How To Increase Your Love For Others
Check out Paul’s prayer in 1 Thessalonians 3 verse 12: “And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we do for you.” That’s the kind of love that God wants us to have for each other; an increasing and overflowing love. That’s part of what being the church means. But that’s really hard. It’s easy to say, but hard to do. We’re all prickly and mean and judgmental, and if it bothers you that I just wrote that about you, then you’re proving my point. It’s hard to love me!
So how do we have this kind of overflowing love like Paul had?
Paul gives us 6 ways that we can grow in our love for each other in 1 Thessalonians 2-3. Look what he says in chapter 2 verse 17: “But as for us, brothers and sisters, after we were forced to leave you for a short time (in person, not in heart ), we greatly desired and made every effort to return and see you face to face.” Face to face. That’s what Paul wanted: to see them, in the flesh. To be in their space and them all up in his. It’s kinda like that feeling if you’ve just started dating someone, and then have to transition into a long distance relationship. Skype’s great, it’s a great tool, but it’s terrible compared to seeing the person you’re starting to love in the flesh. And not just for all the handsy reasons, alright. Clean it up if your mind went there!
Paul’s love grew for them during that face to face time he had with them for those weeks he was there. Because there’s something communicated through being face to face that’s powerful. It’s easy to like a status or write an email or record a snapchat. But there’s much more investment in meeting with someone face to face. That’s how love is fostered. So guys, number one, we can grow in our love for each other THROUGH PERSONAL INTERACTION.
We’re all busy. I get it. So it’s gonna be tough. But this is part of what’s gonna increase our love for each other and cause it to overflow. Now, we may have to build it into our schedules. If you’ve been around for a while you know that we have specific dates and times scheduled for when our community groups meet. Why? Because they wouldn’t meet otherwise. If we just said let’s do it whenever or if our schedules line up, it’d never work!
Maybe you as a family need to schedule an evening where you can consistently invite people over for dinner. Or keep Saturday morning free to grab coffee. You may sacrifice sleep, you may not be able to watch Netflix one night, but you might increase and overflow in love more than you’ve ever experienced.
Now, sometimes you’re gonna want it, crave it, but it’s not gonna happen. Look at verse 18: “So we wanted to come to you — even I, Paul, time and again — but Satan hindered us.” God’s enemy is making it difficult for these people to grow in their love for each other. As we journey together as a church, Satan would love to hinder our love for each other. He’d love to prevent us from investing in each other, and whisper in our ears that other people in the church don’t really love us. He’d love to hinder our marriages, because they’re the most powerful picture of Jesus’ love. He’s love to destroy all of our relationships, because he doesn’t want any relationship to reflect God.
The Bible teaches that God is triune, he’s a Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit but yet he is one God it’s a glorious, beautiful mystery but within the person of God there’s immense love. God loves God. And when we love each other well, we reflect the person of our God. And Jesus said THAT’s the way that other people will believe in God. Look at what Jesus told his followers in John 13: “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And Satan would love to hinder that. Here, someone’s probably come along and told the Thessalonians that Paul doesn’t really love them because he left and hasn’t been back to visit. So they’re starting to question: wait, does this guy really love us? Maybe he doesn’t. So maybe everything he said all along was just rubbish.
Maybe Satan’s hindering your love for someone in your church? Or some relationship you’re in? Are you questioning people’s motives, doubting their sincerity, assuming the worst about them? Maybe you’ve been inviting someone to hang out and they always have an excuse for why they can’t, so you’ve just decided that they’re ducking you and they’re a punk. Those things aren’t love. That’s from God’s enemy. And the Thessalonians believers were probably tempted to believe that Paul was a punk and didn’t love them. But in 1 Corinthians 13 we read that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
See, number 2, as a church we grow in our love for each other THROUGH TRIALS. Our love for each other will be tried and tested all kinds of ways. Maybe you know this morning that your love for someone is being tried and tested, and you’ve been failing to love them well. And so you’d need to confess that to God, repent of it, and love that person well even through the trial that’s irritating you.
God’s gonna do amazing things in our church. And we want to be able to say what Paul said in verse 19: “For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy!” He says that THEY, this church, is his glory and joy and what he boasts about! He’s been boasting about how their testimony of enduring trials and suffering is being spread all over the country, right? So number 3, we can grow in our love for each other THROUGH OTHER’S SUCCESSES.
I don’t know if that’s hard for you. It’s can definitely be hard for me. I can be such a Debbie Downer at best and a total wicked sinner at worst when something good happens to someone in my life. Like when I was junior in high school on the basketball team and my friend hit a game winning shot. All I could think about is how I wish it had been me, or I listed all the turnovers he had to put us in a situation where we needed to take that game winner, or I thought I’d have reacted better by Tebowing and everyone in the gym would’ve gotten saved!
