Gleanings from Paul
by A. W. Pink
30. Prayer for Love Toward God
2 Thessalonians 3:5
The Attentive Reader will observe that more of Paul’s prayers are recorded for the Thessalonians than for any other church or company of saints. There is yet another in verse 16 of our present chapter, though in view of our observations on Romans 15:33 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23 we do not propose to give it a separate consideration. Note that reference is made more frequently to the coming of Christ in the Thessalonian epistles than in any other of Paul’s letters. We know of no writer who has attempted to give a reason for these conspicuous features. There is no doubt in our mind that they should be linked together, for a single explanation satisfactorily accounts for them both, namely, the extremely trying situation in which these particular saints were placed. As we have more than once pointed out, they were enduring a great fight of afflictions, meeting with strong opposition from unbelievers. Thus, we are here taught two important lessons regarding the Christian’s special duty to his afflicted brethren: the one concerning the rank and file of God’s people, the other pertaining more especially to ministers of the gospel.
Ministry to Suffering Saints
First, persecuted believers have a peculiar claim on the sympathies of the whole household of faith, and should therefore be given a special place in their supplications and intercessions. We are expressly told to "weep with them that weep" (Rom. 12:15). The cultivation and exercise of love one to another are incumbent upon us at all times, but especially in seasons when fellow saints are in distress. More reprehensible and unchristlike is the callous spirit which says, "I have troubles enough of my own without burdening myself with those of others." Different far was the attitude of Nehemiah, who, though in a palace, "wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven" when he heard of his fellow Jews being "in great affliction and reproach" (Nehemiah 1:1-4). We are required to "remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them" (Heb. 13:3), taking them to our hearts, having compassion toward them, seeking grace for them. Whenever we hear or read of an earthquake, famine, flood, we should at once approach the throne of grace and beg God to undertake for His own dear people in the stricken district (ponder Matthew 25:36, 40).
Second, the ministry best suited to and most appropriate for those who are suffering for Christ’s sake is to direct their thoughts away from the present to the future, setting before them "that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). Not until His advent will a period be put to the oppressions of the Church. At that time all shall be richly rewarded who have been steadfast and faithful to Him. The intensely practical side of our "blessed hope" must not be lost sight of amid all the acrimonious and profitless speculations about the Millennium. This grand truth about our Lord’s return is used by the Spirit as a most powerful motive for the discharge of Christian duties, as a quickener of our graces, as an incentive to piety, and as consolation to the grief-stricken. Our Lord Himself calmed the troubled hearts of the disciples with it (John 14:1-3), and His apostles bade bereaved saints to comfort each other with the same truth (1 Thess. 4:13-18). A spiritual hope of our Lord’s appearing produces ministerial fidelity (2 Tim. 4:1-2; 1 Peter 5:34), Christian patience (James 5:7-11), sobriety (1 Pet. 1:13), purity (1 John 3:2-3). They are greatly the losers who are not looking for His appearing.
"And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ." Three things in this prayer call for consideration. First, though briefly, its connection with foregoing verses. Second, and more specifically, its Addressee. Third, and at greater length, its important petitions. The opening word requires attention to its setting. It is blessed to note the link between the verses immediately preceding and the prayer which we last considered. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15 the apostle had exhorted the saints, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught [i.e., the oral ministry of the apostles], whether by word, or our epistle." Then had followed the prayer in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 that they might be comforted and established by an effectual application to them of the glorious contents of the gospel. Next he had solicited their prayers for himself and fellow ministers (2 Thess. 3:1-2), after which he had declared, "But the Lord is faithful, who will stablish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you" (2 Thess. 3:4). Note, the apostle did not say, "We have confidence in you" but "We have confidence in the Lord touching you." Paul was assured that God, having begun a good work in them, would graciously complete it.
