A LIVING FAITH
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Heb 1:11
This is a well known quote from Paul spelling out the principles of faith. We have never met Abraham, Isaac, or any of the patriarchs. We have never met any of the prophets and not even one of the faithful men and women whose lives are recorded in scripture as examples for us. We have never walked the streets of the Jerusalem of David’s day or witnessed the building of Solomon’s temple. Unlike the disciples we have never seen the Lord Jesus Christ nor been privileged to hear his words first hand. We have not seen the Kingdom or even an indication of the glory and wonder of that time to come. But faith provides substance to the words of scripture and provides evidence of what is not yet seen.
But faith is not blind; it is not a blind unknowing belief in the insubstantial. Faith is based upon a solid foundation and not on an elusive, flimsy account of a mans dreams. Faith looks up at the heavens and the myriads of stars all in their place, all governed by unchanging physical laws. Faith views nature and the myriads forms of life on the earth. Then faith sees in all things, the wonder of life wrought by the hand of an almighty Creator.
Faith is born out of knowledge about lives and events that are as real and tangible as any historical account. Faith sees the reality of already fulfilled promises and prophecy then concludes that what has not yet come, will equally be fulfilled.
Faith sees substance in the scriptures that paint a wonderful picture of a time to come of peace and safety such as has never been. The world as it is today maybe appears permanent, its roads, vast cities, transport systems and institutions unassailable. Yet the eye of faith sees a vastly changed vista, for faith views amongst many things:
A time when a vast temple over a mile square will be built as a ‘house of prayer for all nations’.
A time when ‘the desert will blossom as the rose’
A time when all shall know the Lord ‘from the least of them to the greatest of them’.
Faith is an essential component of salvation, for Paul writes that “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.” Heb 11:6
Now, there are three key words in that quote from Hebrews 1:11 namely faith, substance and evidence.
The word ‘faith’ comes from the Greek word ‘pistis’, meaning assurance, belief, fidelity and faithfulness (the character of one who can be relied on). Faith therefore is a confidence engendered by knowledge, for as we read “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom 10:17
Now the word ‘substance’ comes from the Greek ‘hupostasis’, meaning confidence, substructure or foundation, steadfastness of mind, firmness, courage, resolution, firm trust, assurance. Faith thus can be viewed as an attitude of mind that is convinced of the Truth and which has a firm foundation for hope.
Finally we come to the word ‘evidence’ which comes from the Greek ‘elegchos’ meaning that by which a thing is proved or tested. Faith in that which is to come, has its evidence in the Word, which as Paul writes is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof (‘elegchos’ translated for proof Diaglott, conviction YLT )… ..for instruction in righteousness” 2Tim 3:16
You may recall that Jesus once upbraided the disciples for having ‘little faith’. There they were in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, the waves threatening to sink the boat. Jesus though had calmly fallen asleep in the stern of the boat. His disciples went to him saying:
"Lord, save us! We are perishing!” His reply: "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?"
With Jesus in that boat it was unsinkable, for his time had not yet come. The disciples had witnessed the expressions of belief and faith of others, particularly the profound faith of the Centurion of whom Jesus had said “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” Matt 8:10. They had witnessed acts of healing and listened to the parables Jesus had told concerning the Kingdom, yet they themselves were chided for having ‘little faith’. I wonder how Jesus would view our level of faith when faced with the storms and the tossing waves of life. Are they viewed as simply time and chance, or do we see the hand of Yahweh at work moulding and shaping our lives? Do we see trial and tribulation as an opportunity for our characters to develop and faith to be tested?
The term ‘little faith’ comes from the Greek ‘oligopistos’ meaning to be incredulous or lacking confidence. One of the root words in Greek means puny, small, brief (in extent/duration). The other root word means persuasion, reliance and belief. Therefore having ‘little faith’ implies being little persuaded and lacking in reliance.
Thus a lesson is driven home which in effect says that it is easy to express faith when life is easy, harder when life events get tough. It is the testing by the trial and tribulations of life that proves the value and depth of faith, plus of course our level of understanding. There are times when the storms and waves in life threaten to swamp our boat, yet Paul writes “no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man”. Thus the evidence of faith will recall the promise, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1Cor 10:13
The disciples once asked Jesus "Lord increase our faith". The reply came:
"If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree - be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it will obey you" Luke 17:5
Such a small amount of faith could accomplish so much! I wonder what an honest self examination would say about our personal level of faith. Is it as great as a small mustard seed or would Jesus upbraid us for having ‘little faith?