Many of you reading this know that we started a new campaign at Rock Springs last Sunday — 40 Days of Love. It’s really going well. So many amazing responses and stories are already surfacing. Just today I heard stories of brand new and renewed friendships, repaired relationships, surprising God-moments, aha moments, hearts growing three sizes in a day. And there’s a general buzz of anticipation in our church body unlike we’ve experienced in recent days.
We’ve wondered what made this specific “series” light up so many hearts. You don’t have to think too long to figure it out, really. In today’s world, there is so much hate. “Haters gonna hate” was not even a common saying a few years ago…now it’s common conversation. Of course, there have always been haters…but today’s society and mindset allows people to not only hate brand new things, but to actually show it…to voice it…to demonstrate it…and to damage and hurt (and even kill) other people in the process. It’s become common practice to stand on a big rock and holler out at the crowds what you’re “hating” today…and it could be anything and/or everything. Slap your particular label on it.
I told David at dinner last night that the 1965 song, “What the World Needs Now”, sung by Jackie DeShannon (go look it up on YouTube) is as relevant today as it was in 1965…if not more so. But love ain’t easy. Jesus’ teachings on love are tough to swallow:
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”
“Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”
“Love God…[also] love your neighbor.”
The teachings of the disciples and the apostle Paul are just as tough:
“Love does no harm to a neighbor.”
“…bear with one another in love.”
“Above all, love each other deeply…”
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
If you can do any of these things, sincerely, without expecting attention or applause, then you’ve lived about as deep of a faith life as you possibly can. These are hard teachings.
But that’s why we’re doing 40 Days of Love…to help us learn the why’s and the how’s and the practicalities of living a loving life like Jesus lived and like Jesus taught.
But here’s the rub; and mark my words. Any time you commit your whole self (your time, your treasure, your attention, etc) to learning a specific aspect of Jesus, Satan ain’t gonna stand for it. He’s going to do all that he can to bring your progress to a grinding halt. I guarantee it.
1 Peter 5:8-9a says this: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.”
Don’t believe me? We’ve seen it just this week already.
A recently-restored marriage is senselessly falling apart.
A mother lost a teenage son.
Miscommunication leading to misunderstanding.
Refusing to “love” someone from the past that did you wrong.
Even in our own relationship, David and I have had a couple of little stress moments this week over things that are really of no big consequence…things we put to rest long ago. In fact, last night I had a couple of projects at home that I wanted to get done. David came home from work, having had one of the roughest weeks in recent months. In passing, he said something about thinking we might go out when he got back home from taking our dog to the dog park.
I was like, “Ugh, I really wanted to get these things done tonight.” But after he left to go to the dog park, I thought, “What would love look like in this situation? What does David need right now, to show him that he is loved and listened to?” So, I put aside my plans for projects…and when he got home, I said, “Let’s get the pets fed and then let’s go out!” So we went out to a restaurant here in town where we haven’t been in a long time, and we had dinner and good, meaningful, sometimes-emotional conversation.
Don’t misread this: I’m not wanting any kind of applause…because as much as I love him, I didn’t initially want to do what he wanted to do. I had plans. But I decided to do what he wanted to do, and to put his needs before my needs. (Although he did say after dinner that I’d earned 10,000 points in the love bank).
All that to say this: PAY ATTENTION, PEOPLE. And don’t think for one minute that it can’t or won’t happen to you. Because it CAN!
If you let your guard down…if you get over-tired or stressed or afraid or put off by what your friend or spouse or kid or parent says…or even if you get overconfident and think, “Hey, I’ve got this love thing in the bag. I could teach others a thing or two!”…Satan can get his gnarly toes in the door and slither right in, bringing all of his accusations and doubts and temptations right in with him.
A Bible teacher once said of this subject that, you’ll notice in the verse that it says that Satan is a “roaring lion.” Make no mistake: Jesus’ death on the cross “de-fanged and de-clawed“ that lion. Yet, he will still roar…making you think that he is more powerful than he is. But the only power he has is the power that you give him to rob you of the love that Jesus is forming and strengthening in your life.
And once he is given that power, he won’t stop until he has devoured you. He doesn’t just want to pin you down and lick you or nibble on you. He won’t rest until he sees that you have been completely devoured. He won’t be happy with you just being miserable…he wants to destroy you…and make you completely useless.
But the next verse says to stand firm against him…and be strong! How? When you stay alert, and you notice those times that old feelings, old habits, old thoughts are creeping back in, immediately pray! In fact, be more prayerful than you’ve ever been! I promise that when you approach God in the authority of what Jesus did on the cross, that will set Satan running. He’ll give up before you know it…once he figures out that his attacks are only driving you closer to Jesus, and to practicing more love.
So please, please, please…no matter where you are in your faith walk…no matter what you’re trying to pursue (more love, more peace, more faith, more purpose, more whatever)…just remember and pay close attention. Satan is more than willing to trip you up…but don’t you let him!
Stay alert! Stand firm! Be strong!