“Faith is being sure about what we hope for, being convinced about things we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
“If we have faith in each other, we will win.”
A new college football coach urged the fans to trust him. He came in with an exciting, fast-paced system guaranteed to score lots of points. Lots of points would lead to lots of wins after years of losses. He called on the fans to have faith in his ability to guide the team to victory. He encouraged his players to have faith in one another. For a couple seasons, the team did well, but when they started losing again, fans were not so quick to put their faith in the coach’s promises.
We often see that happen when people talk about faith. We are supposed to have faith in an institution, a group, an individual, or even ourselves. “Have faith in your government.” “Have faith in the company.” “Have faith in this leader or this political party to lead the country in the right direction!” “Have faith in your family, because they always come through.” “If you have faith in yourself, you will accomplish great things!” So much talk about faith, but is it really faith? After all, the psalmist warns us, “Do not trust in human helpers, in a mortal man who cannot save you” (Psalm 146:3).
The object of faith makes all the difference. Teams lose. Coaches get replaced. Governments and leaders fail. Medicine, science, and family let us down. Companies go bankrupt or get bought out. All of us fail to reach our full potential. What happens to our faith when what we had faith in inevitably fails? Such faith proves to be no faith at all, at least not faith as God defines it.
So how does God define faith? The writer to the Hebrews beautifully defines how God wants us to understand faith: “Faith is being sure about what we hope for, being convinced about things we do not see” (11:1).
Being sure about what we hope for
Like faith, hope often comes easy. You hope for good weather. You hope for a clean bill of health. You hope your team wins. You hope you get a good grade on a test. You hope your son or daughter will make it home safely. You hope you get the job or promotion. You hope your loved one will be there for you. You hope the meal turns out. You hope . . . you hope . . . you hope!
What kind of hope is that? Is it an “I hope so” hope? I hope for good weather, but it could rain or snow. I hope to get a good grade, but I could forget what I studied. I hope for a clean bill of health, but the doctor could find something. We speak so much of hope, yet that hope is often nothing more than wishful thinking. “I hope this works out, but I really can’t be sure.” There is nothing definite about that kind of hope, nothing to make it certain. Yet God’s Word says, “Faith is being sure about what we hope for.”
By faith in Christ, we can confidently look to the future with an “I know so” hope grounded in what Jesus accomplished for us.
That is a different kind of hope—the certain hope in God and his promises. You might call it an “I know so” hope. The writer to the Hebrews provides us with many examples of hope-filled faith in chapter 11. For me, of all those ancient examples, the one that really stands out is Abraham. When Abraham was 75, God told him to pack up his household and move to a land he had never seen. In addition, though he was childless, he was going to have a son through whom all nations would be blessed. “By faith, Abraham . . . obeyed” (11:8). He trusted God and went where God sent him. The Lord blessed him there, but he had to keep waiting for that child of promise. Tempted time and again to give up hope in God’s promises, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, nevertheless, still “considered him faithful who had made the promise” (11:11). In time, God came through. When Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90, the Lord kept his promise and finally provided that son! All along, Abraham remained sure of what he hoped—that God would keep every one of his promises.
The Lord did all that for Abraham . . . and for us too. As promised, Jesus came into our world born of a virgin mother. Jesus lived the holy life none of us could. Jesus reconciled us with God by his death on the cross. Jesus abandoned his tomb on Easter morning. Jesus remains ever with us, guiding all things for our eternal good. All just as God promised.
What comfort that gives us! We live in such uncertain times. So much leaves us wondering what will happen to us tomorrow and in the distant future. We are tempted to lose hope in God and his promises. We could fall back into wishful “I hope so” thinking, or we can trust in the One who has kept his every promise. By faith in Christ, we can confidently look to the future with an “I know so” hope grounded in what Jesus accomplished for us. Faith is being sure about what we hope for, and therefore faith is also convinced about things we do not see.
Being convinced about things we do not see
Here in central Florida, there is no lack of thrill rides. Millions flock here every year to visit our world-famous theme parks. Our family has had a chance to enjoy some of those rides. When we do, our kids occasionally experience something we call “line anxiety.” Basically, while we wait in a lengthy queue to get on a ride, one of our kids starts fearing the worst. A little panic, a long wait, and a large dose of fear of the unknown leave them expecting nothing short of injury or death. In spite of our best efforts, they do not trust us until we finish the ride, when they finally realize they were safe the entire time.
Do we ever view life that way? Not knowing what the future holds, we often assume the worst. We get “line anxiety” and lose sleep worrying how some situation will play out. We think so much about what potential danger, crisis, or suffering lies ahead that we forget the One who holds our future in his hands.
“Faith is . . . being convinced about things we do not see.” I cannot tell you what will happen next year, let alone tomorrow, but we have no need to worry. Why? Jesus knows. He knows what he has done for us in the past. He knows how he will get us through the present. He knows what he has prepared for us in the future, including eternity with him in heaven. In this life, we cannot see all that, but Jesus does. So trust in him with faith that is grounded in what Jesus accomplished and remain confident in the One you will see in heaven someday.
The Scripture references used in this article are from the Evangelical Heritage Version.
Author: Jeremiah Gumm
Volume 109, Number 08
Issue: August 2022