How would you live your life if you found out you only had one year left to live? How would it change your focus? How would it affect the way you spent your time? How would it transform the way you respond and relate to your family, your neighbors, your classmates, your boss?
Here is what David Kelley discovered. David is the founder of what many regard as the premier design firm in the country—Ideo—and a professor at Stanford University for more than 30 years. He is a creative genius. Unfortunately, at age 56, Kelley discovered a lump on his body, and the doctors told him he had cancer. What followed was Chemo, surgery, radiation. and mouth sores. A throat so raw he could barely swallow. Nausea so severe he couldn’t concentrate enough to read or even watch TV. “I spent nine months in a room trying not to throw up,” he said. The treatment wrecked his saliva glands and his taste buds. He lost 40 pounds.
David is happily married and has one daughter. As he struggled through the difficult emotions that come with this kind of experience, he discovered a priority for living. David says about his daughter: At first, you think, “I don’t want to miss her growing up.” That’s motivating, but not that motivating. It’s when you manage to get out of yourself and start thinking of her in love that you get the resolve to continue. When you think, “I don’t want her not to have a father”—then you want to stay alive.
What gave David Kelley a reason to endure the suffering of his treatment was not the pleasure he would get out of experiencing life with his daughter, as wonderful as that would be. David realized that what truly motivated him to live was the benefit he could bring as a father to his daughter. What motivated him at the deepest level was selfless sacrifice for another—LOVE.
God’s word tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that we can have all kinds of gifts talents and abilities, but if we don’t use them from a heart of love, they are meaningless. We can do all kinds of ministry, service, and work, but if we don’t do them from a motivation of love, they are worthless. Without love, life is reduced to busyness. But God calls us to a better way of living than always staying busy. God’s way of living brings value to all of life, but it requires cultivating and valuing love as our #1 priority for each moment, each task, and each relationship of life.
How does love respond to a busy life in a complicated world?
Love focuses on what lasts for eternity – L-O-V-E. Love is our #1 Priority in life because it’s the only thing that will last forever.
“Love never ends.
But as for prophecies, they will come to an end;
as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)
The best of the temporal things of life are far less important than the eternal importance of love because they won’t last. Even great ministry activities like prophecy, speaking in tongues, and spiritual knowledge, as examples from Paul, still don’t measure up to love because they won’t last. The things we do by faith are great, but they won’t be needed forever. It isn’t that they don’t matter – they just don’t matter the most. Most of us have very busy schedules, but it’s not our schedules that cause our lives to be busy – it’s our misplaced priorities. It isn’t that many of the good things we do don’t matter. They matter a lot. They just don’t matter the most. They aren’t the highest priority. In order to love more—authentically and deeply—we have to rearrange our priorities and do fewer of the activities that enslave our hearts and minds.
Imagine throwing a big party for a special celebration and commissioning an elaborate ice sculpture to be the centerpiece of the decorations. The ice artists get an enormous block of ice, come up with a beautiful design, and begin to sculpt it with their chain saws and chisels. After weeks of work, the time for the celebration comes. The sculptors roll out their 20’ high ice masterpiece, complete with multicolored lights slowly rotating in the center of the outdoor celebration. Party guests ooh and ahh over how amazing it is. It’s truly impressive. the sculpture is the talk of the party. Several hours later, as volunteers are cleaning up, the ice sculpture is mostly a big puddle of water. It was beautiful while it lasted, but there’s hardly anything left. The artists’ work was excellent and admired by all, but it didn’t last. I wonder how many of us are working hard, giving our best energy and time to some very good things that simply won’t last.
What demands and pressures are you living with today that will melt when it’s all said and done? What’s the solution? How do we make love our #1 priority? Grow up in love!
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
In order to make love our #1 priority, we must grow up from childish words, thoughts, reasoning, and actions to live in love. These three verbs – talk, think, and reason – are very revealing. They show us a lot about the difference between children and adults. What do children talk about? Themselves. “I want it.” What do kids think about? Usually themselves. “Mine.” They are very me-focused. They are also focused on the “right now” That’s how they reason. They see their needs and wants as immediate. This is the picture Paul paints of our busy lives with mis-placed priorities. Childish. It’s easy to be interested in our wants, focused on ourselves, and use short-term reasoning. As we mature, however, and grow up, we talk less about what we want and more about what God and others want. Love asks, “what’s best for everyone involved? What’s the right long-term solution?” That’s how adults learn to talk. As we grow up, we begin to realize that life isn’t all about us. Our thinking gravitates toward others even when we’ve been hurt, disagree, or seen others fail. We develop an outward focus. And as we mature, we learn to look down the road and plan ahead. We forsake immediate gratification because the benefits of delayed gratification are so much better.
Love gives others what they need the most, when they deserve it the least, and usually, at the greatest personal cost.
In order to see progress in our spiritual maturity and ability to love, we need to comprehend a crucial principle of love.
“For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part,but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
In Paul’s day, craftsmen made mirrors out of metal. Corinth was famous as the producer of some of the finest bronze mirrors in antiquity. An ancient mirror rendered a pretty cloudy image. You could tell the face looking into it was yours, but it wasn’t a precise picture. It was still hard to see. That’s what our vision of life is like right now, Paul says. We don’t see everything clearly. A time is coming when we will. When Jesus returns, we will see fully and, according to 1 John 3:2, we will be like Him – completely transformed.
The principle of love is this: Cloudy vision leads to a complex, busy life, but a clear vision of God’s priority of love leads to fruitful, peaceful living. It’s our cloudy vision that leads to the busyness and complexity in our lives. Most of us struggle to figure out which things to do, so we try to do everything, but we end up not doing any of them very well, and we neglect our own souls. When things get clear, however, we don’t feel pulled in every direction. When we look at life from the perspective of our temporary lives on earth and the eternal impact they could have in heaven, we make better choices of how we spend our time and how we make love #1 priority.
Why is love the greatest? It lasts! Forever! That’s why we must love God and love others above all else.
“Now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Corinthians 13:13)
Faith is believing in what we can’t see— the promises and character of God— but someday our faith will become sight.
Hope anchors our souls in the certainty of God’s plan, but at some point God’s plan will fulfilled. We will one day possess what we once hoped for.
But love continues on. It never fails. It will never end. When we meet Jesus face-to-face, love will take center stage. Do you see why love is the secret to simplifying your life? It’s not about trying harder to “do less.” It’s about seeing clearer to love more. Love is what we need. Love is what the family needs. Love is what the church needs. Love is what the world needs. Love is the indispensable addition that gives worth to everything.
Quite frankly, we’ve tried to love on our own and failed. We’ve loved those who love us in return. But what about others who have hurt us, or for others who are much different than us, and those who have failed us? Well that’s a different story. Where do we find the time and the ability to love in the midst of our busy lives and a complicated world?
So how do we love that way? Rest in God’s love in order to give His love to others. God’s love for you transforms the way you love others when you have been hurt. God’s love enables you to celebrate the dramatic differences in others. God’s love for you impacts the way you respond to forgive when others have failed. Oh, how God loves us! And for us to love this way, it comes only through depending upon God as we love through constant prayer.
“I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17–19)
You only have one life to live, how will you live it? How will you make love your #1 priority? How will your love respond throughout your busy life in this complicated world?