Whipped, beaten, persecuted, imprisoned, crucified, tortured–not exactly the best words to attract non-believers as we describe what a life of following God sometimes entails. It would seem as though once we signed up on God’s team that He would never allow these sort of events to occur in our lives. So, what gets us thrown into a den of lions?

Daniel found himself asking the same question.

If there was one trait we could easily identify in Daniel in his relationship with God, it was that he was loyal. No matter what the consequences were, he was going to obey the Lord. So, how could he get thrown into a den of lions?

As King Darius found favor with Daniel and promoted him to a position of great power in his kingdom, the leaders who Darius catapulted Daniel over were upset. They were jealous that this young man who wasn’t even native to their land was suddenly in a seat of prominence–and he was ruling over them!

They began searching for something with which to accuse Daniel:

“So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him” (Daniel 6:4).

Regardless of how close we walk with the Lord and how righteous our steps are, we must be forewarned that the enemy isn’t going to leave us alone without a fight. We would think that these leaders would cease their plotting if their investigations turned up that Daniel was without fault or error. However, that only spurred them on to other tactics. They wanted to see Daniel suffer for his faith.

God desires us to be faithful like Daniel, who clung to the Lord no matter what the circumstances around him said. Oswald Chambers writes:

“Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything. But faithfulness to my own ideas means that I first clear the way mentally.”

When we commit to living a life of faithfulness to God–not just a faithfulness to ideas about Him–the enemy won’t leave us alone. Even the enemy understands the potential brewing within our spirit as we yield our lives to God.

However, we can take hope in the promise of God’s Word as we commit to living a life of faithfulness to Christ. The psalmist David writes:

“Oh, love the Lord, all you his saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful” (Psalm 31:23).

While our faithfulness to God may be the reason the enemy pulls us into a den of lions, it’s also the reason God will pull us out.

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Consistency and dependability are two traits most difficult to find–both in our own lives and in the lives of people around us. When we find someone who is consistent and dependable, and we’ve found someone we can trust.

In painting the tapestry that embodies the characteristics of love, Paul places one all by itself. Following a long list of the traits that gives us the picture of love, there it sits, the phrase that shows us what element of love we usually discover is lacking in our relationships with other people. And we often find that element missing on our part in our relationship toward God.

“Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).

That’s it. Three simple words that provide the punch behind God’s reassuring whispers that His love is true. It’s a love that never fails. Never.

For all the examples of love in the Bible–both examples of love toward other people and love toward God–no example captures this trait more than Jesus. And no single example stands out more than His willingness to go to the Cross for us.

As the hour drew nigh, Jesus knew that He had to go through with what He was sent to do: die on the Cross for the sins of the world. He had lived a perfect life, yet this was how His life was destined to end. In His desperation, Jesus cries out in the garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus wasn’t looking for a way out, but He surely wasn’t looking forward to the most days in His life. As He prayed in the garden later that night, Jesus began sweating blood. This wasn’t going to be easy.

But through the blood-stained tears of Jesus, there we see His unfailing love for us. God had promised that His Son would come to die for our sins and redeem us, and Jesus knew His purpose. It didn’t make it easy for Him though. However, His love for the Father was strong. His love for the Father was true. His love for the Father would not fail Him … or us.

As we strive to love in the manner that Jesus modeled for us here on earth, we must understand the importance of demonstrating a love that never fails. We see this in Jesus’ prodding us to forsake the 99 just to get the one lost sheep. We see this in Jesus’ forgiveness of the harlot. We see this in Jesus’ dying words from the Cross: “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”

In our desire to love others, we must ask the Lord to teach us to have faithfulness in love. We must ask Him to help us understand how we can love others like Jesus did–a love that was willing to hang on a cross instead of leaving those around Him hanging.

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To be so committed, so loyal, so sincere is a snapshot of what sacrificial love is. And when these three elements are gathered together, an enduring love is formed.

For Daniel, those elements in his relationship toward God had long since entered into his life. No matter what his earthly king said, Daniel was serving a higher authority. The king said eat meat; Daniel pleaded to eat vegetables so he could remain in obedience to God’s commands. Daniel’s convictions led to a healthier lifestyle, an appearance that made his countenance glow.

