“Three things will last forever – faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NLT).
Faith, hope and love are three virtues or graces that will transcend the temporal world. The opposite of these virtues is unbelief, despair (or hopelessness) and hatred. No one can make it to heaven with unbelief, hopelessness and hatred. These three virtues are to be carefully and diligently cultivated by every child of God. These virtues will give us a good and abundant life here as Jesus promised (John 10:10b), and also guarantee us a place in Heaven.
Faith: Simply defined is abiding trust in God and His promises. It is through God’s promises that we are able to share in His divine nature and operate as “gods” in this world (2 Peter 1:4). Peter the Apostle called God’s promises great and precious. It is the assurance of these promises that help us confront life and overcome life challenges. The rod in the hand of Moses by which he operated as a god over Pharaoh and with which he wrought many wonders can be likened to faith in God and His promises in the new testament. The word rod is “shebet” in Hebrew, and it means a tool for correction and a symbol of authority. David spoke about His rod and His staff comforting him. The Word of God (and His promises) is a tool for correction and also a symbol of authority. God said to Moses, “And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do signs” (Exodus 4:17). Believing and confessing God’s promises makes us to rule and reign in this world. We are saved by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Hope: Simply defined is having a future expectation and anticipation. It relates to the future (Romans 8:24-25). While hope deals with the future, faith deals with the present. Faith gives substance to hope, converting future expectation to present reality. Jesus while still hoping to start His ministry of signs and wonders at a particular time in the future was compelled by the faith of His mother Mary to perform His first miracle i.e. the turning of water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-9). While faith obtains, hope sustains. As Christians, through the resurrection of Jesus, we have the hope of eternal life (1 Peter 1:3). Hope is confident expectation of eternal salvation. Hope transcends this present world to eternity. Apostle Paul said we are to be pitied if our hope in Christ is only for this world (1 Corinthians 15:19).
Love: This is the nature of God. As children of God we grow in this divine love as we progressively understand God’s love for us. The disciple Stephen was able to forgive those stoning him to death on the spot because he was filled with the Holy Spirit and also had a revelation of the love of God (Acts 7:54-59). This love overcomes evil by doing good; it is never conquered by evil. A testimony was told about a sister who had a stubborn neighbor who hated their guts because they lived in an upscale part of town that people of their nationality aren’t supposed to live. This unfriendly neighbor did everything possible to frustrate this sister and her family. This sister, rather than reacting to her hostile neighbor in kind, chose to pray for her in love. Within two weeks of praying, this neighbor surprisingly turned around and began to entreat this sister and her family. The turnaround of this neighbor was nothing but supernatural. The Bible says the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love (Galatians 5:6, NIV). The new testament way of relating with our enemies is to feed them when they are hungry, and give them drink when they are thirsty. Love is the greatest of the virtues.
CONCLUSION: As potent as faith is, it only works and produces by divine love. As futuristic as hope is, it needs faith for the future and the One who holds the future. Love is a stand-alone virtue. Just as everything rises and falls on leadership, in God’s kingdom and economy everything rises and falls on agape love. Love is the ultimate!