The Power of Love in Trying Times
The Power of Love in Trying Times Sam Stone, 2020-05-17 John 14:15-24 I have been studying body chemistry for some time, and I have learned four major hormones make us happy: 1) Endorphin 2) Dopamine 3) Serotonin 4) Oxytocin Endorphin is released when we engage in activities such as walking, running, or gym workout. That is why staying indoor without activities could make you depressed. Some of you told me that you get a lot of yard work done during this lockdown period. That is good for you. Physical activity produces endorphins and makes you happy. Endorphin also numbs the pain so that we can stretch and build muscles. Dopamine is released when you accomplish something. It’s a success hormone. For example, if you achieve a goal set up by your company, you feel happy because of your brain and nervous system release this hormone. Dopamine can be addictive. Maybe that’s why they call the addictive drugs, dope. Serotonin is released during a social gathering. When you are with people, you are happy because your brain releases serotonin. Social connection is vital for your happiness. When you are depressed, you don’t want to be with people, and that can be a downward spiral. So, during the shutdown, you will be missing these major happiness hormones. Since you have fewer activities, you will not produce endorphin, since you are not achieving goals, you are not creating dopamine, and since you are not socializing, you are not producing serotonin. Now, the fourth one, oxytocin, is the most potent happy hormone. Oxytocin is not addictive. Not only does it not addictive, but it can also heal addiction. Many of you know my father used to run a rehab center for drug addicts in Burma. It was highly successful because the addicts are able to replace the happiness that comes from the addictive dopamine with non-addictive and healing oxytocin. It’s easy to say but not easy to accomplish, but let’s talk about what is oxytocin. Oxytocin is produced by love. For example, when a mother gives birth to a child, she releases a great deal of oxytocin. The moment she holds the newborn baby in her hand, she forgets all her birth pain, and her birth wounds are healed quickly. Jesus said in John 16:21-22, “When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” He said it in the context of the Last Supper during his long farewell speech. In the context, this passage as a deep meaning. It means he expects you to love the risen Christ like a mother loving a newborn baby. Your heart will rejoice because of oxytocin, and such kind of joy cannot be taken away from you. Can anyone take away the joy of a mother? Our kids are big now, Sophie can never forget the joy and satisfaction of their births, no matter how much suffering she went through. There’s a research done by Harvard University on why some people are able to handle the highly stressful jobs and still live a long and healthy life. They have no sign of any diseases that you usually would expect from a person who has a high-stress job. To make the long story short, they found out that they have a lot of oxytocin. Many of them are men, so they have never given birth to a child, but where did their high doses of oxytocin come from? They found out that it came from their belief system. So, let us look at the belief system given to us by Jesus that makes us produce the joy that no one or no hardship can take it away from us. Today’s scripture lesson is from John 14:15-21. Listen to the Word of the Lord: 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. This is the continuation of last week’s lesson, which Jesus started by says, “Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God and believe also in me.” We talked about three elements of overcoming a trouble heart using the acrostic BIG—Believe, Imagine, and Graft, and I said the rest of Jesus speech is all about grafting. We are like weak branches, but when we graft onto a healthy and strong vine, we become strong and healthy. Now, what is the glue that we can use to graft to the vine? It is love. Again, what kind of love Jesus expect us to love him with? The love of a mother for her newborn child. The problem is some of us have never experience giving birth. How do we know a mother’s love for a newborn child is like? Jesus would never have asked us to do something we cannot do. Jesus himself is a man and has never given birth to a child. He obviously meant that we can always catch the feeling of a mother’s love for her child. Everyone has a mother and has seen many mothers and how they love their children. It is the love of adoration. You might have heard the Sunday School song, “Jesus, I adore you, lay my life before you, how I love you.” Now let us look at what’s involved in loving Jesus according to his farewell speech. I am using the word LOVE as the acrostic to cover the four keep ingredients of love. L is for … 1. Listen The first ingredient of love is listening. One of the human problems is we like to talk more than listen, but if you love someone, you will listen more than talk. The reason God gives us two ears, but one mouth is because God wants us to listen more and talk less. Since we have two ears, we should listen twice as much as we talk. