I love God, but only because He first loved me. It’s all about Him! It’s not about my ability to love, it’s about His. And just like God’s love for me, mine will also be action-based; it will not just be words (1 John 4:9-10, 3:18).
Trusting in His love, relying on it, counting on it… These phrases caused me to pause. What exactly does that mean? How does it play out in my life?
As I considered these questions, my mind went back to a dark, dark time in my life when I was having difficulty thinking clearly and seeing beyond the moment. During that period, I prayed often, but usually from a pitiful position of “Woe is me.” One day, these words came out of my mouth as I prayed: “Father, I know you love me and You have my best interests at heart.” I’ll be honest: I was surprised by that statement. (By the way, this has happened to me numerous times when I pray. It comes out of my mouth, but it is as if it originated somewhere other than my mind. Where do you suppose…?)
As I considered that simple, but powerful, statement, life and light broke through the darkness. I began to pray and declare that position on a regular basis: “God loves me and has my best interests at heart.” So when studying I John and pausing at this scripture to discern the shades of meaning, this is an instance from my life that came to mind. I knew what it meant to trust in God’s love, to rely on it. I had a point of reference.
In the midst of that dark time, I could not see how my situation could possibly be in my best interests. I had to rely on Someone bigger and smarter than me. Since then, I have made this declaration often. And my desire is that this will become my reflexive response when times are dark (and when they are not, too!).
Regardless of what comes our way, we must trust and rely on God’s love, rest in that love. I want to get to the place where I don’t question God or His love for me just because crisis comes. Instead, I want to burrow deeper into His love and make it my “hiding place,” my safe place, a place of refuge during the crisis.
Relying on His love changes me.
Confidence is a by-product of relying on God’s love. The confidence John writes about goes far beyond ‘self-confidence’ as we usually mean it (though that kind of ‘self-confidence’ will also manifest). It is a more significant, weighty confidence: John writes about the ability to stand before God with confidence…on the Day of Judgment! Can you imagine?!
“This is how love is made complete [mature] among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment
: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:17-18;
John also writes about this kind of confidence in 2:28-29).
The idea that we can stand before God in confidence is mind-boggling to me. As I read this passage afresh, I realized that I have always been fearful regarding standing before God (a sure sign that I did not have “mature love”). I couldn’t fathom standing before Him in confidence. I was, indeed, fearful at the prospect—fearful about having regrets, about not hearing a “well done,” about “what if’s” and “if only’s,” etc. Obviously, I did not fully know and rely on His love, but rather on my “performance.” Am I good enough? Am I making Him happy with me? Am I doing enough?
The revelation of truly RELYING ON HIS LOVE empowers me to relax and just live a life in response to His love—love Him because He first loved me! Receive and respond.
I never grasped the statement “perfect [mature, complete] love drives out fear”—UNTIL I read it from a position of relying on His love. Now I see! It is only when I rely on myself—my performance—that fear enters in.
Mature love (the result of knowing and relying on His love for me) and fear (which is rooted in performance-based approval) cannot mutually exist.
Love for Others
As recipients of His gracious love, we have within us His love to extend to others in turn.
The more we receive His love, the more we take on His love characteristics. We grow in love for Him, which then translates into love for others—particularly His people. John goes so far as to write that those who say they love God but don’t love their brothers are liars! Strong words!
Again, it is important to note that even when it comes to loving others, the love originates with Him. If we don’t maintain that emphasis, we will stray back into a performance-based mentality. We don’t love others by trying harder. We love others by trusting and relying on His love for us. The more we walk in that state of receiving and relying, the more excellent we become at expressing His love.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16, NIV). I have always interpreted this phrase, “to live in love,” to mean that I am to walk in love, to love others, to live in a loving way. But when I see that the context John is speaking from is in relying on God’s love (note that it is all in the same verse), this changes the emphasis entirely! To “live in love” is to live in a state of relying on His love.
As I continually rely on His love for me (rather than my works for Him), then certainly a level of confidence that I would not otherwise know begins to emerge within me. My true identity begins to take shape. The Phillips translation puts this beautifully: “…So our love for him grows more and more [as we live in Him and rely and trust on His love for us] filling us with complete confidence for the day when he shall judge all men—for we realize that our life in this world is actually his life lived in us” (emphases and brackets mine).
What a way to live–realizing that our life in this world is actually HIS LIFE LIVED IN US! Once again, the stress to “perform” is removed. The emphasis must be on knowing and relying on His love for us, responding to that love, and then doing what comes ‘naturally’ in response to that love (obeying Him and loving our brothers).
It all comes down to identity—who I am to God, how He sees me, and then how I consequently see myself.
What do you think of this concept of “relying on the love of God”? Can you share a specific instance (similar to my “God-loves-me-and-has-my-best-interests-at-heart” story) reliance on His love? Tell us about it in the comments!