My Biggest Risk

A lesson on the importance of showing love to your neighbor.

Douglas Poole
Sep 23, 2018    32m
This sermon by Pastor Poole talks about taking the risk and showing others love. He said that we believe that in receiving love we will find peace. However the opposite is true. True peace is experienced when we extend love, even where it may not be reciprocated, the way Jesus commanded. Video recorded at Clearwater, Florida.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Douglas Poole: 00:02 I was talking with a friend, and our conversation went to the direction of risks. And we were asking each other like, what are some of the biggest risks you've taken in your life? These guys were sitting around together, like testosterone starts to flow, and somebody tells the risk they took. The next guy's got to tell a bigger risk, right? Like, oh, you call that a risk, I'll tell you what a real risk is. And so I was thinking my mind about risks that I had taken. I thought about some financial risks, some panned out, some didn't, some. I'm still waiting to see if they're going to pan out or not. I thought about some times that I was in some places where really, my physical safety was at risk. I remember being in a setting, an international setting, and all of a sudden I stumbled into this protest. And I was like, wow, you know, I've seen these things on TV. This is kind of an interesting social dynamic going on here. And I thought, well, maybe I can be a part of the solution to this thing. And somebody in this protest, because it was soon turning into a mob, looked at me and determined that I was a part of the problem, not the solution. And then began threatening me with great bodily harm. I was like this feels risky, you know, and I'm shooting up these flare prayers. You know, help me Jesus, help me Jesus in this moment. But there was, you know, it feels a little bit risky. I've taken some relational risks, where I've had conversations that I knew were not going to go well, but I had those conversations. I've taken risks in leading this church to extend God's grace. You know, further into our community, and deeper into lives. I'm like we got to take this risk, if we're going to move ourselves forward.

Douglas Poole: 01:31 But I think the very biggest risk I ever took was on my wedding day. And let me tell you about it. Jackie and I got married in her hometown in a small town, small church, in Montana. And so on that day I was standing at the front of the church with the pastor, and we're watching all the wedding party come in, like, you know, the drill. And I'm waiting, and
waiting, for Jackie, and then finally the doors open and she steps in, and I was just like enraptured with her beauty. And I'm just looking, and she is drop dead gorgeous, I'm the luckiest guy on the planet, you know. When she's making her way up, and we're standing. And I'm kind of lost looking into her eyes, not listening to the preacher. Kind of wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, like I'm doing right now for some of you. Nobody gave me an amen. Oh, there we go. Thank you. And then he interrupted my daydreaming, with time for the vows. And so he turns to me first, you know, and asked if I will, you know, take Jackie for better for worse, for rich or for poor, you know, come what may, till the day we die, sickness and health. I'm like, oh yeah, you know, I will. And then I had a moment of clarity, and it felt like time just stopped, and all of a sudden I realized I have just publicly committed all my love exclusively to this woman til the day I die. And she has not reciprocated. Like talk about hanging out there, right? That I just promised no matter what, come what may, til the day you die, I'm going to love you. And she hasn't reciprocated that. That's hanging out there. Right? And so I'm like to this pastor, it's like, where's the equity in this? Can we hurry up and get to her part? You know? And so he did. And then time started moving again. And she reciprocated in that moment.

Douglas Poole: 03:33 The reality is love as a risk, it's always a risk. What of her love for me dies, before I do. Right? Now, I'm not saying there's never a reason that a marriage shouldn't end, because there are those times, and they are unbelievably painfully hard. I've walked with people through those moments. But what I am saying is this, love is a risk. When you choose to love, you are taking a risk. You're taking a risk that that love might be misunderstood. You're taking a risk that that love may not be reciprocated back to you. You're taking a risk that it may not be received, and so what do you do then?

Douglas Poole: 04:14 What do you do when you seek to follow the commandment of Jesus? To love your neighbor as yourself and that love is not reciprocated. And reflecting back in this moment, I got some new insight into God's love for us. And the scriptures say this in the book of First John 4:19 says, "We love, because he first loved us." So it's saying, long before it ever crossed any of our minds to love God. Long before perhaps any of us even reflected on our thought about God, and who he is, and what the do in our lives. Long before any of that happened, God had already committed unconditionally, without hesitation, all of us love to us. That regardless of what we could or would do during the course of our lives, he was going to love us. Regardless of whether we could or whether we would give that love to others, we will reject his love. He decided he was giving all of his love, and all of his totality, without pulling it back to you and to me. And there's no better demonstration of this, then when Jesus became one of us, and when he gave his life on a cross.

