Faith, Hope & Love
May 18-22, 2020
Day 1: Adult: Faith, Hope, and Love
READ: 1 Corinthians 13:8–13
The Corinthian church was having trouble with some people thinking certain spiritual gifts were more spiritual than others. Paul spends the whole of chapter 12 explaining that all spiritual gifts are equally important in the body of Christ. In chapter 13, Paul says none of the spiritual gifts mean anything without love. Then he ends by telling them that these spiritual gifts they’re bragging about won’t last into eternity. In heaven, there will be no need for prophecy, speaking in tongues, or spiritual knowledge because we will see God face-to-face. We won’t need supernatural gifts to hear His voice or understand His will because we will be in His very presence and we will “know fully” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
So, what will remain forever? Faith, hope, and love.
Paul tells them that instead of arguing over prophecy and tongues and knowledge, they should focus on developing the lasting spiritual gifts of faith, hope, and love. Different parts of the body have different gifts for their roles in the body, but every believer needs faith, hope, and love.
Faith, hope, and love are inextricably intertwined. They are the motivation behind everything we do as believers. When Paul commended the Thessalonians as a shining example to the rest of the churches across the known world at the time, he said their work was produced by faith, their labor was prompted by love, and their endurance was inspired by hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3). The Thessalonians endured suffering and persecution, and yet they were able to stand strong because of faith, hope, and love.
We are living in difficult times right now too. Sickness and death, job loss and economic instability, fear for our loved ones and uncertainty about what may happen next. If we are going to endure through the next weeks, months, and even years, we are going to have to cling to faith, hope, and love. But before we start beating ourselves up about not having enough faith, being a little short on hope, or not doing a good enough job being loving, let’s remember the context of 1 Corinthians 13—a teaching on spiritual gifts. Faith, hope, and love are not things we try harder to do better, they are gifts given to us by God.
“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God” (1 John 4:7).
If we want more faith, hope, and love, we don’t try harder to do better, we ask God for them (Matthew 7:7–11). We bring our doubt, despair, and selfishness to God and ask Him to give us faith, hope, and love instead. Some days, we may feel like the man who cried out through tears, “Lord, I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). That’s okay. Abiding in Jesus is a daily discipline. And staying connected to Him is how we bear much fruit (John 15:1–9).
To abide in Christ just means to remain, to stay. That’s all you have to do. Stay with Jesus. Cling to Jesus. Cry out to Jesus. Come back to Jesus. He can give you faith that moves mountains, hope that doesn’t disappoint, and love that never fails. So you, too, can endure to the end.
Q: Right now, what is making it hard for you to have faith? Hope? Love?
Q: How can you focus on abiding in Christ today? How about when life goes back to “normal”?
Discipline Practice: Celtic Daily Prayers
The ancient Celts lived hard lives. Because they had to work from dusk till dawn, they didn’t have time for long meditation, prayer, or Bible study. Instead, they made every routine activity an opportunity for prayer. They had prayers for rising in the morning, for getting dressed, for making their bed, for washing their face, and so on throughout the day, including all three persons of the Trinity in each prayer. As they washed their face, for example, they splashed water with each line—“The palmful of the God of life, the palmful of the Christ of love, the palmful of the Spirit of peace, Triune of grace.”
The simplicity of the prayers matched the simplicity of the people. But their faith was living and active, inspiring every moment of their daily life. Prayer was not a formal exercise; it was a state of mind. These were people who really lived under the shadow of God’s wings, sought His help and His wisdom in all things, and truly prayed without ceasing.
Today, to practice abiding in Christ the way the Celts did, say a short prayer over every activity of your day, however mundane or routine. While you brush your teeth, wash your hands, peel the potatoes, mop the floor . . . Your prayer doesn’t have to be eloquent. Just keep it simple. While getting dressed, for example, say, “Thank you, God, that I have clothes to wear. Help me to clothe myself with compassion, humility, and love today.” Practice it throughout your day and see what difference it makes in your heart and your attitude.
Day 1: Family: Faith, Hope, and Love
Q: How would you describe faith, hope, and love? Why do you think those three things are important to have?
READ: 1 Corinthians 13:8–13
Q: Why does Paul say spiritual gifts like tongues and prophesying will one day pass away?
Q: Why are faith, hope, and love the most important things to have?
This book of the Bible is a letter written from the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, the people called the Corinthians. There were a lot of things going on in the church at Corinth that Paul needed to correct. One of them was that some of the people in Corinth were saying they were more spiritual than the rest of the church because they spoke in tongues or heard prophecies or special knowledge from God. Paul told them that everyone in the church is given a different gift by the Holy Spirit and all of them are equally important, even the things that might seem small. He said the church is like a body—some parts are smaller or bigger or have different functions, but the body needs every part to work together to be healthy (1 Corinthians 12). He also tells them that none of the spiritual gifts matter if they don’t have love. Everything we do as Christians should be done in love because God is love (1 Corinthians 13:1–8).
