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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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It is one thing to be silent and passive under suffering, and quite another to be conscious of its “needs be,” and (though at first it may be only in a very partial way) to derive such a real good and help from it, that instead of lamenting, one is owning to the Father His wisdom and thoughtfulness in putting one through such necessary discipline. Now this latter can never be reached but through exercise of soul. The trial one feels much ought to exercise one much before the Father.


If I am assured that His love is as great as His power, and neither knows measure nor end, then must I not be exercised before Him as to why in His love He should allow me to be so afflicted? The very exercise engages and connects my soul with Him (Rom 8:17; 1 Pe 4:13—NC), and this nearness acquires for me help and instruction about many other things. The waiting of the soul upon God in the time of affliction, is requited with a growth and strength in the knowledge of the Father which tends to relieve one of the suffering that was the original cause of waiting on Him; and the soul once truly habituated to wait on the Father learns so to value it that it never again can do without it. Then it learns to say, “All my springs are in Thee.”


The fact of the desolation which one feels here when a beloved one has been removed, and the hesitancy with which one refuses to submit to it, proves that the heart required the trial in order to discover to itself that it has rested and hoped in something outside of the Father. The exercise of the soul consequent on the affliction leads to that nearness and waiting on the Father which supplies what was before unknown. Most blessed when it has this, its true and intended effect.


We must beware of being sentimental in divine things; I mean by sentimental, your thoughts of the Lord Jesus centering in yourself. The tendency is to make oneself the center of everything passing, how it pains or cheers oneself, ever musing on oneself as if one were the one solitary object for the sunshine or the cloud to rest on, watching every alternation as it falls on or visits oneself. A soul in the strength of the Lord Jesus regards everything as He would regard it, and therefore he regards it with reference to the Father, and not to man.


This throws one out of self-centeredness into the wise and grand purpose of His present counsel and work. My interests and concerns fit in, in the great circle of His interests and concerns, and I see my own in connection and relation with all His. When affliction occurs I accept it as a call to me, and as an aid from Him to be more separated from myself—a check, a breaking off of some unknown or unperceived growth of the old man, and hence redounding to a deeper and fuller abiding altogether above in Him.


If I am a hero to myself, or a martyr, I am sentimental. My thoughts are occupied about myself, and I look at and regard divine things as they suit my thinking about myself, and not as answering to what He is thinking of me. I am confining the Lord to myself instead of rising up and seeing myself lost in Him, and then following Him in all the greatness and blessedness of His work and ways down here.


- J B Stoney



Miles J Stanford devotional: http://www.abideabove.com/hungry-heart/


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