Douglas Poole: 05:26 So we're spending five weeks here at Cypress, and this is week three. We're just reflecting on this commandment of Jesus. Love your neighbor as yourself. And we're asking what does that look like? How does that play out? You know, like during the course of our lives. How do we enter into the zone, and into this space, where we're actually living out this command and how does it going to impact and shape our lives? And in so many ways, I think loving my neighbor as myself feel so much more risky than it does to love God, Because the reality is God doesn't like just reciprocate our love for us. God loves us way better, than any of us will ever begin to love him. And his love for us is so completely, totally, unconditionally given to you and to I. And so loving God doesn't feel very risky, because God is full of love, and love is his name. And we understand that in the person of Jesus, and his love is guaranteed. My neighbor, not so much right? I mean, if I love my neighbor, they might return with indifference, right? So what? They might return something worse. Abuse. So loving my neighbor doesn't seem to come with much of a guarantee. And if you're like me, I like guarantees when I can get them. Right? It just would be so much easier, and so much awesomer, if your neighbors were worthy of your love, right? They were kind, they were generous, and they treated you well. It's like, I love you, like I love myself because you're awesome like me, right? Wouldn't that be a whole lot easier to love them, to reciprocate that. Or if your neighbor just behaved better, and was nice. But loving our neighbors doesn't come with any kind of a guarantee. It'd be great if we knew, if we loved our neighbors, they'd love us in return. But we don't have that guarantee.

Douglas Poole: 07:22 So what I've come to see is this, that this command of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself, it says a whole lot more about me, than it does my neighbor. We tend to think it says a lot about our neighbors, right? That they are worthy of love, and they're good people, but in the reality is this command of Jesus. It says way more about me, than it does about my neighbors. So in scripture, in the book of First Corinthians Fourteen, the apostle the apostle Paul says, five words that strike me so deeply on this concept of loving our neighbor as ourselves. And the Apostle Paul says this, first Corinthians 14 verse number one, five words, "Follow the way of love." And I just love this imagery here, because what he's saying to us when it comes to relating to other people, there are lots of different ways you can go. Path's you can take, there's options. You can be kind to them, you could be generous, you could be demeaning to them, you couldn't get angry with them, you could get revenge, there's lots of ways to go at relational intersections, right? And so the Apostle Paul says, when you're in the relational intersections, there is one way that is the way of love. And when it comes to relating to your neighbor, I want you to always choose this path, the way of love. And don't go off on any other direction or any other path, that is out there for you. When I hear this from scripture, I can almost sound a little bit romantic, follow the way of love. Follow the yellow brick road, right? Because think about it, you're falling yellow brick road. You know, it's going to take you someplace you want to go, right? And it's clear that the path you want to take, the yellow brick road. But if you take the yellow brick road, there's lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Right? So it's going to take you where you want to go, but man, there's challenges on the way. And I think what the apostle is saying to us, and following the way of love, it's going to take you where you want to go. It's going to help you be the kind of person you really long to be. It's going to lead you to the life you really want to experience. But by the way, there's Lions and tigers and bears on that way. And there are all kinds of challenges if you choose to take the way of love. So have you ever made a decision to love, and it cost you? Anybody got any scars from love? So, so when we hear this thesis from the Apostle Paul, you know these five words can be dangerous, can't they? If you choose to follow the way of love, it always involves risk.

