Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Love Is Not Provoked

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I have a friend who says, "The last man to know he has a rip in his jacket is the man who has it on."

That's why we need to love each other. If someone wanders from the truth, the loving thing to do is to go and say, "Let me help restore you." Not just to talk about that person, "Can you believe what she did to her husband? Can you believe the way she handled her children? Can you believe that so-and-so did this?"

Don't go to another person. That's not the loving thing to do. That's the selfish, proud, arrogant thing to do. The loving thing to do is to go and say, "Let me help you."

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, February 8.

When things are running smoothly, it’s easy to show people love. But the true test of love comes when circumstances are difficult. Let’s join Nancy as she continues a series called, How’s Your Love Life?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: How do you respond when you get to the grocery story and you go to the checkout line where you're supposed to have a maximum of ten items, and there's a woman in front of you who has 23 items in her cart? Or when you get to the counter and you find that the slowest checkout counter in the world is the one where you are in line? How do you find yourself responding in that kind of circumstance?

If you find yourself in traffic or surrounded by bad drivers who don't know where they are going? How do you respond?

How do you respond when your husband forgets something that you asked him to do for the third time or forgets that you have a doctor's appointment and leaves you stranded at home without a vehicle? How do you respond when your child asks the 432nd question of the morning? And it's the same question.

How do you respond when your teenagers somehow cannot seem to learn, after they put their dishes in the sink (you've got them trained that far), their dirty dishes, but they can't learn to run water on their dirty dishes. And you've told them and told them again and again, and they just don't get it.

How do you respond when somebody who works for you or one of your children doesn't follow instructions that you left and that you thought were so clear? Or at work when your boss gets on your case for something that you know you didn't do?

We're taking a love test over these weeks and looking in the Word of God to find the description for the kind of love that God wants us to havethe way that God loves us and the way that He wants us to love others. Today we come to the eighth characteristic of love: "Love is not provoked."

As I gave that list of circumstances, did you find yourself thinking that in some of those circumstances you would be provoked? Scripture says that "Love is patient, love is kind. [Love] is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, [it] does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own." Now we come to the one for today. "Love is not provoked" (verses 4-5, NASB).

Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 13, "Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. [It] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. [Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Love never fails" (verses 6-8, NASB).

If you're using the King James Version, you'll notice that this little phrase says, "Love is not easily provoked." Actually, that word easily is not in the original language. Some commentators say that the person who wrote that translation must have been an easily provoked person. But the actual reading of the text is "Love is not provoked at all," not just that it is not easily provoked.

To be provoked means "to be aroused to anger." The original word in the Greek is a word from which we get our word paroxysm. That's a convulsion, a sudden outburst of emotion or action.

This is a person who is easily offended. He is thin-skinned, touchy, easily "flies off the handle," easily exasperated.

I called a friend last night who is a mother with three children, two of them teenagers and then a younger one. A dear friend. I said to her, "Can you tell me in your home how do you sometimes find yourself being provoked?" She didn't have to think very hard. This is a woman who loves her children. This is a woman who loves her husband. But she was quick to admit that "There are times when I am not loving toward my husband and my children, when I do get provoked."

Here's what she said. She said,

As a mom, your life isn't your own. Your time isn't your own. You find yourself constantly being tested and tempted to be provoked. I'll be on the phone and children are trying to talk. Why is it that when I get on the phone, they come and they have to talk? Or they're writing a note, asking if they can have a snack while I'm trying to carry on a serious conversation on the phone. Or 'Can I play Monopoly?' or 'Can I do something?' They want to know, 'Can I take a break from my schoolwork?' when they've only been working on it for thirty minutes. [She said she finds herself feeling provoked.]

Or you come home after you've been running errands, you're out buying school clothes, you're going to the grocery store. You're trying to be frugal and meet the needs of your family. You've been serving them. You walk in the door of the house and there is a trail from one room to the next. The whole house is upside down. You find that the dog has made a mess, that your son has spilled chemicals on a brand-new carpet. He has been doing a science experiment. Then he tried to clean it up and made a bigger mess on the carpet. It would have been better if he had just left it alone. Here I've been trying to serve my family, and I come home to this kind of situation. I find myself provoked.

