I wanted to write about what hope means to us, but when I started reflecting upon a passage that Paul mentions to the Corinthians, faith, hope and love appear to be intertwined. They go together is an odd kind of way.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”1 Corinthians 14:12-13
My take on verse 12 is that our current state of being is only a reflection of what will be later. This life is temporal but our hope is that eventually we will be with God face-to-face in the kingdom of heaven. So what we see now is only part of our essence but then, once we reach our final destination we will stand in the presence of our Lord and Creator. Then we will know fully of our completeness as what God created in us. Paul goes on to mention in verse 13 the three main virtues that will help us get to our final destination in the kingdom of heaven with God. This is my interpretation; others might differ so let us speak of what we know about these three virtues.
Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” NIV. The New King James Version states: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” NKJV. These are two slightly different interpretations of the passage but still essentially the same. The key word differences to me are confidence/substance and assurance/evidence. We are talking about unseen things or nouns. So faith is a thing that I want to (hope) happen but I have no physical assurance or evidence to base my hope upon. Hebrews 11:6, “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.” So faith is that important to us if we have any chance of either pleasing or even knowing God. Without this “thing” we can’t know God.
So what is hope? In the passage of faith it is the “stuff” that gives us the ability to hang on and keep moving forward. Once we loose hope there can be no faith because you do not believe you can continue moving forward or hanging on when it may appear that there is no chance of succeeding. It is almost as though we need hope as fuel to power up our faith. In life now, we see only a mere reflection of God that we hope to see face-to-face so with hope we can continue to hang in there, in spite of not knowing for certain. But with hope we don’t give up, or give in. So I suppose without hope there can be no faith because once you loose hope, belief is all but gone.
That brings us to the one substance that Paul says it the greatest of the three, which is love. At first I did not get it but when you think about it, we generate both faith and hope. It comes from us, or not! God does not require either faith or hope to operate as He does. God don’t have to hope for anything He simply creates anything He desires. He doesn’t have to use faith because He absolutely already knows what will happen. We do not have such abilities. But when it comes to love, it is through this substance that God created all things. Love is known to be synonymous with God. Love is God and God is Love. It is because of His infinite capacity of love that we have life and being. It is the benevolent affection that God has for His creations. Because of His love we have redemption without earning it. It is because of love that we are!
Christ says that the greatest of all the commandments is to love the Lord thy God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. He said that the second one is to love your neighbor as you would love thyself. So naturally love would be the most potent and powerful of the three because it comes directly from God. Faith and hope can only point us in His direction, but love marries us to His presence. So this takes me back to my favorite section of this chapter, which is where Paul defines the very essence of love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
I like to substitute God where love is mentioned in this passage: Then it hits me directly through my heart:
“God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. God does not dishonor others, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes; always perseveres. God never fails. (Substitution)
Without faith it is impossible to please God because one must believe that He is. If you do not believe in Him there is no hope of acquiring anything from God. So yes, these three remain with us to lead us to God face-to-face: Faith, Hope and Love!