Douglas Poole: 10:10 And I got reminded of that last summer, last summer, I got invited to a community gathering. More like I'm commanded to be there at a community gathering. And so I had to rearrange my schedule, take some time off work to go to this gathering. I had to drive through some that you know, that unbelievably painfully slow, you know, bumper to bumper, sort of traffic that's involved in this. And to top it off, I was fighting an infection that was raging through my body and that was left me tired and mildly irritable. Jackie might have used another descriptor than mildly, but mildly irritable with all this. And so I show up at this meeting, fighting to the traffic, arranging my schedule, not feeling well at all. And a guy gets up in this community gathering meeting, and he's a guy who's become known as somebody who goes bump with other people in the community. And so he stood up, and he's listing his grievances with the community and what's going on. And then all of a sudden I found out why I was invited, he singled me out, and went after me. I'm like, oh my goodness, this guy doesn't even know me. I mean if he knew me, you could have a lot more to say, but he doesn't even know me and he's letting me have it, and went on a diatribe for about 20 minutes. Until finally the person leading the community meeting, in a polite way, said sit down and shut up. And so he was so embarrassed in front of the community by being reprimanded like that, that he stormed out of the meeting. So I had just finished listening to the teachings from our friend Stephan Van Forest, who had been here last summer, and was speaking on love. And so now I'm like, why did I have to listen to those daggum tapes before coming to this meeting? Right? Love. And so I'm thinking, what's the loving thing to say? What's the loving thing to do? And so I followed him out of the meeting, and chased him down. And said, listen, I had no idea how you felt about things. Do you suppose we could sit down, have a cup of coffee, and let's get on the solution side of this. I think it was as a good intention, but it was bad timing. He was still so angry, and now embarrassed, having been reprimanded in front of an entire community. That he just exploded on me, and then he stepped into my space. And I'm from the west, I like my space. But he was in my space, and he was loudly shouting, and so close in my space that has spittle was covering my face. And I was just, oh man, why did I have to listen to that tape about love? And he's explaining what's wrong with me, and how I've upset the whole chemistry of the entire universe. And I'm thinking he's got to take a breath here soon, right? He got to take a breath, and I can jump in. And then he did, and I jumped in and said, this clearly is not a good time to continue in this conversation, so I'm going to give you my phone number, and if you ever want that cup of coffee and getting on the solution side, we can do that. And then he turned and spun on his heels, and he went off. And I thought, well that went well, as I went to the bathroom to wash off my face.

Douglas Poole: 13:48 I want you to know if you choose the way of love, you may get knocked down, you might. You choose the way of love, you might get bruised. You choose the way of love, you might get accused, because the path of love is a path that comes with pain and disappointment, scars and betrayal. Just ask Jesus, that's how it comes. So let me talk to you for a few moments here about why you should choose the way of love, instead of choosing the other path. Why choose the way of love? And friends, often what we want is the life that love has for us, but we want without the pain that love brings us. Let me get all the benefits, and all the life that love brings, but I want to experience it without all the pain love can bring.

Douglas Poole: 14:39 So let me highlight some of the insights from scripture. Before the apostle says, follow the way of love. He said some other words on the topic. First Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13, Paul says this, "And now I'm going to show you the most excellent way." There's a lot of ways you can choose path's in relationships, so I'm going to talk to you about the most excellent way, love. And I'm going to tell you why love is the best and the most excellent path to choose when it comes to relating to others. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love. I'm only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and could fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, then I gain nothing.

Douglas Poole: 15:44 So there are two phrases here that strike me, and those two phrases are this. I gained nothing. I am nothing. There's a difference between gaining nothing, and being nothing isn't there. But look, he uses both phrases. I gained nothing. I am nothing. And he says this, in contrast to the achievements in life we all want to attain. He says, if I could move mountains that is literally and figuratively, if I'm known at work as the mountain mover, give me a challenge that I can solve it and make it happen. If I can move mountains, but I don't have love. Paul says, I want you to know when the reality, when the sum total of all this comes together, you've gained nothing, nothing. And if I have a knowledge, I can fathom all mysteries, and I can explain to you Einstein's theory of relativity, but I don't have love. Well it's beyond like gaining nothing, you are nothing. You're like a human walking encyclopedia that is devoid of having a soul. And you have a lot of knowledge, but I want you to know it doesn't mean you're something without love. We become nothing. I gain nothing. I am nothing. And this is interesting because Paul creates this contrast between love and nothing. So most of us, we tend to think we want our life to have meaning. We want to feel like we are someone. We want to believe that we are doing something of significance in this world. And
so most of us believe the path to being someone, the path to doing something in this world, is that we have to increase our position in life, our popularity and our possessions. So we pursue these things with all of our might, with belief I'm going to feel like someone, like a somebody. And so we go after our position, and we try to climb that career ladder as high as we can climb it. Because if I get up higher on that rung, I'm going to feel, I'll be somebody, I'll do something. We pursue a popularity, and trying to get how many likes can I get on my social media? And we check it frequently, right? Because there's a lot of likes, it means that I'm somebody, and I'm doing something in this world. And so we chase possessions, if I can just get more things, and just live in that house, and drive that car, and if I can just have these kinds of trips, this is going to bring fulfillment in my life, and it's going to say that I'm somebody. But Paul is says this, the apostle says, I just want you to know you take love out of this equation, you can have everything, but then you realize it's nothing.