During those early days in the king’s courts, Daniel was laying the foundation for the greater trials that would take place in his life, trials that would test his loyalty to the Lord.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:7 that love “endures all things.” Come what may, Daniel was so in love with God that he had long since decided that he was going to stick with the Lord until the end. And when Daniel went to his knees one afternoon, he knew the end could be very near.

Daniel loved God and a silly law wasn’t going to separate him from praying to his Lord. “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in

his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10). No matter what, Daniel displayed a love that was set to endure.

A love that endures is one that doesn’t care about the fairness of its circumstances. Was it fair that these men were trying to lure Daniel into a trap? Of course, not. But Daniel didn’t care that he was being targeted. His love for the Lord was so strong that he knew that if it meant going to the grave this early, that’s OK. He was going to serve the Lord until the end of his days–either now or later.

Sometimes when situations appear rough, we want to bail out. We want to throw up our hands and run out of the room screaming with frustration. And this especially happens when we’re in the church and a situation challenges us, pushing us to the limits. If we feel like this is where the Lord wants us, will we be able to endure? How strong is our love?

Author and missionary Amy Carmichael writes: “If our Lord does not despair of us, we must not despair of ourselves. A teacher has no chance with a despairing child, nor has a doctor with a despairing patient. If the child says, ‘I can’t’ often enough, it simply cannot, and nothing anyone can do can help. So we must not say, ‘I can’t …’ That is folly, and treachery too, for it is disbelieving the word of our God.”

How true this is! If we truly believe God’s Word and truly love Him with an enduring love, no trial or temptation will be so great that we won’t be able to endure it–even if we’re standing defenseless in a den full of hungry lions.

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For all the wiles that the enemy hurls in our direction, none do more damage than the ones that cause us to compromise what we proclaim to be true. When those fiery darts stick into our hearts and we yield to their wishes, the effects linger in our minds. How could we go against the truths we speak with our mouths?

In studying the traits of love, we know what Paul wrote: love “is not provoked” (1 Corinthians 13:5). But provoking believers to turn a shoulder of disdain toward someone is what the enemy hopes to accomplish. It undermines what we claim to have in our hearts.

Running through the hillside like a madman, David couldn’t take much more of this. With King Saul on his trail, David struggled with the fact that he was supposed to love this man. “How can I love him?” he wondered. “He’s trying to murder me for no apparent reason.”

Day after day, David lived in constant fear that around the next bend King Saul would be waiting. And during those frantic runs through the countryside, David had time to think about his Lord. Maybe the time wasn’t quite the quality he earned while shepherding the family herd, but David was afforded the opportunity to think about why he was loving this man instead of hating him.

David’s respect and love for God far outweighed his desire to end this game where his head was the ultimate prize. His love for the Lord was true, as was his love for Saul. Despite all that Saul did to him, David refused to be provoked to do something evil to him. Instead, David was provoked only to forgive Saul and give him chance after chance.

But one day, David couldn’t take it any more. He had decided that once and for all he could end this charade. Just a quick slit of Saul’s throat and it would all be over. Yet as he approached a sleeping Saul, David “secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe” (1 Samuel 24:4). However, such an act revealed David’s heart. He wanted to show Saul he had mercy, but he felt that doing evil was within his grasp and it grieved him. “Now it happened afterward that David’s heart troubled him because he had cut Saul’s robe” (v. 5).

David followed up his grieving by telling the men who were with him, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch our my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord” (v. 6).

The kind of love God desires us to have–true love–won’t be provoked to do evil. Even though the thought crossed David’s mind, never did the thought turn into action. His heart was so set on loving God that he knew loving Saul was the only right thing to do. So, instead of taking Saul’s life. He let the madness continue until God solved the problem.

True love isn’t provoked to satisfy itself; rather, it’s provoked to love others even when they aren’t lovable.

