One of my favorite passages in the Bible is 1 John 4:7, 8. Here, as in so much of his writing, John gives insights about his favorite subject – love. "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

God is love. If you are born again and know God, you know that He is love, and that He is the source of love in your life.

But what does that love look like? Paul paints a detailed picture in 1 Corinthians 13. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

Notice where Paul begins: Love is patient.

We miss the mark on this point alone, don't we? How often have you prayed, "Lord, give me some patience…but give it to me now!" Patience doesn't come naturally to us. But God is patient. It is His character. And He directs His patience toward us.

Patience means long-suffering, as opposed to being quick to anger. God sticks with us through thick and thin. That's love.

He does so because He understands us. The writer of Hebrews had this to say about Jesus: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus knows us best. He knows what's going on in our hearts and in our minds. He knows our weaknesses, our struggles, our trials and tribulations.

God's patience has a purpose.

God is patient with us, "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter3:9). "Bear in mind," Peter adds, "…our Lord's patience means salvation…" (vs. 15). God's patience toward us means new life in Him and a new relationship with Him.

 

Consider Paul. He grew up wanting to be God's guy. He grew up wanting to be a leader among leaders. He grew up wanting to be what God wanted him to be, but he missed the boat. He was wrong from day one. And in his zeal, he persecuted the church. Still, God never deserted him.

 

Jesus extended mercy to him, turned this persecutor into a proclaimer, turned this blasphemer into one who would uphold the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus turned a violent man into a picture of love and grace and mercy. No wonder when God used Paul to pen the definition of the love, patience was listed first.

 

Think about your life. What were you like as a person before you trusted Jesus Christ? I was a mess. I tried to be good, but it never worked out. The things I wanted to do, I didn't. And the things I didn't want to do, I did. And then there was my thought life. I was expecting God's punishment at any time. But I received something much different – salvation. Certainly, God had every right to hurl every ounce of His anger toward me. But that's not God. He is patient, and He was patient with me. His patience meant eternal life for me.

 

I bet your story is much the same. No matter how far afield you got, God never gave up on you. He stuck with you no matter what. He let you get to a point where you could see who you really were apart from him, to recognize that you could not save yourself, that you needed him. And then one day, His love became real in your heart. His patience toward you meant salvation.

 

Here is the good news. He is still pouring out His patience on you. And not only that, he has promised that he is going to complete his work in you (Philippians 1:6). We mess up along the way, do things that hurt others. Even so, God never gives up on us. He suffers long to bring about his plan in each of us.

 

For a stunning example, we need only look to Israel and God's amazing patience toward this rebellious lot. In Exodus, we're told the Lord, "the compassionate and gracious God is slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6). This statement is a recurring theme throughout the Old Testament. Nehemiah had this to say, "You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them" (Nehemiah 9:16-17). Later, David, in Psalm 145:8, echoes the idea of the Lord's compassion, his slowness to anger and his richness in love. God did not desert the people of Israel. His love and faithfulness abounded to them.

 

He does not desert us. You may be crying out for His help or wisdom right now. It may seem like He isn't listening to your cries. Be assured that He is listening and that He is patiently working all the details of the situation together for your good. When the answer does come, count on it being better than anything you dreamed or imagined.

 

 

For more information on this subject, a suggested resource is Love Is … (BPLOV).