“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith, it seems, is taking a bit of a knock these days, at least in western societies. Although everyone has faith in something (even if it’s faith in oneself or fate or love or natural selection or…); I am talking about those who have faith in the supernatural, namely a God. Even that isn’t as ridiculous to some as faith in the one true God, the triune God, Yahweh. It’s really popular and stimulating these days to be searching for truth and open and “tolerant” of all worldviews, but to say that you have found Truth (and He is also the Way and the Life) is absurd and humorous to those who find it much more intellectual (or noble or easy or…) to be ever searching and never finding.
By the new life, with its new affections and new longings, the new creature in Christ experiences for the first time a reality that always existed, but up until conversion, was never perceived. Now things previously hidden from them are revealed by the Spirit of God and are readily received and believed by them. This is faith.
Hebrews 11, that great ode to faith, confirms the universal experience of the Christian believer. Where those outside of Christ perceive faith to be a wish or a hope or even a superstition that we follow, the Christian believer knows that faith doesn’t bring about our spiritual reality, but as Hebrews 11 states, it is the evidence of that spiritual reality. It is substance; not a mere hope, but an absolute assurance that we are sealed now by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ, who unmistakably takes up residence in us upon our conversion, is our guarantee that we will one day take possession of the promised eternal inheritance that awaits all in Christ. The Holy Spirit in us, directing us, teaching us, revealing God to us, opening Scripture to us, etc. is “the anchor which holds beneath the veil” (Hebrews 6:19).
This undeniable presence in the life of the believer, a presence which most assuredly was not there before conversion, is evidence to the believer of things that are unseen. The whole of Hebrews 11 lists person after person who were indwelt by the Holy Spirit and acted in accordance with that new evidence in their lives. They believed beyond their senses of a yet-unseen, spiritual reality that exists as surely as does grass or trees or gravity or energy. They acted in obedience to God’s revelation to them, always with an eye to that other, heavenly country to which they were now traveling (vv. 14-16). All were sure of the substance of their faith, many willing to suffer and die for it (vv. 32-38), because they had evidence of things not seen (vv.39-40).
What was the evidence that provided them with the courage to stand and withstand? It was the faith given them upon conversion (Ephesians 2:8-9). We don’t simply have faith in faith however (i.e. “if I only had enough faith…”); instead we have faith in the Faith-giver. Dana has used the analogy of walking on an icy lake in the middle of winter. It is not my faith that keeps me from crashing through to the icy depths below, but it is the reality that I have at least 8-12 inches of a hard, solid surface on which to walk. Whether I have faith the ice will hold or whether I lack faith that the ice will hold makes no difference. Only the reality of what I walk upon makes the difference. Whether I speak of having faith in God or whether I mock those who trust in their faith makes no difference to the reality. The only thing that matters is if there is in fact a God holding me up.
An open-minded study of our world reveals the imprint of God on every aspect of man’s experience; it bears witness to the reality of a God who exists outside of matter so as to design and create man and matter. Education with this filter allows us to look upon the face of God in every field of study. It is to actually perceive that the “ice” upon which we stand is not there because we merely wish it to be so, but because we have bored down, down, down through the many layers of it and found it has substance and reliability. This is true whether we study –
– philosophy – the particulars and the universals;
– anthropology – is man basically good or basically flawed;
– the marvels of science and irreducible complexities;
– history with sin being played out from one generation after another -and–
God’s divine plan progressing from one generation to another;
– sociology – how mankind in all ages seeks a spiritual and moral code;
– government and its God-given role as keepers of that moral code;
– labor and our ability and desire to create; etc. *
Such an education allows us to look upon the face of God and to see that God’s written revelation, given to us in his Word, is supported by his general revelation, revealed to us in nature.
Despite the attempts of godless men to divorce learning and education from the source of all Truth, does not the very definition of insanity – “lost contact with reality” – cause us question those who define their world only in terms of what they themselves have experienced (or selectively so as with their belief in the existence of wind or magnetism or their belief that there ever existed an Attila the Hun or Alexander the Great)? They have wittingly or unwittingly rejected a portion of reality that, although unseen, has much evidence of its existence.
Praise be to God who gives to men faith – the evidence of things unseen. No wonder that “without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
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* Thanks to Focus on the Family’s Truth Project for its deep analysis of these disciplines, revealing the reality of God in each.