"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." I Corinthians 13: 13
I am struck by these words this morning. These elements, and these elements only, are the things that will remain. Everything else, I mean everything, comes to pass. Faith, hope and love are the only constants in this universe. But what kind of faith, what kind of hope, what kind of love?
Are these things we try to conjure up within ourselves and do the best we can as humans to perform? Or, is it a work of God within us? Is it something we can proudly state that we have achieved, or is it something God reduces us to, stripping away all the things we once grasped onto so dearly?
What is faith? Is it blind faith in the goodness of mankind, that somehow we will overcome all the problems that plague our planet and the ushering in of a new harmony on this earth? Or is it faith that realizes that all we as men can do is mess things up and therefore we need a Creator who solves our every problem? Is it realizing that in our natural person, there exists "no good thing?" As Romans 7:18 states:
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find."
Yes, we humans want to do what is right. No normal parent ever sets out to harm his child, no normal person goes to the altar with the intention of getting a divorce, but something gets in the way of these beautiful plans.
It's called sin. It's called the fall of man, which every single person on this planet is affected by. No matter how good our intentions are, we just can't perform the right things that we want to do.
That is where faith comes in. The faith is not in ourselves, but in the Person who came and basically, pitched his tent among us according to the Greek in John 1:14. The word for "dwelt" is skēnoō (#4637 in Strong's Lexicon). This is what it means:
I.to fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle
Think of it, the only human without this sin problem came to dwell among us because He loved us so much.Jesus Christ lowered Himself to pitch a tent among us and live the perfect life for us and then sacrificed Himself perfectly on the cross so that we could live forever with Him. This perfect Person was willing to share His righteousness with us (II Corinthians 5:17), so that we could live forever, in spite of the weaknesses and failures of our humanity.
So faith isn't in our own goodness. No, it is only and completely in Him. That is rightly directed faith, and it is the only way to please God, for Hebrews 11:6 tells us:
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
What about hope then? What is it we are hoping for? Are we hoping that we will realize all our material dreams and finally have "the good life?" Or is it a hope beyond what this world could ever offer? Is it the hope of a new and eternal life that will never perish away, that will not grow old, that will never be corrupted?
Peter tells us of this hope:
1 Peter 1:3-5
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
This is where our hope lies. Not in things getting better in this world, and that we will have a comfortable life with no problems.
But I Corinthians 13 tells us that greater than even faith and hope is love. What is love? Is it a warm, fuzzy feeling we have towards other people? Something we must produce in and of ourselves?
The Bible tells us of differing categories of love, romantic love (eros), friendship love(phileo), but in the most supreme category, the kind only God produces, is agape love. This is a love we cannot muster in ourselves. When I find myself getting annoyed with other people, I now stop and pray to the Lord: "OK, Lord, I cannot love this person, but I know that You live inside me through faith and I can trust You to love through me."
Because I know He lives inside me, and that His will is to love, I can trust that He can and will produce that love in me, without my feeble human attempts to do it. But how do I know of this love? The key is in the Word of God.
I John 2: 2 says:
"But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him."
The Greek word for keep is tēreō. (Strong's #5083). Here is what it means:
I.to attend to carefully, take care of
B.metaph. to keep, one in the state in which he is
D.to reserve: to undergo something
If we take heed to God's Word, He can work His love into us. Just as the Psalmist told us in Psalm 119:9:
"How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word."
If we treasure up His Word inside us, it gives the Holy Spirit a basis from which to work. So, it is not us doing, but the Word of God inside us. Paul told us that the Word does the work in I Thess. 2:13:
"For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe."
So, we can all take heart today. If we have faith in Jesus only to be our righteousness and sanctification, it will give us hope in the storms of life and eventually produce His own agape love inside us. This love will outlast the material universe. Praise His Name!
"But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” (I Cor. 1: 30-31)