The sustaining power of love

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

I wonder if you saw the poignant photograph of Margaret and Derek Firth recently?   
They were pictured reaching out to each other & holding hands whilst lying in adjacent beds at Trafford General Hospital in Manchester.   
The story that accompanied the photograph also carried the sad news that both Derek & Margaret had recently passed away; Derek had died on January 31st and then Margaret, three days later. They were both 91 years of age and were childhood sweethearts who had been married for just over 70 years!   
“If ever a picture said a thousand words this is it, their love for each other is so clear”, was one comment I saw, and that got me thinking about the different ways in which their love for each other and their companionship must have got them through all the ups and downs of seven decades of married life.   
At the heart of the Christian faith is this thing we know as love, specifically the love of the Lord Jesus for ordinary, needy people, such as you and me.   
Scottish pastor Alistair Begg speaks of being captivated by God’s love for him. In his book “Pray Big”, he writes, “I remember walking down the Tottenham Court Road in London one day, in a vast crowd right in the centre of the city. And in a way that I have no explanation for at all, it was as though God picked me up and gave me a hug, and then set me back down on the Tottenham Court Road again.”   
Another pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, experienced the supernatural love of God for him, in very different circumstances. Back in the 1950’s and 60’s Wurmbrand was imprisoned for a total of 14 years by the communist authorities in Romania for preaching the Christian gospel.   
He tells of the appalling treatment he received in his bestselling book, “Tortured for Christ”, describing how, whilst incarcerated, he was mocked and beaten, burned and frozen, brainwashed and abused.  For hours on end his torturers told him, “Nobody loves you anymore; nobody loves you anymore”.   
Despite his years of suffering, Wurmbrand refused to give up his Christian faith, his hope in Jesus Christ, or his love for those people who kept him under brutal captivity.  
Writing about “defeating communism through the love spirit of Christ”, Richard Wurmbrand concludes that, ultimately, it was the love of Jesus for him that enabled him to endure his terrible ordeal:  
“In solitary confinement, we could not pray any more as before. We were unimaginably hungry; we had been doped until we became as idiots. We were as weak as skeletons. The Lord’s Prayer was much too long for us.   
“We could not concentrate enough to say it. My only prayer repeated again and again was “Jesus, I love Thee”. And then, one glorious day I got the answer from Jesus: “You love me?  Now I will show you how I love you.”   
“At once, I felt a flame in my heart which burned like the sun; I knew the love of the One who gave His life on the cross for us all”.   
Wurmbrand also observed the same love at work in the lives of fellow believing prisoners, saying: “I have seen Christians in communist prisons with 50 pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold, and praying with fervour for the communists. This is humanly inexplicable!  It is the love of Christ, which was poured into our hearts”.   
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul, who also endured a multitude of difficult days, writes in Romans 8:38 & 39, of the extent of divine love that has sustained countless believers down through the centuries: - “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord”.