A Love Story!
By Minister Raymond D. Sopp
When I started my walk with God I wanted to get inside of Him; I really wanted to know His heart. When I first picked up the Scriptures, I prayed, "God I do not want to just memorize the words, but I want to know the heart that produced the words." That prayer request started me on a journey which, at best, I would describe as an adventure. I'm reminded of the Scripture in Matthew 20:22, "You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" God has been granting me my prayer request by giving me insight into His heart, not through the goose-bumps of jubilation, but through His cleansing holy fire. Relentlessly, God is burning up the chaff in my life by the testing of my faith through the refining fire of tribulations. The following is a love story in my past which my Lord used to help me know His heart, and change my heart forever; but first I had to learn to surrender to God's Word, God's will.
It all started with a woman who came into my life whom I did not pay much attention to at first. She was just another Christian sister who needed help and to be encouraged in both God's Word and His faithfulness. However, as time passed by, I found myself falling in love with her, but there was a huge problem: from the beginning, I knew she was not attracted to me. I found my peaceful life suddenly disrupted and suffering a despondent heart just for trying to do something good -- trying to help someone!
I began to pray about this situation. I prayed: "God how could you allow me to fall in love with a woman who is not attracted to me? What did I do wrong? I was just trying to help." Oh, I was so mad at God! This just wasn't fair! God's reply to my prayer was very simple, but also very blunt. 1 Corinthians 13:5: "Love does not seek its own" and Luke 6:32-33: "And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same."
Being stubborn, I again prayed: "Yes, I know Lord, but why did you allow this to happen?" This battle with my Lord continued on for about a week, and God continued to give me the same answer. Finally, I realized (thank God for His patience) that God's kind of love has nothing to do with a quid pro quo (one thing in return for another). In other words, I will love you as long as you love me back, and/or look at all I've done for you, and since I see nothing in return, I'll never do anything for you again.
A "quid pro quo" kind of love is abhorrent to the symbolism of the cross, and to everything it teaches us. Do you believe for one minute if Jesus' love for us was based on a "quid pro quo" attitude that He would have gone to the cross? Just imagine for a moment what your response would be if on the way to the cross, the same humanity you were going to save by suffering the excruciating death of the cross, spit in your face. Matthew 27:28-31: "And they stripped Him, and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they kneeled down before Him and mocked Him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' And they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. And after they had mocked Him, they took His robe off and put His garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him."
You may say, "That's Jesus; what does that have to do with me?" Romans 5:6-8 tells us: "God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Notice the word used there was not "Jesus", but "Christ", which means the Anointed One. As God puts His Holy Spirit within us, are we not to be the "anointed one" so we can also demonstrate God's love to a lost and dying world through the laying down of our lives -- our wants and desires? So, could this Scripture not only be talking about Jesus, but also perhaps His Church -- His body -- you and I? In John 10:17-18, Jesus said something very beautiful: "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again." Could it be!? As I lay my life down voluntary, I will actually be raised to life? Luke 9:23-24: "And He was saying to them all, 'if anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.'" Could it be!?
No, I was not being punished by God for helping someone; I was the one who actually benefitted the most from this relationship. God, through this experience, was answering my prayer to know His heart. Immediately, as I surrendered to God's Word, my heart came to rest. Truly, for the first time in my life, I was now free to give that which I freely received: God's love -- and do it without regret. Without regret because I was now free to give without looking for any kind of repayment. Finally, I was free to unconditionally serve my Lord -- I was free to voluntary lay down my life for another! And to my surprise, what first sounded like a contradiction (I found my life by losing it) -- I found a peace and rest which went beyond carnal reasoning -- I found His yoke to be easy.
When we get into a situation that we do not understand, we have a decision to make: Do we choose to get mad at God and say, "Look at all I'm doing for you, Lord, and You let this happen to me!? (That sounds like a 'quid pro quo' kind of love affair to me)." Or do we just trust God through it, and believe Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."? I think I'll choose to believe God's Word, even if I do not understand what is happening to me. It is written that His ways will always be higher than our ways. So who can ever say, I understand? Yet, we do understand that God's love for us is not a "quid pro quo" kind of love. Hence, God's love cannot be influenced by outside forces, and therefore, His love for us cannot change even as it is impossible for God's nature to change. We can always trust God in the flames of our trails because we know He loves us. Yes, in spite of all, we can know God loves us!
