By Sewell Hall.
"Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment"‘ (Matt 22:35-38).
These words of Jesus should not be surprising. Those who love God are those for whom the world was created. Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these he also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."
Observe from verses 29 and 30 that those whom God foreknew and "predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son" were the ones whom He called. But according to verse 28, those whom He called are those who "love God." So those who love God are those He foreknew, predestined, justified and glorified according to His purpose — the purpose of the ages. Whether we are a part of this great plan depends upon whether we love God. If we do not love God, then we are not among those predestined.
The love God asks is not a "touchy-feely" kind of love. The love with which He loved us was certainly not that kind; if it had been, we would not have been saved by His love. His was an active and sacrificing love. Ours for Him must be the same. It must be a love that commits itself to doing the will of God. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:3). This kind of love "seeks not its own" (I Cor 13:5); rather is "seek[s] first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Mt 6:33).
Love for God is often tested. Too often, we see someone who has claimed to love God disillusioned by disasters and disappointments. Sickness that takes the life of a child, an automobile wreck that leaves one handicapped, a fire that destroys a home, or the loss of a large investment sometimes cause people to blame God. Some do as Job’s wife encouraged him to do: "Curse God and die" (Job 2:9)! This only proves that their love was not genuine.
In times of distress, genuine love does not fail (I Corinthians 13:8). "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:35-37).
Throughout the Old and New Testaments when trials came, those who truly loved God ran to Him rather than from Him. When God demanded that Abraham offer his son as a sacrifice, Abraham confirmed his love for God by proceeding to do it. Joseph’s suffering, rather than diminishing his love for God, seemed only to increase it. David’s love for God grew as Saul pursued him and some of his most beautiful psalms were written when he was in the greatest danger. Still ringing down through the centuries from a prison in Philippi are the songs of praise from Paul and Silas as they suffered the pain of bleeding backs and bound feet. Truly in all of these things, they were "more than conquerors."
If our love for God is genuine, we too will be "more than conquerors." Conquerors merely defeat their enemies; those who are more than conquerors make their enemies their servants and emerge from the conflict stronger than before. When we face "tribulation, or distress, or persecution," etc., we need to see it as a test, a challenge and an opportunity to prove our love for God.
And if our love for God does not fail, we can be sure that His love for us will not fail. "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things" (Romans 8:31-32)? "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you,’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"‘ (Hebrews 13:5-6).