Reigniting Hope: The Fruit of Love

We’ve zoomed-in the last two weeks to draw our focus a bit more onto one of our three graces, love, so that we can see how it is the greatest, how it sources faith and hope, and the way it flies over us in order to rally us to our King, assuring us He’s with us and leading us in life. 

Love is also like fresh, cool water flowing from a fountain whose source is a hidden stream. The waters cascade onward, slaking thirst and refreshing parched land. 

The waters of love carry in its current faith, which trusts its current position – be it rapids or floods or drought – because it knows God is present. 

The waters of love carry hope, the purest hope in the righteousness that’s to come in eternity. It’s also a hope for future days here on earth because it knows Christ has already gone ahead and made a way. 

We could say that, so far, we have glimpsed and gathered-under an outpouring of a holy love that becomes the source of our faith and hope.

This week we move a little further downstream to see that as faith and hope continue to work in tandem, infused by love, they begin to express themselves through love (Galatians 5:6). 

Put all this together, and we see that love is both the source and the fruit of living with faith and hope.

Sourced for Good Works

The men in my family love to float on rivers. Their most favorite river, the Comal, is a short, u-shaped river that runs a steady 70-72 degrees year-round. One day we traced the river’s beginning to find an underwater spring gushing from the earth, clear and cold. We marveled at having found the river’s source.

The Apostle John helps us discover the source of the love-filled river we seek:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

Revelation 22:1-2

These prophetic images give us an idea of what we’re putting our hope in – an eternal life where God is enthroned in our presence. And from His presence, living waters flow into the world, giving life to trees so that they, in turn, offer fruit and healing to the people of the world. 

Because of their connection to the source, these trees produce. Twelve months a year, they’re popping out good fruit.

The idea of being fruitful is not only a theme throughout Scripture, but it literally frames the entirety of God’s Word, ending with the above passage from Revelation 22 and finding its beginning, well, in the beginning:

“God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.’”

Genesis 1:28 NRSV

From the moment God creates humanity, He has given us purpose – to be fruitful. To fill the earth and govern it. Then He creates a garden, called Eden (which was filled with rivers, Genesis 2:10), into which He places man “to work it and take care of it” (v.15). Fruitfulness isn’t just having babies; it’s caring for the world and all that dwell in it. It’s work.

When Jesus steps onto the scene, He ushers in the new covenant, echoing similar commands, such as, “love your enemies, and do good” (Luke 8:35). And, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Paul carries on the idea when he teaches, “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). And, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). And John asks the question we all need to keep before us, “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” (1 John 3:17 NLT). 

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

What we’re witnessing is the weaving together, the interplay, of love and work. We’re seeing love as the source of all we are AND as the expression of all we do. Love is what we receive and what we give.

So, not only is faith sourced by love and an expression of it, so is our work! Paul explains:

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy…so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. …And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”

Titus 3:4-8

Note the progression: God in love – saves us (through faith1) with mercy, justified by grace – so that we’ll inherit the hope of eternal life – so that we’ll devote ourselves to doing what is good (in love1).

Love is the source, the motive, and the result of our faith. Like so many kingdom ideas, love inhabits us and the world paradoxically. It’s both the fuel for our faith and the fruit of it.

For too long, we – the western Church – have stopped God’s story at: “be saved so that you’ll go to heaven.” But, the whole story includes life with Christ today, as well. We’re meant to receive God’s love for our good – for our faith and hope, for our healing and saving, for now and eternity. And for the good of others. 

So, the next time you read James saying, “Faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (2:17, NLT), don’t panic! James sees the whole of the gospel. Yes, it’s believing. But it’s also allowing love to propel our faith into action so that love will be planted in the world.

Flowing Waters

Paul is consistent. Throughout his letters, he speaks of love as the undergirding of all that Christ followers are and do. His love chapter (1 Corinthians 13) is his most elaborative work on the subject, but love is woven throughout every single letter. Why? Because he experienced that love of Christ – a perfect love that brought forth the grace of forgiveness and salvation and transformation in him. It’s that very love, and the humility it brought, that become Paul’s motive for a world-changing ministry throughout the known world. And he never neglects to bring faith and hope alongside love:

“For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Galatians 5:5-6

Over and over Paul’s gospel message charges us to be changed by the love of Christ that is in us, to allow its power to feed our faith, and to count on its presence to grow our hope. 

