“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.
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…
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.”
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.
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