From “Hero” to “zero” — Part 2: Speaking God’s Love Language
1 Corinthians 13:2, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
The Corinthians wanted to be noticed: the gift of tongues should get them noticed, claiming to have deeper knowledge should get them noticed, claiming to know more than the Apostle Paul should get them noticed (chapters 1,2 and 2 Cor. 6,10), moving a mountain would certainly have made them Somebody. In fact, the first two comparisons of 1 Corinthians 13 are the VERY picture of the wrong thinking and motivation by the Corinthian church. Paul tells them that using spiritual gifts in this way will only turn them into an annoying noise (v.1) and make them a Zero(v.2)--literal translation of the Greek word. The lack of Love meant they would accomplish the exact opposite of what they had wanted.
Paul covers this same topic in other parts of this book. In 1 Cor. 8:1 he says that knowledge puffs up but love builds up. The arrogant know-it-all puffs up himself like a bullfrog while love solidly builds up someone else. Some recipes (I think a soufflé) have you cook this thing that puffs up huge but flattens down once you let all the “hot air” out. So it is with people who know a whole lot, talk a whole lot but live very little.
Paul warns them that each man’s work will be tested by God’s fire. What looked like gold and silver burned down to a pile of ash because there was no love mixed in. God’s fire always burns with the test of motive exposing what had been mistaken for the materials of “success”.
The mountain that needs moving is not the mountain of obstacles but the Mountain of my pride. Now there is a mountain that only God and Love can really move. Until we get that, trying to be Somebody we will be Nobodies and trying to be “Heroes”, we will be zeroes.
Who could that be? I was not expecting anyone so I glanced through the curtain. SAM! What was HE doing here?! Too bad my car was in plain sight because now for sure he knew I was home. Sam and I have been on the outs for over 5 months. We started a private spat over some work he had done for me that I thought the quality was low and the price high. Our private spat had started turning public when people would ask me how I liked the job Sam had done---- he didn’t expect me to lie did he?! He returned the favor by telling people what an unreasonable customer I had been and how I had purposely bounced my check to him costing him a few Bank fees as well. I refused to repay the fees because those should just help “cover” the Discount I should have gotten for inferior work. Yep, it had gotten ugly quick. Even our Kids found it hard to hang out together anymore because they tired of the “spy” questions they would get from the “grown-ups” when they each got home.
The pastor preached that we should pray for our enemies. So I prayed for Sam: I prayed God would show him how wrong he was. I prayed God would show people how right I was. I prayed Sam would feel guilty every job he did that he got paid fairly remembering how he had ripped me off. I felt good because I was praying for my Enemy—just somewhere deep in my conscience I knew those were not the prayers that God had in mind.
SO---- What gave Sam the idea that he could just show up at my door?! Funny, before this all started he would not have even known I had a doorbell because we were used to “knocking and walking” right in to each others’ houses. Perhaps he was here to submit another bogus bill for those bank fees. Maybe he was here to tell my kid he was no longer welcomed at his house. Maybe he was going to sue me for losing him some potential customers--- funny how all those thoughts could rush through my mind in just the few seconds it took me to reach the door.
“Sam, I would say I hope you are here on BUSINESS but I can’t figure out what business you would have here anyway!” (It’s always good to get in the first “broadside”.) Sam’s face was twisted a little funny and I saw a tear coming from one corner of his eye. “Steve, I am so sorry. I am here to do the Job over at no cost. I am here to repair everything to your specs because I want to repair our friendship. Please forgive me.”
In that moment I hated Sam more NOW than before. I wanted another insult. I wanted another slight. I wanted another Bill I could tear up in his face. But what I did NOT want was for him to ask for forgiveness! Sure, I may have prayed for this when in my men’s study but that was only 1 to 100 of those other prayers I prayed for God’s retribution on him--- plus what would those guys think of me if they heard the other 99 I prayed. If he was here asking my forgiveness then that meant God had forgiven him – not FAIR! Now God was actually going to expect me to forgive Sam--- not Fair, Not FAIR!
“Sam, you know I have to forgive you BUT I don’t feel like it now. It would have been better if you had come over here to yell at me some more. I think I would have actually handled that better.”
“It’s OK, Steve. I know there needs to be actions behind my confession. You’ll have plenty of chances to forgive me because I will be here the whole next week tearing out and redoing the job I messed up before!” (( :
And Jonah sat on the hillside after having Preached Repentance but all the while Hoping for Retribution. God provided him shade to keep him from burning up on the outside but that was nothing to the burning up on the inside. The worm actually did him a “favor” by killing the plant. It confirmed to Jonah that he had every right to be angry:
GOD has no right forgiving people we don’t want to!!
Yesterday we spent a few hours outside digging out. Dash is our Rhodesian ridgeback hound. He wanted to be out there with us; he wasn’t much help but was great for companionship. There is a problem though: he sometimes would get in the way. I would try to get a big shovelful and Dash would be right where I wanted to be scooping. He would be standing where I wanted to throw the snow. Or the wind would blow some of it back on him. Each time he would give me this wounded look as if I had been targeting him. He actually does the same when we are trying to vacuum—as if we were purposely chasing him from room-to-room. Kind of reminded me that sometimes I can do the same with God.
