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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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1 Kings 22:1-40 describes the battle in which King Ahab of Israel lost his life. He asked Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, to join him in taking Ramoth-gilead back from the Syrians. Jehoshaphat agreed to help but insisted that they ask God’s guidance first.

 

Ahab called 400 prophets and asked whether he should go to war. The prophets were not true prophets but cared more about pleasing Ahab than delivering God’s message. They all assured him of victory. Jehoshaphat apparently realized they weren’t prophets of God and asked Ahab if there was another prophet they could ask. Ahab said there was another prophet, named Micaiah, but he hated him because he prophesied evil for Ahab. Jehoshaphat insisted on hearing him so Ahab ordered that he be brought in. Sure enough he predicted that Ahab would be killed in the coming battle.

 

And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’

 

And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’

 

And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’

 

And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’

 

And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’

 

Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.” (1 Kings 22:19-23 ESV)

 

Ahab refused to believe Micaiah and carried out his plan to fight Syria, but apparently he feared that the prophecy might come true. He told Jehoshaphat to wear his royal robes to battle while he wore the uniform of an ordinary soldier. At first this ruse seemed to work. The Syrian soldiers saw Jehoshaphat’s robes, thought he was Ahab, and attacked him. When they got close enough to see that he wasn’t Ahab they broke off their attack.

 

But Ahab didn’t escape the doom God had declared for him.

 

But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” (1 Kings 22:34 ESV)

 

His wound was fatal and he died just as Micaiah had said he would.

 

I wonder if the Syrian soldier ever realized what he had done. As far as he knew the man he shot was an ordinary Israelite soldier. He didn’t know he had killed the king of Israel and fulfilled God’s prophecy.

 

Many Christians serve God faithfully but see no results from their work. Sometimes it seems that their work is useless and they are tempted to give up. But like the arrow shot by that Syrian soldier their efforts may have had a powerful impact on someone’s life. God has never promised that we will see the full effect of our work during this life, but he promises that if we serve him faithfully our work will have good results.

 

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV)

 

So don’t give up serving God just because you don’t see any results.

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