Then he gets to this passage, which kind of seems like a bunch of riddles at first, but they all talk about what things will be like when we get to heaven. Paul says none of the spiritual gifts people were bragging about will last into heaven, because they won’t be needed. We won’t need special knowledge or prophecies from God or a special language to talk to Him because He will be right there with us! We will be all able to talk directly to Him, and we’ll hear His voice perfectly. Paul says it will be like growing from a child into a grown-up. In our lives here on earth, we are like spiritual children. We need the spiritual gifts to draw closer to God, like kids need training wheels on their bike. But when we get to heaven, we can put the “training wheels” behind us because we will be with Him.
None of the spiritual gifts they were bragging about will last into eternity. But Paul says three things will—faith, hope, and love. Those are the things they should be working to develop. In a letter he wrote to the Thessalonian church, Paul talked about faith, hope, and love too. The Thessalonians were going through a time of suffering and persecution, but Paul said they were doing a good job of living out their faith even though their times were hard. He said they were an example to the rest of the churches because of their faith, hope, and love!
READ: 1 Thessalonian 1:2–3.
The Thessalonians weren’t arguing about who was better or bragging about their spiritual gifts. They were serving others in faith, hope, and love. Even though they were going through hard times! We are living in hard times right now too. We need the kind of faith, hope, and love the Thessalonians had. But it may feel really hard to have faith right now, when things seem scary. It may feel hard to have hope, when we don’t know if things will get better. It can even be hard to feel God’s love sometimes these days. But the good news is that we don’t have to try to have faith, hope, and love on our own strength. They are gifts from God (Romans 15:13; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 John 4:7). If we are feeling low on faith, hope, or love, all we have to do is ask Him!
That’s how we can make it through hard times, just like the Thessalonians did—by bringing all our worries, doubts, and fears to God and asking Him to replace them with faith, hope, and love. We may have to do it over and over again every day. That’s okay; that’s normal. Fears and doubts and worries creep in every day. But we can fight them with prayer and God’s Word. We can overcome, just like the Thessalonians did. Do you know what the Bible says about faith, hope, and love?
- Even the smallest amount of faith can move mountains (Matthew 17:20).
- The kind of hope we get through hard times and suffering never disappoints us (Romans 5:5).
- Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).
Faith, hope, and love are what will get us through even the hardest of times. The Bible even promises that God will grow them in us through our suffering. Thank you, Jesus for giving us faith, hope, and love!
OPTIONAL PARENT STORY: Describe a time when God gave you faith, hope, or love in a difficult situation.
ACTIVITY: Create any kind of artwork (painting, drawing, collage, etc.) with these three symbols—a cross for faith, an anchor for hope, and a heart for love.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for giving us faith, hope, and love. Help us to remember to come to you when we are feeling low on faith, hope, or love. Please grow these three things in us through your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
MEMORY VERSE: “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Day 2: Adult: Faith
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith . . .” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
READ: Hebrews 11:1–2 and Matthew 14:22-33
The meaning of the Greek word for faith is not an intellectual belief in a concept or theological argument. It means to trust. It’s not just believing in Jesus but trusting Him enough to follow Him wherever He leads.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Then he describes things the heroes of the Old Testament did by faith. Noah built an ark, Abraham left his home, Moses left Egypt, the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. Faith is not just believing something; it is acting on that belief in the way you live your life. It’s believing God’s promises so much that you blow trumpets as you march around your enemy’s city for seven days, while they mock you from the top of their wall (Joshua 6). This is why James can say, “Faith without deeds is useless” (James 2:20). As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, true faith produces works.
All the superheroes of the faith we read about in the Bible were just ordinary people like you and me. But God gave them strength and power by faith. Hebrews says by faith they conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, escaped the sword, routed foreign armies, and saw the dead raised to life (Hebrews 11:32–35). But they didn’t do those things themselves; God did. They just trusted in what God said and followed Him, even when it sounded crazy to the rest of the world.
But Hebrews also says that some of those heroes were tortured, stoned to death, persecuted and mistreated (Hebrews 11:35–38). By faith, God gave them the power to endure to the end and receive eternal life (James 1:12; Matthew 24:13). Faith doesn’t necessarily promise we will be saved from the fire. Sometimes, God gives us the faith to follow Him into it.
Jesus told His disciples that if they had faith even the size of a mustard seed, they could move mountains (Matthew 17:20). But what about when things get scary, when the storms of life rage all around us? When Jesus was walking on the water to His disciples, there was a violent storm all around Him. Storms on the Sea of Galilee can be fierce, and they usually come up out of nowhere. But Jesus was able to walk on the water through that storm. So Peter, by faith, got out of the boat and started walking on the water to Him, even though the storm raged around him. When we walk by faith, amazing things can happen!
But the text says, “When Peter saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink.” When he looked at the storm, he was afraid. He started to doubt when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the storm. That’s what can happen when we look at all the scary things in the world around us. We can start to lose faith, start to lose hope, we start to sink. We can even start to feel like we’re drowning.
