1 Cor. 13. 13 But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love.
Hope sometimes gets lost as we consider the greatest of these- love- and indeed it IS the greatest as Paul clearly tells us.
I’m often telling people that the area I fail in (I suppose all Christians most fail in) is love, and it’s of course the most important facet of being a true follower of Jesus- to love the Lord supremely and our neighbor (whomever that may be!) as ourself.
Faith is the foundation, the core, the underlying substance from which we love. We must have faith in God, in His love and His ability to teach us how to love others.
Faith is a gift from God and without the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives not only do we not have faith, we do not and cannot love people with God’s love as we are called to do.
But then we come to hope, the “middle of the sandwich” in Paul’s writing to the church in Corinth. So what about hope?
Without faith in God and His Word, not only cannot His love happen (in and through us) but where do we get hope from? The same Person. No faith, no hope.
This hope which comes from a personal relationship with God is based on our faith in Him and His Word as well as, foundationally, His love for us and all of humankind despite their sins or ours.
If faith or love are in short supply these days, I would say hope is often in the same spot!
Between people talking about faith but clearly living lives that habitually act out unbelief and anything BUT biblical lifestyles and values… and the reality of a lack of actual, godly love, how is it anyone finds hope?
Even among many Christ-followers who are gifted with saving faith and who genuinely trust in God’s love for them and in fact, demonstrate His love for others there is yet often a deep need and at times a loss of a living, active hope in terms of their daily life.
Sin, sickness, economic hardship, natural disasters, political and social strife, violence, on and on it goes!
Jesus tells us “In the world you shall have tribulation- but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” Indeed so… but we are not always focused on, nor experiencing the “good cheer” and “overcoming” He speaks of.
This is not to say our Lord didn’t tell us the truth, notice He straight-out says in this world we SHALL HAVE TRIBULATION… it’s a given that a sin-riddled, fallen, often rebellious world’s brokeness also threads through our individual, familial and corporate experience. This IS the real world!
Yet there is a strong core of hope in Jesus’ words both here and in other texts of Scripture.
How? Why? Is this simply all about “blind faith”, dumb, un-thinking loyalty to a myth, a concept, a group of idiots (there are those who consider believers and/or simply church people nothing more or less) in denial?
Not at all.
The issue is that we have a personal relationship with both a (THE) God and a Book (His Word) to where one experience piled on top of another and another and so on, confirms what He said. We are futher confirmed in what Jesus calls the truth not only when our prayers and heart’s desires are answered and fulfilled but even when via struggle and painful experience, they are not.
“You SHALL have tribulation” is a statement of fact. Jesus never sugar-coats reality. Rather, a true Christ-follower finds hope in her/his faith by faith and daily experience.
We are reminded of -and personally experience- God’s love in Christ in so many tangible and intangible ways IN the suffering as well as when we are delivered FROM the struggles of life. Through our relationship, our spiritual walk with Him and His people we learn there is great cause for a living hope.
That hope is indeed in the very Person of the Risen Jesus Christ, in the timeless, unending truths of His Word (The Bible), in a continual stream of loving, genuine disciples (amongst the selfish, the broken, hurtful quasi-disciples also among us in the churches) and we focus less on ourselves, more on Him and others. In two words, spiritual maturity.
When and as we grow in our faith and love, hope also grows. As we are personally delivered from our own sin and selfishness over time, hope grows. As we’re around other Christ followers who seriously walk with the Lord and we see their spiritual fruitfulness and change of character, our hope grows.
You begin to think “Wow… looking back I see change, very real, positive change in my life. I never thought I could grow like this, never cared so much about the Lord or others before!” etc., etc..
In time recognizing the powerful change God the Holy Spirit works in your thinking, your choices, your habits, relationships, in terms of serving God and others rather than endless “self-seeking personal fulfillment” agendas… we grow in genuine hope.
As in a garden, it takes time- yet hope blooms in these ways.
Last year I re-read what to me is the best little book on leadership by Chuck (Charles) Swindoll. It’s called (heh…) “Leadership” and is only 72 pages long. One of his brilliant and powerful statements in it is:
“… the prime function of the leader is to keep hope alive.”
One of his main premises -using apostle Paul as an example, is that leaders (and I’d say everyone whether with calling or gifting in leadership or not) encourage genuine hope as the result of their own experience with suffering, having their faith tested, and in struggling to love and not give up hope is grown.
Or, as he writes, will they leave the field of battle or just (as Job’s wife said) “curse God and die” in this or that affliction?
Too many people flake out and give up precisely because God didn’t do what they wanted or expected or maybe even demanded Him to do.
“IF you deliver me I’ll serve and follow You”… and if He doesn’t they cut and run. Thus they effectively become their own god. They, not He, are center of their universe. Not only is this a lie, it guarentees hopelessness.
You ain’t Him and can’t function as Him and if you try to live that lie you’re doomed no matter what the outcome of the suffering and struggles you face.
Then again, like Paul a great many of us have been “through the mill”, we’ve experienced plenty of pain in the journey on many levels and have found it’s indeed our God, our faith and His love that have carried us THROUGH when not “around” the misery. Many of us have come out of the lion’s den a great deal stronger for the experience.
THIS is where hope shows up! And it is why we can pass hope along to others. It’s not mere theory, concept, idiology or “blind faith” but a matter of “been there, done that” and can say God is faithful even when we are not.
He is, as Paul writes, “the God of hope”!
Yes, hope lives!
Faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is love. But hope means I can change, others can change, God does NOT change… but He surely lives and interacts with us as we are willing to seek, follow and serve Him.
All this is true regardless of whether our circumstances change for what we would consider the better… or not.
Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn