“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth . . . But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13,16).
PROMISES ARE INTERESTING THINGS, AND THE PROMISES OF GOD ARE THE MOST INTERESTING OF ALL. Promises always have to do with the future. They create an expectancy, a forward-looking attitude toward some event that is not yet a reality but only an idea. Consider how the three great virtues — faith, hope, and patience — work together to determine our response to God’s promises.
Faith. The virtue of faith determines our “intellectual” response. It means we believe that God’s promises will be kept, that whatever God has predicted will come to pass just as He has said. It involves more than a merely intellectual processing of information, of course, but even so, it is an act of the intellect. When God says, “This is going to happen,” we must trust His prediction.
Hope. Based on the faith that God’s promises can be counted on, hope makes an “emotional” response to those promises. It fervently longs for those promises to be fulfilled. In the confidence that whatever God brings to pass, or even allows to come to pass, will be better than any other possible scenario, we eagerly anticipate the fulfillment of His promises. So we don’t merely accept the realities that God brings about — we embrace them joyfully.
Patience. With this virtue, we come to a “volitional” response to God’s promises. Volition has to do with our will, and so patience means we exercise the power of our will to obey God faithfully while we are waiting for His promises to come to pass. This is not easy to do, especially since we are looking forward to them with such eagerness and since the conditions in which we have to wait are so painful. When our hearts cry out “How long, O Lord?” and God says “Not yet,” we must make the choice to be patient.
Faith and hope are important, obviously, but without patience all is lost. Since the beginning of time, many have put their faith in God, and some even their hope. But few have had the patience to wait until He is ready to make all things beautiful . . . in His time.
“God makes a promise; faith believes it, hope anticipates it, patience quietly awaits it” (Anonymous).