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But if there was one thing that Joseph understood, it was the concept of loving God and others. All throughout the book of Genesis, never do we find someone so committed to loving the Lord that he would forsake the temptations around him and pursue righteousness.

In 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul reminds us that love “thinks no evil.” Joseph clearly demonstrated one man’s ability to be so focused on God and His ways that thinking evil, much less acting on it, was no option.

Evil dripped from Joseph’s environment. Serving as a slave in a foreign land that worshiped anything but the one and only God, Joseph learned the value of remaining true to Him. If Joseph’s thoughts were constantly on the Lord, the temptation to act on evil when it presented itself could be squelched quickly.

Promiscuity ran rampant throughout Egypt, especially in the house of his master, Potiphar. Potiphar’s wife was especially promiscuous, attempting to entice Joseph to sleep with her. But Joseph wouldn’t yield. There was no way in his mind he could betray the trust of his master, much less the trust of his God.

So, when Potiphar’s wife approached Joseph alone in the house, Joseph “left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside” (Genesis 39:12).

The chance to sin and not pay any earthly consequences stared Joseph in the face. However, his thoughts were on the Lord. To sin wasn’t an option because Joseph was in love with another. He was in love with God.

To think no evil thoughts is a concept that might seem to escape us. How can we possibly avoid thinking evil thoughts? Paul says that it’s love–not us–that thinks no evil.

A heart of love is so bent on goodness that the ability to think evil can’t and won’t exist. Love isn’t self-seeking, nor will it ever think evil, manipulating someone to gain something selfishly.

Jesus embodied love. Was there ever any other reason Jesus did anything He did other than love? He knew that love could think no evil by seeking selfish gain because love was committed to serving the object of its love, just as Joseph was committed to serving his master. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other” (Luke 16:13).

As we seek to keep our thoughts pure, let’s first seek a heart of love. For in love, no evil thoughts will occur–only thoughts of pure goodness that desire to lift up those around us.

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The years have a way of causing resentment to build in our lives. Someone, somewhere did something to us. And since we’ve parted ways, we’ve had time to think about exactly what they did. We’ve had time to think about how much they hurt us.

Joseph had the chance to do this as well. Whether it was serving time in prison or serving as a slave, he thought about all the wrong his brothers did to him. Could he ever forgive their atrocious behavior?

In a heart of love, there is so much desire to lift others up and meet their needs that there is no room for the impurities that press on our lives. Resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness–there is no place for them to crowd their way into this heart of love.

So, Joseph–with his heart of love–sat and thought. He thought about that day when his dreams of ruling over his family and seeing his brothers bow down to him would come to pass. Although they seemed like wild thoughts for a 17 year old to have, Joseph knew they were from the Lord. And Joseph also thought about how he would handle the appearance of his brothers. What would he do? Would he make them beg for forgiveness? Would he toss them into slavery? Or would he show them a heart of love, demonstrating the ability to turn the other cheek?

Thousands of years before Jesus ever uttered the directive for us to “turn the other cheek” when someone does something wrong to us, Joseph lived out the idea. When his brothers finally appeared before him, Joseph had long since decided what his course of action would include. And it included a heart of love.

“Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph; does my father still live?’ But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. But Joseph said . . . ‘Do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. . . . And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:3-7).

The Bible also says Joseph wept and then fed them a big meal. Joseph had turned the other cheek years ago, probably not long after he became a slave. It wasn’t that Joseph turned his cheek to allow his brothers to run over him again because they were gone out of his life. But he turned the other cheek in the attitude that said, “You have wronged me, but I do not hold it against you.”

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:5 says love does not seek its own. By forgiving his brothers, Joseph no longer sought redemption or revenge. Instead, he sought restitution through the sweet love of forgiveness. He turned hatred and bitterness into love with the turn of his cheek.

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There were no holes yet to speak of scarring the feet of Jesus, but there was a thick layer of dirt. Walking the dusty roads of Galilee day after day wore on His feet. If only someone would wash them?

As Jesus sat in the house of another Pharisee, He grew frustrated. In this Pharisee–as in every pious Pharisee He ever encountered–there was no desire to serve. He wanted to impress Jesus with scholarly knowledge instead of with a humble heart. Jesus needed His feet washed.

During Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisee, a well-known prostitute made her way into the home of the Pharisee. Discreetly hidden beneath her cloak was a flask of fragrant oil. It wasn’t the oil used simply to cover up smells–it was the expensive oil that completely enraptured all those within a whif’s distance. At the sight of Jesus, she began to cry.

Before she shed another tear on the ground, she immediately turned her attention toward serving Jesus. She knelt down before Him and began washing His feet with her tears, her hair, and her expensive, fragrant oil.

In the presence of the Messiah, she recognized her sinfulness. And with a contrite heart, she bowed before Him, weeping and meeting Jesus’ greatest physical need at the moment: cleansing His weary feet.

Jesus responded by saying, “Your sins are forgiven. . . . Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:48, 50). Her penitent heart and desire to serve so moved Jesus. His compassion just poured into her life. He saved her.

In 1 Corinthinas 13:5, Paul tells us that love does not seek its own. In fact, love seeks to lift high those around us–even when those around us are already lifted high.

As this woman learned of the aura of holiness that followed this man named Jesus, she began to look at her own heart. Was it right? Was she doing the right things? Were her motives right for what she did? Would she change? Could He help?

Then, in a moment of an epiphany, she understood love. If this man was really the Messiah, He was destined to do things for this sinful woman. He was destined to die for her. Whether or not the prostitute understood all the prophecies over Jesus, she understood His love. And she accepted it, received, and desired to act on it. But what could she do? She didn’t have much and her opportunities to bless Jesus looked rather bleak.

But then, she realized that washing His feet could become an act of service, the only thing she knew how to give Jesus at that moment. And it was all He wanted. Despite being the lowest of the low in her community, she still wanted to lift Him up. She wanted to do all she could for the lover of her soul.

In our desire to love one another–and God–more deeply, we must be willing to put aside all the pride that says, “You should wash my feet.” Instead, we must show the Lord that we are willing to do anything, including getting down on our hands and knees, to demonstrate our love to those around us by lifting them up.

The code of royalty called for dignity at all times. Never was a member of the royal family to ever veer off this path. At all times, the people both in public and private must see members of the royal family at their finest, particularly the king. But there was a certain air of pride that disgusted David when it came to following this unwritten code.

For a man who had experienced first-hand God’s deliverance, David knew who was in control of his life and circumstances. So, it’s no wonder that when David and his men finally recaptured the ark of the covenant dancing broke forth. This ark represented God’s law, God’s hand of provision, and God’s power. For Israel finally to have possession of such an object was worth celebrating. And David was excited.

As the ark was brought back into the city, David cut loose. “Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet” (2 Samuel 6:14-15).

God’s love knows no pride. When you love someone, why throw up the barrier of pride? In defining what true love is, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:4 that love is not proud.

David wasn’t interested in maintaining the royal dignity, the dignity that his wife Michal so desired to keep that she chastised him for his behavior. Her comments elicited this response from David: “I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight” (2 Samuel 6:22).

In his deep love for God, David was concerned only with demonstrating an outward expression of what he felt in his heart. Why hold certain views or act a certain way because it’s “proper”?

When the father in the story of the prodigal son finally saw his son returning home, he ran to greet his son. And in those days, men of wealth–or men in general, for that matter–did not run. It was frowned upon. But did this father care? No way! Pride flew out the door as he saw what was important to him, his son, coming home.

We know that pride comes before fall, and we also know that it prevents us from loving lavishly the way we should. If we let pride stand in the way of people in our relationships, we will be unable to show them the kind of God desires for us to pour out. A heart of pride says that we shouldn’t love someone, particularly when they’ve unjustly wronged us. But a heart of true love kicks pride to the curb.

A heart of love that understands true humility realizes that relationship and restoration are more important than upholding the “correct” way the world instructs us to act.

Growing up in the palace of the King of Israel was an incredible experience for Jonathan. But growing up knowing that he would inherit the throne? The assurance of that fact made young Jonathan leap inside. King Jonathan–he kind of liked the sound of the title that was destined to be his.

