What Does Love Have to Do With Faith and Hope?
Two weeks ago, we talked about how having faith allows us to say, as in
2 Timothy 1:12 – I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
Our faith increases the more we get to know Him (not just know ABOUT Him intellectually, but know Him experientially), because the more we get to know Him, the more we experience how good and trustworthy He is, and how much He loves us. Faith means we are attempting, moment by moment, to trust God with everything that is important to us – ourselves, our loved ones, our situations.
Last week, we talked about how only on the basis of faith (trusting God) can we ever possibly have hope. In
Hebrews 11:1, it says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”
Faith is the “flooring” upon which our hope (eager expectation) is built. You can’t have hope if you don’t first have faith that there is a God who is able and willing to do good things for you.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
We also learned that our hope is not to be in what we can GET from God, but in the character and goodness of God. We don’t always understand how what we are going through, especially if it is painful to us, could possibly be transformed into something good for us. (Remember last week’s example of the child having to be held down by a parent as they have to get a shot or stitches.) However, we are to hope in His unfailing love for us in EVERY situation, believing that whatever happens, He has the best in mind for us. And as Christians, the best that God has in mind for us is two-fold: 1) That we should be restored to fellowship with Him both now on earth and in the future in heaven, and 2) That we are now being changed into the image of Christ, and in the future, will be changed in a twinkling of an eye to be like our Lord.
This week, we are going to talk about love, and why you can’t have love without faith and hope.
Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 (For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.) The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
We begin with faith in God’s existence and His goodness. This allows us to hope for or eagerly expect the righteousness which God has promised us through faith. Righteousness means being right with God, or better put, being like God. And that hope will not be disappointed for Christians, because God promises that no matter what happens to us, He will use it to make us more like Christ. Paul says in
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
The good that God promises us is that we will become more like Christ. And that has some very practical ramifications. It is not pie in the sky. In all honesty, we WANT, above all else, to be like Christ, if not for His virtuousness and sinlessness, for His characteristics of love, power and a sound mind, of having all of the fruit of the spirit. Going back to Galatians 5, starting in verse 22, it says:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If everyone is honest, the three things that every person on earth want are love, joy and peace. Their entire lives revolve around GETTING those three things in whatever manner they can. Verse 24 makes it clear that you can’t have the fruit of the spirit as long as you are consumed with your passions and desires – as long as we are consumed with GETTING, it is impossible for us to be giving, which is what love essentially is. Love means giving of yourself for the benefit of another.
John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Ronnie and I talked about what most people think about love – they always think about RECEIVING love, being the object of someone’s love. People don’t really think about love as being able to give to someone else. Being in love means that you desperately want to GET and KEEP that other person for yourself, to the point that you may fear losing them. Real agape love means that you desperately want to GIVE to that other person whatever is best for them, and doesn’t require that they reciprocate in any way. We can’t GIVE sacrificially of ourselves if we are always afraid of losing whatever good things we presently have. We are always grasping to GET, so we are unable to truly GIVE.
Everyone wants to RECEIVE love, be joyful, and be at peace. If we don’t have any of those three things, we will do whatever we can to FAKE it. We trade real love for the poor substitute of sexual relationships or bad relationships so we just don’t have to be alone. We trade real, deep and enduring joy and peace for the momentary dulling of our senses from drugs, alcohol, food, or other distractions to get a break from the fear, pain and emptiness that may torment us.
So, you see, we really want this thing that God calls righteousness and all that comes with it, and as Christians, have every right to hope for it. God wants to give it to us. But we are unable to obtain it because we are consumed with GETTING love, joy and peace in our own way, by our own devices. We want to avoid pain at all costs, and only FEEL GOOD.
But love is THE most important thing to God. In Galatians 5, it continues and says:
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b]
1 Corinthians 13 says:
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 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.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Our problem is 2-fold:
1) Either we don’t have God’s love (and the other fruit of the Spirit) flowing through us because we are not actively connected to God (meaning we are not saved), or
2) we are connected to Him but are consumed with GETTING things our flesh wants, so we are unable to GIVE to others.
So, if you are born again of the Spirit after believing that Jesus’ death paid the penalty for your sin, and that God raised His Son from the dead, and you have surrendered your life to Jesus as your Lord, you have the Holy Spirit living in you, and have access to all of the fruit of the Spirit.
However, we always, in every moment, have the choice to refuse the flow of the Holy Spirit in our life, and instead, respond to what our flesh wants. We can be consumed with GETTING what we want at the expense of being able to love. And this is why.
When we are consumed with GETTING what we think we need, we are constantly in fear of NOT getting what we think we need. We fear three things:
1) Not obtaining what we think we need.
2) Losing what we already have.
3) Not being able to get rid of something bad in our life.
And as long as we life in fear, we are unable to live in faith. And as long as we are grasping and trying to get and hold on to what we THINK will bring us love, joy and peace, we are unable to experience God’s love, joy and peace. We cannot give sacrificially of ourselves as long as we do not trust that no matter what happens, or what I may lose or never get, that God’s unfailing love for us will result in something good coming out of even those things I dread, and that in the end, God will be glorified, and I will be changed that much more into the image of Jesus.
That means that, even if I am in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating out drops of blood, praying for God to change His will for me, facing pain or death, that out of my trust in His unfailing love and goodness, I can experience love, joy and peace in the midst of it. I carry those things around with me everywhere I go in the form of the Holy Spirit living inside of me. I am the only hindrance to those fruit being released within and through me. My lack of trust in God, my faithlessness, is choking out the love of God within me that He expects me to share as the sign that I belong to Him.
So basically, what does love have to do with faith and hope. If we truly have faith in God’s existence and that He rewards those that diligently seek Him, and eagerly expect some good things from Him because of His loving kindness for us, we can trust Him to provide us with love, joy and peace supernaturally whether or not we get what we think we need, or lose what we think we need. And we can stop grasping for other things, and start giving of ourselves for others’ benefits.
If we are a starving man, and we come to a banquet table with tons of food on it, and we know there are other starving people around us, our hunger will most likely override our compassion for others. We will meet our own need first, and then take care of others’ needs when we are full. God says we CAN be full, satisfied, satiated by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, even when we don’t have the things on the outside we are longing for. And when we are full and satisfied with His love, joy and peace, we are able to give them away selflessly, knowing that God will re-fill us somehow.
What are you most afraid of losing, or of never getting, or of keeping? Will you trust God with those things? Will you put them in His hands and trust in His unfailing love to give you love, joy and peace regardless of what you do or don’t get?