Increasing in Love and Care
There is something spectacular about sitting outside on a brisk, dark evening and staring at a fire. I’m not sure what it is about fire that is so amazing, but many of my favorite memories involve late-night conversations and s’mores around the fire pit in my backyard.
If the experience of sitting around a fire is spectacular, the way fire is produced is shocking, almost miraculous. Fire comes when three elements are combined: oxygen, heat, and fuel– you probably remember this from your middle school science class. The combination of these commonplace things produces something amazing.
Love and care in relationships are similar. It is a spectacular thing when God fills our hearts with ever-increasing love. In order for this to happen, we need God to work a few commonplace things in our hearts to produce something amazing.
Here are three simple yet surprising things you can do to increase in love and care.
You Can Increase in Love and Care by Asking God
Paul, on his second missionary journey, took the gospel to the Thessalonians (Acts 17). In his first letter, he writes to the church he established and informs them how he prays for them. He prays that he will soon be able to see them and adds:
“… may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all …” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
It is common for Paul to pray such prayers for the various churches he writes (Ephesians 3:14-21; Colossians 1:3). However, the incredible thing about his prayer for the Thessalonians is that we get a “progress report” of sorts in his second letter to them. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, we read:
“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.”
Between the writing of these two letters is 12 to 18 months. What came of Paul’s prayer for the church in Thessalonica? His prayer was answered. Their love increased.
You can increase in love and care by asking God to do it. Ask God to increase the love of your spouse. Ask him to increase the love of two people in your small group. God loves to answer these types of prayers.
You Can Increase in Love and Care by Watching Others
One of the funny things about deep friendship is how friends adopt similar mannerisms or verbiage. We have a way of picking up things from one another as we spend time together.
This is not just true of hand gestures and sayings but of significant things. The way you think about things, the way you treat people. You can grow in your love and care by being around people who exemplify love and care. In 1 Thessalonians 3:12, Paul says:
“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.”
Paul didn’t just pray for increasing love for the church in Thessalonica, but he himself experienced increased love toward them. And here is the incredible thing– the Thessalonians knew this to be true.
Paul brought the gospel to them when they were strangers. Paul put his life at risk for the sake of them knowing Christ (Acts 17:5). Paul longed to see them again despite the danger (1 Thessalonians 3:6b). Paul took time out of his busy ministry to write to them (2 Corinthians 11:28). In Paul, the Thessalonians did not just have a prayer partner, but they had an example of love and care.
What about you? Do you have a friend, life group member, or pastor whom you look to as an example of love and care? Pursue examples to watch and see the Lord work in your own heart.
You Can Increase in Love and Care by Desiring Godliness
Paul’s prayer for increased love for the Thessalonians was not just for their relationships with others, although that matters. It was also on behalf of their relationship with God. In 1 Thessalonians 3:13, Paul goes on to say:
“So that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”
Paul’s desire for increased love among the Thessalonians is connected to his desire for their holiness. In his ministry, Paul understood the connection between love and godliness like a two-sided coin.
On the one hand, your love for others will lead you to desire their godliness. This is why he continues in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 with, “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” Paul simultaneously desires increased love and increased godliness for the Thessalonians.
On the other hand, your desire for godliness will lead you to be a loving person. Paul in Romans 13:8 says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Do you want to obey God’s law? Do you want to live according to his standard? If so, you will be a loving person.
Doing the Simple and Surprising
Do you want to see the spectacular reality of love and care infiltrate your life— your marriage, friendships, relationship with your kids, and church? You can.
Do you want to lay down your life daily for others as Jesus has done for you (1 John 3:16)? You can.
It is simple yet surprising. Ask God, watch others, desire godliness, and see the sparks fly.
On Sunday nights at the Downtown Campus, we are in a Bible Study series entitled Reclaiming Love: People of Compassion in a World Full of Hate. You can listen to my sermon in the series from 1 Thessalonians 3 concerning Increasing in Love and Care and how we can do so.