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TEXT: I Corinthians 13:4a
SUBJECT: Attributes of Love #2: Love Suffers Long
Kids-listen up please! This afternoon, we're moving on in the study we began last month on I Corinthians 13. Before we get to it, however, I've got two questions for you. The first is easy; the second is a bit trickier.
The chapter does not tell us what love is. It tells us what love does and doesn't do. This is helpful, for it makes it easy to know if you're loving or not or if your love is growing or getting smaller. If you know what love does and doesn't do, you can ask yourself: Am I doing the things love does? Am I not doing the things love doesn't do? If the answer is yes, then you know you're loving. But, if the answer is no, then you know you're not loving or that you've lost the love you used to have.
This means you don't have to worry about feelings or deep dark secrets of the heart. All you've got to do is ask yourself: Am I kind, patient and polite to other people? If you are, you're loving. But, if you're conceited, envious, and happy when they get in trouble, then you're not loving!
The Bible says A tree is known by its fruit. If I pick an apple off a tree, I don't have to wonder if it's a coconut tree. The fruit tells me what kind of tree it is. In the same way, what you do and don't do tell what kind of person you are.
No one's love is perfect-except the Lord's. The most loving person will sometimes be cranky and mean and proud. But only sometimes. A heart full of God's love will make a life full of kindness, patience, humility, politeness, and the other things named in our chapter.
So, let's look at the first one: "Love suffers long".
To suffer long means to hold your temper. It means you're not mad all the time; it means you don't flip out when your little brother gets into your things. It means you don't pout and sulk when your mom brings home a pizza with anchovies on it! It's another way of saying patient.
This is the first thing Paul says about love: love is patient. Are you patient?
People always have a reason for being impatient. Kids are mad all the time because of their parents, their brothers and sisters, the kids at school, their teachers, and so on. When they grow up they're unhappy because of their kids, their husband or wife, the people at work, their bosses, and so on. There's always a reason to be impatient-to be cranky and mean and unkind.
But the reason is not where they say it is: in others. No, it is in themselves. The Bible says we are not patient with others because we do not love them. If we loved them (as we should) we would be patient with them because love is patient.
Love without patience is like a fire without heat: there is no such thing! You may call it a fire, but it isn't a fire! It may look like a fire, others may agree it's a fire, but without heat, it is not a fire! And without patience, it is not love!
And so, what does it mean to suffer long?
Some Christian things you don't need very often. For example, the grace to die for Jesus Christ. Some believers need it, but most of us don't-and no one needs it more than once!
But patience? That's one you need: everyone needs it and needs it all the time. Do you know why? Because people are going to do you wrong: everyday someone is going to try your patience-some days everyone will all day long!
Some of the people will be your enemies: a bully at school, a snooty kid at church, a teacher who's got it in for you. I've even known pastors who horribly mistreated kids at their church-and as far as I can tell-they did on purpose! These people are going to make you mad-but the Lord wants you to hold your temper!
Not only does He want you to, but the Lord Himself held His temper when wicked men lied about Him, called him a devil, and hung Him on a cross!
The people who hurt you most, however, are not your enemies, but people who ought to love you most.
Parents often provoke their kids. The dad is under all kinds of pressure at work, he comes home tired and aggravated, his son does some little thing he doesn't like, and the dad blows up ranting and raving as though dropping a glass of water is worse than murder! The temptation will be to yell back. But the Lord says no-be patient.
Your mom is not a morning person. But you just remembered that you have to wear a white shirt to school today-and you've haven't got one that is ironed. Mom, can you iron my shirt? Why didn't you tell me this last night! I don't have time to do it this morning! If I've told you once, I've told you a million times!!! The temptation is to sulk and go off with a bad attitude, but the Lord says no-be patient.
Your little brother is bratty; your big sister is bossy-you want to beat him up or tell on her, but the Lord says no-be patient.
The Lord Jesus Christ once said, "Offenses must come". He was right-they must come and they have come by the millions. And yet, the Lord wants us to bear them patiently-to not be mad all the time or sulk around the house.
How do you show patience? I've already hinted around at it, but let me spell it out:
You show patience by not taking revenge. When someone does you wrong, the temptation is to do the same to him-or worse. But the Lord says "Avenge not yourselves".
You show patience by not telling everyone what he did to you. If your brother pulled a knife on you, you should tell your parents, (they need to know something that serious) but that's a lot different than tattling! Patience doesn't tattle.
You show patience by not thinking ugly, hard, mean thoughts. When people hurt you, you'll be tempted to think evil of them-to hope they die and go to hell, maybe-but the temptation is not sinful. Giving into it is. The thought that crosses your mind is the devil's thought. But, if you hold onto it, it becomes your own.
You show patience by not being too sensitive! There's a kind of person who is offended by every little thing: he can't take a joke, for example. He exaggerates every fault and takes every word personally-as though it were meant to hurt him. The Bible is very plain about this: it says
"The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger and it is to his glory to overlook a transgression" (Proverbs 19:11).
This is what patience looks like; its how patience behaves: it does not take revenge or gossip or think mean thoughts or become mad (or hurt) about every little thing.
Most people are not patient. And some of them go to church. Do you know why most people are so ready to lose their temper or to become all grouchy and hateful?
There are many reasons for this, but the most important one is also the one we often don't think about: They are impatient because they are not saved.
Maybe you can't get control of your temper because you're not a Christian. You can't love others because the love of God has not come into your soul. If you're not saved, you won't be patient-in fact, you'll become worse and worse.
So, why don't you become a Christian? You do that by repenting of your sins and trusting the Lord Jesus Christ. When you do that-you won't be suddenly and perfectly patient-but you'll have the seed of patience planted in your soul and-with the blessing of God-it will grow all through your life and be fully grown in heaven.
You can become a patient person. But not on your own-not by following rules-but only by being saved.
If you want to grow in patience, think about four things-and think hard about them:
How patient the Lord is with you.
How patient others are with you.
How happy you'd be if you were patient.
What a blessing to others you would be if you were patient.
What is love? It's the thing that makes you patient-patient with annoying people and patient with bad people.
Where does the love that makes you patient come from? From God to everyone who repents and puts his faith in Christ.
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