Love And Faith Speak And Do
As one of the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus, John had a firsthand perspective on Jesus’ life and ministry. He was one of the four in Jesus’ inner circle — Peter James, John and Andrew. On frequent occasions Peter, James and John are mentioned when Jesus went about healing or confronting the Pharisees or encountering individual people or families in need. But John spoke of himself as the disciple that Jesus loved.
“There was at the table reclining in Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.” John 13:23
“Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.” John 20:2
“That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord.” John 21:7
Of the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), John was the only one who refers to himself as the disciple that Jesus loved. It is evident that Jesus loved them all, but what about John’s claim? Was there something about Jesus’ love for John that was different, or was there something about John’s love for Jesus that made him more keenly aware of how much he was loved? I believe John was so passionate and committed in his love for Jesus with all His heart that he became uniquely aware of how much Jesus loved him.
There are those who are particularly mentioned in the Scriptures as ones that Jesus loved, the rich young Ruler, [Mark 10:21], Mary, Martha and Lazarus, [John 11:5]. And certainly, we all know [John 3:16] that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Now the first and greatest commandment is that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and the second is like it that we love our neighbor as ourselves. There is no demand that God love us. He loves us because it is His choice and His nature.
In the Scriptures, God’s love for us is well established and proven in the life, death burial and resurrection of Jesus for us. It is immutable and eternal. It is the foundation of our faith for Salvation and the reason we trust His Word. Yet, there were those occasions when even the disciples questioned God’s care for them.
“And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Mark 4:38
“But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.” Luke 10:40
There is a factor of love that implies caring and concern for the wellbeing of the one loved. But, God’s love is perfect and can only be understood in the context of absolute trust regardless of the temporary condition of the circumstances. Circumstances are all ultimately subject to change but God’s love is constant and unchangeable.
When a child cries for Mom there are times when Mom will rush quickly to attend to the child. But, there are other cries that don’t illicit that same urgency. Mom’s somehow know the difference. There are times when we tend to panic and cry out to God for His immediate intervention in our situations and if He doesn’t do something “right now” we can tend to be fearful, to doubt or even to despair of His perceived lack of care for us.
But, God knows when He needs to intervene and He does it in His own time.
The old gospel song says, “He may not come when you call Him, but He’s always right on time.”
The disciples’ exceeding fear of drowning was, in the moment, greater than their assurance of Jesus’ love for them and what that meant for their immediate situation. Their lives were being threatened. The sea was violently tossing the boat about. They felt no control over the circumstance and could only see an inevitable disaster looming before them.
But, Jesus was asleep in the boat with them. That is the most amazing and profound factor in this story. The One for whom they had left everything in their lives to follow, was with them in this life-threatening situation. And not just with them, He was asleep in the middle of it. They were panicking, He was sleeping.
Now they interpreted His lack of engagement in their panic as His disregard and disinterest in their lives whether they lived or died.
Now, we claim to know Jesus and to believe that He loves us but how often do our first reactions to bad news, or challenging circumstances tend toward fear and doubt that God will, at best, not intervene in time or, at worst, not intervene at all to help us.
How different things might have been if even one of them had said, “Just hold on boys, let’s go where Jesus is. This storm is not taking us without also taking Him and He’s not worried about that at all, so we don’t need to worry either.”
In that moment, however they were just doing what all of us would have done. They knew Jesus had done miraculous things, but they still didn’t understand that He was (and is) God. He created the storm and it’s in His control. Moreover, as God, He loved them. He was never going to leave them forsaken. So, He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace be still.” Then, He gently chided them for being afraid and having no faith. They didn’t have little faith, they had no faith. They were consumed with fear.
“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:39-41
Now, the question that Jesus poses is, do you love Me? Three times He asked Peter, “Do you love Me…?”
“If you love me,” Jesus said, “keep my commandments.” If we love Him then that love prompts us to act out that love in obedience to His Word. The reason all this is important is that faith works by love. Faith without love is not faith, it has no power. Likewise, faith without corresponding action (works) is dead. So, we need both love and action for our faith to have affect in our lives, and these must be based on the knowledge of God’s love for us and our love for Him. We could say, works motivated by love is faith. The apostle James put it this way.
“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. James 2:18
Now faith is not ethereal nor is it tangible in the sense of a commodity you can’t pick it off the shelf at the local grocery store, but it can be seen, heard, and experienced based on something we know. We don’t have faith in a vacuum. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God and on the basis of knowing His Word we speak and act out our faith.
Jesus showed His faith when He spoke, when He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace, be still.”
God will always be faithful to do His Word. When we speak His Word mixed with faith motivated by love it will bear fruit in our lives. When we do acts of compassion motivated by love we manifest our faith by our obedience to do His will.
Love and faith go hand in hand. The more of God’s Word we hide in our hearts the more we have to draw on to anchor our faith. The more love we have for God the more we understand the depth of His love for us. The more we yield ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit the more the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. The more love we have in our hearts, the more love we will speak from that place of abundance.
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. Luke 6:45