1 Corinthians 13:7(2)

Sermon preached on April 24, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
1 Corinthians 13:7

A few years ago I saw an interview with a World War II sailor by the name of Cook. I believe he was from Great Britain. He was on a ship that was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine off the Azores. He and another survivor found themselves in the water but among the wreckage they found a big piece of wood that became for them a little wooden raft. Once on their raft they found 12 other survivors and took them on their raft. The raft was very crowded but it held them all. They sat and slept by sitting and leaning forward, resting their heads on the shoulder of the person in front of them, who was facing them doing the same thing. Also among the wreckage they found something like seven gallons of water. The chief officer on board figured that in 30 or so days they would drift to the coast of Liberia. They rationed water and gave each man 6 ounces a day, two in the morning, two at noon, two in evening.

One of the incredibly sad things about the story was that Mr. Cook reported that after several days there was no love at all between the men. Love was absent. Self-interest and self-preservation became all consuming. And it's wasn't about little things like sharing the water. He said that everyone had the idea that it would be good if some of the others died quickly because then would be more water for the ones that were left. After a few days one of the men on the raft went crazy, probably from drinking salt water. He started to flail about and struggle and he actually dragged two others into the water with him. There were being followed by sharks so that was a very dangerous thing to do. They managed to pull one man back on to the raft. But the second one was bitten just before they could get him to safety. It was a serious wound and the men decided to push him back into the water. Not only that, they didn't even try to save the one that went crazy. They let the sharks have him. From the way that Cook described it, most of the ordeal was horrific. Just about everyone was selfish and self-centered. Just about everyone was hoping for the others to die. There was no love there at all. Most of them seemed to have the idea that it was too dangerous for them to have love. It seemed to them that love was not an option. If you showed love, you would be hurting yourself, you would be worse off, you would not survive.

In the same way we're sometimes afraid to exercise love. We think that we'll open ourselves up to harm if we show love. Or we might think that it's too dangerous to show love. I've heard that among certain mountaineers there is a saying that goes something like,

"Above 24,000 feet there is no morality."

The idea is that you can't help others above that height because then you won't be able to make the summit yourself—either that or you'll die in the effort to save others.

But here in our text the Holy Spirit shows us that there is an element of trust involved in love. Our text says that love, (1 Corinthians 13:7)

"always trusts,
always hopes,
always perseveres."

The HCSB says that love,

"believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things."

The great truth for us here is

loves always trusts.

Loves believes all things. Love is optimistic. David E. Garland says, (1 Corinthians, BECNT; p. 620)

"Love never loses faith and never loses hope."

This is a great and wonderful text. It shows us that love is optimistic. It's not optimistic for no reason. For us here on earth, love is God's way of conquering opposition. God works through our love to overcome evil, to save His people and to bring His purposes to pass. Because of the grace of God our love is powerful and effective. This means that we never have to be afraid of exercising love. We can trust God to bless our love.

Perhaps the best way to approach our text is to first get a misunderstanding out of the way. The fact that love always trusts

does not mean that love is gullible or naïve.

We are not to just believe whatever people tell us. We are not to trust our enemies and take them at their word. We are not to put our hope in fallen human beings. Nehemiah is a good example to us in this regard. God had given him the task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. In Nehemiah 6:1–4 we read,

"When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah,
Geshem the Arab and the rest
of our enemies
that I had rebuilt the wall
and not a gap was left in it—
though up to that time I had not
set the doors in the gates—
Sanballat and Geshem
sent me this message:
'Come, let us meet together in
one of the villages on the plain of Ono.'
But they were scheming to harm me;
so I sent messengers to them
with this reply:
'I am carrying on a great project
and cannot go down.
Why should the work stop
while I leave it and go down to you?'
Four times they sent me
the same message, and each time
I gave them the same answer."

Later in the same chapter we see that Nehemiah's enemies tried a different strategy. We read, (Verses 10-13)

"One day I went to
the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah,
the son of Mehetabel,
who was shut in at his home.
He said, 'Let us meet in the house of God,
inside the temple,
and let us close the temple doors,
because men are coming to kill you—
by night they are coming to kill you.'
But I said,
'Should a man like me run away?
Or should one like me go
into the temple to save his life? I will not go!'
I realized that God had not sent him,
but that he had prophesied against me
because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.
He had been hired to intimidate me
so that I would commit a sin by doing this,
and then they would give me
a bad name to discredit me."