Paul could’ve heard that the Thessalonians good reputation was spreading that they had this great endurance during persecution and loved Jesus and he coulda been like, “Yeah, well, they still don’t have a good prayer ministry at that church. And the youth group’s pretty lacking.” Or he could have turned the attention to himself, “Well, if I were still there leading, it’d be 10 times what it is now.” Or he could have smiled and nodded and seemed to be happy but on the inside making all those judgements.
But no he was stoked for them! He could rejoice at their successes. Because he really loved them.
Are there people in our church that you struggle to rejoice with them when God blesses them? When the buy a new house? Get a promotion? When their kids get into the best school or start walking 3 years before yours did.
We grow in our love for each other when we’re all rejoicing for each other.
Now, check this out, chapter 3 verse 1: “Therefore, when we could no longer stand it, we thought it was better to be left alone in Athens. And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith, so that no one will be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. In fact, when we were with you, we told you in advance that we were going to experience affliction, and as you know, it happened. For this reason, when I could no longer stand it, I also sent him to find out about your faith, fearing that the tempter had tempted you and that our labor might be for nothing.”
So here’s what happened. After Paul and Silas got kicked out of Thessalonika, Paul want on to plant some more churches but his heart was still with the Thessalonians, trying to figure out how to help them or hear from them. So once he gets to Athens, he hatches this plan that maybe he can send Timothy to check on them because no one will recognize Timothy and give him trouble. And he could send Silas along to go to Philippi to check on the Philippian church. So that’s what he does. But that leaves him alone in Athens. Well, he has Luke with him, but we get the idea that Luke wasn’t a fun hang. Later when Paul wrote to Timothy he said please come to be quickly because only Luke is with me. Apparently physicians are tough to be around for too long.
So Paul sends his closest friends away from him. And it says that he was greatly distressed in Athens, and then he goes to Corinth and it says that he was weak, in fear, and trembling. He’s suffering being alone, but he’s willing to suffer because he loves the Thessalonians so much.
See guys we grow in our love for each other THROUGH SACRIFICE. The call to love each other in the church isn’t a call to love when it’s convenient, easy, or comfortable. It’s a call to love even if it hurts. Even if we have to sacrifice for each other.
That’s REALLY counter-intuitive. We really need to die to ourselves, our own comforts and desires, in order to sacrifice for others. But will it really be a sacrifice if it results in increased and overflowing love? Even though Paul sacrificed a ton here, in the end in his last letter he says that he’s fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith! His sacrifice for others didn’t crush him. In fact, it probably sustained him. Because…
Look at verse 6: “But now Timothy has come to us from you and brought us good news about your faith and love. He reported that you always have good memories of us and that you long to see us, as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and affliction, we were encouraged about you through your faith.”
When Timothy came back to Paul with that news, it radically encouraged him. What we see here is that we grow in our love for each other THROUGH ENCOURAGEMENT. Paul had life breathed into him, because of this church. He was going through distresses and afflictions, but his brothers and sisters encouraged him by how they followed Jesus and loved him.
If God’s called you to journey with us at Harbor West, he placed you here to be an encouragement; to be a source of life to others by how you follow Jesus and how you love others. And you ACTUALLY can. It’s a real thing. Paul’s heart WAS strengthened.
And guys, listen, no one here has been too encouraged. No one will ever come to our church who has too much encouragement in life. We all could use a group of people looking to strengthen our hearts. And you actually can do and receive that.
Look at verse 8: “For now we live, if you stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experience before our God because of you, as we pray very earnestly night and day to see you face to face and to complete what is lacking in your faith?”
He has this deep desire to thank God for them and prays that he can see them again. We grow in our love for each other THROUGH PRAYER. We grow to love through praying for people in the church, praying with people in the church. And as you’re doing that, here’s what you can pray in verse 11: “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you. And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we do for you. May he make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. Amen.”
He prays they they’d increase and overflow with love. Why? Because it reflects who God is, it strengthens the church, and others see it and are drawn to it.
Maybe you love Jesus, but you’ve been enduring the church. But you’re seeing now that the call to follow Jesus is a call to love the brothers and sisters that God’s given you.
Is there someone in your church that God’s calling you to increase in love for?
Is there someone that God’s calling you to overflow in love for?
How can we ever hope to do this? We don’t have the time, energy, or maybe even the desire to love people in these ways…
But it’s exactly what Jesus did for you. Jesus met us face to face, the incarnation. Jesus loved us through trials, through successes, through sacrifice (the cross!), through encouragement, and he continues to pray for us right now. The best way that you can love others is to be blown away by the love that Jesus had for you. YOU! And then realize that he has that same love for your brother or sister. Jesus’ love empowers us to love others well. So bask in it. Swim in it.
Overflow with it.