Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
For many people, this scripture is the quintessential definition of faith. No doubt, you have heard someone quote this passage to explain or advocate for faith, but can you truly say you understand what the words mean? The goal of this week’s lesson is to place this verse in the proper context to provide a better understanding of how our faith should function.
Hebrews 11:1 is all about perception. Perception is defined as “the way you think about or understand someone or something”. To understand the way you perceive things, you must first understand what shapes your personal beliefs and willingness to trust. This is why the study of those areas preceded this week’s focus. Your belief system impacts your perception by governing your comprehension of what you see, and your ability to trust is directly related to your acceptance of what is perceived.
In our discussion we take a look at how our perception impacts the representation of our faith. There are four significant words in our focus scripture: hope, substance, evidence, and now.
- Hope – God is My Foundation
Isaiah 41:10 NIV
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Holding on to hope can be an exhausting task. Hope is a highly subjective concept impacted by your personal feelings and circumstances. As a result of its wavering nature, hope relies heavily on our perception to survive. If you perceive a situation to have potential for a positive outcome, you will enlist hope to sustain you. On the contrary, if you anticipate a negative outcome, hope will quickly fade.
The way you view and understand where you are cannot be based on your impressionable nature. When the source of your hope is belief and trust in God, your ability to choose hope over despair is strengthened.
- Substance – God is my Confidence
If something has substance it is considered to have tangible properties. In other words, you are dealing with something you can touch, maneuver, or arrange. In Hebrews 11:1 the word substance encompasses an even deeper meaning, as directed by perception. Substance is more than tangibility. More accurately, the scripture is referencing the presence of confidence or assurance.
As a result of your belief in the Lord’s ability and your willingness to trust Him, your view of whatever you’re longing for transcends hope and transforms into expectation. You expect to receive because of your confidence in God, and that confidence makes your hope palpable. Your faith gives substance (i.e., tangibility).
- Evidence – God is my Proof
II Corinthians 4:18 NIV
So fix your eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Evidence = Proof
In a court of law, evidence is used to determine one’s fate, where the removal or introduction of reasonable doubt can mean the difference between captivity and freedom. The same is true for you and I. We have to choose what we will believe about our personal situation. This choice guides your perception of the evidence placed before you.
What makes faith a daily and challenging choice is that God’s evidence doesn’t always match our understanding of what proof should look like. The Lord challenges us to allow our belief and trust in Him to guide our perception, to the point that we subscribe to the Lord’s view of our lives. Perception based on God’s view sees farther than our present situation and past our current frustration. Although we can’t see everything God sees, the proper alignment of our perception gives us strength to remove doubt.
After you understand how faith functions, you must understand when to use it. The answer is simple – NOW! The word now denotes present time and current action. We are called to exercise our faith “in the moment” of our despair, confusion, uncertainty, or frustration. There is no reason for us to wait to trust the Lord. He doesn’t need time to prepare – He’s ready to strengthen you NOW.
Thank you for being constant and sure. Help me to know that you must be my foundation, my confidence, and my proof in every situation. I want my perception to line up with the way you see my life. Give me the strength to choose your view everyday.
In Your Name I Pray,
 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, definition of “perception”, retrieved March 21, 2018.