So its been quite a while since I last posted anything here! We’ve been in Norway (4 weeks), the Lake District (8 days) and my wife Debbie recently spent some more time in the Mother & Baby Unit. Suffice to say that we are now moving into a somewhat calmer season of our year and so as life starts to find the rhythm of its new norm I thought I would post some of my thoughts from the summer. In particular I was thinking through the idea of Faith (we were talking about Faith in Action in Norway) and so I’ve considered a little about how Faith interacts with Hope and Love. Paul often brings together these three words, namely Faith, Hope and Love. Each of them is intrinsic to the life of the believer. There are quite a few occasions in his writings when Paul not only lists these things together but also comments on the relationship between them. Here are two examples but we could also look at 1 Cor 13:13 or 1 Thess 5:8, Heb 10:22-24 or Galatians 5:5-6;
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people – the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.” Colossians 1:3-6a
In the first Paul (writing with Silas and Timothy) says that they are praying continually for the Thessalonians and specifically for their work produced by faith, their labour prompted by love and their endurance inspired by hope. Paul, Silas and Timothy are encouraged by what they see and hear of in regards to the Thessalonians work, labour and endurance. Their faith, hope and love are the catalyst, motivation and inspiration to produce this fruit in and through their lives.
In the second Paul (writing with Timothy) is again thanking God for the Colossians (whom he has heard much about but never met). This time Paul and Timothy are struck mostly by the faith and love expressed by these Colossian believers. They are clear however that this ‘faith and love’ which they have heard about springs from their “hope stored up in heaven”.
Trying to get my head around the connection between faith, hope and love has proved quite the challenge. Love we are told is the greatest of the three (1 Cor 13:13) and yet Paul says that we are saved through faith (Eph 2:8-9) and Hebrews tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith it seems is also pretty significant. On the other hand, faith “by itself, if it is not accompanied by action [prompted by love], is dead” (James 2:17 & 20). Love may well be the greatest but love we are told “always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Hope and faith it seems are by nature encompassed by love. Two contemporary Christian writers distinguish between faith, hope and love like this;
“Faith is believing in Christ’s promises; hope is trusting in His faithfulness to perform His promises in His timing and way, and love is the fulfilment of His promises. Our faith is built upon Christ’s Word; our hope is built upon His Spirit bringing His Word to pass, and His love becomes the basis of our future inheritance”. Nancy Missler, Hope against all hope
“Love empowers hope, hope equips faith and faith engages heaven. Encountering God’s love creates the possibility for hope. Hope then creates a “scent” that attracts faith. Faith then believes all things are possible and aggressively goes into the heavenly realm with assurance that God can do what He has promised.” Greg Simas, Pastor
I don’t know about you but the more I think about faith, hope and love the more excited I get about thinking more about them. Each plays an important part in enabling us to live out the Christ-like life. Take any one of the three away and it just doesn’t seem to work. Hope inspires us to endure. Faith produces action. Love prompts us to that action. Without hope we will soon give up. Without faith we will not be able to please God and we will be unfruitful. Without love our actions will be dead and useless, like a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). We cannot make do without any of them and to make sense of them we must see treat them together.
These past few years have been quite challenging for our family following the death of our friend James (in Norway) which was soon followed by a series of mental health issues for Debbie. Throughout this time the challenge has been to hope in God’s promises to us (focusing not on the struggle but upon the God who is above all), to trust God’s faithfulness to work out His promises (not to take away the struggle necessarily but to provide the grace to stand up under it) and to experience His love (as He proves Himself to be faithful). These years have been about God moving us to a place characterised by faith, hope and love. My prayer for you as you read this is that you too would be increasingly characterised by faith, hope and love. Whatever life brings our way Paul tells us…
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13