Above cartoon from: The 2:7 Series, Course 3, NavPress, 1979.
FROM THE MIND OF WEBSTER
• Faith – firm belief in something for which there is no proof.
• Sure – firm, reliable, trustworthy, admitting of no doubt, bound to happen.
• Certain – known or proved to be true, indisputable, inevitable, incapable of failing, destined, assured in mind or action.
• Assurance – being certain in the mind, confidence of mind or manner, freedom from self-doubt or uncertainty.
• Conviction – the state of being convinced, a strong persuasion or belief.
• Substance – physical material from which something is made or which has discrete existence.
• Evidence – an outward sign, something that furnishes proof, something submitted to ascertain the truth of a matter, to be seen.
• Hope – to cherish a desire with anticipation, to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment.
• Not Seen – unseen or not perceived.
Musings From Others
All these terms provide more of a description of what faith does and how it works than a sterile definition of faith. And despite how this verse reads on the surface, Biblical faith is neither a wistful “I-hope-so” feeling (“being sure of what we hope for”), nor irrational blind optimism (“certain of what we do not see”).
We take Him at His Word and trust Him to act on it no matter what the circumstances are or what the consequences may be. The circumstances may seem impossible, and the consequences unknown or frightening. Yet we obey God’s Word just the same and believe Him to do what is right and what is best (even if it is different than what we asked for or wanted). Faith of any kind, is only as good as its object, and the object of our faith is God.
Three words in Hebrews 11 summarize what true Biblical faith is all about: substance, evidence, and witness.
• Substance – The word translated “substance” means literally “to stand under, to support.” Thus, faith to a Christian is what a foundation is to a house. It provides confidence and assurance that he will stand.
• Evidence – The word evidence simply means “conviction.” This is the inward conviction from God that what He has promised, He will perform.
• Witness – The word witness is an important word in Hebrews 11. It occurs not only in verse 2, but twice in verse 4, once in verse 5, and once in verse 39. The summary in Hebrews 12:1 calls this list of men and women “such a great cloud of witnesses.” (1)
• Being Sure of What We Hope For – Being sure of what we already have is not faith, because we already have it. Being assured of what we hope for on the other hand is faith because we do not have it presently. It is only hoped for. That does not necessarily mean that we will get everything, because we do not always get what we hope for. This can be for many reasons, it is not God’s will, our motives are not right, what we hope for is wrong, the timing is not right, God has something better in mind, etc. See Hebrews 11:39, for instance.
• Being Certain of What We Do Not See – Being certain of what we can see is not faith because we can see it. Being certain of what we do not see is faith because we cannot see it. Sometimes we are certain in our faith and it does not become a certainty. These can be for the same reasons as listed above. Just because we do not get what we hope for and just because they do not become a certainty can be due to a lack of faith but not always.
• The Object of Our Faith – Too often our faith is inward looking. I need more faith, my faith is weak, etc. Jesus said all we needed was faith as small as a mustard seed. So, it is not necessarily about how much faith we have within ourselves, but how much faith we have in the object of our faith – God.
For example, a man falling off a cliff sees a root protruding from the wall of a cliff. He might think, if I have enough faith grabbing onto that root might save me. In reality, it has little to do with the faith within him other that he must have enough faith to reach out and take hold of the root. Rather, it has very much to do with the object of his faith. Is it strong enough to save him if he grabs hold. He must have faith that it is strong enough, for him to reach out.
How strong is the object of your faith (God)? You hope He is there. Is your faith strong enough to be sure that He is? You do not see Him. Is your faith strong enough to be certain that He is there and that He hears you?
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 317–318). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.