FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE
More than half a century ago, I read in a children’s magazine called The Treasure Chest a story about three teenagers and a British Colonel going in search of the ‘Book of Wisdom’ to Tibet. After many adventures they reach the monastery and the monk starts to read to them reverently from the Book of Wisdom, “Though I speak in the tongues of men and of angels…” and ends reading it with “and the greatest of them is love.” Although a fiction, and at that time I was more thrilled with the adventures of the youngsters, later I realised that many consider 1 Corinthians 13 as the highest of wisdom.
St. Paul concludes the chapter with three lasting concepts – faith, hope and love. Although most Christians will have a popular understanding of these three concepts, they can be sometimes misleading and even harmful. So let us understand what they mean to us in day-to-day practical life.
The best definition of faith in the Bible is found in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”Philip Yancey, the author of many Christian books, puts it this way,“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will make sense in reverse.”
The above definitions are fairly clear on an immediate need to move in blindly, but being sure of eventual outcome. Still many of us move with unbiblical understanding.
Let me illustrate with three instances why an improper, non-biblical understanding of faith can be dangerous. The first instance was of a university volleyball player during my college days, who fell sick with jaundice. She belonged to a group or church who believed only in faith healing. After weeks of no medication, she died. The second instance was an attempt to walk on water by two ‘born again’ teenagers during a flood situation. Both drowned.The third instance is that of a father whose son was a pilot in the Air Force. The son died in a plane crash. The father never entered a church thereafter—not even for his daughter’s wedding! It is not my intention to debate on the above, for I think the fallacies in these instances are obvious. When we say faith, what does it contain? What do we believe? I put forth three statements which I take as foundations that form my faith. And all three of them have to be taken individually and together to form our faith.
God is good. This means God is loving and faithful.
God is able. God is omnipotent and omniscient.
God knows best. God’s immeasurable wisdom is beyond our understanding.
Much of our agony, doubts, disappointments can be avoided if our faith is built on the above three blocks. I believe the original sin of Adam and Eve was not believing in the first statement. Jesus taught us to address God as Father (Abba).That relationship explains everything.
God surely is able,and the Bible has numerous instances of even natural laws being broken. But we need to understand the context in which God did that. God’s omnipotence is filtered through His wisdom. His wisdom and plan for us may not be decipherable at one point of time and we are likely to conclude that God is not listening to us. Let us remember that mankind is saved because of an unanswered prayer—the prayer of God’s Son in the Garden of Gethsemane that the ‘cup’ be taken away. The three statements of faith taken together will help us through any situation and ultimately move us into His perfect plan.
According to a Greek mythology, all the trouble in the world was let out by a girl named Pandora when she opened a box which she was specifically told not to open.(Hence the phrase‘to open a Pandora’s box’.) After that, Pandora again heard a voice from inside the box coaxing her to open the box. Pandora once more opened the box and out came a bright and fairy-like creature who said she was ‘Hope.’ With all the trouble that is in the world, mankind needs her.
Whatever be the story, hope is also generally taken to mean, or equated with, optimism or positive thinking. While optimism or positive thinking refers to certain psychological attitude, hope goes a step further,to God and dependence on Him.Perhaps Pastor Rick Warren put it succinctly when he expanded the letters of the word ‘hope’ to Hanging On Praying Expectantly. Hope is positive attitude plus faith plus prayer.
To the Christian, the ultimate hope is eternity with Jesus.
We are quite familiar with the three kinds of love referred to in the last chapter of John’s gospel. But sometimes we confuse the emotion of intense liking with the action of love. In the Bible we have the great commandment which tells us to love God and then love man (or your neighbour, brother/sister). Unquestionably, in this context, love is not a noun or an emotion; it is a verb and an action.
Most of us will raise our hands when asked if we love Jesus. Yet very few among us may feel the same physical emotions of love towards Jesus. Therefore, Jesus Himself has clearly defined what is meant by loving God. He said, “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments.”Praying, going to church, giving donations, fasting, attending retreats, and so on, by themselves do not constitute loving God. Simply put, loving God is ‘obedience.’
Also, loving our neighbour or any other person is going beyond emotion to an action. When we love someone, we will give the person our time, effort, money or possession. Parents’ love for their children is an example of love in action. We give up what we hold, or we sacrifice. Unless we give up something, be it pleasure, convenience, effort or money, there is no love. Loving our neighbour is giving up something.
Faith, hope and love …let us bring them all together again.
Faith – God is good, able and knows best.
Hope – Hanging On Praying Expectantly.
Love- Obedience, giving up.
May the Spirit of God help us to bring faith, hope and love into our life so that we build our life on a rock that no floods can sweep away.