Note from author: This is a continuation of “Love for Enemies”.
In the previous post, we discussed how loving our enemies doesn’t come from the goodness of our own heart.
Rather, it comes from the power, love and sound mind that God gives through the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7).
Furthermore, when we love our enemies, we are living by faith.
Our faith and the results of our faith is NOT dependent on how other people treat us.
In fact, our faith and the reward of our faith is NEVER based on what goes on in the world, or what happens to us.
Our whole life, faith and our reward are dependent on Christ and our God! Let’s turn to Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV):
“1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Jesus suffered and had the same weaknesses. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT) declares:
“14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
More than anyone, Jesus understands us in our suffering. He understands what it is like to be insulted, beaten, mocked, rejected and hurt in every way. He experienced betrayal from some of His closest friends. He understands what it is like to be lonely, with no one in your life who really understands or cares about you. His own parents and siblings didn’t understand Him.
Even through all the trials and tribulations, Jesus endured. That’s why we can go to Jesus in every weakness, in every failure, in every triumph and in every suffering.
Let’s go over each verse of Hebrews 12:1-3.
Hebrews 12:1 says, we all are surrounded by people who also lived for God. People who suffered for their faith, and yet never gave up. We are to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us – everything! Whether it is our love for games, the desire to please everyone, even our own pursuit of whatever makes us happy.
Why should we give up whatever makes us happy? Even our own U.S. Constitution says we have a right to pursue happiness!
Remember what we learned, that loving our enemies is living by faith? Do you think doing good to those who hurt you, blessing them and not cursing them, giving them something to eat if they are hungry, and giving your enemy something to drink if they are thirsty, would make you happy? Be honest!
Maybe we won’t get any satisfaction from doing all those things. Sometimes we might even feel more angrier because our enemies don’t deserve the grace we are giving them. However, when you choose to act in love, our feelings will eventually change to follow our actions of love.
That’s why Christians are called by God to live by faith (Romans 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 2:20). We do not live by what we see, and we definitely do not live by what we feel.
As we learned last week, when we live by faith, our faith leads us to grow spiritually mature, becoming more like Jesus (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Galatians 4:19; Hebrews 10:38).
Living by faith leads us to develop endurance, which develops strength of character, which develops our confident hope of salvation. This hope of salvation will not lead to disappointment. When we grow in faith, this faith that God gives us as a gift to use brings joy (Romans 5:1-11)! That is the lasting blessing we receive from God when we live by faith!
Spiritual joy cannot be taken away by our circumstances or anything that people do.
Our happiness will always be temporary. Pursuing happiness will not lead to blessings or joy. Our happiness will change when something happens to make our day worse.
For example, one day wake up, you feel refreshed from last night’s sleep. You remember you have a quiz and when you take it, you feel like you got a high score. Then when you get to your next class, you realize forget your textbook at home. That can put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day, even though the day might start well right?
Or maybe you finally got the game you wanted, which made you very happy. But you don’t get a good night’s sleep and you are lying on bed, unable to sleep and becoming tired and grumpy.
Happiness does not last, and if we do not live by faith, we will always try many things to make us happy. Maybe we try being happy by making lots of friends, eating good food, exercising, playing games, gardening, getting a boyfriend/girlfriend, a new job, etc. But in the end, do those things really keep you happy? Will they keep you strong when things in life become hard?
Happiness that depends on people and things in our lives do not help us endure the hardships of life. If we depend on other people and other things to become the source of our happiness, they just end up becoming something we get addicted to.
Making friends isn’t evil. We all are meant to have healthy friendships. But if we look to friendships to make us happy, we will never find a perfect friendship that keeps us happy. Having support that we need through healthy relationships does not equate to happiness. (I honestly think of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh and friends as a good example).
Enjoying good food isn’t evil. God made delicious things for us to enjoy – mangoes, chocolate, etc. But if we look to those things to make us happy, we will never be satisfied. The same could be said for other things in life.
In the end, when we pursue happiness, we become people who are always looking for the next thing that will make us FORGET for a brief moment our own pain and suffering.
We cannot expect other things to make us happy. So many people look for happiness in the wrong things – money, friendships, drugs, sex, music, clothes, houses, etc.
God truly wants us to be happy! (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13) But we have to remember that God’s way is not our way! (Isaiah 55:9)
Our idea of happiness and joy is very different from God’s.
The happiness that God gives us is not dependent on things we eat, drink, buy, or have.
When we live in pursuit of happiness, we become miserable! We never become satisfied or happy.
The reason we do not become satisfied is because we are all created for the glory of God. That’s why our pursuit of happiness leads to nothing, only disappointment and emptiness that our soul can’t quite fill (Romans 3:23; Romans 5:1-2; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Our joy needs to be based in something eternal, unchanging, and lasting.
The Bible says that when we live by faith, our faith leads to joy.
This is connected to Galatians 5, where Paul writes about the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The first fruit that our faith should produce is love. The second fruit is joy!
I will say it again!
Faith leads to joy! The joy God gives as we hold on to the truth in His Word and promises, gives us strength. And the spiritual strength that comes from the joy of the Lord makes our spirit strong.
If we have a crushed spirit, we cannot overcome all the hardships and trials in life (Proverbs 18:14). Instead of overcoming all our suffering and learning to love others, even our enemies, in the same way God loves us, we get overwhelmed with evil and lose the will to endure.
Psalm 28:7 (NLT) declares: “The LORD is my strength and shield.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”
Our lives will always have days of goodness and days of suffering.
Therefore, as is written in Hebrews 12:2, we endure by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:3 reminds us not to give up: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Even when you suffer for doing good, don’t give up! We won’t always understand our suffering. But remember that God uses suffering to make us strong in our spirit and become more like Jesus. People don’t abandon God because life is hard.
People fall away from God because they don’t realize that suffering is part of life. Other times people fall away from God because they love things in the world more than God.
God gives us strength to push forward with hope and joy (Matthew 13:18-23). We need to really be rooted in our love for God and rooted in our love for our neighbor as we love ourselves. Only then, will we truly be able to endure everything that will happen.
When you are suffering, even now, look to Jesus and remember what He said to us:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (NIV)
God promises you, and by my own personal testimony, I tell you, faith leads to joy, even when we are suffering.
It is so hard to love our enemies. It can feel like we are suffering more when we choose to love them – blessing them and not cursing them, praying for them, giving them something to eat and drink if they’re hungry and thirsty…it feels like we aren’t getting anything back. There will be days we think that there is no point in loving our enemies.
But hold on to God’s Word. When we remind ourselves of Jesus, we also remember that God gives us more grace to overcome our own personal problems so we can reach out to the people that are hard for us to love.
“We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19 (NIV)