Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.Hebrews 11:1
I don’t usually start these writings with a scripture… not so directly and right at the beginning anyway… but, evidently… I am going to do it, now. This passage can be such a ‘buzz word’ type passage that folks toss around… almost like it is queued and ready as a response when they don’t really know what else to say.
Essentially, this passage means; your faith consists of the things you hope you have, and you have that proof from things you can not see.
Yea… I nailed it…. right?
This passage is so confusing to me… I mean, if it were to say, “An expert bowler is evidenced by the score they keep.“, then I’d have something tangible to grab onto… something coherent… something much less abstract than ‘…evidence of things not seen“. But, then the Lord reminds me that but by the Holy Spirit in our lives are we ever going to have a hope of understanding His word… after-all, we are told many times, “He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit sayeth”.
Regularly, I have to break this passage back down and review my life to check that my faith is intact… my faith is growing… my faith is still true and on-track.
- Faith: confidence or trust in a person or thing, as in; faith in another’s ability.
- Evidence: something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign, as in; His flushed look was visible evidence of his fever.
Faith is a tricky characteristic to describe… tough to identify… awkward to explain to others, many times. Our lives are filled with traits of faith in our lives. All too often, we limit this word to the spiritual side of our lives (if any), but I think faith can also be identified by that double-yellow line on many two way highways (not divided by a median). See… we WHIZZ along these roadways at some outlandish speeds… and though the vehicles these days are much safer, there is nothing more than that thin double-yellow strip separating us from the vehicles coming toward us in the opposite direction… only that thin strip.
Let’s do some quick math… let’s say we are traveling at 60 mph, and the oncoming traffic is also traveling at 60 mph. At those speeds, there is nothing but that thin double-yellow line guiding us… leading us… asking us to trust the other driver… from having a 120 mph ‘sudden stop’ impact! Now THAT is faith! I have faith that the oncoming driver is alert, attentive, and just as concerned about life as I am. If you have done it enough, you no longer even give it a second thought.
Maybe not as dramatic an example is trusting the ATM machine to give me my credit or debit card back each time I slip it into the slot. As it disappears from the face of the machine, I trust that it will be returned once the transaction is completed. Sure… that is not much faith, but it is still faith nonetheless. If you have done it enough, you no longer even give it a second thought.
The schedule at an airline or airport can be just as tricky. Sure, they have a business to run, but you are trusting they are going to maintain their schedule. Your faith in their reputation may even help influence which airline you use… so much so that you even go so far as to plan and schedule for someone to pick you up at the destination airport. You may have even traveled enough that you have a system down… a ‘trusted’ pattern to ensure you journey runs as smoothly as it can… you have done it enough, you no longer even give it a second thought.
These three are tangible ways you apply faith in your life. Emotional and Spiritual faith is much, much tougher. As the scripture stated, it is the substance of things hoped for. You may be hoping for an upcoming event… you may be hoping for a good and relaxing vacation… you may even be hoping for a fulfilling and ‘playful’ retirement. Many are trusting and hopeful of Heaven, too.
Evidence is somewhat of a gotcha component of our faith. I mean… the word itself indicates we have tangible proof… absolute and concrete information to support something… the stuff that ‘makes it all clear’ and believable. Evidence doesn’t always have to be tangible though…. see… many music or movie stars have fame, and that bolsters their stardom. Wealth is identifiable by our homes… the amenities in life… the luxuries or at least abundance of things (homes, property, toys, etc).
Blending Faith and Evidence together seems so much tougher…. so much more clumsy to identify in your life. That scripture claims that our faith is evident in our lives by things that are not seen. So… that’s odd… I mean… evidence almost directly implies proof… almost perfectly indicates irrefutable facts or at least an obvious conclusion can be reached. But, ‘things not seen’ seems to indicate vagueness, or some kind of condition, or even some mystical aura or power.
See… our world today is filled with proof, tangible evidence and a yearn for instant gratification. These are making it harder and harder to trust… to wait… to have faith in the unseen. Again though, this passage in Hebrews 11:1 does say that our faith is evident by things that are not seen… this could be patience… it could be selflessness… it could even be something as simple as forbearance and enduring love.
I know… it is so much tougher to even want these things, because all too often, we are secretly looking for things in our lives that will bring attention… focus… accolades of a life well-lived… plaques, banners, buildings or streets named after us… Like we accomplished something worthy, and those around us will eventually recognize us for them.
Well… that is not faith… that is fruit (results). Faith, as you may recall from my opening, is confidence or trust in a person or a thing (trusting that highway divider line). The evidence that you are trusting will demonstrate itself when you apply yourself to that trust… as with the highway divider line, you are not trusting that line until you are actually driving on the highway. It is one thing to learning about driving on the highway… remaining on your side… honoring the trust the oncoming drivers also have in you… putting your very life ‘on the line’ as it were. Well… safely to the right of it, please!
Further along in that Hebrews passage, it tells us; “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:3), which is a reminder that God’s very word… His very promise is what is making up the balance of the world. It is faith that is used to demonstrate our hope in His leading… trust in His word and promise to us… and the evidence of His love for us, too.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.Hebrews 11:6
It is this application of our faith in God where we obtain His mercy… how we receive His grace over our lives… where we fix our hope. And the reason all this even matters is best clarified in that very famous passage of John 3:16, which states; “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.“
Not perishing is one of those key ‘things unseen‘ evidences of our faith… and the everlasting life is the result. Now… faith all on it’s own is not enough!
Right… faith (trust) alone is not nearly all that God has planned for His leading of your life. To trust Him also means to follow… to wait-n-listen… even to put yourself into action. See… James 2:17 reminds us, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” That is to say, your faith has to be where ‘the rubber meets the road’, as it were… like in that ‘divided highway stripe’ example I’d provided earlier. Until you actually put your faith into action, it is just information in your head… noise in your heart… a desire, sure… but, it must be motivated and put into action, too.
Evidence of things can go two ways; 1) tangible, or non-tangible. The passage states that our faith is evident of things… again, we ever-so-quickly gravitate to the physical… the obvious… the able-to-see/touch items in our lives, and use those as evidence of achievement… of accomplishment… of growth (or even weight-loss)… of reaching a goal. But, this passage claims our faith is evident by things unseen.
Take this sentence, and fill in your own blank;
________ is the evidence of things. Below are some examples;
- Wealth is the evidence of things
- Fame is the evidence of things
- A large home is evidence of things
- Career stature is evidence of things
How we can apply this quagmire of information to our lives may seem daunting… may seem too overwhelming… may even seem hopeless, depending on your own predicament in life. But, that IS actually where we can start. I mean, to rephrase that initial scripture, “The things you hope for identifies where your faith is. Your hope is evident by the things we cannot actually see (i.e. patience, trustworthy, honor, etc).
Like those ‘things’ I’d mentioned above, your faith is demonstrated by the things you hope for, which become more and more obvious in your life as characteristics, traits, even skills or talents. We cannot actually ‘see’ these types of things, only the fruit of their presence in our lives.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23
These are the ‘things unseen’ that become the evidence of the things you hope for, which is… Faith! Let me ‘show’ it to you this way. Your faith is made up of things in the Substance column, and made obvious by the things in the Evidence column.
|hope for joy||° not as easily discouraged|
° look on the brighter-side of situations
° sometimes feeling like singing/whistling
|hope for temperance||° control eating habits|
° moderate drinking/smoking
° refrain from foul language
|hope for meekness|| ° show humility|
° demonstrate gentleness
In other words, Your faith is made up of your;
- hope for joy, which is evident because you are not easily discouraged.
- hope for temperance, which is apparent because you refrain from using foul language.
- hope for meekness because you demonstrate gentleness.
Now… that was just a spattering-sample of ways that the opening passage can be applied in your life. It is an OnGrowing process! Having a ‘spirit filled’ life merely means you are applying more and more of the fruits of the spirit, as referenced above in Galatians. Just how ‘big’ is your faith… just how ‘strong’ is your faith… just how ‘old’ and mature is your faith… almost wholly depends on you. Like an athlete, getting exercise and keeping active is the only way.
No… you can NOT just absorb God’s word… you can NOT just attend church services or spiritual meetings… you can NOT just pray and ‘want’ to be faithful. You are as good as ‘dead’ to God (and He WILL ‘reject’ you) and no real use to anyone! See… James 2:26 states; “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.“, so it is very important that we learn to add Substance to our Faith, and Evidence of that Substance… it is WORK… no two ways about it.