It has to do with unplanned things in your day. I started on my day. I have my agenda. Then it all goes topsy-turvy, and I find I can be easily provoked.

Well, those are some of the things that can provoke my friend. Let me ask you: What does it take to provoke you? What irritates you? Maybe it's a particular habit that your husband has that you find annoying. It provokes you. Maybe it's someone who forgets to relay a message that you communicated.

Love guards against being irritated. It guards against getting upset or angered by things that are said or done against it. Now there is a righteous anger that God has, and there is a righteous anger that we have against things that anger God. But do you find, as I do, that so many times the things that anger us and provoke us are not the things that are really wickedness, the things that anger God? They're the things that disturb my peace. They're the things that don't go my way, the things that annoy me and upset my agenda and my plans.

The person who is intent on having his own way is going to be easily provoked, easily angered. When we're filled with the love of Christ, we will not get angry at others when they say or do something that displeases us or when they keep us from getting our own way.

The real issue in this matter of being provoked and angered has to do with rights, doesn't it? I have my rights, my time, my property, my way, my schedule, and I don't want anyone interfering with my rights. I find that when I get angry, perturbed internally, sometimes it comes out and sometimes it's just a seething inside. It almost invariably is a result of the fact that someone violated rights that I felt that I had. I have a right to a good night's sleep. So why do one of my family members call me at 11:30 at night when I've just fallen off to sleep? If I get annoyed, if I get perturbed, if I'm provoked, it's because I was claiming a right that I really didn't have.

John MacArthur says, "If you get angry, upset, and irritated and then blame it on your circumstances, you're deceiving yourself." You say, "I'm so angry because . . ." or "I just got provoked because . . ." or "If this person hadn't been this way; if my child hadn't filled the dryer with water or written with butter on the living room furniture or whatever, I wouldn't be so irritated."

But Dr. MacArthur says,

The problem isn't your circumstances. [The problem] is the preoccupation of your mind that you're important, that your rights matter, that your territory is invincible. When somebody steps into your territory or violates your rights, they trigger that anger because you've already predetermined that you have those rights.

You see, "love overlooks a multitude of sins," the Scripture says (1 Peter 4:8, paraphrased).

Do you have the kind of love that overlooks offenses, or do you get easily irritated when your rights are violated? Do you fly off the handle and blow up easily, or do you have the kind of love that is unperturbed by circumstances?

Paul goes on to say that not only is love not easily angeredlove is not provokedbut then next that, "Love keeps no record of wrongs" (verse 5). Love keeps no account of evil. One translation says, "Love does not take into account a wrong suffered."

Love doesn't keep score. The concept here is a bookkeeping term. It has to do with putting something in a ledger so that it can be a permanent record and you can go back and dredge it up when you feel the need. You're keeping a ledger of offenses. The Scripture says that love does not do that.

The word used here is the same word that is used to speak of God pardoning sinners. Second Corinthians tells us that God was "in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them" (5:19). You see, if we are in Christ, if we have come to Him through repentance and faith, then our sinall of ithas been placed under the blood of Jesus Christ. The penalty has been paid for that sin. It has been blotted out. It has been wiped away. There is no more record of it. In fact, that ledger has been cast into the depths of the deepest sea from whence it can never be retrieved.

How much damage has been done to marriages where one or both mates keep dragging that ledger out of the sea and pointing out something that was done, perhaps years ago, an offense! They've kept a record of wrongs. You see, resentment keeps the books. It's always looking for a way to get even and will frequently bring up the offense against the offender. But love forgives. Love clears the record.

So when others wrong you, when others fail you (as they do and as they will), how do you handle the ledger? Do you keep record? Do you keep score? Do you keep count? Do you bring it back up at a later point? Do you remember it and hold it against your mate or child, that friend? Do you keep track of those offenses?

Or do you do with those offenses what God has done with your offenses? You let it go. You send it away. You cover it. Love covers a multitude of sins.

"Love does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth" (paraphrased).

Let's look at this characteristic--actually, two characteristics here--that are kind of the opposite side of the same coin. "Love does not rejoice in iniquity." Paul is saying that loveGod's kind of lovedoesn't find pleasure in wickedness. It doesn't sympathize with wickedness done by others. Instead, true love is grieved. It's wounded when sin performs its destructive work.

