verse 12. "Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, and devoted to prayer". In my study this week, I came across a great definition of a Christian. A Christian is someone who is completely fearless, continually cheerful, and constantly in trouble. It's a pretty good definition, isn't it? If you're living for Christ in an ungodly world in which we live, you're going to be in trouble all the time. You're going to be in trouble with your friends. You're going to be in trouble at work. You're going to be in trouble sometimes with your own family. We will have tribulation. That word means pressure, to be pressed. It doesn't exempt you from problems, but in spite of the problems you don't give up. Instead, you are rejoicing in hope. That's what keeps you going.
Now, hope in the Bible is not just a wish. You know, we use that term in the English language. "Well, I hope this happens. I sure hope that turns out to be true". In the Bible hope is not a wish, it is an assurance. Isn't that what the writer of Hebrew said? "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for". It is the absolute bedrock assurance that what God has promised he is going to do. And when it comes to tribulation, it means you keep moving forward instead of giving in and giving up because you are absolutely sure that your suffering, the pressure you're feeling is ultimately going to be rewarded by God. That's what he's talking about here when he says to persevere instead of giving up. You're not just hoping that maybe someday God might reward your effort, you keep from giving up because you are absolutely sure God is going to reward you one day.
Think, for example, about a farmer. Why does a farmer go to the expense and trouble of planting seeds in the ground? Does that farmer invest in seeds and go to the effort just hoping something might pop up later on? No. He has the belief, the assurance that something is going to be rewarded for his effort. You see, he understands that even though he can't see it there are invisible forces at work. There's life in that seed itself though it looks dead. There's nourishment in the soil. There's power in the sunshine. There's provision that comes from the water. All of these things are secretly working over time to ultimately bring a harvest. And Paul is saying the reason we keep persevering, continuing in our faith regardless of the roadblocks we face is we have the assurance that God is one day going to reward us. And then he adds that phrase devoting ourselves to prayer, literally continuing in prayer.
Now, as one writer said, the problem with most Christians is not that we don't pray. I mean, all of us in this room, all of us watching on television we pray occasionally. Sometimes it's just a short prayer. "Lord, save me" like Peter prayed when he was drowning. But we all pray occasionally. The problem is not that we don't pray, the problem is that we don't continue to pray. We give up far too easily. We give up in our praying when the prayer isn't answered immediately, and that's why Jesus often talked about persistence in praying. You know, you search what Jesus taught about praying, Jesus never said to pray we need to be experts in prayer. He never said we need to be eloquent in prayer. He never said we need to understand all of the theological intricacies of prayer.
You know what he said? Just pray. Quit going to prayer seminars. Give up your books on prayer. Just pray and keep on praying. That's what he said in Luke 18:1. Now, he was telling the disciples a parable to show them that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart. We ought to pray all times. Not just when the answer seems obvious and possible and immediate but even when the answer seems impossible, he said keep on praying. Now, you may be wondering like I did this week, "Well, that's a great thought, but what does that have to do with loving other people? What's the connection between continuing in prayer and loving other people"? Two ways. First of all, he's talking about going through times of affliction and tribulation. He says don't forget to pray during those times. And many times it's another person who's the source of our tribulation, isn't it? Other people are the source of our tribulation. What he's saying is be devoted to pray for those people who are persecuting you.
Next time we're going to see what Paul says about how to live with our enemies, but love is the key. I have found in my own life it is impossible to pray for somebody and hate them at the same time. Did you know that? You can't continue to hate somebody you're praying for, somebody you're saying, "God, I want the best for this person". I think that's the connection to prayer. Pray when other people are causing you tribulation. But I think he's also saying that sometimes the most loving thing you can do for another person is to be an example to them of what it means to persevere in prayer. Be devoted to prayer. Number five, what does genuine love do? Genuine love practices generosity instead of selfishness. Look at verse 13. "Contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality".
Remember in Paul's day there was no Social Security, no Medicare or Medicaid. Everybody was on his own. And although there is never any general command in the New Testament that we are to meet all of the material and physical needs of everyone, the Bible says very clearly we are to be concerned about the physical material needs of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. For example, James 2, verses 15 or 16 James says, "If a brother or sister," he's talking about a fellow Christian, "is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you don't give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that"? That is if you see somebody who has a genuine need and you've got the capability of meeting that need but you say, "Brother, I'll be praying for you about that," that's not love, that's not faith.
