Vibrant Faith, Hope, and Love

My friend James is hospitalized with COVID, his medical history perhaps heightening his susceptibility to the virus. His pain level upon coughing has been a 7 to 9 on a scale of 10; fortunately, this is improving a bit. But to all the medical professionals who tend to him (including caregivers from Thailand, Philippines, Morocco, Nigeria, and, of course, the US), James’ top priority is to honor them for who they are and to affirm them for what they do. “I tell them that, in [my hospital room], you are a person first.” For James has come to realize that, while the staff is there to help him, he also must “be ready when called upon to offer encouragement to [them, even if] through . . . suffering.”

Where does such a heart—this others-first focus—come from? I believe it is the outward overflow of an inner freedom that pours forth in joy when we accept and rest in the fact that God knows us individually, loves us personally, and cleanses us from all our sin. This is “truth that sets [us] free.”1 The apostle James stated it most simply: “We love because [God] first loved us.”2 Such love is not an obligatory burden to bear impossibly in our flesh, but a joyful emancipation to live out fruitfully in the Spirit. It is that for which Paul commended the Thessalonian church: “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.3 Faith, hope and love—spiritual growth and meaningful impact are rooted in these.

Yet if we affirm this triumvirate merely in the abstract, as if nodding academically to tenets of a creed, we miss the point. For vibrant faith, hope, and love are more than conceptual; they are relational. Exhorted the writer of Hebrews, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience . . . Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”4 By God’s grace, no matter where we are, even if in a hospital bed, we can “be ready when called upon” to reach others in faith, hope, and love.

Father, draw me close to You today, that You would speak and I would hear. Lead me to where You want me to share the faith, hope, and love that are found in You. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 John 8:32
2 1 John 4:19
3 1 Thessalonians 1:3
4 Hebrews 10:22-24


Happiness in a New Year

Happy New Year to you, dear readers. “Happiness” for us who believe in Christ Jesus does not depend upon our external circumstances or getting “our way,” rather, true happiness rests in the inner assurance that we are individually known, loved, and forgiven by the Creator of all things, who at great cost has purchased us to be His own sons and daughters. It peers above our circumstances, be they good or bad, and locks its gaze onto something far higher and incomparably better—forever life in Christ, already begun through the birth of His Spirit in us. So, I say again, good friends, Happy New Year to you.

What will this year bring to us? We celebrate January 1 as something of a relief—new hope clinging to new beginnings. Which is to say we ring in 2022 with the same optimism with which we greeted 2021 and 2020 before that. But by now we know that world peace does not come with the turn of a calendar page, nor do disasters cease when our annual countdowns reach midnight. We will have good times in the months to come, certainly, and yet among them there will be good-byes, as well. We cannot control these things; we can only respond to them and persevere. So perhaps we do well to ask ourselves a different question from now on . . .

What will we bring to this year? As God knows everything about us and calls us His friends,1 can we grow as relational givers who listen openly in order to know others better? Can we be friends who “love at all times” and be there for people in their “times of adversity,” regardless of our inconvenience?2 Can we who have been so graciously forgiven likewise “bear with each other and forgive one another,3 letting go of our rights against others for their wrongs against us? Perhaps 2022 really can be a happier new year—that which comes from being vessels through whom God brings hope and happiness to those who cannot find it in a fallen world. This is what I hope for myself; this is what I hope for you. Happy New Year, good friends.

Father, turn my focus to upward to You and outward to others. This is what I want. Thank you for hearing my plea. You are good. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 John 15:15
2 Proverbs 17:17
3 Colossians 3:13


Step into Hope

One of my favorite leadership/management books is “The 4 Disciplines of Execution.” When in their research the authors asked corporate leaders around the world what they studied more in business school—strategy or execution—the immediate and overwhelming response was, “Strategy!” But when these same executives were asked which of the two they struggled with more, they answered with a resounding, “Execution!” The book, then, does a wonderful job addressing the crucial yet largely neglected topic of executing a plan in pursuit of a vision.

Biblical hope carries visionary overtones: it is not merely a wish, nor does it harbor doubt, rather it is the confident expectation of good, regardless of circumstance. Though based in what we cannot see, hope in Christ is nevertheless “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”1 Alive in Him and by His grace, we eagerly and boldly live this life with spiritual eyes set on “the hope of salvation,”2 “the hope of the resurrection from the dead,”3 “the hope of eternal life,”4 and of the “hope of glory.”5 And we know that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”6

Faith, then, is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.7 It has an action or “execution” connotation to it, for after defining faith, the writer of Hebrews walks us, his readers, through a “Hall of Faith”—men and women who acted on what they could not see yet knew to be true. We read of Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses and others, who “saw [the things promised] and welcomed them from a distance.”8 Through faith, they “conquered kingdoms, administered justice . . .  became powerful in battle . . . received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.”9 What did these and others in this Biblical “Who’s Who” of doers share in common? They stepped into their hope through actions of faith. Of these standard-bearers of belief, the writer of letter to the Hebrews said simply, “The world was not worthy of them.”10

Then like so many who have gone before us, may we also be “remembered for [our] work produced by faith, [our] labor prompted by love, and [our] endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.11

Father, You have poured out your love into our hearts through the sure and certain hope we find in Christ Jesus. Inspire us in Your love and strengthen us in this hope, that we would in faith carry out the good works You have planned for us today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

1 Hebrews 6:19 ESV
2 1 Thessalonians 5:8
3 Acts 23:6
4 Titus 3:7
5 Colossians 1:17
6 Romans 5:5 NASB
7 Hebrews 11:1
8 Hebrews 11:13
9 Hebrews 11:33-35
10 Hebrews 11:38
11 1 Thessalonians 1:3