God’s Promises Fulfilled: Hope, Faith and Patience

Hope, Faith and Patience

     I often ask people in Bible study situations how they know they are saved and going to Heaven. Some responses are rather tentative, such as, “I believe in Jesus,” or “I try to be a good Christian.”
     Others seem more secure, saying “I’ve prayed the ‘Sinner’s Prayer,'” or “I prayed with someone at the end of a Billy Graham Crusade film.”
     Pursuing this question, I ask, “What gives you the assurance that God has saved you?  You aren’t in Heaven yet, so how do you know you will go there when you die?”
     Often, unfortunately, I may see a kind of sadness or despair.  I’ve heard people say, “I’ve wondered my whole life whether I have done all the right things,” or “I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.”  
     I then probe a little deeper, asking them, “What is the verse that is the most commonly memorized and quoted regarding salvation?”
     They respond, of course, with John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”    
     I then ask them if this verse gives them any evidence of their salvation, and if so, what is it about the verse that assures them that they are saved.
     “It’s in the Bible,” they say, or “Jesus Himself said it.”
     “But how do you know it applies to you,” I ask?  
     After thinking again and reciting the verse to themselves, they realize that the words “God so loved the world” and “whosoever” are categories into which they can place themselves unconditionally. The only stipulation in the verse is the “whosoever believes in Him” clause, which only includes them if they have truly believed in Jesus, the Son of God.
     I then ask, “What kind of statement does this verse make?”  In other words, what form does it take?
     After thinking some more, they realize that the verse is stated in the form of a promise, a promise of eternal life given to all who will believe in Jesus Christ, the One God sent into the world to save us from the death that our sin brings.

Promises Bring Hope

     I can then begin building on this foundation, that the basis of their salvation is a promise given by a loving God who loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus as an atoning sacrifice that cleanses us from all the sin that separates us from God.
     In particular, I point out that believing in a promise of God brings hope.  Just one passage that confirms this idea  is what Peter writes:
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. (II Peter 1:2-4)
     The promises of God are both precious and magnificent, and through them we are made to be partakers of the divine nature.  This divine nature gives us “all things pertaining to life and godliness” the eternal life we seek, for we no longer are bound by the “corruption” that plagues us in this world.  
     These promises are both “precious and magnificent,” for they are God’s assurance that we have the privileges of God’s children, for we are partakers of His divine nature.
 

What is Hope?

     What is a good definition of “hope”?  
     First of all, we find that hope comes from receiving the Word of God in our hearts.  The Scriptures, are the primary source of the Word in our lives, as Paul writes in Romans:  “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction. . .” (Romans 15:4)
     These promises of God are both sure and steadfast.  When we hear these promises, they produce hope in our hearts, which means that we have a joyful, confident expectation that God will fulfill these promises in our lives sometime in the future.  

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  (Romans 15:4)
     This is why the Apostle Paul prays the following prayer for the Ephesians:
. . .that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:17-19)
     We know, therefore, that God desires for us a glorious inheritance, and He wants us to know these promises through the wisdom and revelation we receive from His Word.
     It’s like a child who has been told that she will have a party for her birthday.  The parent’s promise brings joy to the child even though the birthday may be weeks away, for the child knows her parents love her and want her to be happy on her birthday.  Their faithfulness also lets her know that they will not deceive her, and she lives in expectation of the promise’s fulfillment.
     This is why we can confidently look forward to being with Christ Jesus in Heaven.  The Father has promised that we will be with Him, so we look forward with joy in the Spirit to the time we will be with Him.  Like Paul, we can say, “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith”  (Galatians 5:5).
     This is also why we can look forward to Christ’s second coming with hope.  We have the promise of Jesus Himself that He will come again to receive us unto Himself, so like Titus, we are  “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).  
     In fact, we can rely on the promises God has made to us, which include all things pertaining to life and godliness, for it is impossible for God to lie and we have the resulting hope that keeps us strong in our faith.  Our hope is an “anchor of the soul,” an anchor that keeps us steadfast even in the midst of a mighty storm in our lives, as it says in Hebrews:
In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast… (Hebrews 6:17-19)

Hope is Future, Faith is Now

     Hope, therefore, helps us to look to the future joyfully as we expect the fulfillment of our Lord’s promises.  If we have already obtained the results of the promise, we no longer hope for it, as Paul writes in Romans:
For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.  (Romans 8:24-25)
     Faith, on the other hand, is a spiritual power that operates in the present tense and claims fulfillment of the promises even though they have not yet been fulfilled, as it says in Hebrews:
Now faith is the assurance [reality] of things hoped for, the conviction [proof] of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.  By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:1-3)
     An allusion is made in these verses to the creation of the universe, when God created the worlds visibly out of things which were not visible, or “nothing.”  His Word alone was the power that created something out of nothing.  Because of the certainty of God’s promises, so strong is our faith that we may fully realize that these promises have already been fulfilled, even though we still await their arrival.  
     Having  faith, therefore, means being assured of the fulfillment of God’s promises for the future and believing them now.  This assurance is what Paul is writing about in his second letter to the Corinthians: 
For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.  (II Corinthians 1:20-22).  
     Not only are the promises of God always answered with a “Yes,” but we have been assured of His faithfulness to us by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  
     The Greek word for “pledge” in this verse means “down payment,” or “deposit.”  This contractual term in this passage is assuredly confidence building, for the pledge comes unilaterally from our faithful Father in Heaven.

 Faith and Patience

     Since God is timeless, beyond seconds and minutes, days and years, He exists eternally in the present tense.  He is now, just as our faith is now.  Therefore, in addition to faith and hope, one final spiritual element that is necessary for us to be receivers of the promises of God, along with their fulfillment, is patience:
. . .So that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  (Hebrews 6:12)
     We inherit the promises of God by looking to the future in hope, living in the present with faith, and continuing in that faith with patience.
     What is “patience”?  It’s the spiritual ability to wait, an ability that must take place over time.  We live in the realms of chronology.  We live from moment to moment, from day to day and year to year. Therefore, having patience is probably one of the more difficult capabilities to have.  An example of someone who received the promises of God with patience is Abraham.

 

The Story of Abraham

     As Abraham lay in bed he thought about all the times he had been ridiculed even by his own household.  His name had been “Abram,” which means “father of many,” yet he had no children with Sarah, his wife.  Yes, he had one son, Ishmael, by Hagar, a servant of Sarah.  Yet, he was ninety-nine years old and hardly was the father of many.  Yet the angel of the Lord had told him that he would be the father of many nations through his son with Sarah, who was never able to give birth and was long past the age of childhood.  
     The traditions of childbirth left no more room for hope, yet the angel’s word from God raised the possibility that he would indeed have a son with Sarah.  He thought of his own body as eh neared one hundred years old.  He might as well be dead, he thought.  
     But then, he began to have hope after repeating to himself the angel’s words, and this hope became the foundation of a faith that had never before been known, for Abraham knew that the God who had created the world could call into existence what does not exist.  God could create something out of nothing.
     Here is the story as it is summarized in Paul’s letter to the Romans: 
. . . (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”
Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.
Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  (Romans 4:17-25)
     As astounding as this example of faith, hope, and patience is in the life of Abraham, in the next article in this Biblical Mysteries Revealed blog site I will focus on another amazing act of faith in Abraham’s life, one which led directly to the sacrifice of God’s own Son on the cross. 

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