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (v. 15) The word “keep” is translated from Greek, τηρέω (téreó), which has a lot of complexed meaning including “to pay attention,” “to observe,” “to obey,” “to value,” and “to embrace.” So let us begin with the first meaning. If you love him, you will pay attention to his commandments by listening carefully. His commandments are simple, “Love God, and love people,” nothing more and nothing less. To love God is to love him. So, all his commandments are encased in “love Jesus and love people.” It is not complicated at all. God command the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mat 3:17). Jesus also said this a couple of verses down, “the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.” (John 14:24b). We listen to him because his words are God’s words spoken through him. If you ride in my car, you will hear the Four Gospels in MP3 audio playing over and over again. I just play the Four Gospels in my car, nothing else because they have Jesus’ words in there. I am not saying that the rest of the Bible is not important. They are, but the Four Gospels set the tone to interpret the rest of the Bible accurately. Sometimes, some Christians become legalistic, like the Pharisees, because they interpret the Bible out of the contexts of the Four Gospels. So, if you love someone, listen to him or her. In the same way, let us love Jesus by first listening to his words. I encourage you to read or listen to the Four Gospels more often than the rest of the Bible to avoid misinterpretation. O in LOVE is for … 2. Observe To avoid misinterpretation, we must carefully observe his commandments. The second meaning of τηρέω (téreó) is “observe.” We are to observe his commandments, and Jesus gives us a Guide for to do so. He said, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. He said this Advocate is to be with you forever. The term Advocate is translated from Greek, παράκλητος (paráklētos) meaning a “helper” or “someone who walks alongside you.” For the next two chapters, Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit is God’s presence in our life. In verse 17, he says it is the “Spirit of truth.” Jesus later said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13). So, one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to help you understand Jesus’ words better. It means the Holy Spirit will enlighten us about the truth. So, it is essential to have the Holy Spirit with you. Not everyone will have the Holy Spirit. Judas (not Iscariot) was puzzled why the Holy Spirit is only with them and not with others. Jesus explained, Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23). This is the third time in a row. Jesus emphasized that “love” is the key. When you observe his word, he and God will come to make their home with you. It explains that the Holy Spirit is the presence of God and Christ in our life. So, in this case, the word observe can also apply to the observation of God’s presence in your life. As a lover of Christ, you are never alone; there is someone along with side you, the Holy Spirit, the presence of God. Especially in trying times like this, don’t you feel comforted to know that God’s presence is with you, and you are never alone? So listen to his word, and observe his presence. V in LOVE is for … 3. Value If you love him, you will value his words. Again, the Greek word, τηρέω (téreó), that our Bible translates to “keep” has another meaning, “to value.” You must not only listen to his word and observe it, but also value it. A mother values everything about her newborn baby. Can we value Jesus and his word the same way? Jesus said, “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (v. 21). Here, Jesus said that we have (or possess) his commandments, but that’s not enough, we must also keep them (or value them). Why should we value them? Because he is pouring out his heart to us. He later explained, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15). Jesus has poured out his heart to us because he treats us as friends. He said the difference between the relationship of a servant and master and friends is confidence. He has entrusted everything to us. There’s nothing hidden. That makes us want to value his word even more because there’s nothing left to say. So, if you have any questions about life and the universe, you just need to understand his words. If there is any confusion, it’s just lost in interpretation. However, if we treasure his words, it will come to light with the help of the Holy Spirit. Now, we love him by listening to his word, observe his presence, value his friendship, and last by not least, E in LOVE is for … 4. Exercise Jesus treats you as friends and not as servants. Don’t you want to treat him as a friend too? This is how you treat him as a friend. He said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14). Here he is no longer talking about listening, observing, or valuing, but we must “do” what he commanded us. His commandments are not just to keep, but to exercise. When we obey his commandments, we are his servants, but when we exercise them, we become his friends. That’s a great privilege because the life of a servant—actually in those days, they are called slaves—is very restrictive and might be stressful, but the life of a friend means freedom and equality. I would do anything to make God treat me as a friend. Would you. Remember how Jesus ends his Sermon On The Mount? He said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” (Mat 7:24-27). This teaching is very significant because life is full of winds of stress and floods of anxiety. During trying times like this, you want to be surefooted like a house built on rock. Notice he said not just hear his words, but also acts on them. If you want to build your life on the rock, you must exercise his word. Again, his words are not complicated, and they can be summarized by five simple words, “Love God and Love People.” Nothing more, nothing less. Even though it’s simple, it may not be easy to exercise unless you understand the kind of love a mother has for her newborn child. There you have it. This is how Jesus expects you to LOVE him: • Listen to his words • Observe his presence • Value his friendship • Exercise his commandments. I believe your love for him will produce the oxytocin in your body and give you peace beyond understanding, and joy beyond anyone or any hardship can take away. It will also give you the healing effect that will heal your wounds and ease your pains, just like a mother who forgets her birth pains because of her love for the child. Don’t just take my word for it, practice it, and tell me your experience. Let us all do it together. May God bless you with unshakable joy, even in trying times. Amen!