You may ask, "If God loves us in this way, how can there be a hell?" Hell is simply a place where there is NO God. For example, as we began to take God out of the U.S.A., we began to see "hell" take shape. Our carnal nature began to manifest itself into unbridled passions -- always taking; never being satisfied -- burning within with a lust which nothing can quench. We quickly degenerated unto children killing children without any remorse. 2 Timothy 3:1-4: "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."
Thankfully, God remains in control here on earth, or no flesh would be left alive (Matthew 24:22). But in the literal hell, there will be NO God to help; no peace, no love, always driven, and never satisfied; flames of fire that are never quenched with your cries for help falling to the ground, because there is no one who cares. Yes, it's just as you wanted it: NO God at all in your life. Not for a day or two, but for eternity. An eternity of the complete absence of God's love, as it is completely replaced by a "quid pro quo" kind of love. Inasmuch as a "quid pro quo" love, loves only itself, there will never be any rest, just the burning flames of discontentment, even as I had encountered briefly no rest, or contentment, with the woman I was trying to help until I let God into the relationship and accepted His ways. Yes, hell on earth, or the literal hell of eternity is a place we choose to go by rebelling against, and/or eliminating God and His ways from our lives; ergo, both the reality of God's unconditional love -- and hell -- can coexist.
The question about hell has NEVER been "if God loves you;" HE DOES! The question is, will you accept God's love, and embrace a loving relationship with Him? As with my past relationship, I could love her expecting nothing in return, but a loving relationship between us could only begin by her accepting my love and returning it. You may ask, "Is this not a 'quid pro quo' kind of love by her needing to return the love?" No, because the word "relationship" presupposes the involvement of more than one. God wants that love relationship with us so much, He sent His only Son Jesus to die for our sins, which opened the door for that relationship. But will anyone receive the expression of God's love, Jesus, and return it in a relationship? The sad reality is, only a few will accept God's love, and begin a relationship with Him. Matthew 7:13-14: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and FEW are those who find it."
You may ask, "How can anyone return such a love?" It is written, "to know the love of God is to be filled with it." In Ephesians 3:18-19 the Apostle Paul prays that we, ". . . may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God." Let me ask you, "if knowing God's love is being filled with the fulness of God, how can you not return it?" Now that God has allowed me to taste His love through knowing within my heart what it means "love seeks not it's own," I can't wait to be in His presence and become perfect in His love! Through obedience, I've gained a taste, and now more than ever -- I want it all!
In Exodus 33:13 Moses prays, "If I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways." In my lack of understanding, I only saw the situation with this woman as an opportunity to both get hurt, and to get mad at God. However, God meant it for good! Without this experience, I would have never come to know in my heart this facet of the multifaceted jewel called God's love. No, I was not betrayed nor mistreated by God, but I had found favor in His sight because He allowed me to know His ways.
We must never forget that whatever trials we find ourselves in, God is in control! Yes, Satan himself needed permission from God before he could afflict Job, but then God not only used the affliction to refine Job, but also used Job's story to help a myriad of people through this life as they read his story in the Bible. Have you been through some hard times? Then use what you have learned from it to help others get through their flames of adversity (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). Remember, all of us at one time or another will go through testing (Hebrews 12:26-29). So let us exult in our tribulations for it gives to us proven character, and a hope which does not disappoint (Romans 5:3-5), and allow ourselves to be changed by God from glory to glory, for the praise and glory of our God who loves us!
Now is a good time to ask yourself the question, "When I say I love God, with what kind of love do I love God?" Is it a "quid pro quo" kind of love, or is it a God kind of love, expecting nothing in return? When you are obedient to His Word are you expecting something back, or are you doing it just because you love Him? Can you say from your heart, my reward is in the doing, because I love God (Luke 17:7-10)?
John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Be a disciple of God today: give His love to someone, and expect nothing in return!
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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