Yet, when Peter started to sink, he knew exactly who to cry out to. “Lord! Save me!” he cried. Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. Immediately. Because Jesus is right there through all of the storms in our lives and He is more powerful than any storm we will ever go through. When Peter started to sink, Jesus was still walking on the water. And as soon as Peter cried out to Him, Jesus reached out and pulled him up out of the raging sea. When we struggle, when we doubt, when we fear, when we worry, when we start to sink, Jesus is right there, waiting to grab hold of us. Immediately. All we have to do is cry out to Him.
Like the old Caedmon’s Call song says, “My faith is like shifting sand, changed by every wave. My faith is like shifting sand, so I stand on grace.” We don’t have to have perfect faith all the time in order to follow Jesus. We all have moments of doubt and fear, just like Peter out there on the sea, no matter how long we’ve been following Jesus—even elders, ministry leaders, and pastors. Faith isn’t just belief. It is choosing to get out of the boat and follow Jesus wherever He leads, even when things are scary. Our faith can be like shifting sand, so we fix our eyes on Jesus, the solid rock, choosing to trust in Him, even while the storms rage.
Q: What fears and doubts are you struggling with right now? How can you fix your eyes on Jesus even in the middle of the storm?
Q: If faith is not just intellectual belief, but trusting and following Jesus, how can you trust Jesus this week? In what ways is He asking you to step out in faith?
Discipline Practice: Nature Walk
A nature walk may be harder for some of us than it is for others, depending on where we are sheltering in place. If you cannot physically get out in nature, search for virtual nature walks on YouTube and take a “walk” on your computer. Nature walks can help us connect with God through His creation. Even secular scientists agree that being in nature is beneficial in reducing stress, anger, and fear and is good for our overall well-being.
The theological purpose of the nature walk is to meditate on what it means to walk by faith. As you walk through God’s creation today, virtually or physically, pray for God to fill you with faith and enable you to walk by trust into whatever situation He has for you.
Day 2: Family: Faith
Q: What does it mean to have trust in someone? What makes a person trustworthy or reliable so you can put your trust in them?
READ: Hebrews 11:1–2 and Matthew 14:22–33
Q: How does Hebrews describe faith?
In the Bible, the word “faith” doesn’t mean just believing in something in your head or saying that you believe in something. It means showing you believe it by the way you live. It doesn’t just mean “believe,” it means “trust.” Like you trust your parents to take care of you, or you trust that your teachers are telling you what is true, or, we trust that the engineers who built a bridge did it right so it won’t collapse into the river when we drive our cars over it!
Hebrews says faith is having confidence in what God has promised us and following what He tells us to do because we trust that what He says is right. If you kept reading that chapter, you would see tons of examples of that from the Old Testament. Noah, who listened to God’s voice and built an ark when everyone around him thought he was crazy. Abraham, who listened to God’s voice and left his whole family and everything he knew to go to the brand new place God told him to go. Joshua, who listened to God’s voice and just walked around Jericho’s walls with his army, blowing trumpets instead of fighting them. And many, many more stories of people who listened to God’s Word and did what He said even though it may have made them look silly to the rest of the world. But what happened with those guys? Noah’s family was saved from the flood, Abraham became the father of many nations, and the walls of Jericho miraculously tumbled down without their army having to fight. When we trust God and follow what He says, amazing things can happen!
Faith isn’t just about what we believe, it’s about what we do. Hebrews says that “by faith” these heroes of the Old Testament did these amazing things. Because faith isn’t just about believing in Jesus, it’s about trusting Him enough to follow Him.
Hebrews also says that some of those Old Testament heroes went through some really hard times. But “by faith” God gave them the strength to endure. Faith doesn’t necessarily promise we will be saved from all the storms of life but that Jesus will carry us through them. Jesus told His disciples that if they had even the tiniest bit of faith, just the size of a mustard seed, they could move mountains (Matthew 17:20). But what about when things get scary, when the storms of life rage all around us? When Jesus was walking on the water to His disciples, there was a terrible storm all around them. Storms on the Sea of Galilee can be fierce, and they usually come up out of nowhere. But Jesus was able to walk on the water through that storm. So Peter, because he had faith in Jesus, got out of the boat and walked toward Him. He was able to walk on water too! When we walk by faith, amazing things can happen!
But then, Peter noticed the wind. He got scared and started to sink. That’s what can happen when we look around at all the scary things in the world around us. We start to lose faith, we start to lose hope, we start to sink. We can even start to feel like we’re drowning.
But you know what? Jesus is right there through all our storms. And He is more powerful than any storm we will ever go through. When Peter started to sink, Jesus was still walking on the water. Because Jesus was stronger than the storm.
And Jesus never left Peter’s side. Jesus was right there beside him. Even though Peter got scared, even though he was sinking, he knew exactly who to call out to. “Lord! Save me!” he cried. And immediately, Jesus reached out His hand and caught Peter and pulled him up out of the raging water.
