SUBSTANCE AND EVIDENCE: A STUDY ON FAITH
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith makes certain the unseen things for which we hope. When our faith becomes mature, that for which we hope will become more real to us than those things which are visible.
There are three things which must be established and settled in any situation in which faith is to be exercised.
First, the object of our faith must be beyond our ability to achieve. If it were not so, faith would be unnecessary as human effort could accomplish the desired end. Natural impossibility is the atmosphere in which faith works.
Second, the unseen object of our faith must be hoped for through a yearning heart with a pure motive.
"For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works through love" (Galatians 5:6). And third, there must be a personal conviction that the object believed for is as real as if it was already attained.
The word "substance" could be misleading because we may think that it means the natural essence of an object. The substance of this booklet is paper and ink, but this is not the meaning of the Greek word, "hupostasis" which is used for "substance" in our text.
This word consists of two words, "hupo" - under, and "histemi" - stand. It is that which "stands under". It is not the object that is hoped for, but rather that which stands under and supports the object, in order to bring it into material manifestation.
"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why does he yet hope for?" (Romans 8:24)
Faith is like my arm, which reaches out and stands under the object that I am bringing down from the shelf. My arm is not the substance nor the object, but is the "stand under" which supports the object in order to bring it down.
Following is a definition of faith which gives the right understanding of the word.
"Faith is that exercise of mind and soul, which has for its object things not seen, but hoped for. And instead of sinking under them due to their difficulty or uncertainty, it stands firmly under them and sustains their becoming reality.
The Lord does not ask us to say that we have the object hoped for when we do not have it. He does ask us to declare our faith by saying that we have "hupostasis," or the "stand under" which brings the object to materialization. Faith is never a struggle, but a resting in hope.
Abraham gives us an example of this: "He did not stagger at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God" (Romans 4:20).
The word "stagger" is what unbelief and fear make us do. But faith, "hupostasis," supports and holds steady the conditions for us. Abraham had faith, although that for which he believed was humanly impossible.
To "have it by faith" means that our faith is operative; although the material manifestation is not yet seen, it is moving toward its material accomplishment. Therefore, it is as good as done, and we can "call those things which are not, as though they were."
Faith is like a check that can be cashed at the bank where the actual money is. The check is not the money, but it is equal to it, and stands under, until we receive the money in our hand. Then the check is no longer needed, as we have that which it represented.
The word "evidence" relates to our being tested. The very foundation upon which our faith rests is the Word of God.
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
Faith is the result of our having a "word" from the Lord, which becomes the substance and evidence of our believing. We take God at His word and believe what He has said to us. Faith, then, is not belief without evidence, but rather it is the result of the "word" that He has spoken to us.
As an illustration of our having faith through His Word, let us consider Peter walking upon the water:
"And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him" (Matthew 14:22a).
They are in Divine order and acting in obedience; however, a storm comes upon them. Trouble or opposition may not indicate that we are out of His will or in disobedience. Very often we find that a severe test may prove that we ARE in Divine order - for the sake of our discipline, the development of our faith, and our spiritual growth.
When the Lord found His disciples in trouble, He came to them, walking on the water, and gave them a word of comfort.
"And Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be You, bid me come to You on the water" (Matthew 14:28).
In the next verse, the needed evidence is given. The word "come" spoken by Jesus is the key to the situation.
"And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus" (Matthew 14:29).
Peter did not walk upon the water, rather he walked on "substance." He had a word - "come." In faith, he stepped out and walked on this word. He was safe so long as he looked at the Lord, but - as soon as he looked down at the water - he began to sink.
Notice how Jesus dealt with this. "Immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand." Help came first, the rebuke later. As the Lord held Peter, He rebuked him. The safest place for a rebuke is in the arms of the Lord. If it were not so, some of us might run from Him in greater fear.
The evidence is His Word. But this does not mean that we have a right to choose a "Word" that suits us, and then attempt to bring it to pass. Note that Peter did not venture until he had a word from the Lord: "Come."
In Matthew 8:23, we have the story of another storm, with the disciples in a boat. But there is a difference. "And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him."
At times we venture into realms for which we have no spiritual capacity, and find the situation too great in its demands for our limited faith and experience. We are to proceed carefully on the "word" that we have, but never in presumption.
Many Christians are confused concerning their faith. This is because they venture out upon a promise from the Bible, thinking they have a right to risk all upon it when - in truth - the promise may have no application to the situation at all. Then, when the Lord does not answer, they are thrown into confusion and doubt. One may be moved by personal desires, and be so determined to have what He may call victory, that he battles until exhausted.
We should never venture out upon the water until we have the divine "come" under our feet. We must listen for His voice, and once we have heard, we have substance upon which we can walk into the impossible.
Now our faith will bring us to the Lord Himself.