I think of that passage where Samuel was told by God that he was to take a message to King Saul that the crown had been taken from Saul because of Saul's disobedience. There is that verse in Samuel that just amazes me when I read it. It says that Samuel grieved all night long when God told him that Saul no longer would be king (see 1 Samuel 15:11). Saul had sinned. He deserved the consequences of his sin. But Samuel had a loving heart that grieved over Saul's sin.

You see, love never takes satisfaction from sin whether our sin or the sin of others. Love doesn't justify sin. How common that is in our culture today, to justify, to glory and delight and rejoice in sin! Think about some of the sitcoms on television. All you need to do is turn it on for just a minute and you're likely to find people laughing at evil.

We hear about a moral failure on the part of some national leader or even maybe a respected Christian leader. We act shocked maybe, but are we deep down finding those details entertaining? Or maybe feeling self-righteous about not doing those things ourselves rather than being truly grieved over sin?

Maybe jealousy has made us glad to see if they stumble and fall.

Gossip comes into this categorylistening to and telling things about other people, even if true, that are not edifying. I think it's one of the most common forms of rejoicing in evil.

Someone has called gossip, "vice enjoyed vicariously." We are actually maybe entering into the sin of the other person and gloating over their sins or their shortcomings.

Here is another way I think sometimes that we rejoice in iniquity. That's by just making jokes or light of sin. You and I should never make light of something that is sinful. Never make light of a situation where you belittled your husband, where you spoke disrespectfully of your boss and you're telling someone else about this, but now laughing about it. "You should have heard what I told them!" We shouldn't be laughing at those things.

Laughing at losing our temper or leaving a mate. Laughing about yelling at children. Laughing about gluttony, overspending, divorce, immorality and lust. The Corinthians were arrogant rather than grieving over their sin, over the men in their midst who had been involved in incest. If you and I love God, what offends Him will offend us. What grieves Him will grieve us.

Do you love righteousness, and do you hate evil? That's what was said of Jesus in Hebrews 1:9 that He loved righteousness and He hated iniquity. Could that be said of you?

  • Are you grieved when you sin or when another believer sins?
  • Do you laugh when sin or wrong attitudes or words or behavior are presented in a humorous light or are you grieved?
  • Do you sympathize with others in their wrongdoing or their wrong thinking about God and His ways?

Love does not delight in evil. It does not rejoice in iniquity.

Here is the other side of that coin: Love does rejoice in the truth. What does that mean? I think there are several ways that can be lived out in our lives.

First of all, if I have a heart of love toward God, then I'm going to be willing to have God show me the truth about my own life. I will rejoice in the truth. Scripture says that God wants truth in my innermost person.

You say, "If God wants to show me my errors, that's okay." But here is where we get defensive: when God uses someone else to show us our errors. We've been taking this little love test. Could I suggest something very courageous? If you're not sure how you rate on some of these qualities, you may want to ask your husband or your children. Am I a loving woman? Am I patient? Am I kind? Do I fit these characteristics? If you love righteousness, if you rejoice in the truth, you'll be willing to receive correction.

When we rejoice in the truth, that means we cannot tolerate wrong doctrine. The world's view is that the loving thing is to be tolerant of every religion. Let me tell you this, ladies: If Christianity is trueand it isthen being tolerant of every other religion is actually a most unloving thing to do because if Jesus Christ is the only way to God, then it's an act of unkindness and hatred toward others to let them go on in their way to God apart from Jesus Christ. The loving thing is to point people to the truth.

True love is willing to speak the truth to those who have strayed, those who have wandered from the pathway of righteousness.

That's what Paul says in James chapter 5,

If anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins (verses 19-20, NKJV).

What covers a multitude of sins? Love does.

It's not easy to go to someone, a brother or sister or someone that you love, and say with meekness in your heart and with humility, "I may be a million miles off, but it seems that this may be an issue you're struggling with. I am burdened for you. I've been praying for you. You may not even be aware that this is how you're communicating."

It's hard to go to someone and show them the truth about their lifemaybe about as hard as someone coming to us and telling us the truth about our life. But we need each other.