God is at work on accomplishing His BIGGER purpose, but all I am aware of at the moment is that I feel like He has targeted me for trials and/or frustration. I am even capable of giving Him that same wounded look and maybe even a cry: “What are You doing to me?!” Could it be that I have as much understanding of His ways as my dog has about what I was trying to do? Could it be that my lack of understanding has actually gotten me “in the way?”
We can see some of this throughout the Bible in both positive and negative examples. Daniel was one who had a heart to grasp even the deep things of God. He was able to survive the rise and fall of three different kingdoms. Nehemiah was one that was so focused in on God’s purpose that he “got in the way” of everybody else--- all those who wanted to slow down or stop the building of the Wall.
David gives us a lengthy example of how we are to stay out of the way of God’s vengeance. Do you realize that when we want to take our own revenge, we actually are getting in God’s way of justice and could even end up ourselves being disciplined by Him?? Twice David could have taken revenge on Saul but withheld his hand; God blessed him and kept him safe until He replaced Saul with David. In 1 Samuel 25, David sets out to take his own revenge on Nabal— he is going to handle this one himself! God graciously sends Abigail to stop him; then God deals with Nabal Himself. God did not need David’s help; David was only in the way.
Paul has people who are actually badmouthing and using his being in prison as a way to build their “kingdoms” ( Philippians 1). Does Paul get burned or distracted?? No, he rejoices that the Gospel is going forth. “Paul’s praises” will have to take a backseat to the greater purpose of the Gospel going forth.
Another incident of Paul was his thorn in flesh. Paul cried out to God three times to remove it because he felt it was getting in the way of God’s purposes for his life. God actually tells him that the thorn IS His purpose. God wants to show His strength was greater than Paul’s weakness. He was a showcase of God’s overcoming grace. Paul now has the spiritual maturity and perspective to accept what had been unacceptable before. No feeling sorry for himself; he would now celebrate his disappointments and frustration because they would be constant reminders of God’s greater purpose for him.
Dash will never be able to understand that I have a greater purpose and I am not targeting him. Psalm 32: 8 and 9 actually make a similar comparison. God instructs us that we are to look to Him for His is guiding of us with His eye upon us. We are NOT to be like the horse or mule that are clueless to know where the Master is leading but instead have to have a bit and bridle to keep them going in the right direction. Boy do I know how that can feel when God has had to rein me in. I would rather have my eyes on His eyes to see where He is looking and leading!
How a Stoop can become a Fall
When growing up, my parents had some memorable sayings. One of those was: “Don’t stoop to their level.” This was usually in reference to someone who had been spreading rumors about us kids or someone who had been mean. The caution was that we should not become like them especially by wanting to get revenge or “justice” – as I was thinking it. The problem with actually doing this is this: I resent the fact that their words or actions have put “doubt” on my words or character (for the moment) BUT when I stoop to their level, I have actually given them the power to CHANGE my character. I have actually given their words MORE power. It is no longer just the power of annoyance; I have handed them power to fundamentally change who I am. Trying to get at them; I have become them.
I see this illustrated so clearly in the life of Moses. God said that Moses was the most humble man of ALL. Look how people bashed him time and time again. The next day Moses gets up, puts on his sandals, and leads them like nothing had ever happened!! The day before they had wanted to elect someone to take them back to Egypt; Moses gets up and still leads them toward the Promises Land. They accuse him of killing Korah and his posse as if Moses had the power to open the ground. The next day God sends a plague on these murmurrers; Moses prays for their healing! Aaron and Miriam complain that Moses is a dictatorship when they think that they deserve the same status. God strikes Miriam with leprosy; Moses prays for her healing.
Every time Moses maintained his humility, GOD took care of business. Moses does not rejoice in God’s judgment but instead prays for God’s mercy on the very same people who had just wronged him. He gives meaning to the New Testament principles: “Love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the Truth” and “Pray for your enemy.”
It was only ONCE that Moses gave into what we tend to do every time: he retaliated (Numbers 20). He yelled at the people and struck the Rock when God has specifically told him to speak to the Rock. The idea I get here is that Moses finally responded as is natural: he lashed out. I am sure he might have liked to strike a few people but the Rock had to do. In so doing, he dishonored God. God had always corrected the rebels; God had shown over and over that he had Moses’ back. Moses was not OK with that THIS time; he wanted his own vengeance. He wanted his own rant. Whenever we want our “pound of flesh”, it actually costs US more. Plus we end up on God’s Discipline List. Moses lost the Promised Land because this time he did not want to keep his cool. His stoop to the level of the rebels caused him fall right in with their ranks.
“Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” Thus when I take vengeance into my own hands, I show that I am not trusting that God will do an adequate job or maybe I doubt He will do it soon enough to suit me. My stoop to their level will result in my fall from grace. What I thought was just my rightful “stoop” has resulted in my crashing “fall”.
NOT WORTH IT!
Pastor Stephen Willoughby
Pastor Steve grew up in Columbia,South America, where his parents served as missionaries for 25 years. After graduating from Capital Bible Seminary, he was invited to serve as Assistant Pastor at FBCP. He has served in that capacity for twenty years before taking on the position of Senior Pastor.