We are, in this message, at the fourteenth of the fifteen characteristics of love, the fourteenth thing that love does, the fourteenth practice or activity of love. Love hopes all things. Our theme in this message will be “Love Always Hopes.”
I want to explain the word “always” first, because the verse says that love hopes all things. “All things” is two words in the English, but it is one word in the Greek. And it can be a pronoun: “all things”; or it can be an adverb: “always.” If we think of it in terms of all things, certainly there is a scope to love that is being described here. Love in its scope believes all things and hopes all things and endures all things and bears all things. But I think the emphasis is more on the fact that it does this continually. If you think of hope, we do not hope all things. As we hope in God, we do not hope contrary to what God has revealed. We do not hope that, for example, all of humanity will be saved. That is not the Christian hope. So, “all things,” I think, is probably better understood as “always.” It never stops hoping. So, as we will see, the point here of love hoping always is that it does not give up. Love always hopes.
Let us notice the meaning, the basis, and the pattern.
The meaning is quite similar to the previous phrase that love believes all things. That is because faith and hope are very similar ideas. Many commentators see in this verse a pattern in the poetry, that is, you see four phrases here like this: 1, 2, 2, 1. So the outside two phrases that love bears all things and endures all things are similar or parallel in meaning; and then also these middle two, that love believes all things and hopes all things, are similar in their meaning. But we are not treating them together. We believe that every word in Scripture is inspired by God and has a distinct meaning of its own. So we want to understand here the difference between love’s believing all things and love’s hoping all things.
Now the love that is spoken of here, and we have said this over and over, has to do with love in interpersonal relationships, that is, our human relationships, our horizontal relationships. And it has to do with those especially in the church, with other believers, in the church and the home. That is not to say that the principles of love that are described here do not apply to our love to God. Certainly we should love God with this kind of love as well, so that, with regard to God, we are patient with what God does for us if we love Him and we do not attribute wrong to God. We rejoice in the truth in our love for God. And, similarly, too, it applies to how we love unbelievers. Of the unbelieving neighbor that God puts in our life we do not say, “Well, they’re not believers, and this love here is about love between believers, so I don’t have to love the unbeliever, I don’t have to be patient with them or kind to them. I can be proud, I can behave myself inappropriately, because they’re unbelievers anyway.” We do not say that! No, we must, as Jesus said to us, love our enemies and do good to them and pray for them. Our love itself becomes a witness and, in God’s sovereignty, a power sometimes that God may use in their lives.
But Paul’s primary interest here is the love that should exist between believers in the church and in the Christian home. He is concerned about that because, as we get very familiar with one another, as we get close to one another, we see faults and sins. We find it easy to take advantage of others. This becomes the place where it is the hardest for us to love, the place where, sometimes, we love the least. That was what was going on in Corinth in the church there.
In the previous phrase, the apostle said that charity believes all things, that is, charity puts the best construction on the motives and the actions of others. It is not suspicious and critical and judgmental, and it is that way because we believe in God. Love that believes, believes in a God who is almighty and can do all things. You remember that, in the last message, we saw some examples of that—Augustine’s mother praying for him, and his being saved on her prayers; and the parable that Jesus told of the prodigal son and the father who stood by the roadside day by day looking for his son to return.
I think we could add to that list the apostle Paul. Paul was a missionary who went around and preached. Many churches were established, and most of the churches were established with new converts. Paul had a great confidence in God for those churches and believers to whom he ministered. He loved them with that confidence. He believed all things. You see that in the way that he behaved towards these churches. He called them saints. He spoke of them as the beloved of God. He said to this church, Corinth, that they had been called saints. So he prayed for them, too. He did not throw up his hands and say, “If that’s the way you’re going to be, I’m done, I’m not coming back. You’re disobeying the gospel that I’ve preached to you.” But on account of his confidence and faith in God, he loved them with a persevering love.
That is the love that believes all things. How important that is for parents. We need patience with our children; we need endurance in our love for them. We need to forgive them. But we also need to believe all things. We need to believe that the Word of God that we bring to our children, the godly example that we give to our children, and the loving discipline that we use on our children will be used by God in their hearts. It is the means that God uses, and we believe that He will. We do not give up on them. We do not throw up our hands and say, “Well, I’m done; you’re on your own.” He that has begun a good work will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ. But, we digress a little.
