Summary: This is installment 13 in a series I preached on I Corinthians 13, and it deals with the fact that "love hopes all things."
“The Disposition of Love”
March 16, 2003
Love of Another Kind – I Corinthians 13
At the start of World War II, the Russians developed what might be fairly called the most useless weapon of all time, perhaps the most embarrassing strategic failure of modern weaponry. Attempting to employ Pavlovian logic, they developed the “dog bomb”. Briefly stated, the idea was to train dogs to associate food with the underside of German tanks. Then, once that connection was made, bombs would be strapped to the dogs’ backs, and, so the idea went, as the German Panzer tanks would advance, the dogs, looking for food, would run under the tanks, and…well, you get the picture. This strategy was employed on the first day of the Russian involvement in the war. It was ended before Day Two, when it was quickly discovered, to the dismay of the Russians, that the dogs made the connection with the tanks, all right; the Russian tanks! The plan was quickly scrapped after an entire Soviet division was forced into hasty retreat by a group of bomb-laden canines!
This rivals the experience of some members of the British Army who, during the firemen’s strike of 1978, were called into action to assume the duties of the firemen. One day, during a lull in firefighting, these brave men were called into duty by an elderly lady in South London to attempt the noble cause of rescuing her cat. Risking life and limb, the deed was accomplished. Before they could leave, the lady invited the men in for tea and a time of respite. Finally, after rescuing the cat and enjoying the dear lady’s fine hospitality, they bid the dear lady a fond farewell, waving hearty goodbyes and exchanging well-wishes, and as they backed the fire truck out of the drive…they ran over the cat and killed it.
Today I want to talk about failure, the failure that is certainly not foreign to any of us. We have all failed; we fail God, we fail others, we fail ourselves. Becoming a Christian is no guarantee against failure. Need I belabor that point? The question is, when people fail, what is our attitude toward them? When they fail continually, when they blow it spectacularly, when they make the same mistakes over and over again, how does love respond? And the answer, in a word, is “hope”.
Failure is endemic to mankind; we all are experts at it. Thomas Edison once tried to console the inventor, after a series of experiments had failed to achieve the results for which Edison was looking. “It’s too bad”, said the friend, “to do all of that work without results.” To which Edison replied, “oh, we have lots of results. We know 700 things that won’t work!”
We all fail in many ways, the Bible says; none of us is ever a complete success; we never reach perfection this side of Heaven. No one is an irredeemable failure either; there are no lost causes in God’s economy. We have plenty of examples of failure; we also have plenty of examples that are cause for hope, examples of the change that God brings in the lives of individuals. Why is it we are tempted to focus on the failures and pessimistically assume that nothing can change? And, for our purposes today, does love act that way? Stand with me as we read our text together today!
This characteristic of love is closely linked to the last one. For love to believe all things, it must have hope! John MacArthur said, “When (love) runs out of faith, it holds onto hope”. If you’re making notes this morning, let’s look first at
I. The Necessity of Hope
When trust has been shattered despite best efforts, I will still hope. “Where there’s life, there’s hope” is the old saying, usually applied to people suffering physically. It is true spiritually; there are no hopeless causes. There are no lost causes. I think we can turn that phrase around the opposite direction and get meaning as well: “where there’s hope, there’s life!” Victor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, writes from experience of the power of hope. Frankl spent time in a Nazi concentration camp, and contended in his book that when a man no longer possesses hope or a motive for living, he curls up in the corner and dies. “Any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal.”
Some time ago, a hydroelectric dam was slated to be built across a valley in New England. The people in a small town in the valley were to be relocated because the resulting reservoir would flood the town. During the time between the decision to build the dam and its eventual completion, the town fell into severe disrepair. What had once been a beautiful little town ended its days as an eyesore. Explaining this, one town resident said, “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no work in the present.”