The Substance of Hope, Or How Faith Changed the World

“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 1:1-3, NIV).

The Substance of Faith

The writer of Hebrews says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. If you dissect the syllables and break that down, substance comes from sub (under) and stance (from stand), or that which stands under a thing. Knowing what stands under a thing will often help our understanding OF a thing. Looking closer, the Greek word used for substance is hypostasis, which referred to the underlying state or condition of a thing. It was also a legal term used in real estate transactions because it indicated that there was an underlying legal document (the title-deed) that provided proof of ownership and possession.

Faith is basically our deed of trust, giving us ownership of hope, and a reasonable expectation that God will do what He promised to do. The things which we CAN see are a down payment towards the things we CAN’T see. Creation points us towards faith and proves God’s reliability, because it demonstrates that all visible things were made by the One who is not visible.

God does what He does. You can believe or not believe. You can choose to ignore the evidence He placed about himself into creation—the vastness of the universe, the delicate balance of the earth hung in orbit, the intricacy of a cell, the seasons, a flower, and the canvas of the sky every day—or you can allow it to stimulate faith.

substance

If you follow God by faith, the writer of Hebrews says, it will change your life. The elders obtained a good testimony by their faith, and Hebrews 11 goes on to discuss the stories of those who believed, and changed not only their own lives but human history as well… Faith is a big deal, ya’ll, but here’s the thing: God will never MAKE you believe.

Which Side of the Conundrum are You On?

It’s an interesting intellectual conundrum, but God did not make himself provable because He has given us a choice. An empirical God (one with substance that could be proven physically) would remove our will from the equation; we’d have no choice but to accept Him and worship Him. So the loving God preserved our choice by withholding PROOF and giving us EVIDENCE. That way we can decide how we feel about Him.

Everyone can be skeptical about a God who painted portions of His self-portrait into a chosen people, an Exodus, the Pentateuch, a shepherd-king, the Psalms, the prophets, history (His Story), His Son, the Word, and into relationships throughout every generation… You can dismiss the people of faith as irrational, and you can live your entire life ignoring God. Mankind doesn’t have to seek God or engage Him in any way. You don’t ever have to have faith in God…

It’s Really YOUR Choice

So, if you decide that faith in God is not for you, there are things you will never understand about God. You won’t understand the paradoxes that exist between His kingdom and ours: serve to lead; be humble to be great; love your enemies; die to live… You will never know about the substance of His character, His generosity, His wisdom, or His love. You won’t discover the presence of a loving Father who provides comfort to those who mourn, peace to those who worry, and a home to those who wander. And, oh yeah, your world will never change; it will never stretch beyond the boundaries of what you see or know empirically.

But if you search for God, He promises that there is something in it for YOU. Hebrews 11:6 gives makes this awesome claim: “whoever comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”

But Does Faith Work?

Looking back through history, faith has changed the world time and again. Abraham left home to start a new nation because he believed God; Moses became one of the great leaders of all time by faith. The early church emerged with radical impact because of faith. Faith in the resurrection changed the hearts of men,and those men changed the world. The Roman Empire was built by men of action, but faith outlasted it and toppled it. This world is full of men and governments seeking the means to impose their will on other men; God’s kingdom, based on faith, will outlast them all.

Wherever you come from, wherever you’ve been, whatever you believe or think, ask yourself this question: what is the substance of the things you hope for? Hebrews says if you seek God in faith, He will be pleased and He will respond to you. Seek in faith today. Be rewarded forever.

The Evidence of What We’ve Yet to See

Faith is what we hope for based on what we cannot see–
Like holding grapes, anticipating wine.
We see the universe and wonder how it came to be,
Inferring a Designer from design.
God is not empirical, or a theorem you can prove,
His substance is much more than what is taught;
He says that faith will find Him, and the mountain can be moved,
But it’s your choice to live by faith, or not.
You can live by intellect, observe God and critique Him;
Or You can get to know Him, if by faith you truly seek Him.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

New Hope Arises Every Day, no Matter How Dark the Night.

Every week, it seems, brings new challenges and new problems. From minor inconveniences to life-changing events, having problems is one of the things we can count on in this world… Thank goodness there’s something else we can count on as well:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV).

