“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” – Hebrews 11:1-3
Faith. It is not simply wishing that someday, somehow what we want will come to pass. It is not a dream, not a fantasy, not some whimsical fairytale we know deep down will never become reality. No. It is the substance of things hoped for–it is something we can grasp with all that we are. Faith is tangible, significant, and something we can cling to, something we can depend upon. Faith is knowing what we cannot see with our eyes is actually the ultimate reality.
When the above verse refers to faith as the substance of things hoped for, it is reminding us that with faith we can hold on to God’s promises expectantly. We can “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). With faith, we can take the promises of God–the visions of hope He has given us in His Word–and walk in them, not doubting for a minute that they will come to pass. Faith doesn’t allow circumstances to dash our dreams or toss our hopes around like waves of the sea. Rather, faith breathes in God’s “exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) and then walks in the assurance of these promises.
Faith finds assurance in trusting Him, for faith knows God will do what He says He will do.
Jesus Himself reminds us when we have faith, even faith as small as a mustard seed, “you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Nothing will be impossible because our faith becomes our evidence. Our faith is the evidence of things not seen. Objects falling to the earth are evidence of gravity. If I let go of my pen, it will fall to the floor; gravity pulls it down. I do not see gravity, but I know it exists, because falling objects are evidence of it. In the same way, I do not see oxygen, but I am breathing, so I know that it exists. Breathing is evidence of the existence of oxygen. So if you take the basic structure _______ is the evidence of ____________, you can fill it in as follows: Falling objects are the evidence of gravity; and Breathing is the evidence of air. Now insert what is says in Hebrews 11:1 : Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Our faith is the evidence of things not seen. Faith does not look at the circumstances, it looks towards God and what He promises. Faith knows “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Romans 8:16-17 declares, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” Sure, I have not received the full inheritance yet–none of us has–but I know it exists. I can’t see heaven, but my faith tells me it is there. My faith is the evidence that heaven exists. In the OT, Abraham’s wife was beyond childbearing years when God promised him a son. The things that were seen did not give evidence that God would be able to fulfill the promises, but, as the Word says, we live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Abraham’s faith was his evidence; he stood in faith that God would do what He said would do. Sure, he may have tried once to take matters into his own hands by going into Sarah’s servant, but he never doubted God would give him a son. He just couldn’t fully understand God’s plan with his finite mind. But praise be to God He doesn’t ask us to understand; he just asks us to believe. “All things are possible to him who believes”(Mark 9:23).
Abraham knew with his whole being “all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20). In fact, “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’“ (Romans 4:20-22).
And Abraham was not the only man of faith in the OT. Hebrews chapter 11 catalogues the numerous men of God who walked by faith, not by sight–who through God’s inspiration not only penned the prophecies but also stood on those promises of a savior; and they died in faith knowing God would fulfill His promise. They knew God’s promises are true. They knew their faith would one day be made sight, if not in their life time, then in eternity. As Hebrews 11:13 says, “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 earth.”
In the same way the faith of Abraham–and the other men of the OT–was “counted to him” as righteousness, our faith is key to our righteousness through Jesus. It takes faith to please God. Think about it for a moment. Hebrews 11:6 states “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” The writer of Romans immediately included the following after his discussion of Abraham: “But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:23-25). One of God’s promises is, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). It takes faith to stand on this promise. If I do not have faith in this promise, if I do not have faith that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13), then Hebrews 11:6 is right–it is impossible to please God. After all, as the verse continues, if I come to God I must know who He is and what He promises.
And how do I know who He is and what He promises? How can you know who He is and what He promises? By reading His Word. By meditating on His Word. By praying His Word. For after all, it is God’s Word that enables us to grow in our faith. Romans 10:17 reminds us “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Faith stands on the promises of God, and the more we read His Word, the more promises we can claim, speak, and walk out. Indeed, the more we know Him, the more we’ll trust Him; the more we seek Him, the more we’ll see Him; the more we hide His Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11), the less we’ll sin against Him and the less we’ll succumb to the wiles of the devil. For we must remember, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Without faith–without God’s promises on which to put our faith–we would be like “a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” and should “not suppose that [we] will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7).
Yet with faith–with the shield of faith Paul describes in Ephesians 6–we can, in all circumstances, “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)
Hallelujah! Faith enables us to come to God and find assurance in trusting Him, to know that we know He will do what He says He will do. In Psalm 73, David’s faith reminds him that while things around him look wrong–the evildoers are prospering–he can stand on God’s promise to do away with the wicked and provide for His children. David’s faith allows him to proclaim,
” Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26)
David stood on who God is and what He says He will do; he did not stand on circumstances.
And neither should we. People, feelings, thoughts, circumstances, and anything else we may encounter during our earthly lives will come and go, but God and His Word are forever. This is indeed an important key to our faith: God and His Word are forever. Forever. Or as Peter quoted from Isaiah “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25).
I’m not sure what you may be facing today. I’m not sure what struggles, temptations, or storms are threatening to knock you down, to take your eyes off our Savior and leave you sinking in the sea of doubt and uncertainty. Yet one thing I am sure of–He who promised is faithful. I will say it again: He who promised is faithful. And if you have believed on Him, if you have recognized your sinfulness and desperate need for a Savior, then you have faith–a faith that can overcome the world–a faith that one day will be sight.
So keep on keeping on, my friend. Keep the faith. And “according to the riches of his glory…be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” (Ephesians 3:16-17).
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21)