Whenever we struggle, whenever we have doubt or worry or fear, whenever we start to sink, Jesus is right there, waiting to grab hold of us. Immediately. All we have to do is cry out to Him. When Jesus asked Peter, “Why did you doubt?”, He wasn’t lecturing him for not having enough faith. He was simply saying, “You never need to doubt because I’m right here with you. Always. You can trust in me.”
OPTIONAL PARENT STORY: Describe a time when you were struggling with doubt or fear and God gave you faith.
ACTIVITY: Practice learning what it means to trust in God to take care of us by doing a trust fall with your family. In the same way you have to trust your family to catch you in a trust fall, we have to trust in God to catch us when we fall and pull us up when we start to sink.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for being there for us always, in every storm. Help us to trust in you when life gets scary or hard. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
MEMORY VERSE: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for an assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
Day 3: Adult: Hope
“We remember before our God and Father . . . your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
READ: Hebrews 6:1, 10–20
The hope of Christ is not an “Oh, I hope I win that free trip to Disneyland” kind of a hope. The Greek word for hope means “a joyful and confident expectation,” not a wish or a dream. The hope of Christ is an expectant hope. We don’t wish Christ would bring us peace, joy, love, contentment, and eternal life, we know He will. And because we know He will, we have hope in the future.
The world’s idea of hope is like Susan really hoping John will ask her to marry him. Biblical hope is like John and Susan are already engaged and have set a date. She knows it’s going to happen. With a biblical kind of hope, Susan isn’t just dreaming about her wedding day, she’s planning for it. Ordering flowers, buying a dress, writing vows. The difference is the promise John made to her. She believes that promise because he loves her, and he is trustworthy. Jesus has made a promise to us. And He loves us and is trustworthy, so we can have expectant hope.
The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to have endurance, to be diligent to the very end and says they can do this because of hope in what has been promised (Hebrews 6:10–11). Those who have faith will wait with confidence in what has been promised, in expectant hope. They know the promise will be fulfilled; it’s just a matter of time. We can have confidence in His promises because “it is impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18). This hope in the future promise of salvation is what encourages us in the difficulties of this life and gives us the strength to endure (Hebrews 6:19–20). When life gets hard and the days seem bleak, when we aren’t sure if things will ever get better, we can have hope. There is a God, there is a plan, there is a purpose for all that is happening. Most importantly, there is a happy ending. No matter what happens here on this earth, our hope is in heaven—that glorious inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade (1 Peter 1:4). Our hope is not in the things of this world but in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:12–19).
The writer of Hebrews calls this hope “an anchor for our souls.” This is what keeps our faith firm in every doubt and storm. As the words to the old hymn say, “When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.” In ancient times, the anchor was regarded as a symbol of safety, and Christians adopted it as a symbol of hope in God’s promise of a future kingdom of safety and peace.
When you think about an anchor, though, it’s not the anchor itself that keeps the ship still and safe. It is what the ship is anchored to. The anchor is just the go-between. For the anchor to work, it has to attach to a large rock, foundation, or seabed. An anchor just drifting through the water doesn’t do anything. In the same way, it is not our hope that keeps us firm, still, and at peace. It is what—or Who—we put our hope in. Hope only works if we are hoping in the solid rock of Jesus.
What we put our hope in matters. Paul told Timothy to instruct “those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). Putting your hope in riches is a wishful-thinking kind of hope. Not only should you not trust in riches, you cannot trust in riches. You can lose it all in the blink of the stock market ticker. Money itself is not bad, but you can’t put your hope in it. Like everything else in this world, it is fleeting, temporary. It will not last into eternity. But putting your hope in Jesus is expectant hope. It’s secure. The only firm and secure hope is Jesus, the Rock to which we hook our anchor.
The anchor is a small piece of metal—much, much smaller than the ship it holds. But it can hold a ship because it is lodged securely into the rocks at the bottom of the sea. Jesus isn’t the anchor. He is the rock. The anchor is our hope. Our hope is a small thing, a somewhat fragile thing. But if it is lodged firmly in the Rock, it can hold us steady through any storm.
Q: Be honest in reflecting on your own life. What things, other than God, have you been putting your hope in?
Q: How does it make you feel to hear that our hope is not in this world but in heaven?
Q: How can putting our hope in Christ and His promises help us endure to the end, no matter what happens?
Discipline Practice: Bible Study
When we feel like the world is falling apart all around us, and the things we have put our hope in have failed us, we have to turn to Scripture to find real hope. One of the best ways to do that is to immerse ourselves in what the Bible has to say about the hope we have in heaven and the spiritual promises of love, peace, and abundant life God gives us for this life.
Using an online concordance, search for passages about hope, heaven, and our inheritance. Search for “spiritual riches” or “spiritual blessings.” Search for fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Look up what Jesus says about “abundant life” in John 10:10 and see if there are cross references to any other passages (pro tip: New American Standard Bible has the best cross-references). Pray for the Spirit to guide your study and let the cross-references lead you into a deeper, richer understanding of the hope we have in Christ. Look at what the Bible has to say throughout the whole witness of Scripture, Genesis to Revelation, and pray for God to fill you with hope.