The Addressee of This Prayer
Let us now consider the Addressee of this prayer. Who is meant by "the Lord" here? We answer unhesitatingly, the third Person of the blessed Trinity, the One who is designated "Lord" in 1 Corinthians 12:5, and "the Spirit of the Lord" in 2 Corinthians 3:18. First, this is clear from the fact that in our present verse He is definitely distinguished from "God" and "Christ," so that reference is here made to the Eternal Three. Second, this fact is borne out by what is here asked of Him: "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into patient waiting for Christ." Now it is the distinguishing work of the Spirit to develop our graces and to regulate their exercise. As "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Rom. 5:5), so love is called forth into action by Him. Third, since the Spirit is co-essential and co-eternal with the Father and the Son, He is worthy of our homage. Nowhere in Scripture is there the least hint that one Person in the Godhead must be excluded from the praises which we give to the Lord. On the contrary, the Spirit is to be publically owned and equally honored with the Father and the Son. This is clear from Matthew 28:19; to be baptized in His name is an act of worship. It is evident again from the place accorded Him in the Christian benediction (2 Cor. 13:14).
We are expressly commanded to "worship and bow down . . . before the LORD our maker" (Ps. 95:6). That the third Person is included in that command is plain: "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life" (Job 33:4; cf. Job 26:13 with Ps. 33:6). Instruction is given to pray to "the Lord of the harvest" (Matthew 9:38). During the days of His earthly ministry Christ sustained that office, as appears from His choosing the apostles and sending forth the seventy. But since His ascension, the Holy Spirit fulfills that ministry (see Acts 13:2, 4; 20:28). The Spirit now calls and equips the "laborers," assigns them their work, and blesses them in it.
The Holy Spirit a Divine Person
"The Lord direct your hearts." As the title "Lord" is expressive of the Spirit’s dominion, so the action here mentioned indicates His Godhead, for it is one which none but a divine Person can perform. "The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of waters: he turneth it whithersoever he will" (Prov. 21:1). All men’s hearts are equally so.
"And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God" may be taken either actively or passively: actively, as the love wherewith we love God; or passively, as the love wherewith we are loved by God. Personally, we are satisfied that the reference is to our love of God, rather than to His for us. Since the words may be understood either way, we will consider them in both ways. We regard the words in an active sense, first, because our apprehension and enjoyment of God’s love to us were fully covered in the preceding prayer (2 Thess. 2:16-17). Second, because the immediate context obviously requires us to do so. In 2 Thessalonians 3:4 the apostle expressed his confidence in the Lord that they did and would do the things His servants commanded them, and he at once prayed that the Lord the Spirit would strengthen and direct them; so that practical love which issues in obedience is here in view—though perhaps it is not to be restricted absolutely to that. Third, because the second petition, "and into the patient waiting for Christ," is to be understood in an active sense, as pertaining to the discharge of their duty, namely, a steady endurance of persecution and a continuance in well-doing to the end of their earthly course.
"Direct your hearts into the love of God." This petition is of far too vital and vast importance for us to hurriedly and cursorily dismiss it. First, we are constantly to bear in mind that love to God and to our neighbor is the sum and substance of the moral law. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Matthew 22:37-38). It is not a new commandment; it is simply renewed in the gospel dispensation and pressed more strongly.
All Men Commanded to Love God
But though all men are required to so love the Lord their God, none in his natural condition is able to do so. Not that he lacks the necessary faculties, but because sin is in full possession of every part of his complex being, and therefore he is "alienated from God." As a result of the Fall every descendant of Adam is born into this world destitute of the slightest affection for God. To the religious Pharisees Christ said, "But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you" (John 5:42). "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). Where is the man or woman who does not love the world until a miracle of grace is wrought within, and the bent and bias of the heart are changed? Not only is the heart of the natural man devoid of any love to God; it has a radical aversion to Him, for "the carnal mind is enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7). That was unmistakably demonstrated when the Son of God became incarnate, for far from being welcomed and adored, He was hated "without a cause" (John 15:25).
