Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. "Hoped for?"
Faith, the Bible says in Hebrews 11:1 (KJV), "is the substance (assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence (conviction) of things not seen" (I added the words in parenthesis). The keywords here are “hoped for” and “not seen.” Too many people focus on the words “evidence” and “substance.” Evidence and substance speak of something that, as the saying goes, “you can hang your hat on.” The idea is that you have enough “proof” to be able to depend on what you believe. But, I will argue that if you have enough “evidence” and “substance,” then you don’t need faith. The Bible emphasizes faith, not “evidence” and “substance.”
• Faith can result in miracles (Matthew 17:20).
• Faith enables grace for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).
• Faith is how we walk the Christian life (2 Corinthians 5:7).
• Faith is what is required to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
• Faith is the factor that fulfills prayer requests (Matthew 21:22).
• Faith is the fuel that propels the believer onward (Philippians 4:13).
• Faith opens the possibilities to the seemingly impossible (Mark 9:23).
• Faith makes the difference between failure and success in the Christian life (James 2:14-26; 2 Timothy 4:7).
• Faith is crucial to a genuine and healthy relationship with God (1 John 5:4; Romans 1:17).
What is faith besides “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen?” These two phrases may seem self-evident, but they aren’t. If something is “hoped for” and “not seen,” it is not yet established, fulfilled, or complete. This is where faith comes in. It suggests that the “not seen” and “hoped for” are real enough and obtainable. The believer has a choice to make at this point. Believers can decide that they will live according to the idea that what they have accepted as the truth will take place or occur. On the other hand, these same believers can also choose to believe in believing in what the Bible claims are valid. This second option is where I think too many Christian tend to live in their “walk with God.”
TO BELIEVE IN BELIEVING
To believe in "believing" means that someone acknowledges that the Bible is what is known as the “Word of God.” They may even be familiar with particular and specific verses and passages that say things they like and agree with. They may even be able to explain passages that include things they like. They would most likely agree with anyone who may speak of the power of the Word in a Christian’s life. Where the problem exists will be when they have to put into practice many of the principles which the Bible advocates. The problem is that putting principles into action requires genuine faith. And the reason that faith is the “substance” or “evidence” of things “hoped for” or “not seen” is that faith is an action on the part of the believer. Faith is not what you believe, nor is it that with which you agree. Faith is what you do.
In the case of faith, if you “hope for” something that is “not seen,” you act on that belief with action that shows you believe it will or expect it to happen. You will admit to yourself that you cannot prove it will not happen, but you continue to act as though it will. For example, no one alive today can say with one hundred percent certainty that God exists, but, we can claim that we have complete faith that He exists and then choose to live as though we do. That is faith. We would not need faith if we knew one hundred percent that God existed. That is full knowledge, not faith.
WHAT IS THE POINT?
So, the key to my argument is found in the question, “What is it that you will “hope for” from God even though you will “not” initially, nor maybe immediately, “see” it? And, to add to that, “Will you choose to live according to the idea that what you 'hope for' will happen, even if you do “not see” the possibility as being authentic? An example of this is found in the story of Noah and the Flood in the Bible.
Noah was “told by God” that he should build an ark large enough to carry many animals and other people because He was going to flood the world. Noah must have wondered about that because, in his time, it had never even rained. Ask yourself, “If you lived when it had never rained, would you truly believe it could flood?” You may give one of those quick and religious “Sure!” answers. I, on the other hand, would say, “No! I would not believe it could flood.” I think Noah had the same concern. The area where they lived, and was going to build the ark, did not have a lake big enough to float the boat. They did not even live near the ocean. All the factors pointed to the idea that a flood was not possible. What Noah could “see” was that a flood was not probable. This is where faith walks into the picture.
Noah believed in God. This meant more to him than just some religious concepts and rules to follow. He believed that this God he believed in was real. And, if God is real, Noah was not just dealing with some made-up deity for whom you can decide the rules the deity follows. In this case, God gets to make all the rules, and Noah is to follow them. One of those rules (which I will call a principle instead) was that Noah was to act according to the truth given to Him by God and live as though it was true. So, when God told Noah that He would flood the world, Noah did not understand how but decided that God could do anything He said He could do. Therefore, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” because he acted on what he “hoped for” (that God would save him and his family) when He flooded the earth. Even though Noah had no proof that a flood could even happen, evidence to the contrary was “not seen,” He still obeyed God. Noah acted on his faith.