Day 3: Family: Hope
Q: What does it mean to have hope in something? What kind of things do you hope for?
READ: Hebrews 6:1, 10–20
Q: According to Hebrews, what is it about God that tells us we can have hope in His promises?
Q: How can hope in God’s promises help us to endure through hard times?
The book of Hebrews was written for Jewish Christians who grew up hearing the stories of the Old Testament, so it uses a lot of stories and laws from the Old Testament to talk about Jesus. In this passage, the writer of Hebrews talks about Abraham again, just like in the passage we studied yesterday. Here, he uses the fact that God kept His promises to Abraham to show us that we can have hope in the promises God has made to us.
In the Bible, hope isn’t wishful thinking. It’s not like, “Oh, I really hope I get that special toy for Christmas!” That kind of hope isn’t a guarantee. We may get it; we may not.
Hebrews says the biblical kind of hope, the hope we have in Jesus, is secure. It is firm. It is a hope we have in something that has been promised to us. Instead of just wishing you could get that special toy for Christmas, biblical hope is like knowing your parents have already bought the toy online. You know it’s coming. You just have to wait for it. That’s what the Bible means by hope. It’s not just wishful thinking, it’s a confident expectation.
Hebrews says we can have confidence in God’s promises because “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). We can trust in God’s promises because He is trustworthy. Let’s go back to the example of your parents buying the toy again. What if you didn’t actually see them make the order, but they promised you they ordered it. If your parents aren’t very trustworthy, if they lie to you a lot, you might not believe them. But if they usually tell the truth, and you know they love you, you would never even doubt the toy was on its way to your house, would you?
God is even more trustworthy than the best parents in the world. He doesn’t just usually tell the truth; He always tells the truth! It is not even possible for Him to tell a lie! And He loves us even more than even our parents do, which is almost unimaginable. That’s why we can have confident hope in His promises—because He cannot lie and He loves us.
Hebrews says our hope is like an anchor to our souls. It keeps our faith firm through every doubt and storm. Like we said yesterday about faith, sometimes, when things get hard, when the storms start to rage all around us, we can start to lose faith. We can start to lose hope too. But remember, Jesus is always there. He is stronger than the storm. We just need to anchor ourselves to Him.
An anchor is just a pretty small piece of metal (compared to a boat or a ship) tied to a rope attached to the boat that keeps it still and safe. The anchor doesn’t really do anything. It has to be hooked into something strong. Think about it. You could throw out your anchor, but if it’s just drifting through the water, it won’t keep you still and safe. For an anchor to work, it has to attach to a large rock, foundation, or seabed. The anchor isn’t that strong; it’s the rock that’s strong! It’s not the anchor holding the ship steady; it’s the rock. The anchor is just clinging onto the rock.
In the same way, it’s not our hope that keeps us safe in the storm. It’s who we hope in—Jesus, our solid rock. Our hope works because we put our hope in Jesus, who is stronger than the storm, who doesn’t lie, and who loves us even more than our parents do! Sometimes our hope can feel small and unsteady, but Jesus is always our firm foundation. He is always strong. He is always steady. We just need to cling to Him. Our hope can feel like a small thing, but if it’s lodged firmly in the Rock, it can hold us steady through any storm.
OPTIONAL PARENT STORY: Describe a time when you felt like you had lost hope, but you turned to Jesus and He renewed your hope.
ACTIVITY: Gather a paper towel, a cookie sheet, and a water gun. Choose one kid to hold the paper towel against their chest as a “shield” and one to hold the cookie sheet against their chest as a “shield.” Have a parent shoot both kids with the water gun. Talk about how putting our hope in things other than Jesus is like hoping that the paper towel will keep you safe from the water gun. But trusting in Jesus is like trusting the cookie sheet to protect us from the water gun. We can put our hope in Christ because He is strong and He loves us.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for your promises of spiritual riches in this life and eternal life with you in heaven. Help us to know that we can put our hope in you. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
MEMORY VERSE: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).
Day 4: Adult: Love
“We remember before our God and Father . . . your labor prompted by love” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
READ: 1 Corinthians 13:1–8
Paul says love is the greatest of the three things that remain. Faith gives us the strength to follow Jesus through the storm. Hope gives us the confidence to endure to the end. But love undergirds it all. When Paul told the Corinthians to stop arguing about which spiritual gift was more important, he ended that chapter with, “I will show you the most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). Then he proceeded to write a whole chapter about love. Paul said none of the religious stuff or the good works we do matters if we don’t have love. For believers, love must undergird everything we do, because our God is love.
Jesus said the two most important commandments were to love God and to love others (Matthew 22:37–40). These two commands are connected because God is love (1 John 4:8). You can’t say you love God if you don’t love others (1 John 4:20), and you can’t really love others the way God does if you don’t love Him, because love comes from God (1 John 4:7).