We want to know in this message what the difference is between this love that believes and a love that hopes. I think you can see already the close similarity in meaning. I think the difference has to do especially with time. Believing has to do with the present; hope looks forward. A love that believes, trusts that the things that I see in others now are not as bad as they first appear. That is believing the best. Hoping goes beyond that because it says, even if things are as bad as they appear, they can get better, there can be improvement. That is a love that hopes. Probably the best way to put it is like this: that love is optimistic about others and what God can yet do in them. Love is not pessimistic, particularly about others, but it hopes the best for them, and it hopes that by God’s grace, they will produce better. One of the commentators put it this way: “This is not a vague notion of optimism, it is not a dream that gives comfort, but, rather, it is a realistic appraisal of things that refuses to take failure as final.” I think that last phrase really summarizes it. It is put negatively—the love that hopes refuses to take failure as final. That really gets at what love is that hopes. It is optimistic, not pessimistic.
You can think of people who have disappointed you, have sinned against you, have been unfaithful to you, have not lived up to your expectations, and perhaps have not kept their promise to you. They have let you down. Now what are you going to do? Perhaps this is something that they have done repeatedly—till seven times, till seventy times seven! You are to love them not only with a love that keeps no record of wrong and forgives, but with a love that hopes all things, that hopes for them. Because if we do not love them with hope, if we do not have hope for them, that is not love. If we have lost hope, we have lost love, because love hopes all things.
When we love with hope, we encourage. Maybe your children are discouraged. Are you loving them with hope? I think that as parents, when our children are very young, we do this quite naturally, encourage them. But as they get older, they begin to show their sins and weaknesses. When your little child is learning to walk, you encourage him that he can do this. You do not say, “Well, sit down. Get off your feet. You might fall down. You might hurt yourself.” No, because you love them, you encourage them, you get them up, you spur them on, you urge them, and you are excited to see their progress. If we could love our children and keep that kind of love for them, and, indeed, in all of our relationships, what an encouragement we could be to one another.
That is the meaning here: love hopes all things. It does not take failure as final. Are we loving one another that way? What person needs you to love them like this? Is it a family member? Is it a parent, a child, or a sibling—maybe one who is walking in rebellion and unbelief. Maybe it is a member of the church who is insensitive. Maybe it is someone who needs to mature in areas of godliness. Maybe it is someone with glaring faults who is almost impossible for you to get along with and to live with. Or perhaps it is a relationship, in marriage. A weak marriage can improve. Think of the way the apostle Peter tells believing wives to live with their unbelieving husbands (I Pet. 3): “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation [conduct] of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” Peter is saying to believing wives with unbelieving husbands: “Don’t give up hope. Love with hope. This is the way to love with hope in such a marriage.”
Love hopes all things.
And then, think about Jesus. He says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That is, love others as you would have them love you. This is the way we want others to love us. We want them to look past our faults, to hope for something better than what we are in the present. And you are thankful that someone has loved you like that in the past. When you were a sinful and stubborn child, when you were walking in unbelief, when you were a new convert with confused questions in so many areas and not spiritually mature. Someone loved you with hope, saw a potential in what God could do yet in your life. That is love. It looks forward. It is optimistic, even when, perhaps, we have been let down. Failure is not final.
Now, how can we have the kind of love that hopes this way? How can we have a confident expectation for a future good in others? That is the biblical idea of hope. Hope is a confident expectation for a future good. How can we have this for others? We have to think back to our last message about a love that believes all things. The real object of our believing is not the other person, but it is God and what God, by His sovereign grace and power, can accomplish. Love believes all things. So, here with hope. As we love others with hope, our hope is not in the persons themselves, or in human beings. We have failed each other enough times to know that we cannot have that kind of hope in each other. We disappoint, we let people down, we are sinners. The Scriptures even tell us that we should not hope and we should not put our confidence in man. As Psalm 38:15 says: “For in thee, O Lord, do I hope: thou wilt hear.” God is the object of our hope. Job says when his friends discouraged him, “I will hope in the Lord.” And in this hope we pray, Thou wilt hear, O Lord, my God! Hope expresses itself in prayer. That is true when we are discouraged ourselves. Psalm 42 is that kind of response. But that is true also with regard to others. When we love someone in hope, then we will pray for them. And the source, not just the object, of our hope is God Himself. Psalm 62:5: “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation [that is, my hope] is from him.” He is the source and the object of our hope.
As with faith that believes all things, so also we hope in the character of God. We hope also in God’s work, in His power, in what He has promised, and that He will work all things according to His sovereign will for our good. God is not a God who slumbers or sleeps, but He is active in His work. He has given His Son. And so long as heaven and earth remain, God is working, and working all things according to His counsel. In His work, He has given us the Holy Spirit and He has begotten us unto a living hope. You can think again of Paul’s confidence in the churches. He that has begun a good work in you will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ.
And then our hope is not only in the character of God and in the work of God, but also in the Word of God. That is there in Psalm 130 as well: “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.” Do we not believe that God’s Word is powerful? Do we not believe that God is able to use His Word to bring repentance, so that another will turn from sin? Do we not believe that the Word of God is able to cause spiritual growth in the life of a floundering and weak Christian? Do we not believe that the Word of God can soften a hard heart and a hard character? If God’s Word is working to sanctify me and is working in my life, then a love that hopes believes that the Word of God is working in others’ lives as well.
