Faith, Hope and Love as We Wait
May 15, 2016
Once upon a time in a land far away, there was a church in the town of Colossae. Now Colossae was just a small town nestled in a valley known for its figs and olives and sheep’s wool. But it was located in a significant part of the world where east met west. The Colossian people saw many cultures and religions go through their homelands. And the Colossian church was affected by much of it.
For the Colossian church began to drift away from the Lord Jesus Christ. They were captivated by human philosophies and man-made traditions that promised spiritual maturity. They they felt disqualified by others who judged them for not looking like good Christians and not doing what good Christians ought to do. They became more and more earthly and less and less heavenly. And their relationships at home and at work grew dark.
Now there was a man who served and led the Colossian church. And his name was Epaphras. Epaphras traveled to the city of Rome and met a fellow worker and a dear friend who was in chains - the Apostle Paul. Paul listened to Epaphras’ report about the situation at Colossae and he responded with a letter, the beginning of which we have read today. This letter is a special one. It is a letter written by a man in chains. A letter to a church that was enslaved. A letter about a savior who is second to none. Paul’s letter to the Colossians is pound for pound and verse for verse arguably the most Christological and Christ-centered portion of the Bible. Paul’s letter was for drifters. It was for those who felt disqualified. It was for those who were way too “down-to-earth.” It was for those who had dark relationships. But while Paul’s letter was written to the Colossians, God’s Word is relevant for us today, as we wait for the return of Christ and as we endure a world that is passing away.
At the end of the book of Genesis, and at the end of his life in Egypt, Joseph did something that would eventually be celebrated as his greatest moment. For at the end of his life in Egypt, he gathered his brothers and all the sons of Israel and he said to them these words: “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” And then Joseph died in Egypt. He was 110 years old.
Why was this Joseph’s greatest moment? The answer is simple. Joseph died with faith and hope and love. With faith, Joseph believed in God’s promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. With hope, Joseph closed his eyes on earth with full assurance and conviction that he would one day open them again to behold the resurrection and the life. And with love that grew out of such faith and hope, Joseph loved and forgave his brothers who did evil toward him. For when they fell down before him with fear and trembling, Joseph wept! And he said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Joseph had faith, hope, and love.
I cannot help but think about Ruth and her greatest moment of faith, hope, and love. For when her mother-in-law Naomi decided to call it quits on the family and give up on life and just go home, Ruth clung to her. With faith, Ruth, who was a foreigner to Israel and to the people of God, said to Naomi, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.” With hope, Ruth, who lost her husband and was as good as dead as a widow, was not swayed by Naomi’s hopelessness and bitterness. With love, Ruth clung to Naomi. And the rest, if you know how the story goes, is history.
Ruth, Joseph, and all the saints in the past had faith, hope, and love. They were not perfect. They were not without sin. But they had faith and hope and love. They had these three big things - three wonderful and simple but tried-and-true qualities of the Christian life.
Brothers and sisters, Paul always thanked God that the Colossian church had the same three things that made Joseph and Ruth great: faith, hope, and love. “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” What wonderful words to hear about a church! There is no greater compliment than this.
And that is because there is no greater gospel than this! We have faith. We are not saved and forgiven by our own works. We are saved and forgiven by the work of Christ. All we need to do is to put our faith in Him. There is no greater gospel than this. We have hope. We have an assurance and a conviction of resurrection life after death. We have the guarantee of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We look forward to a better country, to the coming kingdom of the Lord, and to a new heavens and a new earth. There is no greater gospel than this. We have love. Our hearts are miraculously changed and we become more and more loving toward others as we mature in Christ. We are able to forgive others. We are motivated to serve others. There is no greater gospel than this.
Brothers and sisters, let us be a church with faith, hope, and love. Let us not drift away from Christ. Let us not draw near to human philosophies or man-made traditions for our spiritual maturity. Let us not judge each other or disqualify one another when we ought not to. Let us not become more earthly and less heavenly. Let us not have our love fade away. Instead, let us be a church of good quality. Let us be a church with faith in Christ Jesus, a love for all the saints, and a hope laid up for us in heaven, as we wait for the return of Christ and as we endure a world that is passing away.