Of course, people who don’t know Jesus can love other people on a human level. Because we are made in the image of God, all human beings love. But the kind of love the Bible calls us to is a unique God-level love that is only possible through the Holy Spirit. There are lots of words for different kinds of love in Greek, but the two used in the Bible are “phileo” and “agape.” Phileo is the natural love you have for friends or family. Agape is a selfless, generous love without any expectation of repayment. It is used for the love of God (whom you could never repay) and love for the poor (who could never repay you).
The Bible does not hold phileo up as an ideal. It is a natural love you don’t really have to try to have, you just do. But agape love is supernatural. It only comes from God. Agape love is when you love someone who drives you crazy, someone who’s hurt you, someone you would otherwise hate. Agape is what you need to love someone when things get hard, when you disagree, when there is brokenness. Agape is when you forgive someone who has wronged you even if they aren’t sorry, when you serve someone without getting anything out of it for yourself. Agape is a completely other-focused love, a voluntary giving of yourself to others. A love that doesn’t demand anything but only seeks the welfare of others. The love of an innocent man who dies for the guilty, even His enemies (Romans 5:8).
This description of agape in 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t meant to be exhaustive. This particular list speaks directly to some of the particular things that were going on in Corinth. They were being impatient and provoking each other to anger. They were being arrogant and boasting and seeking their own way. This list is intentional and specific, but each of these things describe a love that puts others first—agape love. These are just some of the ways in which the Corinthians were not putting other people first. There may be other ways we struggle with agape love for others.
The list does not describe how love feels about another person but what love does. Like Paul told the Thessalonians, their labor was prompted by love. Because love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice you make to love someone even when they aren’t being lovable. But realize, too, that love is a fruit of the Spirit, something the Spirit grows in us over time. It’s not something we just try harder to do better. Agape only comes from God through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is how we should be loving others, because we know God, because His Spirit dwells in us. Try putting your name in that verse and see if it works.
“______________ is patient. ______________ is kind. ______________ does not envy…”
If it doesn’t fit so well, don’t beat yourself up about not being “good enough” at loving other people. Ask the Spirit to grow His fruit of love in you. Like fruit, love is something that grows in us over time. An apple tree can take two to ten years to bear fruit. Be patient with yourself and keep praying for God’s Spirit to work in you.
The version of love Paul describes was such a stark contrast to the world around the Corinthians, it had to speak volumes to them. It is truly “the most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). Because agape love is so unusual, so unnatural, so different from the phileo love we see in the world, Jesus said when we love this way, people will take notice and give glory to God (Matthew 5:43–48). They will see something different about us.
This is how the world will know we are followers of Jesus, by our radical, selfless love for others (John 13:35). This is ultimately what it means to be a follower of Jesus—to love others the way He did (John 13:34). Agape love is central to all we do as believers. Everything we do must be done out of self-sacrificing, agape love for our family, our friends, our neighbors, and even our enemies. May we be known for our love in our workplaces, our schools, our families, our city, on the internet, and throughout the world—so much so that people take notice and ask us about it. May people look at us and say, “Those are people who love– with radical selflessness. I want to be loved that way too.”
Q: Which of these qualities of love is more of a struggle for you than others? What spiritual disciplines can you practice to help develop those qualities in you, besides just asking God for those qualities?
Q: How can you show selfless agape love to someone today, even if you are sheltering in place? How can you love someone the way Jesus loves you?
Spiritual Discipline: Sacrifice
Wait a minute, you might be thinking. Aren’t we already making a whole lot of sacrifices right now? But the spiritual discipline of sacrifice is intentionally making a sacrifice for another person. Agape love is a love that puts others’ needs ahead of our own, that lays down our life for others.
What sacrifice can you make today out of love for another person? How can you put someone else’s needs ahead of your own, whether it is a neighbor or even someone in your own family? How can you show someone the kind of self-sacrificing love Jesus showed you?
Day 4: Family: Love
Q: How would you describe what it means to love someone? What are some things that other people do for you that make you feel loved?
READ: 1 Corinthians 13:1–8
Q: If you had to summarize all these qualities of love in one phrase or sentence, what would you say?
Q: Why is it so important for people who follow Jesus to love other people?
In today’s passage, we’re right back in the same part of the letter to the Corinthians that we talked about on Day 1, where Paul tells the Corinthians that all the spiritual gifts they’re bragging about don’t matter if they don’t have love. Then he describes what love is like.
Love is the greatest of the three things that remain because God is love. This is kind of a hard concept for kids (or even for adults!) to understand, but the Bible says God is not just loving—He doesn’t just show love to people—He is love (1 John 4:16). That means if we know God, if we have God’s Holy Spirit living in our hearts, we will have love in our hearts and show love to other people—all other people. The apostle John said you can’t say you love God if you don’t show love for other people (1 John 4:20). If you are not showing this kind of love to other people, the Holy Spirit may not really be living in your heart. Or at least, you aren’t letting Him rule in your heart, because God is love.
The kind of love Paul talks about here in Corinthians is a special, God-level of love that only comes from Him. All human beings love each other on a basic level because we were all created by God, and He put that love in us. Everyone loves their family and their friends, whether they have a relationship with God or not. But this kind of love is a special God-level of love that only comes from having a relationship with Him and having the Holy Spirit live inside you.
