Summary: Strength in families requires all three elements: faith, hope, and love. Illustrated with timbers handled to show that without all three the structure is unstable.

Some of the old-timers used to say that bad things come in threes. Did you ever hear that? There is a notion out there that you never have just one disaster, you always have three, closely grouped.

If there is a plane crash in the Andes today, look out, there will be two more in the near future. So says this superstition. Tornado in Texas yesterday? Look out for Tennessee today and Takoma Park tomorrow. Disasters come in threes, so they say. Like Internal .. Revenue .. Service. Like Nixon, Ford, and ... never mind!

That’s what the pessimists say, anyway. The negative folks: disasters come in threes.

But the optimists see something else. The optimists see that there is strength in the number three. The optimists believe that good things come in threes, strong things. Three tenses, past, present, and future: that covers it all. Three flavors, vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Well, that’s all they had when I was growing up. You mean to tell me there’s more? Three points in the sermon; that’s how you know when you’re almost finished! Good things come in threes.

There was even an article this week in the business pages about how it seems as though in every industry there is room for about three major competitors. Fewer than that and there isn’t enough competition. More than that and the smaller ones do not survive. So you have Safeway, Giant, and SuperFresh; you have Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Crown; you have Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Oh, by the way, now that Chrysler is merging with Daimler-Benz, that makes my little old battered Plymouth really just the same thing as your shiny Mercedes, isn’t that right?

Well, pardon my whimsy about the number three. But there is a truth about things coming in threes that I want to get at. And that is that it really is true, in certain instances, that extraordinary strength, spiritual strength, lies in putting together three particular ingredients. They all have to be there, all three of them; but when they are there, they are invincible.

On this Mother’s Day, as we think about families, I’d like to show you that, according to the Bible, there are three indispensable qualities, which, if you take them all together, will give you the foundations for an enduring marriage, a functioning family, for productive relationships of all kinds. Three ingredients. Every one of them is important.

Paul calls them, “faith, hope, and love, these three.” He says they all abide, that is, that they all last. They are strong. They continue. And, though he does say that the greatest of these three is love, I think we are going to be able to see that each one is important. Each one needs the other two to be effective. Good things, very good things, do come in threes.

The best way I can make my point is to brush you up on your geometry. We learned in geometry, didn’t we, that the strongest and most rigid structure is the triangle? A triangular structure cannot be warped out of shape, it cannot be distorted or shaken. If you have a square, for example, and you push on the side of the square with a little force, it will start to lean. But if you have a triangle, push on it, shove at it, subject it to force, and it will not change. It will not yield. That’s why architects design tall buildings with braces that go from corner to corner. The triangle makes the structure strong. Good things come in threes. And the triangle, with its three sides and three angles, is a good strong thing.

Now let me get out of whimsy and, certainly, out of geometry, before somebody asks me to quote that theorem about a square hippopotamus or whatever it is. Let me get down to the preaching. Faith, hope, and love form a triangle. An equilateral triangle, that’s one in which all three sides are the same size. Faith, hope, and love form a spiritual equilateral triangle. And I intend to show you that the Bible teaches us that if we expect to have stable marriages, happy homes, productive relationships, we are going to need all three. All three under God.


First, Paul says, “faith abides.” Faith, hope, and love, these three. But faith abides.

To have faith means to have a trusting, believing heart. To let faith abide means that I assume that others around me will tell me the truth, that they want the best for me, that they intend no harm to me, that they are loyal through all kinds of challenges. If I have faith in someone, it means that I never have to be afraid that her commitment to me is wavering and wandering. If I have faith in someone, it means I am totally committed to his success. If I have faith in someone, it means that even when he or she disappoints me and fails, I will believe that that was just a momentary mistake, and that, overall, that person is worthy of my trust. Faith abides. Faith keeps on trusting.

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