It was 44 years ago this February 11th that I went out on my first date with my husband. It was a ‘blind date’, and although neither of us are blind, we’d readily admit we couldn’t have visualized at that time the course our lives would take after that first evening together. God has led and blessed us in ways we could never have imagined back then!
What I remember most of all about our first date was that we had lots of fun. We talked, we laughed, we went out for a late-night bite, we even played cribbage— a card game not many of our peers knew how to play, so we were each delighted to find out that the other one did.
I’d been in three long-term relationships prior to meeting my husband my senior year of college. I distinctly remember that after just the first date, something felt different from my previous dating experiences. I felt a strong urge to do something for him…to give him something that expressed to him that I cared about him. So…the next day I stopped at MacDonalds and picked up a burger and fries for him—that was in the days that I thought it was real food! Then two days later, while out shopping at our local grocery store, my eye was caught by something I thought was cool looking: a prayer plant. I loved the strikingly beautiful variegated leaves, as well as the fact that it lifts and folds its leaves together at night as if prayer. I remember being so excited to give it to him on our first Valentine’s Day together. It sure wasn’t the typical Valentine’s Day gift, but that’s no surprise because I’ve never been accused of being ‘typical’. The gift may not have seemed that special to him or certainly to anyone else—but it was special to me because of the love that was already starting to bloom in my heart for him as evidenced by my desire—almost a compulsion— to give something to him. The plant turned out to be symbolic that our relationship would continue to grow.
The Lord brought this to my remembrance as I was thinking about this upcoming Valentine’s Day, and He also brought to my mind that giving is at the center of love.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ESV
Love is a verb, and if we love someone, it will be manifested by our taking action. Although the words “I love you” can be very important for the recipient of our affection to hear, we must also demonstrate our love by what we do. Our actions will testify whether the love we profess is genuine.
In an Old Testament survey course that I’m taking, it was pointed out that in Joshua 24 there are many verbs used to describe what God did for the Israelites in fulfilling His promise to give them the land of Canaan. He proved His love for His chosen people by doing things for them. Below are highlighted the verbs from chapter 24 of the book of Joshua that illustrate God’s love for the Israelites:
- I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. (Vs. 3)
- I gave him Isaac. vs. 3
- And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau vs. 4
- I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess vs. 4
- I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it… Vs. 5
- Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt vs. 6
- And when they cried to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians and made the sea come upon them and cover themvs. 7
- Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites…and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. vs. 8
- I delivered you out of his hand (Balak’s) vs. 10
- And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And I gave them into your hand. Vs. 11
- I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you…vs. 12
- I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them… Vs. 13
God is love (1 John 4:8). And love necessitates action. God is always at work for the good of those who love Him, those called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28) He is at work to demonstrate His great love for us who love Him, just as He did for the Israelites.True love—the kind God has for us—requires sacrifice. It means giving up your time, energy, and/or resources in order to take action designed to beneficial and a blessing to someone else.
Sacrificial love is the kind of love God has for us, and it’s also the kind of love He desires that we have for Him and for others: it requires us to give to Him and to others as He has so generously given to us.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights… James 1:17 Do you ever think that everything you have in your life has come to you from God? I encourage you to look back over your life and to ask God to reveal to you the many ways in which He has demonstrated His love for you, especially by giving you things you may often take for granted. Then make sure to thank Him for the myriad of ways He has lavished love upon you, remembering that the greatest gift of all is forgiveness of your sin and salvation through Jesus.
He demonstrated His great love for you and me by sacrificing His beloved Son to die in our place on the cross, which brought about our salvation, and even more, He has given us the gift of being made His children!
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1
When we consider how much and in how many ways God has demonstrated His love for us, how can we not want to respond to Him by taking action to show our love for Him? And for others whom He has called us to love as He has loved us?
You may be thinking that there are people in your life that don’t deserve to be loved by you. Keep in mind that you did nothing whatsoever to deserve God’s love.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV
Or, you may be thinking, but “I don’t feel any love for…my spouse…or my cantankerous parent…or my rebellious child….or for someone else who is difficult for you to love.
It’s important to keep in mind that love is not a feeling, it is a decision. Do you think that if Jesus allowed His feelings to dictate His actions that He would have gone to the cross? We know from the agony Jesus went through in the Garden of Gethsemane that He didn’t want to experience the humiliation and suffering of the crucifixion that saved us, but He loved His Heavenly Father so much—and He trusted His Father’s love for Him so much— that He was willing to obey Him. (Philippians 2:1-11)
Whether or not you feel love for someone isn’t the issue; the issue is whether you will demonstrate love for God by choosing to obey Him. He has commanded you to love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and He’s commanded you to love others as He has loved you.
He would not command you to do something if He were not able to equip you to do it. Ask Him to give you a wholehearted love for Him— which He longs for you to have for your good because ‘His love is better than life’—and ask Him to give you His love for others.(Psalm 63:3) He will be faithful to do it!
I encourage you this Valentine’s Day not to focus on what you’re going to get but instead focus your attention on who you can bless by your giving. And every day of the year remember, when you love sacrificially— which is ‘true love’ and is expressed through your taking action— you are pleasing to and representing God, the Greatest Lover of all.
Questions to consider: What actions do you believe God wants you to take to prove that you truly love Him? For example, do you need to carve out time in your daily schedule to sit quietly before Him? To spend quantity as well as quality time reading the Bible, His love letter to you? Or, what action/s is He putting on your heart for you to take to prove that you love those whom He’s placed in your life? How can you best show love for your spouse? Your children? Your church family? Your neighbors? Your community?