Lamentations is a book full of just that; it expresses grief and mourning over the fact that Israel has been conquered and destroyed. As 1:12 plaintively asks, “Is there any sorrow like my sorrow?” 1:20 says, ““See, O Lord, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, For I have been very rebellious.”

Heartbreak or Hope?

Lamentations is filled with images of grief and pain. The citizens of Jerusalem have been devastated by the Babylonians, and there is ruin and destruction all around them. This Book of the Bible is written by real people who have experienced the horrors of war. The Book of Lamentations is a lament over the fact that their men have been decimated and their women have been violated. Grief is pervasive and overwhelming.

Yet in the midst of the violation and devastation, this song is sung: the Lord’s compassions never fail, and they are new every morning. From the depths of sorrow comes a ray of hope: God is compassionate in the midst of sorrow. One of the great differences between the God of the Bible and other gods is compassion. Only this God became a man, shared our sorrows, and experienced our grief and pain. He knows where you are because He has been there. He understands loneliness, heartache, being misunderstood, and even the pain of death.

A Sliver of Hope May Be Enough

While there is no guarantee that all pain will cease, Lamentations promises that if you turn to Him, He will care about you and offer comfort in the midst of it. A ray of hope may not seem like much, but to someone lost in overwhelming darkness, it can be the only thing worth holding on to.

Today is a new day, and you have made it through the darkness to another dawn. Winston Churchill famously said, “When you are going through hell, keep going.” While I admire Churchill’s persistence and indomitable spirit, the writer of Lamentations might say, “When you are consumed by darkness, move to the light.” In the darkest of pits, we have the opportunity to discover the comfort in God’s inextinguishable light.

new hope

Perhaps you have been through hard times, or have been discouraged by the darkest of times. It is a new day, and you are here. Look up! Remember that God’s compassion and faithfulness are unfailing, and He is extending them to YOU. The world may have mistreated you, and circumstances may be difficult. But the fact that you are still standing offers hope, for you can still reach up. In John 16:31, Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Today is a new day, full of hope. Seize it! Proclaim God’s faithfulness, and keep on living!

New Day, New Hope

Even in the darkest night, there is a coming dawn–
A rising hope that sends its light to tell us, “Carry on!”
No matter what our circumstance, no matter what we do,
The gathering light reminds us of the God who makes things new.
In troubles, we discover what the Lord’s great love entails;
Find solace in His comfort: His compassion never fails.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Hope for the Best, Even When Things Are at Their Worst

“Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” (Psalms 119:116 NKJV) David had a unique perspective about God’s word. He saw it as more than something to read in church, and more than a book of wisdom that helped him understand how to live. We sometimes just hit the high spots in David’s biography, but when you really look at the circumstances and events in his life, you realize that there were plenty of times that were discouraging and difficult. In spite of that he consistently found hope in what God said.

hope

It Fits Every Scenario

As a shepherd, David sang about God’s word and meditated upon it under the stars; as a fugitive hiding in caves from Saul’s dangerous mood swings, he drew strength from it; and as a sinner he depended upon it for comfort and forgiveness. He found in the Scriptures a connection to God that upheld him and gave him strength; he was motivated by it and hopeful because of it. What gives you hope?

Having hope is a good thing. Being unashamed of it means two things: 1) you tell everybody you know about your hope—why you look forward and what you are hoping for—without hesitation or reservation. David publicly demonstrated his hope because he was confident in what the Lord had promised.

Justified and Fulfilled

Being unashamed could also mean: 2) you will not need to be ashamed of your hope because it WILL BE fulfilled. Your confidence in your hope is justified. David exemplified both of these points of view. Perhaps that’s why he pursued God’s commandments so strenuously. “I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments. Look upon me and be merciful to me, as Your custom is toward those who love Your name.” (Psalm 119:131-132 NKJV)

The second King of Israel’s story had many chapters, and he longed for God’s word whether he was an unknown shepherd, a fugitive, a king, or a sinner. The hope he gained from his relationship with God sustained him and kept him coming back for more. David said he hungered for God’s commandments so much that he literally opened his mouth and panted.

