"Do everything in love."
1 Corinthians 16:14
This blog post was, "fueled" by a few things--the recent debut of talk show host, Jimmy Fallon, on the, "The Tonight Show," an e-devotional I recently read by Rick Warren, and a recent conversation with my mother. On his debut show, Jimmy Fallon shared humble, sincere sentiments about his new venture, as well as, why he thinks he has been successful thus far and how he hopes it will continue. He said he believes the one thing that has been the reason for any success he has had, is the fact that he just loves people. He said he has tried to make it his main purpose to love people and let that love, and his desire to make their lives better (which is, love, again), be the motivation in all his work. When I think about how Jimmy treats each and every one of his guests, I can readily see this kind of love. When I think about the kinds of questions he asks them and his reactions to their answers, I clearly see this kind of love. He just cares about people. He sees the best in everyone. He is not partial. He is not competitive. He is a joyful, loving soul--and that bubbles forth from his very being nightly. I was already a huge fan of the guy, and those comments certainly made me a bigger one.
About a week later, I read an online devotional by Pastor Rick Warren entitled, "Bring Your Love and Work Together," and was reminded strongly of many things Jimmy shared in his opening speech. The idea of, letting love be our motivation or, "fuel," rang true yet again. Pastor Warren shared that if we make love our chief aim, our work will not only be done well and be enjoyable to us, but it will also be an effective and pleasing sacrifice and ministry to God and for God in the lives of others. We all want our work and efforts to matter and make a difference--it is an innate, God-given trait and desire. I cannot think of a better way for it to matter than for love to be the source of it all. In his devotional, Pastor Warren fittingly quoted Mother Teresa:
"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving." ~Mother Teresa
When I think about the people I love the most, I realize that the work or service I do for them does not come with expectations or conditions. I serve them because I love them, period. It is easy to do this for those we deeply love. But how do we give this kind of love in our work and service to those who do not deserve it or who perhaps make it difficult for us to keep love as our goal? 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Furthermore, 1 John 4:8 says, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God IS love," and 1 John 4:19 states, "We love because He first loved us." So I deduce that since God IS love and He loved us FIRST, we are called to love others if we say we know and love Him. His love for us is our motivation and fuel for loving others. If we say we believe in Him and His Word, then we should be willing to truly give the kind of love that bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. Some people in your life will test you on all four of those levels. They do things that make it difficult to bear and endure them. They say things that make it hard to believe in them or have hope where they are concerned. But we are still called to love them. Make no mistake--there are some people God removes from our lives (or desires for us to remove from our lives) and love them, "from a far." But for those who enter and remain, love is the best answer.
When I think about my reasons for serving difficult people, at times I find myself more motivated by guilt and fear than love. I guilt myself that God will be angry with me for withholding my love to them. I am fearful He will be disappointed in me if I only love those who are easy to love. I guilt myself that I won't be a good Christian example if I cannot learn to serve those who do not love or serve me back, or who perhaps do not treat me well. But God does not want us to serve others in His name out of guilt, fear, or people-pleasing. He wants us to love the difficult people because that is what He did. We are all difficult, and He loves us anyway. He wants to bless us for loving in the tough situations, not just the easy ones. Not only do we miss out on blessings when conditional love, guilt, or fear are our motives, but we run out of fuel much quicker, too. It's the same with serving God. If we do so with conditions, guilt, or fear, we will be frazzled quickly. We will be focused on the negatives. We will not have passion in our work, and it will show. But if we do our work and ministries as if, "unto the Lord," and in order to please Him out of our deep love for Him, only good pours out. That is the kind of work that not only enriches your life, but the lives of others. That is the kind of work that may wear you out physically, but it empowers and energizes you spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. When we operate with that kind of love, we can be dead-dog-tired...but deep down, we feel like a million bucks.
Shortly following the debut of Jimmy Fallon and reading Pastor Rick Warren's devotional, I had a conversation with my mother regarding my love of music and singing. She said, "Boy, honey. You must really enjoy doing this to go through all the vocal exhaustion, physical exhaustion, rehearsals, constant learning of new music, schedule-keeping, and time away from home that it requires. I worry about you sometimes, Steph. You are always tired--I know you are working so hard, and that you have such late nights and long hours for little personal gain. But...you're also always so happy! Your dad and I laugh because you beam the entire time you are singing! You really love this, don't you?!" We had a big chuckle at the hilarious impracticality and seeming imbalance of what I give to my music and what I get in return. Mom was right--I am usually pretty beat and my work does entail a great deal of personal strain for little pay. But I love serving God in the worship leading I do at my church, and in my band-work outside of church. I take Him with me wherever I go and I serve Him wherever I go. I just love music. I love the people with whom I work and serve, and the people for whom I work and serve. I love everything about it. Love...it is a wellspring of fuel for a weary soul.
Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."
Ephesians 6:7, "Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."
1 Corinthians 13:3, "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."