Recently at a Bible study I was attending we were discussing the upcoming end of the year and how each of us had grown in that year.  In thinking about how I had grown in knowledge in 1999, I concluded that one of the things I could think of that I had grown in was my knowledge of faith.

Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  By faith we have evidence of things that we have never seen.  What does this mean?

Allow me to tell you a story to demonstrate this.  Some time ago my father, brother, and I were walking to the Metrodome in Minneapolis to attend an event there.  As we passed down one street we noted with interest that it was cordoned off, and we speculated to each other that perhaps the President’s cavalcade was scheduled to pass that way, as he was visiting the Twin Cities at that time.  No sooner had we turned the corner and headed down the next street toward the Dome when sure enough, we heard the motorcycles coming down the street.  Turning around, we watched as the lead cycle passed and along came the President’s limousine.  The cavalcade had to slow at that point to turn the corner, so we got a good look at President Clinton as they passed.  He was waving to the people on the street, but as they came to our corner he turned and waved the other direction, so we got a good view of the back of his head.  Then he was gone and the rest of the cavalcade zoomed by.  Finally they all passed, and we continued on toward the Dome.

Now I have told you this story.  You have heard it, though you were certainly not there to see it.  You may under some circumstances in the future have occasion to mention it…”Nathan saw President Clinton once,” you might say.  But why would you say this?  You were not present and did not see Bill Clinton pass in his cavalcade.  How is it that you know I saw him?  What evidence do you have?  You have only my word, and the faith…the belief…that you place in my word.  As I told the story you analyzed what I was saying.  As far as you could tell I was not telling a joke, so you knew I wasn’t just kidding around.  You saw no reason for me to be lying…it certainly doesn’t appear to be a story aimed at exalting myself or bragging, and there is no other apparent reason for me to lie.  So you probably concluded that I was telling the truth, and you decided to believe me and accept my word on this story being true.  This, then, became your faith in my story.  Though you did not see what I saw when I watched the President’s cavalcade drive past, your faith in me would be your evidence for telling someone else that I had seen the President.

The same is true of our faith in God.  We believe in the Word because we trust what God says.  Though in many cases we have no evidence other than the Word that what He is saying is true, nevertheless our faith in Him becomes our evidence.  There is one important distinction between faith in Him and faith in me, however.  That is that I could be deceived.  I may have seen a President Clinton look-alike who was filling in for him while he did secret work.  I may have just assumed it was the President’s cavalcade when actually it was some other dignitary whose head looks exactly the same as his from the back.  Even if I think what I’m saying is true, I may be mistaken.  But with God, we never have to worry about Him being mistaken.  If He says something was so, then it was.  I may see something with my own eyes and still mistake what I see.  But God always sees the truth and can never be deceived.  Therefore not only can I trust God’s words just as if I had seen what He is speaking of for myself, but I can even trust them more than the evidence of my own eyes.  I can be wrong, but God cannot, and I can speak with confidence in repeating what He has said, knowing that it is the truth.

There are many ways our faith can be demonstrated.  But it always has to have some present word of God to work from.  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Romans 10:17 tells us.  So without a word from God no faith can be demonstrated.  Many people claim to have faith that God will do things that He has never spoken about.  “I have faith that God will heal me,” some might say.  Yet God has never spoken to them promising healing, so their words are empty.  Usually these sorts of people, in their desire to be assured healing, will take some promise of healing meant for someone else and apply it to themselves.  But we might as well take the words of God in Isaiah 38:1 for ourselves, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'”   Words to others cannot be applied to ourselves and then believed.  We must believe that they applied to the person or people being spoken to, but believing that they apply to us is foolishness and not faith.  For you to believe that my story about seeing President Clinton also means I must have seen President Bush, President Reagan, and all the other Presidents back to George Washington would be foolish.  My story does not apply to any of them, but only to Bill Clinton.  In the same way it is foolish to assume that God will fulfill promises to people other than those to whom He made them.  This is not faith.

