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Love's Labors

The following study was compiled using the sermon notes of Charles H. Spurgeon, available as one of the Blue Letter Bible commentaries.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
(1 Corinthians 13:7)

The grace of love is absolutely essential to true godliness. So essential is it that if we have everything else, but have not love, it profits us nothing (1 Cor 13:2-3). The absence of love is absolutely fatal to vital godliness. It is common to the everyday life of the people of God. This glorious salvation unto pure love must be grasped by faith, and wrought in us by the operation of the Spirit of God. If we consider salvation to be a little thing, we bring it, as it were, within the sphere of human possibility, but if we set it forth in its true proportions as involving the possession of a pure, loving, elevated state of heart, then we perceive that it is a divine wonder. If love be in any man and abounds, God must have the glory of it, for it certainly wasn’t attained by mere natural effort, but must have been bestowed by that same hand which made the heavens. “The fruit of the Spirit is love…” and the Spirit is ready and willing to bear fruit in us also.

Love’s Difficulties

FIRST, notice the multitude of love’s difficulties. It must bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. When the grace of God comes into a man he is born at once to love. He that loves is born of God, and he that is born of God loves. God has put within you a new life, but the old ;life seeks to smother it. You will find a severe struggle to master yourself. I do not think I need to say more upon the difficulties of love. I am sure that every person knows how extreme these difficulties can be, and that we require superlative grace if we are to master them.

Love’s Triumphs

SECONDLY, observe the triumph of love’s labor. It does each of the four things: it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things—and it does them effectively.

When we say that love “bears all things” what the word means in the Greek is to “cover”. In other words, true love refuses to hold others to their faults; it has no wish to see faults. I wish, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate the pearl oyster. When a hurtful particle intrudes itself into the oyster’s shell, it vexes it. However, the oyster cannot eject the evil, so instead it covers it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turnes the intruder into a pearl. Oh, if we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, long-suffering, and forgiveness might be bred within us by that which else had harmed us.

When we say that love “believes all things” we mean that, regarding our fellow Christians, love believes the best of them. If I did not believe in my brothers I would not profess to be one of them. I believe that with all their faults they are the best people in the world, and that, although the church of God is not perfect, yet she is the bride of One who is. I have the utmost respect for the church for the Lord’s sake.

Regarding our unbelieving friends, “love believes all things” means that we believe God can save them. Love believes that the precious blood of Christ can redeem the bondslaves of sin and Satan, and break their iron chains. Love believes that the power of the Holy Spirit can change a heart of granite into a heart of flesh.

When we say that love “hopes all things” we mean that love never despairs. Love believes in good things yet to come in her fellow-men, even if she cannot believe in any present good in them. If your brother has been very angry with you without a cause, hope that you will win him over and set about the task. Never despair of your fellow Christians.

The last triumph of love is in “enduring all things” by which I understand to be a patient perseverance in loving. This is perhaps the hardest work of all, for many people can be affectionate and patient for a time, but the task is to hold on year after year. Blessed be God, the love that Christ gives us endures all things. As his love endured to the end, so does the love which the Spirit works in us endure to the end. Behold the cross! See the patient Sufferer and that ribald multitude: they thrust out the tongue, they sneer, they jest, they blaspheme; and there he hangs, triumphant in his patience, conquering the world, and death, and hell by enduring “all things”.

Love’s Source

LASTLY, let us consider the sources of love’s energy. The Holy Ghost alone can teach men how to love and give them power to do so. Love’s art is learned at no other school but at the feet of Jesus, where the Spirit of love rests on those who learn of him.

Note the four sweet companions of love. There are with her tenderness that “bears all things”, faith that “believes all things”, hope that “hopes all things”, and patience which “endures all things”. The one who has this tenderness, faith, hope, and patience has a brave host of graces to guard him, and he has no reason to be afraid. Most of all, love finds her life from the wounds of Christ. Love can bear, believe, hope, and endure because Christ has borne, believed, hoped, and endured for her. When I consider the cross of Jesus my response should be: I must love.

Love makes us love; love bought us, sought us, and brought us to the Savior’s feet, and it shall henceforth constrain us to deeds which else would be impossible. Oh to be distracted from selfishness by the love of Christ, and maddened into self-oblivion by a supreme passion for the Crucified. I know not how otherwise to put my thoughts into words so that they may hint at my burning meaning. May the Lord of love look into your very eyes with those eyes which once were red weeping over human sin: may he touch your hands with those hands that were nailed to the cross, and impress the blessed nailmarks upon your feet, and then may he pierce your heart till it pour forth a life for love, and flow out in streams of kind desires, and generous deeds, and holy scrifices for God and for his people.

God grant it, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.