The Bible uses different words to talk about these two kinds of love, phileo and agape. Phileo love is a natural love you don’t really have to try to have, you just do. Everyone loves their family and friends. Everybody loves people who are nice to them. The special God-level of love Paul is talking about here is called agape. Agape love is not natural. It’s supernatural. Supernatural means “super” natural—more than what is natural, better than what is natural. Agape is a selfless, generous love that loves other people without expecting anything in return, like giving to the poor, knowing they could never pay you back. It is based in the kind of love God showed for us, because we could never pay Him back for all He has done for us!
When we look at the list in 1 Corinthians 13, we notice two main things about it. First, the qualities are all things love does, not how love feels. Because agape love isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice you make to love someone. It’s not just saying you love them but showing it through your actions. It’s choosing to love someone even when they aren’t being very lovable. Agape love isn’t just loving your friends and family. It’s loving someone who annoys you, someone you don’t really love to be around, even someone who has been mean to you or hurt you. Even someone you might consider your enemy, someone you would otherwise hate if you weren’t a follower of Jesus. Agape love is choosing to show love to that person whether they deserve it or not. Because God loves us when we don’t deserve it.
Second, the things in the list all describe ways you put other people ahead of yourself. Agape love is sacrificing yourself to help others. Putting other people’s needs ahead of your own, just like Jesus did for us. Agape love is a completely other-focused love, a voluntary giving of yourself to others. A love that doesn’t demand anything but only seeks the welfare of others. A love that serves.
This love is really hard to do. As you get older, you will see more and more how hard it is to love someone who has hurt you and to live a life of service out in the world where most people just live for themselves and their own happiness. If we look at this list, we might think, but I’m not very patient! I try to get my own way all the time! Don’t be discouraged. God has promised that if we walk by His Spirit, He will grow this kind of love in us over time. He compares it to a fruit, which starts out as a seed that grows into a tree that finally produces fruit. It can take a very long time to grow. Every year that we walk by the Spirit, this kind of supernatural love will come more naturally for us.
OPTIONAL PARENT STORY: Describe a time when you really struggled to love someone and how God helped you to show them love anyway.
ACTIVITY: Brainstorm together how you can love someone in a selfless way this week. It may be doing something for one another, or it may be serving someone in your community. It may simply be showing more patience with one another or not demanding your own way. Choose one concrete thing and then pray for God to give you the strength and love to do it.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for your incredible, selfless love for us. Thank you for making the ultimate sacrifice for us because of your great love. Help us to love other people the way you have loved us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
MEMORY VERSE: “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8a).
Day 5: Adult: These Three Remain
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
READ: Psalm 33:16–22
This psalm rejoices in the faith, hope, and love that only come from the Lord. “We wait in hope for the Lord … for we trust in his holy name … May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you” (Psalm 33:20–22). There are many places in Scripture where faith, hope, and love are intertwined. The three are inextricably linked. You cannot have faith without hope or hope without faith, and both our faith and our hope are anchored in the unfailing love of God.
In Romans, Paul writes that “having been justified by faith … we exult in the hope of the glory of God … and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1–5, NASB). Faith leads to hope that does not disappoint us because of the love God has poured out by the Holy Spirit.
But do you know what verses come in between those verses, where the little ellipses are?
READ Romans 5:3–4
Wait, what? I thought we were rejoicing in the hope, faith, and love of God. What is this? Tribulations? Really, God? If I’m suffering, you want me to be happy about it? Slap on a smile and act like this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me?
No, this isn’t a command to put on a happy face through our suffering. Jesus wept when His friend Lazarus died, even though He knew He was about to raise Him. He was deeply moved in His spirit. The word translated as “deeply moved” means to snort with anger (John 11:33–35). The psalms show us that God welcomes our laments. He invites us to be honest and raw and real about suffering instead of being phony and sweeping it under the rug. The psalms are the prayers of a hopeful realist. They are honest about suffering, but also confident of where hope is found—in the Lord. Paul doesn’t tell us to put on a happy face. He tells us we can rejoice because of what our suffering leads to—endurance, character, and hope.
Paul doesn’t tell us to rejoice about the suffering but to rejoice in the suffering. Because God will always use it for good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28). Because of what suffering produces in us. Remember we said on Day 1 that faith, hope, and love are gifts of God? Like the fruit of the Spirit, God grows and develops them in our lives as we walk with Him. And suffering is one of the biggest ways He does that. Suffering shakes us up, peels away all that distracts us from God, and refines us like fire refines gold, making us more and more like Jesus. C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
- Suffering develops faith in us, teaching us to trust in God rather than our circumstances.
- Suffering develops hope in us, teaching us to hope in God’s promises rather than the things of this world.
- Suffering develops love in us, as we cling to God’s love in the midst of all of the uncertainty.
There’s a mysterious, other-worldly inner strength that comes from suffering in Christ. Those who can rejoice in suffering are the ones who understand and embrace the values of the kingdom of God—that holiness is more important than happiness, and character is more important than comfort.