So, rather than being pessimistic and discouraged concerning others, we should tell ourselves to hope. That is Psalm 42: “Why art thou cast down? Hope thou in God.” So, we should tell ourselves as we look at one another, Hope in God. And, for us as believers, that hope is very real. Personal. You have hope, as a child of God. We sing that from Psalm 16: “At thy right hand are pleasures evermore.” There is fullness of joy. We have an eternal hope. And our hope is that God will keep on with the work of His grace, that He will preserve us, that He will continue spiritual work within us by which we will continue to grow in sanctification. And, if we are humbly honest with ourselves, we recognize that that hope is not in us, but that hope is in God, because we are not worthy of it. I am not worthy of the preserving work of grace and the eternal inheritance that is my certain hope in the future. If I can have this hope for me, then I can have this hope for anyone else. It is not a hope that I have for everyone else, because that is not God’s counsel. But it is a hope that I can have as I love another. What God has done in me, He is able to accomplish in others also. So, failure is not final. In hope I love, and in love I hope.
The pattern for this kind of love is the love of Jesus Christ for us. I want to give two examples of this from the life of Jesus Christ. First, His relationship to His disciples. If you look at those disciples, what a disappointing group of people. Think about them, perhaps, as friends to you, or, if you are a boss, your employees. You would get rid of them, you would find some others, you would start over. They were faithless. They did not believe in the power of the Savior in the midst of a storm. Because of a lack of faith, they could not deal with a demon. They were carnal. They were always fighting about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. They followed Jesus, many of them, and many times in His life, for a place in what they thought would be an earthly kingdom. They lacked perseverance as His disciples. When He gave them one hour to pray, they could not even watch with Him for that one hour, but they slept. We have this especially in Peter who seems always to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, who even became a mouthpiece for Satan to hinder and to tempt the Savior from the work of the cross, and who said of Him, “I don’t know the man.”
Yet, as we read the Gospels, we see in the Savior a love that hopes, that keeps on, that perseveres. He loved them to the end and He loved them with hope, not based on them but on the work that God was doing in them. He trusted God to work in them, and so He came to them after the resurrection and He loved them with hope. He appeared to them. He breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. He restored Peter to his work. He gave them the Great Commission to take the gospel to all nations. He entrusted to them the great work that He had done in the gospel, and that they would carry on that work in His place as He was absent. That was not a hope in them, but it was based on the work of God in their lives, a confident conviction that God would accomplish His work in them.
Is that not the way that Paul expresses it with regard to the churches? What love the Savior had!
The second example is in the great prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17. I want to mention some of the petitions that He prays there—not just for the same group of disciples, but for the church. As Jesus said: Not only for them, but for all who believe on Me and on My name, through the preaching of the gospel (v. 20).
This is His prayer: “Keep them. Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me. Keep them from evil.” His prayer is that they might have joy, that they might have His joy fulfilled in them. His prayer is that they might be sanctified: “Sanctify them through thy truth.” His prayer is for the unity of the church: “That they all may be one as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee.” His prayer is their perfection: “Father, I will that all those whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am, to behold My glory.”
Then you ask the question, What was the foundation, the basis, the confidence of these petitions that the Savior makes for His church? How could He pray with such hope for them? The foundation is this, that He had finished the work that He came to do and that He had known and was loved with the eternal love of the Father. He could be confident because He knew that His work on the cross had accomplished salvation and that His people were loved with an eternal love of God.
You say, but I cannot have that confidence for others, can I? I cannot love them with that hope, can I? Paul did. Philippians 1:6: “He that has begun a good work in you will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ.”
So, there is hope as we love one another in the church. Hope for our children, hope for our marriages, hope for the church and its future, hope when another falls into sin, hope when one fails or disappoints me. Love never takes failure as final.
Perhaps today, as you have heard this text explained, you can think of a person that you need to love. How do you go about doing that? It begins with prayer. Hope expresses itself in prayer—not a vindictive or proud prayer because you have been wronged, but a tender and humble, and even an earnest prayer: “Lord, Thou art able.” A hoping in God because you know the work of God’s grace in your life and you have a living hope yourself. You have been begotten to a living hope. So, you pray in hope for the one you love.
And not only prayer, but then accompanying that, perhaps you can encourage the one whom you love with a kind of optimism that you would have in teaching a child to walk. Love them in hope.
Then, especially, this: put your hope in the Word of God. Are they sitting in church with you, hearing the words that you hear, and those words are a means of grace in your life? Will not God use those same words as a means of grace in their life, too? Love them believing, hoping, all things. Amen.