Pastor Dennis Smith
Books have been written on the subject of faith and the wide range of uses of the word. All this will be is just a short blog giving my take on the essence of biblical faith. Faith: what it is and what it isn’t.
First, what it isn’t. In the Christian context, faith is not simply a blind hope in something that can’t be said to be inevitable or certain. For example, a belief that a friend is going to keep his promise to pay back a loan doesn’t come close to the biblical notion of faith. The believer’s faith in the things of God is not just wishful thinking.
Very broadly, the biblical words related to faith in both the Old and New Testaments often convey the idea of to trust, believe, or rely on. We’re all familiar with that. But when trying to understand the distinctiveness of biblical faith, especially in the New Testament, possibly the most helpful scripture is Hebrews 11:1 — “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” There we have a description of sorts explaining faith at its most fundamental level. What exactly does the writer of Hebrews have to say here regarding faith? Let’s see if we can unpack this sentence a little, although admittedly that can be a challenge, and we can hardly do it justice.
So here we go. First, “things hoped for” can be thought of as good or beneficial things that are eagerly anticipated. It’s helpful to think, promises of God here. Second, faith is “the substance” of these things. Possibly the best way to think of “substance” is that it refers to the objective or underlying reality of those things hoped for. In other words, the promises of God point toward a very real fulfillment that awaits. His promises will be realized.
Then, faith is said to be “the evidence of things not seen.” That word, evidence, can be thought of as proof of something. So the writer of Hebrews seems to be saying that faith is actually the evidence for or proof of “things not seen.” Here again, think, the promises of God and the reality behind them.
All told, then, Hebrews 11:1 seems to say that faith is actually what makes the unseen things of God and his promises real to us. This is not a natural consequence of our deliberation and consideration of these things. Rather, it is a supernatural process. God works in various ways to convince us of the trustworthiness of his promises, and the faith in them that we possess is the manifestation of that.
So let each of us be motivated to be both a person of faith and a faithful person.
We show ourselves to be a person of faith when our words and our deeds reflect our confidence in the promised and sometimes unseen things of God. This is especially true in adversity. We testify to God’s trustworthiness when we demonstrate confidence in his love during trials.
And by a faithful person I mean primarily someone whom others know they can count on to fulfill Christ’s command to love one another. Whether it’s being a faithful spouse, family member, church member, coworker, neighbor, or whatever, let’s show ourselves faithful to that command.