Faith, hope and love: This trio appears nine times in the New Testament (Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 5:5-6; Ephesians 4:2-5; Col. 1:4-5, 8; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; Hebrews 6:10-12; 1 Peter 1:3-8). One might think of these as the three legs which support healthy Christian living. Removing one of these legs will lead to the downfall of one’s spiritual health. While upon this earth, a healthy Christian will rest upon all three.
It is defined as: “Conviction of the truth of anything” (Thayer). The Bible speaks of “the shield of faith” (Ephesians 6:16) and “the breastplate of faith…” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). It is essential protective armor. It protects us from “the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16). Strong faith allows us to trust what God says about things we’ve never seen (Hebrews 11:1, 3, 7, 8, 13, 17-19, 20 – 22 cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7). Strong faith keeps us going despite difficulties and opposition in this life (Hebrews 11:4; 9 – 10, 23, 24 – 25, 32 – 40). Strong faith prompts us to obey God when it makes no earthly sense (Hebrews 11:30). If we’re going to survive the spiritual challenges of this life, we must have a strong trust in God and in his word.
What can we do to strengthen our faith? (1) We need to spend a great deal of time in study of God’s word: “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 cf. Luke 8:11-12; John 17:20; 20:30-31; Acts 17:11-12; 18:8; Ephesians 1:13-14). This includes studying things like the fulfillment of prophecy, scientific foreknowledge and the like.. (2) We need to spend time studying the evidences for the existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ; the resurrection of Jesus, and other such things. (3) We need to put the teachings of the Bible into practice. We might just find that it works.
It is defined as: “Favorable and confident expectation” (Vine’s). It has to do with the future, or the unseen (Romans 8:24 – 25). There is one ultimate hope for a Christian (Ephesians 4:4), and this is eternal life in heaven (Titus 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:8). Wearing “as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8) will help us keep our heads in the field of spiritual battle.
How do we keep the flame of hope burning? (1) We need to remind ourselves of what is, and isn’t eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:8). (2) We need to remind ourselves that whatever we must endure in this life is light in comparison with the glory which is to come to the faithful (Romans 8:18 cf 1 John 3:2; Philippians 3:21; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:51-ff). (3) We need to remind ourselves of the reunion to come, and the fact that we’ll “ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The desire to be reunited with other faithful is a strong motivational factor in the lives of Christians. (4) Remember that placing trust in God is not like placing trust in man. Good men may make promises but find themselves unable to keep them due to circumstances beyond their control. A man may promise to meet you but forget, or have a flat tire, or have a wrist watch that stopped or was slow, or got stuck in traffic. However, there is no circumstances which will interfere with God keeping his promise. He is God. (5) The more our faith grows the more our hope will grow. It will no longer be a mere wish, but a “confident expectation”.
How does one define this word? One writer has written, “What is Christian love? Paul does not give a strict definition of it in his great love chapter, but he describes how love acts” (Steve Williams, The More Excellent Way, p. 15). Perhaps love is best viewed as: (1) a care and concern for another which manifests itself in actions of both word and deed; (2) a devotion to another which manifests itself in actions of both word and deed.
Love is essential to Christianity. If we have not love, we are nothing – spiritually speaking (1 Corinthians 13:1-ff). The greatest of all commandments is that we love God with all our beings (Matthew 22:36-38; Mark 12:28-30). The next greatest is that we love our fellow man as ourselves (Matthews 22:39; Mark 12:31 cf. Galatians 5:14) These two are essential to salvation (Luke 10:25-28; cf. 1 John 4:7-12). Love is the greatest of commandments because, if one loves God as he should, then he’ll keep the commandments of God (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:21; 1 John 2:4; 5:3); Moreover, love for one’s fellow man will likewise prompt obedience (Romans 13:8-10; 1 John 5:2; 2 John 5-6). Love motivates (2 Corinthians 5:14). Love is like a breastplate (1 Thessalonians 5:8) which keeps us alive in spiritual struggles.
What can be done to increase our love? We need to consider the love of God and Jesus (John 3:16-17; 13:1-15, 34-35; 15:13; Romans 5:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 8:9; 1 John 3;16-18; 1 John 4:10-11; 4:19). “When my love to Christ grows weak… then in thought I go to thee, Garden of Gethsemane! …When my love for man grows weak… Hill of Calvary! I go to thy scenes of fear and woe” (Song: When My Love to Christ Grows Weak by J.R. Wrenford).