Nehemiah was not a priest. He was a layman so he was not allowed to enter the temple. His enemies were trying to get him to commit a ritual transgression. If he had gone into the temple it would have discredited him in the eyes of his own people. He would have lost their confidence and he would not have been able to lead them in completing the wall. Nehemiah teaches us that we are not to believe everything our enemies tell us.

We see the same lesson from an incident in David's life. Remember when King Saul was trying to kill him? In 1 Samuel 26 we read that when King Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph to search for David in order to kill him, David had an opportunity to kill Saul but he spared Saul's life. In the middle of the night David slipped into Saul's camp and took Saul's spear and water jug that were next to him. He then retreated a safe distance and then called out to Saul and his men and told them what he had done. When Saul realized that David could have killed him and did not, he said to David, (1 Samuel 26:21)

"I have sinned. Come back, David my son.
Because you considered my life precious today,
I will not try to harm you again.
Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly."

Did David go back to Saul? No he didn't. He didn't trust Saul. He didn't believe him. Here's what happened, (1 Samuel 26:22–25)

" 'Here is the king's spear,'
David answered.
'Let one of your young men
come over and get it.
The LORD rewards every man
or his righteousness and faithfulness.
The LORD delivered you into my hands today,
but I would not lay a hand on the LORD'S anointed.
As surely as I valued your life today,
so may the LORD value my life
and deliver me from all trouble.'
Then Saul said to David,
'May you be blessed, my son David;
you will do great things and surely triumph.'
So David went on his way, and Saul returned home."

There are many other examples in the Bible that teach us we are not to be naïve. You'll remember how Joab murdered Abner? David had made peace with Abner but when Joab heard it he plotted to kill Abner. He sent messengers after him to bring him back. We read, (2 Samuel 3:27)

"Now when Abner returned to Hebron,
Joab took him aside into the gateway,
as though to speak with him privately.
And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel,
Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died."

Joab did the same with Amasa. In 2 Samuel 20:9–10 we read,

"Joab said to Amasa,
'How are you, my brother?'
Then Joab took Amasa by the beard
with his right hand to kiss him.
Amasa was not on his guard
against the dagger in Joab's hand,
and Joab plunged it into his belly,
and his intestines spilled out on the ground.
Without being stabbed again, Amasa died."

We see the same lesson in the wise men that saw the star and came to Jerusalem to ask where the Messiah was going to be born. King Herod told them that when they found the baby they were to come back to him and tell him so that he, too, could go and worship the new born king. But King Herod was deceiving them. He didn't want to worship Jesus, he wanted to kill Him. The wise men had to be warned in a dream not to return to Herod, but to go home another way. They shouldn't have trusted Herod. He was a murderous psychopath.

So when our text tells us that love always trust, always believes, it does not mean that we are to be naïve or gullible and just blindly trust in what others say. Not at all. Indeed, Jesus told us to use caution in regard to our enemies. In Matthew 10:16 He said to His disciples,

"I am sending you out
like sheep among wolves.
Therefore be as shrewd as snakes
and as innocent as doves.

We are not to blindly trust men. Jesus didn't. In John 2:23–25 we read,

"Now when he was in Jerusalem
at the passover, in the feast day,
many believed in his name,
when they saw the miracles which he did.
But Jesus did not commit himself unto them,
because he knew all men,
And needed not that any should testify of man:
for he knew what was in man."

Those are telling words. Jesus did not commit Himself to them because He knew what was in man. He did not blindly trust people.

So even though we love other people, we can avoid putting ourselves in danger.

So what does it mean when Paul tells us that love always trusts, always hopes? It doesn't mean that we blindly trust men, or that we believe our enemies. Rather it means that

loves always trusts God and hopes in God.

To our way of normal thinking exercising love sometimes seems counterproductive. It seems that people will take advantage of our love and just use us. It seems that people will just abuse us if we exercise love. To love in some situations just seems foolish. But in such situations we need to trust God and be confident in hope that He will bring much good out of it.

Just because something seems foolish and weak doesn't mean that it is so. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul wrote,

"For the message of the cross is
foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

The message of the cross seems like foolishness to some. But it's the power of God. To some Jesus' death seems to be an object lesson in weakness. It seemed that way to those who mocked Him. They said of Him, (Matthew 27:42)

"He saved others, but he can't save himself!"

