These Three

By Tim Sullivan

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three...
(1 Corinthians 13:13a)

When a man steps behind the church pulpit to address his congregation, most times he brings with him his Bible, and most times he makes sure you see it. He also brings his notes, although he usually try to hide those from view. He also brings things you cannot see – his education, his experiences, and all the things that make him what and who he is. He brings to the pulpit his theology; his perspective on truth. He brings with him all the truth he has learned so far. He also brings to the pulpit all the things he himself believes that are not really true. But that is part of the burden of teaching. If I had to wait until I had all the answers before I stepped behind the pulpit, I would never take that walk. But I know that my job is not to lead you to ME. My duty is to lead you to CHRIST. He is the one with the answers (the correct ones!) to all our questions.

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” In my Christian experience, I have learned that the more difficult a doctrine is to comprehend, the less likely it is true. 2 Corinthians 1:12 teaches us that true testimony is “in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God.” It is the work of Satan to corrupt the minds of men from the simplicity that is in Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:3:
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

True Christianity is not expressed in complicated theologies and doctrines. In its purest form, Christianity can be summed up in three words: faith, hope and charity.

1 Corinthians 13:13
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.


For too many people, faith is something mysterious. Mystery gives birth to superstition, and superstition leads to fear - the complete opposite of faith. But true faith is simple. It is the link between where you are now and where God wants you to be.

Hebrews 11:1a:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for.

In chemistry class you learn about something called a catalyst. A catalyst causes a reaction, like a cup of vinegar poured onto a pile of baking soda. Faith is a catalyst. If the Word of God is to be beneficial to you, it must be mixed with faith.

Hebrews 4:2:
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

Prayer mixed with faith brings desired results.

Mark 11:24:
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

Of course, the concept "believe that ye receive" has been gravely misinterpreted. Faith is the catalyst for manifesting God's will for our lives, but if it were not for God's power, faith would be meaningless - like vinegar without the baking soda. God answers prayer of faith that are offered in accordance to his will.

1 John 5:14 (emphasis added):
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, he heareth us:

This is how Jesus taught us to pray.

Matthew 6:9-10 (emphasis added):
9: After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10: Thy kingdom come. THY WILL BE DONE in earth, as it is in heaven.

When we get honest about it, we have to admit that a lot of our praying has been along the line of "MY will be done." The apostle James spoke very plainly about this misstep.

James 4:13-15:
13: Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
14: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
15: For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

What we have called our prayer life is often nothing more than wishful thinking. We pray for what we want to see happen, like the poor fellow scratching off his lottery tickets, moaning to himself, “Please! Please!” Only those who truly trust God pray “THY WILL BE DONE.”

Before we start asking God for this thing or that, it is good to acknowledge that his perspective and wisdom is far beyond our own. As the old TV show declared, "Father Knows Best"!

Isaiah 55:8-9:
8: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9: For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

So where does faith come from? Some people mistakenly believe that faith is something you must produce on your own. Maybe this is why some people look like they are in pain when they pray, like they are trying to conjure up something by the power of their own will. I am reminded of the psychic who claimed to be able to bend spoons with his mind. But true faith is not the result of human effort.

Lamentations 3:37:
Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?

Matthew 6:27:
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

To find faith, you must find Christ. He gives us the power to believe.

John 1:11-12:
11: He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12: But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Romans 12:3:
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

You can’t increase your faith by thinking about having faith any more than you increase your peace by thinking about peace.

Isaiah 26:3:
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Faith does not have to be a struggle. Faith comes through surrendering your will to God's. Faith is the light of God shining upon you. Meditate on Christ, and he will bring you peace. Meditate on Christ and he will give you faith. Without him, we can do nothing.


In our modern vernacular, we use the word "hope" when speaking of things we want to happen but are not certain about: "I hope you get that job you applied for." But biblically, we don’t hope for what we want to happen; we hope for what we know will happen. Our hope is in a blessed eternity with Christ.

Titus 1:2:
In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

This hope gives us a different perspective on our everyday struggles.

Romans 8:18:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.


It seems like preachers are always yelling about this or that. Part of this, I believe, is because they want you to see the seriousness of what we are talking about. Other times they show their frustration in a seeming lack of results. But it is good to remember that you can never scare someone into changing. Only the goodness of God leads a man to repentance.

Romans 2:4B:
The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

The Lord’s disciples make themselves known by their love.

John 13:35:
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Perfect love is entirely without selfish motivation. That is why it is so rarely seen in this world. Most people expect to be recognized for their good deeds. They can even become indignant when they are not. In that way, they are no better than anyone else.

Luke 6:33-35:
33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

It is a bitter pill to swallow to realize how carnal we can be in our expectation for compensation and appreciation for every good deed.

Luke 14:12-14:
12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

All Together Now

1 Corinthians 13:13 is not the only place where faith, hope, and charity appear in the same verse. Here are two more examples:

1 Thessalonians 1:3:
Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

1 Thessalonians 5:8:
But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

Faith and hope are generated by love. Faith (says Galatians 5:6) "worketh by love," and hope (says Romans 5:5) "maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." These three concepts can be examined individually but they can only be lived collectively. Together they are the greatest truths of life.


Presented January 28, 2018