Where there is genuine love to God in anyone, that person has been made the subject of a miracle of grace. At regeneration the blessed Spirit slays our native enmity against God, and sheds abroad His love in our heart. A principle of life, of grace, of holiness, is communicated to the soul. There is "given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true" (1 John 5:20). A personal revelation of God is made to the one born again, so that He "hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). The film of prejudice is removed, the mist of error is dispersed, and the soul perceives the majesty, the excellence, the loveliness of the divine character, and exclaims, "Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Ex. 15:11). Such a discovery and view of God draws out the heart to Him so that He is now its supreme delight. "The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 1:14). Those two graces of faith and love always go together, being implanted at one and the same time by one and the same hand.
The New Nature
It needs to be clearly recognized and constantly borne in mind that the principle of life and grace imparted to us at regeneration, that "new nature" as many term it, is entirely dependent for its continuance, development, and health upon its Author. Further, it must be remembered that the flesh, the world, and the devil are inveterately opposed to that "new creature," hence our urgent need for God to sustain, nourish, establish, guard it, as well as regulating all its activities. It was these considerations which prompted the apostle here, when he petitioned the Lord the Spirit to "direct their hearts into the love of God," for he well knew that they did not have the power to do so. Consciousness of his own weakness in the matter moved David to exclaim, "O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!"
(Ps. 119:4-5). And after praying, "Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight," David added, "Incline my heart unto thy testimonies" (Ps. 119:35-36).
But let us now consider more closely of what our "love to God" consists. Its external and internal acts are desire after Him and delight in Him. Love to God implies an earnest seeking after Him, in order to attain the highest enjoyment that we are capable of in this life. The Psalmist cried, "My soul followeth hard after thee" (Ps. 63:8). The more constantly and earnestly we seek God, to enjoy more of His saving graces and benefits, the more we have of the love of God.
God is the supreme Object of our desire (Ps. 27:4) and also of our delight. Since love to God is the complacence of the soul in Him who is the sum of all perfection and our all-sufficient portion, it follows that we shall find our highest pleasure in Him. "If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt . . . lift up thy face unto God" (Job 22:23, 26). Fullness of joy is reserved for heaven, yet even in this vale of tears "we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:11). It cannot be otherwise. As the soul perceives God’s excellence and is admitted to communion with Him, it exults in Him: "I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste" (Song 2:3). The saints look upon God reconciled as their best Friend: "My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD" (Ps. 104:34). "Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee . . . My soul shall be satisfied" (Ps. 63:3, 5).
The external effects of love to God are summed up in these two things: doing and allowing His will. If we really love God, we shall be loath to offend Him and desirous of pleasing Him; consciousness of failure in either is the acutest grief experienced by the saint. "If a man love me," said Christ, "he will keep my words" (John 14:23). Love to God is the most powerful incentive, motive, and dynamic of all: "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:3) to His dear children, for they "delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Rom. 7:22). Faith is indeed a wonderful grace, yet only as it "worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6) does it produce that which is pleasing and glorifying to God. "Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected" (1 John 2:5). None can be owned as a sincere lover of God except he that makes a point of obeying what He commands.
Love to God is also evidenced by a meek and cheerful submission to His will. The apostle prayed that God would direct the Thessalonians’ hearts to love Him so that they would endure anything rather than deny the faith, and confess Christ whatever it cost them. Obedience, courage, and resolution are included in love. "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned" (Song 8:7). It is true of love in general, much more true of love to God. Love to God is an antidote against temptations. All the riches, pleasures, and honors of this world cannot bribe those that really love Christ. Nor can all the floods of persecution quench this holy desire. When once the heart is set toward God and heaven, it is set against anything that would turn it out of the way and divert it from its high aim and purpose.
A brief word on the properties of this love. "It is not speculative but practical, not consisting in lofty, airy streams of devotion, too high for the common rate of us poor mortals. No, it is put upon a surer and infallible test—our obedience to God. Again, it does not consist in a bold familiarity, but in a humble subjection and compliance with God’s will: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me" (John 14:21). God’s love is a love of bounty, but ours is a love of duty; therefore we are properly said to love God when we are careful to please Him and fearful to offend Him: "Ye that love the LORD, hate evil" (Ps. 97:10). When we are fearful of committing or omitting anything which may be a violation of His law, a grief to His Spirit, or a dishonor to His name, then we are said to love God. However lofty our words of devotion may rise, they are empty without our active obedience, the proof of our love. Nothing but an honest endeavor to walk before the Lord unto all pleasing (Col. 1:10) must be made the touchstone of the genuineness of our love.