Today, Christians are faced with many questions. Many of those questions challenge what is taught in the Scriptures. We are told, for example, that Jesus will be coming for His bride to take us to heaven with Him. This is called “The Rapture” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The Rapture is the belief that, at some point, the Holy Spirit will leave the earth for a time to allow the Anti-Christ to fulfill prophecy, and He (the Holy Spirit) will take us with Him to be with Christ until His Second Coming. The idea that millions, if not billions, of people, will suddenly disappear sounds so ludicrous to the mind that the initial response is to disregard it. Like Noah and the people of his time regarding flooding, people today consider this idea of a “Rapture” as outrageous and improbable. The reaction of those who do not believe is so strong against this concept that even Christians have begun to ignore this idea as part of what impacts their walk with God. They do not live as though they genuinely expect this event to occur, which is a lack of faith. The evidence demonstrates that billions of people can’t disappear unexpectedly, so there is no need to live as though it will happen. Those “believers” who lack this conviction (regarding the Rapture) will not relate to those principles that call for the Christian to live this way or that with the expectation of this event occurring. They will not be ready because they did not even believe it could happen, much less would. You will not be included if you are not “ready” (Matthew 25:1-13).
THINGS HOPED FOR
The Bible contains promises and principles that God included benefiting those who “believe” in Him. Why? Because He loves us. Obedience is what that God uses to change you and me. To the degree that you obey God, to that degree, He will change you. If you obey, you change. Do you want to change? Then, obey! God will also bless you for obeying. He knows that if you gain something for obedience, you will be more likely to continue obeying. So, the more He “blesses” you, the more you obey. Why is this true? Because we are selfish, self-centered, and egotistic at heart as humans. We will always do what is in our own best interest.
God knows that. The Bible teaches in Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV), “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” If God left it up to us to always choose to obey Him on our own, no one would do so. Instead, He uses the chemical our brains produce (dopamine) to motivate us to obey Him by enticing us with goodies (blessings). The more we obey, the more He blesses us, and the more He blesses us, the more we obey. You may not like how I describe this, but it is nevertheless the truth.
God has no problem with what I am saying. He says the same thing in the Scriptures in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (emphasis mine). The Bible contains examples of how God chooses to bless those who believe in Him. Of course, we must remember what the Bible means by the word “believe.” Hebrews 11:6 includes a condition, as it were, as to what a believer must do to prove he is a believer. This condition is that the person “would draw near to God.” This is, again, where faith comes in. You should ask, “What does it mean to ‘draw near’ to God?” Since God is not physically here at the moment (I think), and He is invisible to me, how will I know if I am “drawing near” to Him? We will find no viable answer if we look at the problem from a practical perspective. On the other hand, if we come to some assumptions, we can have a good idea of the meaning behind the phrase. Since God is invisible (and therefore somewhat impossible physically), we must consider the condition as one acted on by faith.
Chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews is referred to as “The Faith Chapter” in the Bible. In this chapter, you will read one account after another where people acted on their faith, resulting in miraculous results by God in their lives. Because they obeyed by faith (acting as though what they “hoped for” and could “not see” was going to happen), they brought about the very thing that God wanted to happen. Their actions “pleased” God because they trusted His Word enough to take the chance that what they believed might not happen but “hoping” it would. So, considering all of this, “drawing near” to God would have to mean that the person chooses to do what God likes and wants as compared to what they would want or like. The “drawing near” part is demonstrated by their desire to have God “like” them (as it were). When you like someone, you do what they like so they will like you back. Right? You “draw near” to them, hoping they will “draw near” to you. Faith here is doing what God likes. Therefore, God is pleased by people who like Him enough to do what He wants, and those people, He will bless because they prove they believe He exists.
You cannot see God nor prove to others that He exists. You can only “hope” He exists. But you can find the evidence to prove that “hope” to yourself that He does, indeed, exist. This evidence is how you act on your faith. If you believe that the Bible is the “Word of God,” you will search it to find the things God likes and start doing them. This is faith. If you do the things God likes, He will bless you. The more He blesses you, the more convinced you will become that He exists. The more convinced you become that He exists, the more you will apply His principles. The more you apply His principles, the more you will “see” the evidence of His existence, which will lead you to have more faith (Romans 10:17). So. Remember, As Mark 9:23 says, “All things are possible for one who believes” (that is, acts on his or her faith).