Read: Romans 5:5
Romans says God’s love is poured out on us. This is a present reality. Not it has been or will be. It is poured out. Without the love God has poured out on us through His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), our faith becomes naivete and our hope becomes wishful thinking. But because we know God loves us, we can have faith and hope no matter what suffering or struggle comes our way. We can join with the psalmist in saying:
Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. …
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. (Psalm 33:1, 16–22)
Q: How is this time of suffering developing faith, hope and love in you?
Q: How can you share your faith, hope, and love with others who are struggling right now?
Spiritual Discipline Practice: Godly Suffering
When we talk about spiritual disciplines, we like to think of things we add to our lives. Rhythms, practices, prayers. Maybe it’s painting or journaling, time spent wandering a trail in nature, or a different way of allocating our time. Regardless of the method, the goal is the same—to connect with God. Other times, the rhythms we find are unexpected. Sometimes God allows unexpected suffering to interrupt our lives, forcing us to connect with Him. As we said, suffering is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
To practice suffering as a discipline today, spend some time in prayer, naming all the things that you are struggling with right now. Any way you are suffering. Even if it feels silly, like you can’t get your morning coffee from your favorite place. No suffering is too small or too big. Pour out all your sufferings before God in prayer and give them to Him as an offering. Lay those sufferings at His feet and ask Him to fill you with His faith, hope, and love. Close your time by praying the quote from Psalm 33 (above), committing to trust and hope in the Lord.
Day 5: Family: These Three Remain
Q: Now that we have learned all about faith, hope, and love, how do you think these three things are connected?
READ: Psalm 33:16–22
Q: Why does this psalm say we can’t put our hope and trust in armies or horses or our own strength?
Q: Why is it a joyful thing to wait for the Lord?
This psalm rejoices in the faith, hope, and love that only come from the Lord.
“We wait in hope for the Lord . . .
for we trust in His holy name . . .
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you” (Psalm 33:20–22).
There are many other places in Scripture where faith, hope, and love are linked together. They are the three things that are the basis of our walk with Jesus. We walk by faith because we have hope in the promises of God, because of His great love for us. Though the greatest of these is love, you really can’t have any of these three without the others. Another place where we see these three things together is in Paul’s letter to the Romans:
“Having been justified by faith . . . we exult in the hope of the glory of God . . . and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1–5 NASB).
Again, Paul describes how these three things are linked together. You can’t have faith without hope or hope without faith and love binds it all together. But do you know what comes between those verses, where those three little periods are? When you put three little periods together like that in a quote from the Bible or any other book, it means you skipped over a part of it. What? You skipped over part of the Bible?! Sometimes we do that because a quote is too long, and we just want to hit the highlights of it. Here, we skipped over this one part on purpose, for effect. So you would go back and read the part in the middle more carefully. Paul is writing all about faith, hope, and love, and he says they are exulting in them, rejoicing in them. But right there in the middle of all of that, Paul says something that can be pretty surprising if you don’t understand where faith, hope, and love come from and how they work together. So let’s go back and read together:
“We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings . . .” (Romans 5:2b–3a ESV).
Whoa. Suffering? What? I thought we were rejoicing in the faith, hope, and love that come from God here! Where does suffering come into that? God, are you saying you want me to be happy about my suffering? No, God doesn’t tell us to just put on a happy face and act like everything is okay when it’s not. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus cried when He got sad. He even got angry and drove the moneychangers out of the temple. If we read the psalms, we see that God wants us to be honest with Him about our feelings, to pour out every emotion to Him in prayer. But to end all our prayers in hope and trust and love, like Psalm 33 does. We may not understand what’s going on, and we may be hurting, but we choose to trust that God has a plan, that He is good, and that He loves us. Paul isn’t telling us to put on a happy face. He’s telling us we can rejoice even in our suffering because of what happens through it:
“Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope . . .” (Romans 5:3–4 ESV)
Paul isn’t telling us to rejoice about our sufferings, but to rejoice in our suffering, because God will always use it for good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28). God uses suffering to grow faith, hope, and love in us. Most grown-ups will tell you that it was in the hardest times in their lives that they grew the most spiritually. This is the promise God has for us in this difficult time. God doesn’t ever make bad things happen to us. God cannot do evil because He is only good (James 1:13; 1 John 1:5). But God always takes the bad things that happen to us and makes good out of them (Romans 8:28).
OPTIONAL PARENT STORY: Describe a time when something bad happened to you and God worked it out for your good and grew you spiritually through it.
ACTIVITY: Make homemade cards with the theme of faith, hope, and love for family, friends, or people in a nursing home or the hospital. If you can’t physically send them because of germs or distancing, take a picture and email or text them to encourage people that they can have faith and hope because God loves them.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for growing your faith, hope, and love in us. Thank you for your incredible ability to take the bad things in our lives and work them out for our good. Please be with all of those around the world who are suffering right now and show them your love. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
MEMORY VERSE: “May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you” (Psalm 33:22).