|Wherefore show ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love| (2 Cor.8: 24). Love is capable of demonstration. Where it really exists, it will manifest itself. It need not be made known by mere assertion. We are told to love not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. In these days there are many who, like some of old, show much love with their mouths while their hearts are far from God. The test of our love is not how much we talk about it, but how much we manifest it in our lives. There are three tests of love, which never fail to show exactly just how much we love. Let us consider them in order.
I. How Much We Serve.
We are told that Jacob loved Rachel so much that he served seven years for her, and that those years seemed to him as only a few days. The amount of our love to God is proved by our willingness to serve him. If there is in us a disposition to do only what we please to do, and if we can, to disregard any of the known will of God, it is a clear evidence that we do not love him. It matters not what we profess, if we are not willing to put obedience to God's will before everything else, it is from lack of love.
Love makes people willing-hearted. There are many things to do; there are many ways to serve; and love prompts us to serve wherever possible. If the work of God stands first in our love, our hands will always be ready for service. I have attended many camp-meetings, where I have noticed those on whom the labor of the meeting fell. Everybody was willing to sit in the meeting and enjoy the good sermons and take all the blessings they could get; but when it came to the labor and responsibility connected with the meeting, willingness suddenly disappeared, and a greater part of the burden fell upon the ministers and a few consecrated brethren and sisters who loved God and the people enough to go to work. I have often had occasion to call for volunteers for service, and have often found that many people who can say |Amen| and |Praise the Lord,| and perhaps shout in meeting, become suddenly silent when it comes to volunteering for work. The test of their love proves that love is wanting.
In a certain camp-meeting there was a young man who professed to be saved, and was saved, so far as I know. I noticed, however, that when others were busy at work in some necessary service, he was always standing back a mere onlooker. One day about the middle of the meeting this young man came to the altar, and when asked what was the trouble he said that he had backslidden. Being asked what he had done, he said that he did not know. I said to him: |I think I know your trouble. Whenever there has been a meeting, you have been ready to go and enjoy all you could of it; whenever a meal is ready, you are always ready for it; but when there is any work to be done, you are never ready. Now,| I continued, |when there is need of water at the boarding-house, you take a bucket and go for it; when there is wood needed, get an ax and use it, or when there is anything to do in which you can help, be ready for it and do your part.| He took my advice, and from that time on he seemed to be a different man. The reason many people get so few blessings is because they do not love enough to serve.
There are duties for all. There are opportunities everywhere. Every one of them is a test of love. Brother, sister, how does your love stand the test? Love will not grumble; it will not complain; it will not shrink from service. Do you love as fervently as you ought?
II. How Much We Sacrifice.
The mother who loves her child thinks no sacrifice too great for it. Even her life will she give for it, if need be. The man who loves his country will, if the need should arise, count no sacrifice too great. He who loves God as truly as the mother loves her child or the patriot loves his country is willing to sacrifice for God. Abraham proved his love by not withholding his son. He offered him freely in obedience to God's command. Paul loved, and as a result he counted not his life dear to himself so that he might do the work of God. Christ so loved the world that he sacrificed everything for our salvation.
We say that we love this glorious gospel; we say we desire to see it spread to the ends of the earth; but how much do we love it compared with our love of self? Do we love it more than self, or equal with self, or far less than self? Many persons spend willingly and even lavishly for self who give sparingly and reluctantly to God. They spend more for their pleasures than they give. Some spend more for candy than they give to missions. Some spend more for gasoline for pleasure-riding than they give to all causes. In fact, some spend so much on their own selfish desires that when a need of God's work is presented they can truly say, |I can not give much.| They might feel disposed to give if they had anything to give, but are they willing to deny themselves of some self-gratification in order to have something to give? There is the test of love that proves its real direction -- whether it runs out selfward or Godward. If we love God and souls as much as we love self, we can spend money for them just as willingly and with as little reluctance or regret to see it go as if it were being spent for ourselves. If we can not spend for God and his work more willingly than for self, it is because we do not love him more than self. If we do not get more pleasure out of giving than we do out of consuming, we may well question both the amount and quality of our love and its direction. Often the work of God must go on crutches because of lack of means while professors live in luxury.
There is no way to avoid the issue. There is plenty of money so that all the work of the church could be properly financed and no undue burden rest upon any. The fact is, there are too many whose love is wanting in that quality which draws out their hearts into the work of God until they are willing to sacrifice for it. It is true that there are many who do love and who prove it by their sacrifices. But it is just as true that there are many others who do not deny themselves and will not even from a sense of duty, to say nothing of making willing sacrifices through the prompting of love.
It is time that we heard more of the practical side of love preached from the pulpit and that people who profess salvation and at the same time manifest an indifference toward the salvation of souls and the work of the church in general should not be left to drift along in coldness and be lost at last. A sacrificing person or a sacrificing church will be spiritual if the sacrifice is prompted by love. People who are willing to serve and sacrifice rarely backslide.
III. How Much We Endure.
Christ proved his love by enduring the scoffs and ill-treatment of the people and the shame and suffering of the cross. By this he proved his love to be real. If our love is genuine, as was that of the saints of old, we can rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for His name. Paul endured all things for the elect's sake, that they might be saved. If we can not endure the little persecutions, the unkind words, the sneering smiles, the scoffs and jeers, of the unbelieving world, is it not because our love lacks fervency? The early church took joyfully the spoiling of their goods because they loved their Lord far more than they loved their goods. God's ministers in all ages have endured hardships and perils and have suffered in a thousand ways without faltering, because they loved souls as God loves them.
Sometimes people quote the text, |We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren|; but if these same brethren do something that does not please them, they are offended and grieved and are full of complaint and murmuring, and it is hard for them to be reconciled to their brethren. Is the love of such people genuine? Does it really prove that they have passed from death unto life? Many think that the preacher ought to be willing to endure almost anything for the cause (and so he should), but they do not consider that the same love in them will give them the same spirit of endurance and willingness to suffer as it gives to the minister. Love that can not endure hardness, misrepresentation, neglect, and such things, and still be sweet and strong, needs to be increased.
Love makes service sweet, sacrifice easy, and meek endurance possible. Love enriches, ennobles, and blesses. It sweetens the bitter cup: it lightens the heavy load. It strengthens the faltering soul. Let us, therefore, see that we have fervent love toward God, toward each other, and toward the lost world.