2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love.
Believing in God’s love does not come easily for a number of reasons. First, we are all sinners, and God hates sin, so how can he love sinners like us? Second, we seldom feel God’s love, and it is hard to believe in a love you do not feel. Third, life is hard, and if God really loved us, wouldn’t he make things easier? For these and other reasons, we must be convinced from the Bible that God really loves us. In fact, that is what the Bible teaches.
God is Love (1 John 4:8), wrote John. God is not merely loving, but is love personified. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit. The Son loves the Father and the Spirit. And the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. At the heart of the universe is an all powerful love that is the source of all other loves. The most powerful love a man ever felt for a woman, or a woman for a child, or a child for a pet, is nothing compared to the love God has for us. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19), wrote John. God is love, and love is from God.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38), said Jesus. The bad news is that we have never come close to keeping this command. The good news is that God would not command us to love him any more than he loves us.
If God commands us to love him with all our heart, soul and mind, then he must love us with all his heart, soul and mind. And since God is all powerful, we are the objects of an all-powerful love. Even though we never keep this command for a minute, God upholds it all the time because God is love.
And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39), said Jesus. The bad news is that we do not even like our neighbors very much. The good news is that God would not command us to love our neighbors more than he loves his neighbors. And we are all God’s neighbors. If God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, then he must love us as he loves himself. We never keep this command for a minute, but God upholds it all the time because God is love.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16), wrote John. If your father was a billionaire who gave you his affection, and everything else you asked for, his love could still be doubted. But if you needed a kidney, and he gave you one of his, you could never doubt his love again, because he proved it through sacrifice. Whenever we doubt God’s love, we should think about what he did for our salvation.
[T]he Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11), wrote the Psalmist. Some people believe that God loves them, but does not like them very much because of their sin. But here we are assured that God not only loves us, but actually delights in us.
Imagine you are a car enthusiast, and bought an old classic in need of repair. To the untrained eye it looks like a pile of junk, but because you do restoration, you can see what the car will look like when you are done—so it delights you now. If we could see ourselves the way God sees us, we would understand how he can delight in us even with our faults. We see the wreckage, but God sees the finished product.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us (1 John 4:16), wrote John. The most important time to rely on God’s love is when we cannot feel God’s love. Relying on feelings is like picking pedals from a daisy and saying, he loves me; he loves me not. The love of God is objectively real regardless of our feelings. This is good to know when things are going well, but especially when they are not.
The Apostle John described himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23). But after a lifetime of faithful service, John was exiled to the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). Nevertheless, John did not change his view of God’s love. Instead of viewing God through the lens of his suffering, John viewed his suffering through the lens of God’s love. This is how we honor God, and trust in his unfailing love (Psalm 13:5).
2 Thessalonians 3:13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
Following Christ often means saying no to ourselves, so we can say yes to God. This is not hard for a while, but it can be exhausting over decades. A friend of mine made a great start in the faith, and was thinking about occupational ministry. We took classes together, and he was the better student, excelling at the Bible and theology.
Then he moved out of town, and I learned he quit the faith. I assumed his reasons were intellectual, but when we met for coffee, he explained that he simply got tired. He was tired of being different, tired of going against the culture, and tired of resisting temptation. So he laid down his cross and quit believing. I wish he had read the prophet Isaiah instead.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:29-31). We all grow tired sometimes, but our strength will always be renewed if we look to God. A good nap has also been known to help.
Reflection and Review
Why is it hard to believe in God’s love?
How can we be sure that God loves us?
Do you ever get tired of being a Christian?