Summary: The first sermon of a three part series, ‘Three Things That We Cannot Live Without.’
(Slide 1) James Choung tells of a conversation he recently had with a friend that came around to the topic of spirituality and faith and as they began to discuss that topic, Choung discovered that his friend had attended church at one time. When he discovered this, he asked his friend why he had left the church. This is what the friend said.
“He started to rattle off a list: “I’m happy. I love what I do. I’m enjoying my life. What else do I need?” His church had explained that life without Jesus is miserable and glum, and life with Jesus is joyful and peaceful. It seemed a bit of an oversimplification to me, but I kept on listening.
As a result, he said, he gave Jesus a try. But he didn’t find himself feeling that much more fulfilled or even happy. He actually felt worse: he felt like a fraud. And when he left the church, he wasn’t particularly miserable at all. So he decided he didn’t need Christianity; he was happy enough as he was. Then he shrugged his shoulders.”
How would you respond to Choung’s friend? What would you say?
Choung said to him, “If that’s your vision of faith…then your vision of faith is too small.”
He went on to say, “I’m thankful that God gave me words to say in that moment. And it’s true: a vision of faith has to be larger than what it can do for us. It has to be more than an incantation that can make us healthy, rich, fulfilled, or in my friend’s case, happy. The Christianity worth believing in is about more than what we can get out of it; it’s inherently about what God is doing in us and in the world.” One of the things in life that we cannot live without is faith. We are hard wired to believe in something or someone.
Two other things we also cannot live without is hope and love. (Slide 2) All three things are mentioned in the concluding verse of 1 Corinthians 13, verse 13: ‘There are three things that will endure—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.’ Let’s spend sometime understanding this verse in its context. Then we will make some applications for everyday living.
First, it comes at the end of a very famous (if you will) chapter in the Bible. The middle section of this verse is often quoted at weddings (which I did a few weeks ago), and given the realities of human nature are probably quoted during arguments trying to prove a point or to get someone to change!
In fact, stepping back a bit more, we notice that this chapter comes in the midst of trying to settle down a group of Christians who had been arguing, in a nutshell, as to who was the most spiritual. Chapter 12 contains the crux of the matter as Paul argues that the gifts given by God through the Holy Spirit are used to serve others and not one’s own personal agenda. He then concludes his argument with these words, ‘First, however, let me tell you about something else that is better than any of them!’ and then launches into a very important statement about love.
(Slide 3) He first speaks of love in the context of what we would call ministry. ‘If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. 3If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.’
Motive is a very important word in understanding this segment because Paul addresses the motivation for ministry. What he is saying is ‘you can be the most gifted and sacrificial Christian in the world but if you don’t love others, it will be worthless.’
In the next segment of chapter 13, Paul speaks of love in the context of personal attitudes and relationships. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. 6It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.