What Matters Most?
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Have you ever wondered what matters most to God? What is it that God looks for... what does God expect from his followers - you and me?
Last Sunday (those of you who were here know that) we talked about obedience... and how Jesus said, “If you love me, you’ll obey my teaching” (John 14:15). And we DON’T shy away from Jesus’ teachings! They’re hard! Difficult! Seemingly impossible, at times!
All that “turning the other cheek... going the extra mile... forgiving until we lose count” stuff. It’s not easy!
But then, God’s Word also tells us in Galatians 5:6... that ultimately... “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Keeping God’s commandments - striving to do all those difficult things Jesus taught - and love, go hand-in-hand.
1 Corinthians 13 is the famous “love chapter” of the Bible. When we preacher types want to get people’s attention and want you to remember something, we tend to use repetition. Those who work in the marketing world - advertising - know that it takes an average of 7 views before you make a connection between an advertisement/a billboard/a commercial and a product. And so, kinda like advertisers... we preachers will say something over and over again, hoping to make a connection.
And in the first few verses of our lesson, Paul manages to say the same thing five different ways: What matters MOST is having a faith that compels us to love. If you & I miss that... if we overlook that... if we fail to make that connection... we’ve missed the most important thing in life.
So stressing the point, Paul says (#1.) If you & I don’t live a life of love, then nothing we say matters.
Paul said, “If I could speak ALL the languages of earth and of angels, but do not love others, I would be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1, para.).
Sometimes we’re really impressed by great speakers. We love eloquence and charisma - and we tend to be attracted to people who are eloquent and charismatic. But God says, “I don’t care how good of a communicator you are. Are you living a life of love?” If you’re not, then nothing you say matters. Words spoken (written - or shared on Facebook or Twitter) without love are just noise. Does your talk match your walk?
The next thing Paul says (#2.) If you don’t live a life of love, nothing you know will matter.
He says, “I may have the gift of prophecy. I may understand all the secret things of God and have all knowledge... But even with all these things, if I don’t love, then I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2, para).
We live in a world where knowledge... information... is everywhere, don’t we? It’s literally at our fingertips! Tammy says “the Google knows everything!” In some ways, I’m sure we’re smarter than we’ve ever been! And there’s no doubt that you and I have access to more information than ever before in the history of the world! But we still have the same old problems, don’t we? Crime, abuse, prejudice, violence, fear. Why? Because the world doesn’t need more information. It needs more love. You may be a genius. But God’s Word says if you don’t have love in your life, all that knowledge, all that information, is worthless.
Next, Paul says (#3.) If you don’t live a life of love, nothing you believe matters, either.
Our lesson tells us, “Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love” (1 Corinthians 13:2b).
Many people believe that being a follower of Christ is just a matter of believing the right things. But we need to hear this: Nothing could be further from the truth!
Following Christ is about living a life of love. It takes more than belief to please God. Let me remind us all, that the demons believe (James 2:19)... they have no doubt whatsoever about the reality of God in Christ. But... do they love?
The fourth thing Paul stresses (#4.) If you don’t live a life of love, nothing you give matters.
Verse says, “If 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 have gained nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3 NLT).
Love isn’t always the motivation for giving, is it? Some people give, in order to receive. Some give out of guilt or for control or to be honored/recognized. You can give for a lot of wrong reasons & motives, but the Bible says if you’re not giving out of love, none of your giving matters... you’ve gained nothing.
That’s especially poignant this time of year - as we’re in the middle of our giving season... We gave candy on Halloween... we give thanks on Nov. 28th... We’ll give gifts on December 25th... AND yes, it’s church budget time, so we’re talking about giving to the ministry of Christ here at WPPC. Let’s make sure our giving is based on love, and nothing else.
5. Finally, Paul tells us; if you don’t live a life of love, nothing you accomplish will matter.
Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase (called The Message) of 1 Corinthians 13:3, “No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”
You and I can put together an incredible resume. We can rack up a list of personal achievements. You can get your picture in color and above the fold in every newspaper in the country.
We can have enormous accomplishments, be entrepreneur of the year, build a million-dollar company, have incredibly great successes in your field of endeavor. But the Bible says it isn’t worth much if you don’t love. The Bible says... God’s Word says... God says... relationships are more important than accomplishments.
It’s as simple as this: You can have the eloquence of an orator, the knowledge of a genius, the faith of a missionary, the generosity of a philanthropist, or the achievements of a billionaire, but if you don’t have love in your heart, it’s worth nothing. It doesn’t count. The only thing that matters - to God - is this: Do you love him, and do you love other people?
One day you and I are going to stand before God. When he evaluates our life, he’s not going to look at our bank accounts or your list of accomplishments or our GPA. He won’t care about all our sports trophies. He’s not going to look at our endorsements or the references on our resume.
God is going to evaluate our lives on one basis: our relationships. He’s going to ask, “How much did you love me and other people?” That’s called the Great Commandment. Did you love God with all your heart, and did you love your neighbor as yourself?
That’s why Paul teaches us that what matters most is our faith being expressed through love (see Galatians 5:6).
And it’s why God’s Word tells us that of these three very important things... Faith, Hope, & Love... the greatest, is Love.
I’m so thankful... grateful... for those who loved God enough to share their faith (in love) with me. For all the people who came before us... who gave, and prayed, and spoke, and worked in order that you and I can be here today, celebrating our heritage and continuing their legacy of loving God and others to Christ. If we do as much as they did... with Christ’s help... we’ll be here for another 182 years of witness and service.
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6 NIV).