“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Heb 11:1-2)
Throughout the entire book, the author of Hebrews talks about the importance of faith. In situations where it was easy to lose their confidence, the readers were urged to have strong faith and live by it. Faith is important in Christian life because it enables Christians to see things in the world through God’s perspective.
Faith is like eyeglasses because it makes us see what’s unseen and spiritual so that we won’t be shaken by our circumstances but be victorious in every situation.
As 1 John 5:3 says,
“This is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.” (1 Jn 5:3)
So, after proving Jesus’ superiority to the significant concepts in the Old Testament, the author starts to talk about faith in Hebrews 11 because that’s what’s most needed by those who are waiting for the return of Christ.
Hebrews chapter 11 is often called ‘the faith chapter.’ In this chapter, the word ‘faith’ appears 23 times. Here, the author not only defines what faith means, but also describes it with many examples.
Now let’s jump into the faith chapter. Let’s read Hebrews 11:1-2 together.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.” (Heb 11:1-2, NKJV)
Since faith is an abstract concept, it’s hard to fully grasp its meaning. But, here in this passage, the author defines what faith is in two ways.
1) The Substance of Things Hoped For
First, the author said, faith is confidence in what we hope for. Here, the Greek word for faith is πίστις (Pistis), which basically refers to trust or strong confidence in something.
But, this word also implies a certain way of life because our actions actually come from our faith. It means that what really determines our ways of life is what we truly believe in. In ancient Greek culture, faith and life can’t be separated but go hand in hand. That’s why the apostle James calls faith without action ‘dead faith.’
It also means that whatever you say you believe in means nothing unless it actually changes your thoughts, words, actions, and lifestyle. In every example the author listed in Hebrews 11, we can find the connection between faith and action.
Our ancestors of faith lived a certain way according to what they believed even though they were persecuted and put in dangerous situations because of their faith.
But their faith wasn’t blind trust. They were able to endure every hardship and difficulty because their faith wasn’t based on worldly things which were temporary, but on God’s eternal promises. Since their faith was deeply rooted in God’s promises which were guaranteed to come true, they were able to resist being moved by worldly things or suffering.
The author defines faith as the substance of what we hope for.
Here, substance doesn’t refer to something subjective that can be changed depending on how we think about it. Rather, it refers to something objective that is deeply rooted in facts and truth. In other words, Christian faith is not based on unsubstantial things, but on substantial things—God’s word and his promises that never fail.
So faith is the substance of what we hope for because by faith we can be confident that we will possess what God promised to give us.
It may seem like the words substance and hope don’t make sense together because substance is what belongs to the present, while hope is essentially what belongs to the future. If we already have something, we can’t hope for it. We hope for something because we don’t have it yet, but want to have it someday.
Then, how can substance and hope exist at the same time? The author is saying that that’s what faith does. Faith is the connection between substance and what we hope for.
By faith, we believe that we already have what is promised to us. We are still looking forward to it, but we are not nervous about not having it in the future because we know that the one who promised to give it to us is God and that he will achieve what he promised with his almighty power and faithfulness.
Even though we can’t see it yet, we don’t doubt the fact that what God promised will be accomplished someday. So, by faith, we actually see the substance of what we hope for and enjoy it now. By faith, the promised inheritance becomes a present possession.
We believe in confidence that everything God promised to give us will be achieved through Jesus Christ. So we partially experience what we hope for by faith.
Even though the kingdom of God hasn’t perfectly come true on earth, we can already see its substance and experience it by faith. Even though no one has been resurrected as Jesus was yet, we experience the power of resurrection and participate in his resurrection by faith.
Again, faith is what allows us to have the substance of what we hope for as Christians. And, if we really have faith and experience what God promised in our present lives, we won’t be shaken by temporary things in the world, but be victorious in every situation.
2) The Evidence of Things Not Seen
The author also said that faith is the evidence of things not seen. Here, things not seen don’t refer to spiritual things that we can’t see with our physical eyes but events that have not taken place yet but will happen in the future.
Faith is essentially future-oriented. It allows us to see the future based on God’s word and his promises. With the confidence that faith brings us, we boldly move toward the future, relying on God.
Faith allows us to see spiritual realities that we can’t see with our physical eyes. Faith is to acknowledge the fact that God is always good and true and that he is faithful to his promises.
So faith makes us love God’s will and do all things in accordance with it. Faith isn’t a mere thought or intellectual agreement, but a very practical thing because it makes us move in a certain direction and allows us to live life based on unseen things.
What’s most important about faith is that it isn’t an uncertain thing but a confidence in who God is and that he will achieve his promises.
This is the definition of faith. This is the faith we are to have. I think the reason those who only say they have faith in Jesus can’t really live a victorious life, but continue to stumble and fall is because they kind of misunderstand faith.
Those who have true faith can’t really fall down. Having faith in God doesn’t just mean that we agree on something about him.
It means that we actually see eternal things in God, have confidence in his promises, know what hope we have in Christ, and experience the substance of what we hope for at present in our daily lives.
Then, how can those who have true faith in Jesus be shaken by temporary and earthly things? How can they fail to keep their faith when faced with present suffering?
Hebrews 11:6 says,
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb 11:6)
Without faith, we can’t follow God’s will. Unless we believe that God exists and that he will give us what we hope for in Christ, we will lose sight of eternal things and be easily shaken by worldly things.
I really hope and pray that we all have true faith in God so that we can perceive spiritual and eternal realities, enjoy what God promised in our daily lives, and be victorious over everything that keeps us away from him.