Douglas Poole: 18:34 But let's track through his thinking on this. He says, but if you choose to follow the way of love, I know this is going to seem counterintuitive. If you choose love, you're going to have everything you really ever have wanted and needed in life. Because love is the space where everything, that is anything, exists, and without love there is nothing. So you go with the stories that are told you, lied to you, that you don't need love. And that story gets told to us, but you know down deep in your soul, you do. Because you can have all sorts of things, and made all sorts of accomplishments in your life, but if there is not this thing called love that is in your life, you always feel like something is missing, never quite completely whole. And you would trade what you have and what you've gained, if this place inside of you that longs for love could just be, could just be filled. And so we'd like to convince ourselves that what we need is power, what we need is a popularity, and possessions. But all that friends, it will not, it will never in any sense ever make up for the love that you don't have. Listen, this old man's lived a lot of life, and I can tell you what the apostle says to you is absolutely true. If you give your life to pursuing anything, if you know anything besides love, as a principle value of your life, you're going to end up feeling like you have nothing and you are nothing.

Douglas Poole: 20:17 And sometimes friends, nothing can look like billions of dollars in the bank, sometimes nothing, it can look like hundreds of thousands of likes on your social media. If you're thinking that billions of dollars in the bank, and hundreds of thousands of likes on your facebook posts and your instagram posts are going to make you feel like you've done something with your life, and that you are somebody you are so sadly mistaken. Look at the lives of those who have millions and billions of dollars in their banks, on hundreds of thousands of likes on their social media posts and your see this cry inside of them that is not enough. And they're still making efforts, thinking that if others love them, they're going to feel like somebody and feel like something. I have met far too many people who have gained crazy amounts of success in this life, in this world, who still feel like they are nothing. Who live in some of the best homes, in areas that are desirable across our country, have accomplished great things. But there's something missing, it's that love. And it's just like the apostle said, take love out of that equation of whatever you have accomplished, and deep down inside of yourself, you know something's missing, it's not whole. Sometimes we think it's going to make us feel good about ourselves, and it's going to make us be someone, because we've done something. But if you do not let love into the core of your soul, if we do not love others, we come to a painful conclusion. I have gained nothing, I am nothing.

Douglas Poole: 22:04 But some of us got to start connecting the dots here that the apostle is saying to us, he's saying to us all the success you fight for, all the acceptance you long for, all the experiences you chase after, all the things you have, and all the things you wear, cannot fill the emptiness that is inside of you. You will feel like nothing, and feel like you've accomplished nothing. You will feel that way until you let love guide you, until you choose the way of love. Now here's the kicker. If you think the contrast between love and nothing, is determined by if you are loved by somebody, and we tend to do that, don't we? That this vacancy, this hole inside us if only, if just somebody loved me or lots of somebodies loved me, right? Then I would feel loved, if lots of people told me they love me, or showered me with things of love. Then I would feel like somebody, then I would feel like somebody, when somebody else loves me. And the more the someone's that love me, the more I'm going to feel like something. But, in the end if you think that getting other people to love you, is going to heal you, you're going to end up believing you're nothing.

Douglas Poole: 23:15 Look at the number of people with thousands and hundreds of thousands of fans who've crashed their lives, and taking their lives, because they felt void and empty. People who've accomplished some great things. You simply cannot control whether or not somebody else will love you. You cannot control whether somebody else's going to reciprocate your love. You cannot control if the world is going to love you, but you can control, if you're going to love the world. You can't control if others are going to love you, but you can control if you're going to choose the way of love with them or not. And what I love about love, friends, love doesn't heal us when everybody loves us. Love heals us, when we begin to love everybody. And somehow we got to wrap our minds around this, that love is healing. And we think, I just need a lot of people that really love me, and then I'm going to feel whole, and then I'm going to feel good about myself. And the reality of the way it works, the apostle says, it's diametrically just polar opposite of that. You begin to be healed inside of you, when you begin to love others. When you follow the way of love in your relationships, a healing begins to take place in your soul, and in your life that helps you to know that you are alive. And the only love you really need is a love that's out of your control, the love of God. He's going to love you, he does love you, you can't control it, can't change it. Which by the way should give you incredible hope, because his love is always an only unconditional. And until you know, until you really know his love, you're always going to feel like nothing. Like nothing. And moving from nothing, to love is so transforming, so when you choose the way of love, you are doing something. When you choose the way of love, you are something. When you choose the way of love, it leads to purpose, and significance, and true accomplishments, and that's why it feels so good to do good for others. The Apostle Paul said like this, in Galatians chapter five, this was so insightful for how life works. He says, the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Douglas Poole: 25:40 Do you know why it feels good to do good for others? Do you know why it feels good when you sponsor one of our kids in Haiti, and you pay for their school, or while you're sponsoring one of the orphans Molly has an in the Kenya orphanage? Know, why it feels so good? Because it counts, it makes a difference. And the apostle says this, you know what counts in life? You know how you want to feel like your life counts? Faith expressing itself in love, and so when you're expressing your faith in love, and you were doing good for others, you feel like your life counts because it does. You understand you are somebody, who is doing something, and that's why it feels so good to do good for others. Because your life counts. You cannot control if somebody reciprocates your love, you cannot control if somebody is going to change their moral ways and be a better person, you cannot control whether somebody's going to change their politics, or their faith, but you know what? You can control? Whether you're going to love them or not. Whether you're going to follow the way of love. And when you follow, friends when you choose in this moment, in these relationships with people which path you're going to choose. And you choose a path of judgment, you choose a path of condemnation, you choose a path of shaming, and you keep walking that path with that person. It's going to take you further and further away from love, and from grace, and from hope, and some peace from your life. And if you're wondering why there's this void in your relationships of the grace, and the peace, and the hope. Maybe just maybe it's because you've chosen the path of condemnation for somebody, or path of judgment upon somebody, a path of ignoring somebody, instead of stepping into the space and following the way of love and loving them. And you can always tell what path people are on, by watching the way they treat others, and listening to the way they talk to and talk about others. It is a dead giveaway.