I have a friend who says, "The last man to know he has a rip in his jacket is the man who has it on."

That's why we need to love each other. If someone wanders from the truth, it's the loving thing to go and say, "Let me help restore you." Not just to talk about that person, "Can you believe what she did to her husband? Can you believe the way she handled her children? Can you believe that so-and-so did this?"

Don't go to another person. That's not the loving thing to do. That's the selfish, proud, arrogant thing to do. The loving thing to do is to go and say, "Let me help you." To risk the possible rejection or misunderstanding that they may not receive what you say. But you know, if it's done in a spirit of meekness, there's a good chance they will.

Some of my best friends are the people who have loved me enough to say, "Here's the truth. And I think you want to see it." It hurts at the moment, but I'm so thankful that people have loved me enough throughout my life to say, "I think you'd want to be aware of this." To be honest, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" (Proverbs 27:6).

"Love rejoices in the truth." That's why Paul says, "Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble . . . just . . . pure . . . lovely . . . of good report, if there's any virtue and if there's anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8, NKJV). Rejoice in the truth. Love the things that are good and pure and wholesome. That's God's kind of love.

So how are you doing on this test? Do you welcome others sharing the truth with you about your life and your needs? It takes a humble heart to receive that kind of correction. But Proverbs says the wise man will receive reproof and that those wounds are faithful wounds. Are you discerning about doctrinal truth and error? Or do you think it doesn't really matter what people believe? "That's their way; I've got my way." It does matter. Love cares about the truth.

Are you willing to speak the truth to those who have wandered from it, even if that means risking rejection?

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to lead us in prayer. She’s been asking some challenging questions about the way we love other people. I think this series can show all of us ways we can learn to love more.

Now with most subjects, when you want to learn we visit an expert. Do you know that God is an expert on love? The Bible says that God is love. So if we want to learn to love, we need to look in His book, the Bible.

We want to provide you with a tool for studying and applying what the Bible says about love, and during this series we’ll send you a copy of Nancy’s booklet called How’s Your Love Life? You can get a copy by making a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

You can ask for your copy when you write to us at or make a donation by phone and ask for the booklet How’s Your Love Life? It’ll remind you what you’ve learned during this series and help get the principles deep in your heart. You’ll also receive this teaching series also called How’s Your Love Life? on CD. You’ll be able to go back to this series and get a refresher every time you need to grow and love, and we all need that often.

You can ask for your copy when you visit us at or make a donation by phone and ask for the booklet How’s Your Love Life? Just call 1-800-569-5959 or visit

The True Woman Conference coming to Chattanooga will be here before you know it, March 25-27. Join Voddie Baucham, James MacDonald, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Kay Arthur, and many other speakers. Join Keith and Kristyn Getty in worship. Join thousands of women who are also seeking to know God’s purpose for them as women. Get more information at

Tomorrow we’ll hear the stories of some women who have learned to treat others with love even when it’s been difficult. Now again here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Father, we have been loved by You in an incredible way. Thank You that You are not provoked with us as You have such a right to be. But that day after day, moment after moment, You are merciful and forgiving.

Oh Lord, we sin against You constantly, but You don't keep a record of our sins against us. We are in Christ. Our sins are forgiven, and You have thrown that ledger away.

Oh Lord, fill us with Your Spirit that we might love in the way that we have been loved. And forgive us, Lord, for the ways that we’ve wounded the spirits of those that we ought to love the most by being so quick to be provoked, quick to keep score.

Would You so transform us by Your love that it would be just as if the Lord Jesus had moved into our homes, into our workplaces, into our churches, and would be loving others through us.

Father, as we look as these characteristics of love, we know that we are really seeing a portrait of Jesus.

He loved righteousness. He hated evil. And Your Word says that "therefore you crowned Him with joy above all of His companions."

Oh Lord, we want that kind of joy. We want to be like Him. We want to be known for loving what is righteous, for hating what is evil and for loving evil-doers in the midst of hating their evil.

Now, Father, may we love the truth. May we rejoice in it. May we never grieve you or rejoice in iniquity. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New American Standard unless otherwise noted.


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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.