Many today still believe that. They view the cross as an offence, as foolishness, as weakness. But it was there that God displayed the power of love. There, on the cross, Christ defeated the curse of death. There, on the cross, Jesus saved us. There on the cross, supposed weakness triumphed over all the powers of evil and sealed their fate.

At first it didn't seem that way. Jesus died. His body was lifeless. His disciples were discouraged and confused. It wasn't until the resurrection that the true power of love was revealed for all to see. Sometimes there's a delay before the victory becomes obvious.

In many situations we face, showing love seems like it's a losing strategy. Doing battle with love as our weapon in certain circumstances may seem like foolishness. But we must understand that God can use our love and because of God's grace our love can be incredibly powerful. In Romans 12:21 Paul wrote,

"Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good."

Love is a component of good and in a very real sense, our mission here on earth is to overcome evil with love. Gordon D. Fee writes, (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT; p. 709)

"In saying 'love always trusts' and 'hopes,' [Paul means] that love never ceases to trust God and thus leave justice in God's hands; it is in this sense that it never loses hope—that God's justice in the context of God's goodness will yet prevail where there is human fallenness, even grotesque fallenness. This is why it can endure. The life that is so touched by the never-ceasing love of God in Christ (cf. Rom. 8:39) is in turn enabled by the Spirit to love others in the same way. It trusts God in behalf of the one loved, hopes to the end that God will show mercy in that person's behalf."

Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner also tell us that this is about trusting God, (The First Letter to the Corinthians, PNTC; p. 650)

"always trusts… This is not about always trusting those around us, who are often not worthy of such trust, but about trusting the one who calls us to love others and living out that love for others as a reflection of our trust in him."

They continue writing, love, (p. 650-651)

"always hopes. Here again, this has nothing to do with a naïve optimism. This is not about hoping for the best in those around us. It is about maintaining the hope set before us by the one to whom we have entrusted our lives and our futures, and being empowered by that eschatological hope for our future to take the risk of loving those around us in the present…"

Christians, as you go out into the world—

never be afraid to show love.

Be bold and confident. In spite of appearances know assuredly that you can overcome evil with love. Love, although it appears weak, by God's grace can melt the coldest and hardest of hearts and have a great impact on our society. David E. Garland writes, (1 Corinthians, BECNT; p. 620)

"For love there is no hopeless case… Paul also uses hope language to express optimism about his churches. As the relationship with Corinth gets rockier, Paul keeps firing off letters to the Corinthians because he does not believe that they are a hopeless case. He is confident in God that they will reform."

You should have confidence that, love, although it seems the way of weakness, will overcome opposition and evil and be victorious because Jesus lives and reigns. Jesus died that you might live lives of love. Ephesians 5:1-2 says,

"Be imitators of God,
therefore, as dearly loved children
and live a life of love,
just as Christ loved us and
gave himself up for us as a fragrant
offering and sacrifice to God."

David Prior writes, (The Message of 1 Corinthians, The Bible Speaks Today; ed. John R. W. Stott; p. 232-233)

"Whatever happens, we hang on because it all has a purpose. God is chiselling out in us the image of his Son, Jesus. Oswald Chambers has written: 'God's batterings always come in commonplace ways and through commonplace people.' Only love for God, released by his love for us, can keep such faith and hope alive and in control of our daily lives. When we realize afresh that Jesus loves us in this way—he bears everything we throw at him, he still believes in us and is quietly confident for us, he has endured even the cross for us—then we take heart again and know that only his love can sustain us and make us the people, the local churches, he wants us to become."

Does your love always hope? Or do you get discouraged and depressed? Such things show your lack of this aspect of love. Christians, have great hope. Jesus is at the right hand of God ruling all things. His glorious plan is going to come to pass. On the last day there is going to be, before the throne of God, (Revelation 7:9–10)

"After this I looked and there before me
was a great multitude that no one could count,
from every nation, tribe, people and language,
standing before the throne
and in front of the Lamb.
They were wearing white robes and
were holding palm branches in their hands.
And they cried out in a loud voice:
'Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

David Prior writes, (The Message of 1 Corinthians, The Bible Speaks Today; ed. John R. W. Stott; p. 232)

"love enables us to exercise a strong assurance that, however black it seems, God has not lost his way and has for us 'a future and a hope'."