The familiar passage of 1 Corinthians 13:13 talks about faith, hope and love.
Faith is a gift – the correct rendering of Mark 11:22 is to “let the faith of God be in you”, or “have the faith of God”. Faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit – part of His very nature, given as a gift to us. True faith is believing and acting on a Word which God has given us, even if it seems impossible or hard to believe - it is not us deciding on something we want to happen or receive and then "believing for it".
Love is from God – 1 John 4:7. This is the Agape divine love, and is also a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so also given to us by God. God's love can achieve things which human love cannot.
But what about hope? That’s also in the list.
Hope is defined as being all the things we are looking forward to.
Why is it important?
Hope is a powerful emotion, and its loss can have devastating effects. The need for it is emphasised many times in the scriptures. Proverbs 13:12 says that “hope deferred makes the heart sick.”
We can ask God for hope, especially when we are feeling overwhelmed by hopelessness. At the same time we can also read, focus on and continue to read the many scriptures that offer us hope. Some of these are quoted below.
Hebrews 6:17,18 says, “lay hold on the hope set before us, which hope we have as an anchor for our soul, both sure and steadfast …” Just as a ship needs to be connected to an anchor to avoid drifting - sometimes onto destructive rocks - so too does our soul. Without an anchor, a soul can drift in disconnection, in touch only with its own emotion or pain. While there’s life, there’s hope – and while there’s hope, there’s life. Hopelessness can lead to suicide, arising out of a complete absence of the hope that things will ever be any better.
Our hope can be a gift to others. 1 Peter 3:15 encourages us to “… be ready always to give an answer to everyone that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you”.
Hope helps us to stand. Jeremiah 17:7,8 says, “Blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is, for he shall be as a tree planted by the waters and that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat comes but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”
Hope gives us joy. Romans 12:12 encourages us to “rejoice in hope”.
What is hope?
Hope is unseen, and yet helps us to hang in there. Romans 8:24 says, “For we are saved by hope, but hope that is seen is not hope, for what a man sees why does he yet hope for it? But if we hope for that which we don’t see, then it is with patience that we wait for it.”
Hope is a God-filled process
Psalm 119:117 - "Hold me up according to Your word, that I may live, and let me not be ashamed of my hope”.
Romans 5:1-5 - “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope, and hope makes us not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us.”
Just as the absence of hope has a destructive effect on us, so too is often the case with false hope. False hope is based on unrealistic expectations - something we'd like to happen but which is ultimately unlikely to, like winning lotto or getting a job for which we either have no skills or which is completely unattainable. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 and 2 Peter 2:1 warn us of the times when people will seek spiritual help from false "teachers" or "prophets" who will offer false hope by telling people what they want to hear, rather than what God is saying to them. At best, false hope leads to disappointment, and at worst it can lead to despair or even loss of faith in God who has apparently let them down by not delivering something hoped for - He gets the blame even though He hadn't promised it in the first place.
What has God given us to hope for?
Big things like our calling, resurrection, eternal life, inheritance!
Hope in God
While we are given exceeding great and precious promises in which to hope, we are also encouraged that it’s even better to hope in the God who has given us those promises.
In Psalm 39:7, David is looking at his life – its shortness, his shortcomings and regrets, etc. But he realises, “And now Lord what am I waiting for? My hope is in you.”
Salvation (and assurance and comfort)
2 Thess 2:13 – “We give thanks always to God for you, brothers beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, whereunto he called you by the gospel to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ – stand fast – now our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God even our Father who has loved us and has given us everlasting consolation and good Hope through Grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.”
1 Thess 5:8 – “But let us who are of the day be sober (watch) putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet, the hope of salvation – for God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. So comfort yourselves together and build up one another.”
Ephesians 1:18 – “that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may KNOW what is the hope of His calling, and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” – all described in chapter 1.
1 Cor 15:17-20 – “If Christ is not raised your faith is vain, you are yet in your sins”. Christ’s resurrection proved He was/is God - that He can save us, and has the power to fulfil His promises. We have hope that there is more than just this life - “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Verse 20: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”
1 Thess 4:13 – “… that you sorrow not, as others who have no hope.”
2 Peter 1:16 – “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
Titus 3:7 – “That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
I Peter 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has birthed us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you!”
We have a lot to look forward to indeed!