True Love to God
True lovers of God are not those who speak of Him as their "dear Father," nor those who talk about their intimate communion with Him, nor those who can discourse most accurately on His attributes. Rather they are those who are the most conscientious and diligent in performing for Him the duties which He has assigned them. Again, real love to God is a transcendent and preeminent one: He is loved above all others. "My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways" (Prov. 23:26) is His peremptory demand. He requires the chief place in our affections and in our lives, so that glorifying Him is our supreme aim: otherwise we have no real love to Him. If His interests are subordinated to ours, then God is not loved as God. "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37). By this too we must test our alleged love to God. "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee" (Ps. 73:25). Unless that really is the language of our hearts, we are deceived if we imagine ourselves to be lovers of God.
But love to God, however sincere and transcendent, is not all there is in the Christian’s heart: there are also powerful impulses which lust after ungodly things, and compete for his affections. Hence his urgent need of crying, "Unite my heart to fear thy name" (Ps. 86:11). Yet the very fact that the Christian is constrained to so cry, that he is acutely conscious of the feebleness of his love, is a sure evidence of his regeneration, for the natural man is a total stranger to any such pangs of soul. It is the same with the Christian’s love as it is with his faith. Not until a divinely begotten faith is born within are we in the least conscious of the presence and workings of unbelief. Only as we become aware of the latter do we "with tears" say, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). So too the love of God has to be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit before we can realize how disloyal to Him our affections really are. And as faith is dependent upon its Author for its continuance and growth, so love is dependent upon its Giver for its health and activities.
That brings us to consider more closely this petition: "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God." The reference is not to the furnishing of counsels for our guidance but to the bending and setting straight of what is crooked and awry. Even after receiving God’s grace, our hearts are apt to wander and return to their old bent and bias again. Our love for God so quickly wanes. Many of God’s dear children have reason to mourn the abating of their love toward God. Though the grace itself can never be lost, yet the freshness and fervor of it may. It is our sin and misery that we so often set our affections on wrong objects. Not only will an immediate pursuit of the things of this world chill our love: undue familiarity, fellowship with unbelievers and empty professors, will also do so. To many of His people Christ has reason to complain today, "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left ["not lost"] thy first love" (Rev. 2:4).
Many things seek to draw our hearts another way. Since the devil hates God, one of his chief employs is to draw off from Him the hearts of His people, both by attacking His character and by means of counter-attractions. The devil gained the ear of Eve by causing her to doubt God’s goodness. And when God’s providences cross our wills and painful trials become our portion, the devil seeks to make us question God’s loving-kindness. Or the devil endeavors to seduce the soul by material things, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. Therefore we are warned, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith" (1 Pet. 5:8-9). We must not tamely yield to him. Our own lusts tempt, seek to draw away from God, and entice us (James 1:14) and therefore the admonition is given, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth" (Col. 3:5). The world offers many baits to the same end and purpose, and therefore we are commanded, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 John 2:15). An undue attachment to any of the things of time and sense chill our affections for God. How many of the saints have proved this to their sorrow.
Our Need of Earnestly Praying
There is, then, a real and pressing need that we should earnestly supplicate the Lord the Spirit to "direct our hearts into the love of God." He can strengthen us with His might in the inner man, and thereby enable us to sternly resist every temptation to become attached to any earthly idol. We must ask Him to more and more enlighten our understanding to perceive the utter vanity of all earthly enjoyments and wean our fickle hearts from them. We must look to Him to graciously occupy us daily with the ineffable perfections of God and grant us such soul-ravishing views of Him as will deaden us to the empty baubles of this world. He can engage our minds more frequently and effectually with the wondrous love of God for us and thereby excite ours for Him. He can so enthrall us with His electing grace, His having singled us out to be the objects of His favor, the ones upon whom He set His heart from all eternity, that we shall be constrained to love Him with all our souls, minds, and strength. He can so melt us in adoration and appreciation of all Christ is to us that we shall be wholly devoted to Him, delight ourselves in Him, and seek to please and glorify Him in all things.