Genuine love will meet the needs of other people, whether that need is for money or something else. When my oldest daughter Julia was 10, one day she stayed home from school. She had been sick. So I came home from work that evening and I found Julia sitting in my favorite chair, the forbidden chair. But she had been sick all day, so I decided to cut her a little bit of slack, isn't that nice of me, and let her sit there. And I said, "Julia, hope you're feeling better. Is there anything I can do for you"? She looked up at me, she said, "Yes. Go to the grocery store and get me some frosted Pop-Tarts. I'm out of them and I need them for breakfast tomorrow". She paused, she smiled, and she said, "You didn't think I was going to say anything, did you"? Well, I didn't. I was hoping she would just say, "Oh no, dad, there's nothing you can do".
I didn't want to go to the supermarket. I was tired. I was ready to sit in my chair and relax a little bit. But, you know, genuine love meant meeting a need that I had the capability of meeting, and that's what Paul is saying here. If you see somebody who has a need, whether it's for money or for sympathy or for Pop-Tarts, whatever it is, and you've got the capability of meeting that need, genuine love will meet that need. And then he adds this word practicing hospitality, practicing hospitality. What does he mean, practicing hospitality? That word hospitality actually comes from two Greek words which mean pursuing strangers.
You know, in Paul's day there were no Motel 6s or Holiday Inns for people to stay in. If somebody was traveling out of town and they wanted to stay in an inn it was either too expensive or too dangerous to stay in, and Paul says you ought to be open to those Christians who may be traveling through your city who don't have a place to stay and open your home up to them and meet their needs. That's what he means here pursuing strangers; meeting their legitimate needs, showing hospitality to those you don't have a personal relationship with and yet they're brothers and sisters in Christ.
A couple of weeks ago I was preaching at a noon luncheon for a pastor's conference in Phoenix, and after the time was over one of the men came up to talk to me and he said, "You know, I actually had the chance to visit your church a number of years ago". He said, "You know what impressed me most about your church"? I said no. "Well, it wasn't the preaching. It wasn't the music". He said, "What impressed me was after the service I was getting ready to leave and this couple approached me and they asked me if I had any place to go to lunch. And I said, 'Well, no, I don't know any place to go to lunch.' And they said, 'Well, would you come with us? We'd like to take you to lunch.' And they said", he said, "I've never forgotten that".
In fact, he said to me, "I'm sure you know this couple. I think they're still in your church". I said, "Well describe them". "Well, he's a deacon, I think". I said, "Well there's about 300 of those running around. That doesn't help too much". And he said, "And he was kind of tall too, I remember he was tall. And I remember he worked or he was a lawyer for the Dallas Mavericks". Doug Atkins, he was talking about you and Carol. That's who he was talking about. And he said, "That's what I've never gotten over. I've never had that happen in a church since that time". When somebody invited a stranger to lunch. That's what Paul is talking about.
You know, one pastor I know encourages his members to opt to activate their PWHR. You know what the PWHR is? It's your post-worship hospitality radar; and that is as soon as the service is over, before you start running to your car or running to lunch get that radar going, look around you and see if there's anybody here you don't know just seated around you. And you can say to them, you know, "I don't believe I know you. You may have been a member here for 50 years, but I don't know you. Let me introduce myself". People won't be offended by that. They will be absolutely thrilled that you made that effort. You know, again, one of the things I hear so often about our church from visitors that I talk to is they cannot believe that a big church like this is so friendly and so caring and so loving. That's what attracts people not only to our church but to the cause of Christ.
In the early church there was a man named Aristides who was dispatched by the Roman emperor, Hadrian, to search out anything he could find out about this new cult called Christianity. So Aristides did his investigation and he came back to the emperor with a mixed report, but at the end of the report he concluded with words that have now become immortal. He said, "But, oh, how they love one another". You know, when people talk about First Baptist Dallas, the first thing they say about us, I hope, is not, "Oh, what a beautiful campus they have". It's true. We do. I hope they don't say, "Oh, how much they know about the Bible," or, "Oh, they have such a tremendous outreach that encompasses the world". The best thing they could say about this fellowship is, "Oh, how they love one another". Isn't that what Jesus said? "By this all men will know you are my disciples, by your love one for another".