18 May 2020
There is no doubt that faith, hope and love are central in the teachings of the Bible and they form the bedrock in christian living and discipleship. Much has been written on them, not only in Scriptures, but also by godly men through the centuries. There is also much misunderstandings on the wholesome meaning of these virtues and to focus on these virtues seems an almost ‘impossible’ task.
However, during this current crisis – the viral outbreak, the economic fallout, the anxieties, mental distress, relationship problems in families, communities and societies at large, it may be in order to ‘revisit’ these virtues and to realise how they feature so significantly in going through our pilgrimage on earth wholesomely and to remain, not just intact in our christian lives, but to achieve greater ‘heights’ in our walk with our Lord God. Here is a modest attempt to highlight just some pertinent features that may be relevant for us to ‘revisit’.
Scriptures teach that faith is the only ground of justification; it is only by faith that we lay hold of Christ for His righteousness to become ours. It is important that we grasp the fact that faith is our act, but not our work. It is an instrument of reception without being a means of merit; it is fundamentally the work in us of the Holy Spirit, who both evokes it and through it ingrafts us into Christ is such a way that we know at once the personal relationship of sinner to Saviour and disciple to Master.
Unfortunately, among believers today, there emerges an unhealthy ‘preoccupation’ with faith – faith is viewed man-centeredly as a state of commitment and away from faith’s object, which is Christ. For instance, when we pray for healing and healing does not materialise, it is because we lack ‘faith’. If we ask for blessings and situations deteriorate, it is because we do not ask in ‘faith’.
Faith is a relationship not to oneself, but to the living Christ of the Bible and faith is fed and it grows by concentrating on Christ as the Saviour and Lord by whom our whole life must be determined. So, irrespective of the circumstances, the ‘distresses’ and ‘crosses’ of life, this faith is not ‘displaced’ but in fact grows into an unshakable ‘anchor’ that keeps the soul ‘steady’ and ‘unruffled’ because of the steadfast confidence and trust in “Him’ who keeps the ‘boat’ afloat in the midst of the ‘storm’. How significant this truth is in all our christian lives and particularly in the midst of crisis and uncertainty in this world.
Realise that the channel through which power to endure flows is hope – faith’s forward look. We are to hold on to our hope, the sure and certain hope of glory promised to us in the gospel – the glory to which a life of faithful endurance is guaranteed to lead us. This hope is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19), But again, where is the focus of our hope? It is ours in Christ.
We draw joy and strength to cope with the present (even severe sufferings and pain) from our expectations of future fulfilment and delight. When some holocaust survivors were interviewed and asked what kept them going and persevering in such terrible situations, they answered “hope”. In the absence of anything positive to look forward to, existence itself becomes a burden and life no longer feels worth living.
To be without hope is tragic; it is in fact needless for believers. God never intended humankind to live without hope, and He has in fact given us believers the most magnificent and glorious hope that ever was – the hope of glory and glorification in Christ on the new earth in the new heaven!
The Apostle Paul puts it in this way: “..the riches of the glory of this mystery which is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Jesus Christ Himself, to whom we who believe are united even now, is the Christian hope. He is indeed the centre, the focus and the source of our endless delight. Is this hope living in us and growing stronger and ‘brighter’ with the passing of days, even in situations which apparently seem hopeless?
To know that nothing ever “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39) is the peak of christian assurance. Also to know that this love is “for me” as in Galatians 2:20 is equally vital. To know that the divine Son of God was appointed from eternity to be my Saviour, and that in love He became man for me and died for me and now lives to intercede for me and will one day come in person to take me home – such a knowledge brings overwhelming gratitude and joy. May all of God’s people come to appreciate this for their own lives. May God show the full glory of His love increasingly to each one of His children and may they learn to love Him in return.
Love(agape), triggered by gratitude for grace, makes God great by exalting Him in praise, thanksgiving and obedience. Love for neighbour makes fellow humans great by serving their real needs. Love is measured not by sweetness of talk or strength of feeling, but by what it does, and specifically by what it gives for the fulfilment of its purpose. It focuses on particular people with particular needs, and prays and works to deliver them from evil.
In the midst of this current crisis, do we concentrate selfishly on ourselves, our needs and ignore the plight and needs of others? Are we constantly grumbling and complaining (a manifestation of self-centredness) instead of being grateful for all of God’s blessings and provisions? Is our trust in the goodness and perfection of God greatly shaken and we allow doubts, murmurings to grow in our hearts? That is not to say that we cannot tell God our difficulties honestly and sincerely – but this is not the same as doubting Him and treating Him as “less than God”.
In ‘good times’ or ‘bad times’, may faith, hope and love be nurtured and may God use such times to mould us into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ. God never makes a mistake; we may not understand all that He is doing or allowing but let us be certain that they come forth from a heart of love and mercy. He who has not spared HIs Son for us surely would not withhold anything good for HIs children. Let us rest in Him, trust in Him, hope in Him and love Him with an unending love!