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is an intangible attribute not understood by many; even some Christians do not understand it. Before we consider what faith is, let us look at what it is not.
Faith is not -- to believe the sun will rise in the morning.
Faith is not -- to believe you will be paid at the end of a working week.
Faith is not -- to believe the fuel pump is accurate when you fill your car.
All three relate to experience. While it is dark, our expectation awaits the dawn. At the close of a working week, we anticipate the pay cheque. As we fill the tank of our car and watch the meter tick over, we assume it is correct.
Faith is not -- to believe your spouse will be faithful.
Faith is not even -- to believe there is a God.
Of course there are similarities, but faith is far more than just believing.
When we say goodbye to our loved ones, we trust they will be faithful. And if we simply believe there is a God, we hope He will watch over us.
Yes, these are like faith, but they are not the real thing.
According to the Bible, we do well to believe in God, but “the devils also believe and tremble.” James 2:19.
Faith relates to Christianity and not to everyday life.
It will affect our daily lives, but it is not simply believing the things we hope are true.
Faith is not something we can place on the table and say, ‘That is my faith’.
Even if a person says, ‘I have a very strong faith in God’, it does not necessarily mean they have any faith at all.
The Bible writer James illustrated this when he said, “If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” James 2:15.16.
James likens this to a person who believes he has faith. He continues, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” James 2:18.
It is obvious that a man is deceiving himself who merely says to a beggar, ‘Depart in peace and be warmed’. In reality this man does not have faith, for “faith without works is dead?” James 2:20.
Linking this to our examples of the sun, the pay cheque, the fuel pump, the spouse, and believing in a God, it is like wishing a beggar well, but not providing his needs.
Faith does something. It is active, but more about this later.
What then is faith? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” Hebrews 11:1.
This text is a paradox with:
(a) Two intangibles -- faith and things unseen.
(b) Two tangibles – substance and the evidence.
We ask the question – How can an intangible faith be a tangible substance?
Intangibles are not visible. We cannot see them, feel them, hear them or smell them. The senses are at a loss to do anything. On the other hand, a substance is visible, touchable, feelable, and smellable. We can show our friends as we display it before them.
God says, FAITH = SUBSTANCE.
FAITH = EVIDENCE OF THE UNSEEN.
An illustration will help.
You see a block of land on the internet. It looks good. It is the size you want, the location is perfect, and the price is right. But the land is in another state and it is impossible for you to get there. So you ask a friend to look at it on your behalf. He reports back that it is an excellent property. Trusting your friend, you go to a solicitor and have the papers drawn up. You pay the money and sign the deed. The land now belongs to you, although you have never seen it.
The title you hold in your hand is the evidence that you own the block of land. The printed deed is the substance that proves the land is yours. It is a valuable document.
In other words, true faith becomes the substance for the things we cannot see. It is our evidence for them, as real as an actual deed of ownership.
How is this possible? It will become clear as we progress.