Love is Lasting

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : 1 Corinthians 13:8, 13

Is there anything in the world that lasts, anything you can hang onto that you know you will never lose? The answer is Yes!

We come now to the last of the qualities of love which are described in the New Testament’s magnificent love song, and fittingly, the last thing we are told about love is that it lasts. Love never fails, says the apostle, it never ceases; it abides forever, it always will be. “Love never ends.”

That is an amazing claim to make about anything, because it seems as though the world we know is one where nothing lasts forever, not even the universe itself. The one constant in our lives is change. The only thing we can be sure of is that nothing is certain; nothing in the world ever remains the same and no one here endures forever.

What Doesn’t Last?

Think about some of the things in life that do not last. Money and possessions do not last. Everyone knows that “you can’t take it with you.” A friend of mine recently quoted a Spanish proverb which expresses this truth a bit more colorfully: “A burial shroud has no pockets.” The Bible says much the same thing:

Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases, for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.

(Psalm 49:16-17, niv)

Another psalm says,

Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.

(Psalm 39:6, niv)

Isn’t that true? So many people spend their lives in the pursuit of money. They strive to accumulate more and more even as they struggle to hold on to what they already have, and in the end they have to let it all go anyway. They have no choice but to leave everything behind, and they don’t even know what happens to it! Jesus took note of this fact and urged people not to store up treasure for themselves on earth where it can never last, but rather to store up treasure in heaven where it can never be lost (see Matt. 6:19-20). According to Jesus, those who focus exclusively on this world’s transitory wealth, who gather more and more things and build bigger and bigger storehouses to hold them, are fools! The most important thing to be is “rich toward God” (Luke 12:15-21); that is, rich in faith, rich in hope, rich in love.

Another thing that doesn’t last is fame. You might be justly proud of all your accomplishments in life, of the name you have earned for yourself, but one day in the not-too-distant future all of that will be only a memory, and in a few years more, even the memory will be gone. Let me ask you this: Do you know who your grandfather’s grandfather was? Most likely not. Even our own ancestors, if we remember them at all, we know only as names and dates in a family tree. Unless we are noteworthy enough to have our life story preserved in a book, some day no one will remember anything about us at all.

But the same is true even for famous people; with them, it just takes a little more time. The other day I was watching a sporting event on television in which an athlete performed a magnificent accomplishment. “This will be remembered for two thousand years,” exclaimed the announcer. I thought to myself, “I doubt it.” We really have a much greater estimate of human fame than is warranted by the facts. Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” tells of a traveler who stumbles across an ancient monument in the Egyptian desert. All that is left of the statue are broken pieces and an inscription:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Then the poet continues,

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

So who was Ozymandias, once the greatest man in the world? Who knows? Even the mightiest and greatest of human beings will some day be forgotten. The book of Ecclesiastes says that “the wise man, like the fool, will not long be remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die” (Eccl. 2:16, niv).

So worldly fame doesn’t last, any more than worldly wealth does. If you were taking some comfort from the fact that you will be remembered after you are gone, I’m sorry to have to disappoint you. As far as this world is concerned, it won’t be long before it will be as if you never lived. A life is like the wake a ship leaves behind it: after a little while it subsides without a trace.

Another thing that does not last is our talents and abilities. Time takes its toll on all natural gifts. World-class athletes retire from competition while still in their twenties or thirties, as speed declines and skills erode and reflexes wane. Even the voice of a Pavarotti will one day waver and crack, before it is forever stilled. The greatest genius among us will someday grow feebleminded and forgetful.

Not only are our natural gifts temporary; astonishingly, the apostle Paul says the same is true (though in a different way) of the supernatural spiritual gifts God gives us. In fact, Paul singles these out as examples of impermanence:

. . . as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.

These words near the end of 1 Corinthians 13 remind us once again of the chapter’s context. Paul is returning here to the issue of spiritual gifts. To underscore his point that love is greater than any special gift or ability, even the spectacular gifts so prized by the Corinthians, the apostle declares that all gifts, including the most impressive gifts of the Spirit, are only temporary.

Spiritual gifts, as wonderful as they are, are nevertheless both imperfect and impermanent. And when the perfect comes, when this life ends and the next begins, then all these gifts will no longer be necessary. They won’t wear out like our bodies and minds, but they will be superseded.

In this world our experience of God, even at its best, is fragmentary. We only know little bits and pieces of him. Even if we are granted a special revelation from heaven, we still see God only as if by a dim reflection in a mirror. Our fellowship with God, even in moments of pure ecstasy, is still only partial and imperfect. But some day all that will change. The imperfect will give way to what is perfect. We will not need miracles or healing, for then we shall have been made perfectly whole. We won’t need prophecies and teaching anymore, for then we shall understand fully. We will know even as we are known. We will see God face to face.

What Does Last?

So what does last? Three things at least: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love never ends. Love is forever. Perhaps one reason the apostle says love is greater even than faith or hope is that of these things, love alone will always be the same. Faith and hope will abide, but they will both be changed. We will eternally enjoy the salvation that is the fruit of faith and the object of hope. Faith and hope will always remain in the sense that the benefits we receive through them will never pass away. But they will be changed. For faith one day will be turned into sight, and future hope will become present reality.

But love is different. Love will forever be what it is now.

Love is the one reality in time that goes into eternity unchanged. Love will never need to be transformed into something better because love is the one perfect eternal reality. It abides throughout this life and into the next in its simple form – the power that moves us toward another without expecting a reward.

(Lewis Smedes, Love Within Limits, p. 119)

One More Thing That Lasts – You!

There is one more thing I want to say. If love never ends, that means God’s love never ends, and because God’s love never ends, neither will you – if you have experienced his love in Jesus Christ. Think about it. Your life will last forever. If God is going to love his people always, then they always will be there to be loved. So add one more item to the list of things that last: the people of God.

Do you realize how important you are? Do you understand how crucial it is that you know and live in the love of God? God’s love changes everything. It invests your life with eternal significance and worth. You are not going to just disappear as if you never existed, for you will live with God if you know him through Jesus Christ. Because of the eternal love of God, these lives of ours that seem so temporary and impermanent take on an eternal weight of glory.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

(C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

Scientists like to speculate about the end of time. They think that eventually the universe will run out of energy, collapse in upon itself, and disintegrate into chaos. A blinding explosion will be followed by darkness, silence, nothingness. And thus the world will end. That is what the future looks like if you do not take God into account. But God has written a different ending to the world’s story. This is what the future looks like if you do know God and are living in his love. One day he will return – suddenly, unexpectedly, personally. Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, will appear, and everything will be changed and made new, including all those who are looking for and are ready for his coming. Then, says the Bible, God himself will come to be with his people.

He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.

(Revelation 21:3-4)

When that happens, only love will be left: God’s love for us, our love for him, and the new world that love will make. I want to see that. Don’t you?