Friends, we don’t want to be like the Dead Sea, which is an end to itself, where water is dammed, stagnant, and lifeless. Nor do we want to be a lake that only pours out, no longer open to the filling waters of tributaries. Dry, cracked, empty. Nor do we seek to be a pond that strives to self-sustain. Muddy, stuck, and inconsistent.

Instead, let’s picture ourselves as a reservoir with a fresh river flowing into each of us at a constant rate so that we never feel the need to hoard or hide what we have – because there’s always enough. Not because of our effort but because it flows naturally, constantly from the holiest of sources. And, on the opposite side of the headwaters are the outgoing floodgates that remain open all the time at the just-right rate of need, pouring out the life-giving qualities we’ve received and now share.

So. How about it? If your faith ebbs rather than flows, check the source. What’s filling you these days? 24/7 news sources? Social media? Netflix? 

If your love feels unmoving and dead, then look at the outflow. Are the floodgates open? Are you out in the world sharing God’s love – or hiding in your house?

If your hope trickles like a clogged pipe, then investigate the blockage. What’s keeping God’s river of life from flowing through you? Cynicism? Shame? Unforgiveness?

The truth of Scripture – from Genesis to Revelation – is that GOD LOVES YOU, and He longs to have a life-giving relationship with you. For these reasons, He has created You in His image, given you purpose, and filled you with a love that will source your faith, your hope, and all you will need in order to give love to others.

So as we experience the convergence of our trio of Christian graces, let’s be sure our faith and hope remain sourced by love so that we are able to freely share that love around us. Reignite that hope, friend, by feeding your faith with God’s love and by doing love2 in the world. 

Father God, we might be getting it. You. Are. Love. You are the source of love within us, and that love fuels our faith and hope. We confess that too often we treat your love like a commodity to hoard, to hole away for a rainy day. Forgive us for falling short of a fuller understanding that You are always enough. We pray your love fills every crevice of our hearts, minds, and souls so that our lives will be transformed into the likeness of Christ. And we rejoice, knowing that You will not forget the work and the love we have shown You as we take our faith and work into the world to help others. Lord Jesus, thank You for coming into the world to model this way of life for us. Everyday that you ministered on this earth, You worked hard doing good – but not for your good or for your gain. Instead, You allowed love to be the source and the fruit of all You did. We want to be like You. Keep teaching us, we pray! Holy Spirit, where You are, freedom lives. And we desire to have that freedom and to use it to serve others humbly and with love. So, we look to You to be the floodgate that lets the river of the Father’s love flow in us, through us, and from us. We never want to become stagnant or lifeless, dried up or stuck. Rather, we want to flow with living water and share it in love. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(Inspired by 1 John 4:16; Revelation 22:1; Galatians 5:5-6, 13; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Hebrews 6:10; John 13:12-14; Matthew 25:37-40)

Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.

  • 1 – see Paul in Ephesians 2:8 and 1 Corinthians 16:14
  • 2 – Bob Goff brought the idea of ‘doing love’ into the forefront with his book, Love Does!^
  • Our Flames of Faith, Hope, and Love playlist Chris Tomlin and Jimmie Allen have a little ditty, “Love People,” that reminds us of the four-letter word that we all need. There’s a fun little word-play too. But more than anything it captures why love is the greatest:

    Underneath the surface everybody’s the same
    Everything that could divide us
    Can’t we all set that aside and just
    Love people, love people
    We all need love, people
  • On Wednesdays I’ve begun posting 5-7 minute teaching videos on my Facebook Author Page and Instagram (@shelleylinnjohnson).
  • Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:
    • In the busyness of the season, are you carving out time for some stillness? I’ve been listening to John Mark Comer’s book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, and he stresses the fact that these spiritual practices are work. To get alone so we can be still requires forethought, planning, and effort. Y’all, we aren’t going to get still unless we let our desire to delight in God, our longing for His love to motivate us to get in His presence. THEN, we get still and stop working. 😉
  • Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light of His hope into the world!

Featured Photo by Barthelemy Rigaud on Unsplash. Bits & Pieces Photo by Arjun Kapoor on Unsplash

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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