“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor 13:5-7, ESV).
When God brings us through a particular chapter in our lives, our love for Him should swell and our joy should be directed toward Him. We glorify Him, understanding that it’s by His grace, for His glory, and for our good that all things work (Romans 8:28). Everything God works in us has the purpose of conforming us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
Paul gives a potent phrase in the ‘love’ chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. “Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” As we’ve traveled through Nehemiah at my church, we’ve seen all through that some outside and inside the covenant people of God were pulling for the failure of Nehemiah and God’s people to finish the wall. Every step of the way, discouragement hit. Fear enveloped the workers, but Nehemiah’s vision, direction, encouragement, and backbone kept them rolling. His eyes were firmly fixed on Yahweh. His own personal celebrity and comfort would not do (Nehemiah 5:14-19). God’s will, the welfare of His people, and their witness of Him to the nations were paramount.
One of the saddest conclusions a pastor specifically or a Christian in general is to know that, from the testimony of Scripture and church history (and plain ol’ experience), that not everyone who identifies with the people of God rejoice when God’s way is accomplished. And nothing discourages a church more when pastors seek their own wisdom and way at the expense of God’s way–where their love of their vision trumps the love of their people.
Pastors are flagging and falling because they, in reality, come to a church in love with themselves, their degrees, their intellect, their vision. But they struggle to love the church to which they were called (why?) because that church may not immediately appreciate his vision because they cannot get past his lack of love for them.
Remember: people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
The attributes found in these four verses apply to both sides of the pulpit. Paul encouraged Timothy to preach the Word and lead with patience (2 Timothy 4:2-5). Love God with all you have, and love your neighbor (both pastor and partner in the gospel alike). When that love is in place, God will direct your joy in the appropriate places. When it’s not, that joy is misdirected. Don’t believe me? Look at Jesus’ words:
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.