Douglas Poole: 27:28 If you have not found the freedom of love and compassion, most likely you don't find it in yourself to give love and grace away to others either. And so I just listened to the way people talk, and I just watched the way they treat others, and it's a dead giveaway of whether or not they have experienced the grace of God. And if they are not giving it away, probably because they haven't allowed it into their lives, so it's there to be given. If you have not found the grace to give away as love, it's because you've really never fully experienced the grace he has for you, and when you experience endless forgiveness, you start forgiving others endlessly. And when you have experienced unexplainable grace, you start giving unexplainable graced to others. And when you've experienced love that is unconditional, you will begin to love people who will never, ever love you in return. Loving your neighbor as yourself, says a whole lot more about you, than it does your neighbor.

Douglas Poole: 28:25 And the only way to be free of judging and condemning somebody. It's not when they begin to live up to your standards, you'll stop judging and condemning them. The reality is you'll stop judging and condemning them, when you start following the way of love, T`hat's when it happens. As the Apostle Peter said, love each other deeply, deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. When you love you stop wanting to expose the sins of others. You stopped taking up the past wrongs of others. And love starts covering a multitude of sins. So yes, love is a risk. It is a risk, but it's so worth the reward. And what it leads to, your understanding my life matters. My life counts. I am someone. I'm not nothing. I've done something with my life, I've loved. so choose the way of love. By the way, you really are worthy of love, you are. I don't care what you've been told, who's told you, how many times they've said it. You as you are right now are so worthy of love, and God loves you. And when you open your heart to his love, you find the love to love others as you love yourself, and it leads to everything. It leads to a life that counts. It leads to being someone who's doing something.

Douglas Poole: 30:21 If you've never opened your life to his love, you can do that right now. When you hear me say it just begins with a quick conversation with the Lord. Jesus, I give my life to you. Jesus, I give my life to you. You gave your life for me, you rose from the dead. that I might have life. I give my life to you, and you can just have that conversation with him where you're seated right now, so I'm going to pray. And maybe just maybe a neighbor came to mind, a neighbor you're going to work with tomorrow, maybe you're going to see today. Love your neighbor as yourself, it's more of a statement about you than it is them. Follow the way of love.

Douglas Poole: 31:12 All right, our father in heaven. I thank you that when it came to us, and there are so many different ways you could have dealt with it, you could deal with this now, but you've always only chosen the way of love with us. And that's what caused you to send your son, Jesus. So father, I pray in this moment, for those who are in this space who came here because they're wondering if what they're soul is looking for is really, maybe it's you. So they came to church, and Lord discovered you're a god of love. And I pray this would be this moment that folks would, just right now, just be saying, oh Jesus, I give my life to you. And then father, for all of us in this space, help was to do something more than to talk about this concept, something to agree with this concept, help us to choose the way of love with our neighbors, All the neighbors we experienced in our path. Give us the grace that we need, Lord, to love others, as you've loved us. And everybody agreed and said, Amen. God bless you Cypress. And then I'll see a next weekend.

Recorded in Clearwater, Florida.
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Cypress Meadows
2180 North McMullen Booth Road
Clearwater, Florida 33759
(727) 725-4570