However, Jonathan quickly watched that assurance vanish in front of him because of his father’s wickedness. Samuel anointed another young man to take possession of the throne following King Saul’s death. How could this be?

Although this apparent twist of illfate for Jonathan discouraged him for some time, it wasn’t long before he befriended the young man destined by God to be Israel’s next king: King David.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4, Paul tells us that one characteristic of true love is that it doesn’t envy. There’s no room for jealousy within God’s kind of love.

For Jonathan, coming to grips with the fact that he wouldn’t be king after growing up believing he would be king was tough. Jonathan wondered “Does God not like me? Is there something wrong with me?” However, the opposite was entirely true. Everything was right with Jonathan, which enabled David’s ascent to the throne to be less difficult than it was already going to be.

If Jonathan was truly jealous of David’s anointing, he wouldn’t have saved the shepherd boy’s life on a number of occasions. “Now Jonathan again caused David to vow, because he loved him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul” (1 Samuel 20:17).

Loved him as his own soul? Jonathan saw the value in David and God’s plan for his life. And Jonathan began to realize that whoever was king mattered very little to him–as long as God had His way. There was no reason to envy the heights to which David would be exalted by taking over the throne, a place that supposedly “belonged” to Jonathan. He loved David so much that it was more important to help him reach God’s will for his life rather than take what was his.

One sincere desire of our hearts should be for the Lord to reveal to us the value behind each person’s soul. It’s the only thing that will last for eternity–and investing in someone the kind of love that says “Not only are you important, but your soul is important to me” is anything but jealous. That’s the kind of selfless love that we should all desire to have.

Jonathan wasn’t concerned with what was supposedly his because his love for David went much deeper than some selfish desire. In his intimate friendship with

David, Jonathan wanted to see God fulfill His plan and purpose for David’s life. If it meant helping David survive the mad rantings of his father, so be it.

In our effort to understand how love should never be envious, we should ask the Lord to help us see how eternal souls are forever more valuable than a seat on a temporary throne.

We don’t have to look too hard to see the power of God’s love in our lives. No matter how many times we turned our backs on Him before we gave our lives to Him–or no matter how many times since then we have forgotten that He is our Lord–He still loves us. We’re never going to frustrate God to the point that if we ever go to Him seeking His forgiveness that He won’t accept us back into His loving arms.

God knows the meaning of long-suffering, and He knows the power behind demonstrating that type of love, even when it’s far from the easiest attitude to have.

In a period of 24 hours, Job watched his seven sons, three daughters, 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 donkeys, a slew of servants, and his good health all disappear. But life got worse for Job before it ever got better.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4, Paul tells us part of love is its capacity for long-suffering. And Job’s love for God was put to the test by the enemy.

Despite losing practically everything he ever owned, Job had to endure boils all over his body and three condemning friends who offered little hope. In a time when it would’ve been easy–and even understandably so–to blame God for his current disposition, Job didn’t. He maintained his faith through the entire ordeal: “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22).

Job was determined that no matter what his current circumstances said about his life, he knew that it was God who was Lord of his life. He says, “All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You” (Job 14:14-15).

The long-suffering of which Paul wrote, Job put into practice. When life literally came crashing down around him, Job placed his faith in the only One who he could trust, demonstrating the unfailing, long-suffering love that we are too implement in our own lives.

In our efforts to live a life pleasing to Christ, do we really understand what long-suffering means? Do we understand that this kind of love is willing to love Christ–or someone else–when the situation says it doesn’t make sense?

God’s love doesn’t always make sense, but that’s because it’s not based on what we’ve done. The Lord simply loves us for who we are, unwilling to base His love on anything we’ve ever done or ever will do. He just loves us. And that’s how long-suffering exists.

If there’s no criteria on which to base our love for others other than the fact that they are people and that’s what Christ would do, the ability to love someone and suffer long doing it exists. His Holy Spirit enables us to look past the way we’re treated by others or our circumstances, allowing us to love completely and to endure all hardships or persecutions as we do so.