Believe it or not, there’s a set of dumbbells in my closet. Every now and then I pull them out and fling them around for a few days. Then (as you’ve probably already suspected) I forget about them for months at a time.
In my Bible, there’s an old worn index card with faded writing. My own, younger, handwriting. The heading says, “Heart exercises,” and below that is a list from 1 Corinthians 13. Every now and then, I read that list to remind me of what my love needs to practice.
Yet I confess that sometimes those old, familiar passages just run over me like the waters of a summer downpour … poured out, they run over hard ground, run off and quickly drain away before they have a chance to sink in and water my heart and soul.
This morning, I read the heart exercises in a different translation, the waters soak deep, and I am humbled by how much work I still have to do …
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
This verse from Philippians is what reminded me of the heart exercises. The word for love used here is that agape love, the love that takes action for the good of someone else.
I ask the Spirit how that love can overflow more and more in my life … and then I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 13. And, wow! Take a look at the actions this love produces. And believe me, exercising these things is far harder than flinging dumbbells.
* Not jealous or boastful or proud or rude
* Does not demand its own way (uh-oh. I do believe in the last two sessions of our small group Bible study, I’ve said these very words: I like to have my own way, I like to have things the way I want them.)
* Not irritable
* Keeps no record of wrongs
* Does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices when truth wins
* Never gives up
* Never loses faith
* Is always hopeful
* Endures through every circumstance
I could add a note to every one of those points, telling you how I’ve failed in the last few weeks. Instead, I’d like to focus on the good news, the hope and the promise.
The last part of the Philippians verse reflects Paul’s prayer for growth in knowledge and understanding. Me! Me! Me, too! I want to grow in understanding of how my life can overflow with agape love toward those God has put in my life. As you can tell, I don’t care too much about those barbells, but the desire of my heart is to learn how to love as God loves us. (And remember, Father, you’ve promised to give me the desires of my heart!)
There’s more good news. In his letter to the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul offers the same kind of prayer for growing and overflowing love in their lives. And then he adds this:
May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people.
What a promise! This kind of loving makes our hearts strong, blameless, and holy!
I want a heart like that. And I intend to be far more faithful to this strength training than I am to those dusty things in my closet.
Scripture: Philippians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7; 1 Thessalonians 3:13 (all NLT)