If we had a clearer concept of what the love of God consists of, we should be far more conscious of the defects of our love. This love is a powerful inclination and earnest bent of the heart toward God as our chief good and last end. It enables us to realize that God is infinitely worthy and desirable, so that all our efforts are directed to enjoying Him and pleasing Him. If that really is the dominant passion in our souls, then by it we shall decide what is to be avoided and what is to be employed as fit means to the realization thereof. We shall be conscious that not only are all sins contrary to the making of God’s glory our supreme end or design but that all foolish and trifling actions are inconsistent with that end. Measuring our lives by such a standard, we realize how much we live for self, and how little for God! How many of our desires, schemes, words, and actions have no real respect to God at all! It is not sufficient that we surrender our hearts at conversion: we need to beg Him daily to reclaim them from their vain wanderings and bind them afresh to Himself, and to maintain and increase our love to Him.
Our Love Distracted from God
Not only are there innumerable objects in this scene to draw away our unstable hearts from God; the cares of this life and the slavish fears to which we so often give place, hinder our delight in Him. Such cares oppress, and such fears prevent comfortable communion with God in the means of grace. When we are worried over our present lot or harassed about supplies for the future, the heart is straitened and the spirit of praise is chilled. When we are occupied more with our sins than we are with Christ, more with our corruptions than with His blood, more with our failures than with God’s covenant faithfulness, doubts will assail, assurance will be lost, and rejoicing in God becomes a thing of the past. In such a case the means of grace may still be used and duties performed, but there is no joy in the one or thankful gratitude behind the other. It is more the service of a slave than of a son. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment" (1 John 4:18). But if our hearts are directed into the love of God, then our obedience to Him will be a delight, and we shall serve Him by inclination and not compulsion.
When the means of grace become irksome and tedious to us and the works of obedience distasteful and burdensome, it is a sure sign that our love to God has grievously declined. All goes spontaneously, easily, freely, when love motivates us. Seven years seemed as a few days to Jacob for the love he had for Rachel (Gen. 29:20). Thus it was with Christ Himself: love to His Father, love to His people, constrained all that He did. "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup." Therefore He added, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places" . . . "I have set the Lord always before me . . . Therefore my heart is glad" (Ps. 16:5-9). But when we yield to the promptings of self-love or to our carnal lusts, the light of God’s countenance becomes eclipsed, our affections gradually cool off, and His ways are no longer our delight. The profits and pleasures of this world attract us, and we have a disinclination to the performance of spiritual duties. If we take our fill of carnal delights, the Spirit is grieved, and He ceases to take of the things of Christ and of the Father and show them to us.
Love is a tender, delicate plant. After it is planted in the soul, we must see that it gets rooted, that it grows, that it blooms and bears fruit. It is our sacred duty and Christian responsibility to care for our spiritual life as for our natural, yes, far more so, as the latter exceeds in value and importance the former. We must look after the health and well-being of our souls as well as that of our bodies. God has commanded us, "Keep thy heart with all diligence" (Prov. 4:23), and still more expressly, "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21), which means to preserve in a healthy state our love to God—that principle of love which has been shed abroad in our hearts. Why is that termed "the love of God"? Because God is its Author, because He is its Object, because He is its Perfector. The great work committed to the Christian is to keep himself in the love of God, for if that is properly attended to, everything else will be well with him. It must be his daily care to see to it that that precious but tender plant is nourished, increased, and made manifest by its fruits.
The Believer’s Responsibility
Once more we must remind ourselves of the clear implication in all the petitions of the apostle’s prayers: namely, that it is our responsibility to produce the things asked for, yet that we can only do so properly by divine enablement. Asking God to direct our hearts into His love does not release us from our obligations. It is merely asking Him to quicken us in the discharge of them. As formerly pointed out, our first concern must be to see to it that our love to God is firmly established, "rooted and grounded in love" (Eph. 3:17). We must not be contented with occasional good moods and ecstatic feelings, nor with meltings under a sermon, but diligently seek after and pray for a solid, steady, durable affection for God. And how is that to be accomplished? By getting the heart fixed in His love to us. The firmer is our assurance of that, the more will our love to Him be inflamed, just as the more we walk in the genial rays of the sun, the warmer our bodies become. If we daily observe God’s blessings both spiritual and temporal, a renewed realization of His goodness will renew our gratitude to Him.
At this point we take in or combine the passive sense of these words, "the love of God," for unless we bask often in the sunshine of God’s love to us, ours to Him will be neither fervent nor fruitful. Certainly nothing is so invigorating to our love and more calculated to make us aware of how infinitely worthy God is of our love than the contemplation of His love to us. As Paul prayed for the Ephesians that they might be "rooted and grounded in love," their love firmly fixed and indeclinably settled upon God, so he requested for the Philippian saints that their love might "abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment" (Phil. 1:9), which could only be through a fuller, deeper apprehension of God’s love for them. It is alike our privilege and duty to strive and pray that we may increasingly cleave to God as our absolute good and rest in Him as our supreme delight. Love will not remain static: if it does not grow and increase, it will inevitably weaken and diminish. Nothing is more conducive to the decline and decay of our love than to be content with and satisfied in the present measure or degree of it.
If our affections for God are to be preserved warm and fresh, we must avoid everything which has a tendency to chill them and draw the heart away from Him. The allowance of any known sin, conformity to the spirit and ways of the world, making too much of the creature, giving way to unbelief, slackness in using the appointed means of grace, are some of the evils which must be avoided if God is to have His proper place in our hearts. Every day that passes, the Christian should be more and more out of love with sin, with self, with the world, and more in love with God. We need to watch closely against any abatement in our love: that is obviously one part of the duty inculcated in "Keep thy heart with all diligence." If we fail to do so, if we become careless and indifferent to the measure and strength of our love, then it will rapidly deteriorate. Backsliding and openly dishonoring the Lord are only prevented by observing closely the first decline of our love. The longer that is unattended to, like the neglect of a bodily ailment, the more serious our case becomes. Love has certainly cooled when we are less diligent in seeking to please God and are less careful in striving against sin.
Love Must Be Actively Exercised
Not only do we need to get our love firmly rooted and steadily increased, but it also needs to be continually exercised. All religion is in effect love. Faith is thankful acceptance, and thankfulness is an expression of love. Repentance is love mourning. Yearning for holiness is love seeking. Obedience is love pleasing. Self-denial is the mortification of self-love. Sobriety is the curtailing of carnal love. If love is not activated and kept working, it will atrophy. The affections of man cannot be idle; if they do not go out to God, they leak out to worldly things. When our love for God decreases, the love of the world grows in our soul. Love’s constraining influence keeps us from living to and for ourselves.
Work and love are often coupled in the Scriptures. Paul spoke of "your work of faith, and labor of love" (1 Thess. 1:3). The writer of Hebrews said, "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which ye have showed toward his name" (Heb. 6:10). Then how earnestly we should pray for the succoring, strengthening, and stimulating of our love! One of the Holy Spirit’s ministries in us is to stir up our love to God.
Earnest prayer to God for the strengthening of love does not absolve us from a diligent use of means. Daily meditation on the nature and evidences of God’s love to us is the most effectual way of feeding and increasing ours to Him. Ponder the freeness and sovereignty of His love. He did not set His heart on us because of any loveliness of ours, for His love antedated our existence, and therefore proceeded from His goodwill. God’s love passed by multitudes and fixed itself on us: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:13). Think of its immutability: it is as invariable as His nature. "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (John 13:1). That love proceeds from One "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (Jam. 1:17). God’s love to us is everlasting, and therefore nothing can or shall ever separate us from it. Let us revel in its unparalleled degree: "God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ" (Eph. 2:4-5). Matchless, amazing love! "God is love" (1 John 4:8) and therefore His love is infinite, incomprehensible, adorable. We may feed on it now, and it shall be our endless delight in heaven.