So faith comes by hearing.  What are different types of responses of faith?  One is simply to believe that what God says is true.  For example, Hebrews 11:3 states, “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.”  A person of faith upon hearing these words will believe them.  Though evolutionists, scientists, and self-proclaimed intellectuals may tell us that everything seen was created from things also seen through the agencies of “Father Time” and the natural processes of “Mother Earth,” the person of faith will accept God’s word as truth, just as if he had seen it and even more so, and proclaim that the things that exist were made by God out of things not visible to the human eye.  No other evidence will be necessary.  That does not mean that the many courageous men who are fighting the evolutionary lies by proclaiming the truth are not useful.  It is strengthening to our faith to know that what we believe is backed by the evidence that is all around us, and that it is the evolutionists who are really imagining things.  Nevertheless when it comes down to the bottom line, we primarily believe that God created the world because He says He did and not for any other reason.

Another response of faith is to change our opinions on things.  There is a time when we first believe that this happens quite often.  Those who had lived many years in an unsaved condition before coming to Christ certainly know the truth of my statement when I say that they had to change their opinions on many things when they came to the Lord.  But this does not stop after a short time.  Often when we first start studying things in Scripture we come to quick, often hasty conclusions on what we think must be right.  Further study, however, may prove that the evidence of Scripture points another way.  If this is the case, then we must relent and let our faith lead us into whatever the Word actually teaches.  We must not balk at this, but rather turn from our previous beliefs and opinions and believe what God has said.  Sometimes this may be difficult, because we may have very personal or deeply-felt reasons for believing the way we do.  The test of our faith is then all the greater.  However, the person of faith will respond with belief, though that belief may cost him.  But to respond in faith even when you don’t necessarily want to can produce a great growth in faith.  Rejecting what God has said for any reason, however, can have profound effects on our walk with Christ, and will make it all the easier next time we come upon such a trial to take the comfortable road of unbelief.

Other times faith results in obedience.  This then means that a work grows out of our faith.  For example, when God told people in the Bible to do something, their faith resulted in them doing that thing.  If they did not do it, they did not have faith.  Therefore this aspect of faith is closely related to the works resulting from that faith.  Without the accompanying works, there would be no faith in this case.  Thus, “faith without works is dead,” as James proclaims in James 2:20.  Sometimes the work may be merely believing, sometimes it might be changing our minds or our opinions, and sometimes it may be responding by doing what is demanded of us by the word of God.  But always faith is linked up to the proper response.  Faith is not something that happens without effort.  Faith can and often does require much of us.

But in the end what has really impressed me about faith recently is how strong it is.  When we truly believe something, it can affect us powerfully, changing us deep down.  People we have faith in can let us down, but when our faith is well-placed we can say, “I know this person would never lie to me,” and we can be correct.  Many people find their faith misplaced, and though they may make this statement about someone, they find that they were mistaken in making it.  Others may have placed their faith well, and may find from continuing experience that this is actually true, in which case their statement is well-justified.  In the case of God more than any man, however, we can make this statement and know it is true.  And the more faith we have in God the stronger it can grow.

I have begun to realize how much stronger my faith in God has grown in recent years.  There are various reasons for that, I suppose.  In listening to Kent Hovind, for example, and learning how myriad is the evidence for creation and how concocted and ridiculous the evidence for evolution, I have come to realize how really trustworthy the record of creation and the flood is, and that I can trust in them without doubt.  Thus even the points of that record that I don’t entirely understand I have come to accept and believe without question.  In the same way my following the paths of truth in other matters has led me to a greater appreciation for how great God’s plan really is and how fully dependable and worthy of faith He really is.

Another thing that has strengthened my faith, as strange as it may sound, is coming into contact with those who have failed in their faith.  I have met those well versed in the word who nevertheless for one reason or another have failed to believe something that it said.  And I have seen what this leads to, further and further doubt.  Watching this error has strengthened my determination to believe God always, no matter the cost.

But the resulting strength from exercising my faith in some ways surprises me.  It is getting to the point where I can think of my future life just as surely as my future in the next few years.  Just as I would imagine what I will do when I marry and have kids, I imagine what I will do when I am raised from the dead, and what I will do when I am reunited with loved ones now gone.  For many I think that thoughts of the life to come remain like something in a “land far, far away.”  But the realization that God has spoken these things and that He will do them makes them come into focus as if I had seen them myself already, just as I saw President Clinton’s cavalcade.  Faith has become my evidence, and, though unseen, that life to come is real for me, and I can almost see it before me even now.  Thus my faith is my evidence for that life unseen for which I long.  Oh, that it would come soon!