Do you ever jump up in the morning thinking, “Wow! I can’t do anything else today until I read God’s word and get connected with him!” Or “Wow! I need God’s mercy today! Gonna dig into that Bible and let it wash over me!” Something in God’s commandments made David hunger for them… How does your appetite compare to that?

Both the Highs and the Lows

David suffered hardships and failure, yet he believed absolutely that God is merciful and reliable. His life had plenty of discouragement, but he had hope in God. Have you found anything in God’s commandments that makes you as confident as David was? He knew that God’s custom is to be merciful to those who love Him, and he took hope from that. He got up early to bask in God’s love, and he meditated upon it in the night watches.

cycle of hope

Like David, Paul also knew that hard times produce a hope in which we cannot be ashamed: “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) Have you found God’s mercy? When the world lets you down, it will hold you up.

The Fugitive

David had to flee and hide:
He ran to caves and hid inside,
And lived in dusty, thirsty fear
That murderous Saul was drawing near.
Before bipolar was a thing, the melancholy, jealous king
Whose heart and mood would darkly swing
Was soothed when he heard David sing…
Yet even though he was David’s fan,
King Saul was still a dangerous man
Who tried to kill him. So David ran.

And somewhere in a cave at night,
Unsettled by his hopeless plight,
Young David found a way to cope
And sought God’s Word, which gave him hope.
Strengthened thus, he then proclaimed
That he would never be ashamed
Of hope in what the Lord can do.
So here it is: don’t misconstrue,
But when you’re hopeless–this is dope:
The God of grace will give you hope.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Perseverance and Hope: Maybe the Best of Things

Which Came First?

It’s one of those “chicken or the egg” questions: does perseverance result in hope or does hope result in perseverance? Here’s what Paul said: “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:24-25 NASB).

There’s a well-known prison movie that also makes observations along the same lines that Paul used: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
“I hope I can make it across the border. And I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope…” (First Andy, and then Red, from “The Shawshank Redemption”.) Andy had escaped from prison; Red had been released after years of incarceration.

perseverance

Both men had left behind a life in prison for a new life fueled by hope—not a bad analogy for a picture of the Christian life, eh? Were you ever in bondage? Were you freed from the shackles of self-loathing and discouragement? In a life of freedom, hope is the new horizon, and we Christians should be walking towards it with confidence. So, where are you walking? What do you hope for?

A Natural Result

Hope, Paul says, comes with salvation. It is the logical result of believing the Scriptures and learning from them. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) It is no accident that hope and endurance or perseverance are mentioned together in these verses, because they are irrevocably intertwined. Tell me, in a marriage is it love that sustains the commitment, or is it the commitment that sustains the love?

By the same token, does perseverance sustain hope, or does hope sustain perseverance? Hope is a present commitment based on a future result. It is a powerful thing, perhaps the single most important result of discovering who Jesus is and what he did…. Salvation is meaningful not just for what it means for us in the future, but even more for what it offers us TODAY.

How Does Your Future Change Your Present?

What do you, deep inside, truly hope for? What do you wait for with perseverance? If you long for self-improvement, grab on to that hope. If you worry about the future, then hold on to hope. When you are in a low place, or if you have your doubts, then visualize that hope, and claim Paul’s prayer in Romans 15:13:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” No matter your circumstances, you can be assured that someday you will see whatever it is that the God of hope has promised. I hope you will claim it with confidence. And I hope you will wait for it with perseverance. I hope…

Before Shawshank

Prison does things to a man; his heart and soul are battered,
Until his hopes are dashed, and all his earthly dreams are shattered.
In Shawshank, Andy made it out; then Red secured parole.
They persevered in Hope, and dreamed that it would make them whole.
And we are all in prison; every one of us walks the yard,
Longing for release–a chance to slip beyond the guard,
Free from sin and failure, free from penalty and fear,
Motivated by the Hope that we will persevere.
Approach the prison gates and ask the Warden to set you free;
Remember the perseverance that was shown on Calvary:
Jesus will look at you and smile, and offer you the key…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread