By Faith We Understand
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
3By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. (NKJV)
Despite all the turmoil in my family and in my life the last while, my faith is deepening. God's tugging me, pulling me in deeper, closer to Him.
What is faith? Paul talks about it at length in Hebrews. Sometimes the word is used interchangeably with belief, but there is a difference in the two. I believe in things because they can be demonstrated in the physical world -- I can discern them with the senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing) or know them experientially and intellectually and logically, for example, mathematical principles. I know them to be real and true. I believe that the sun will rise in the morning, based on my experience of it rising every morning; I believe in justice and the quality of mercy. I believe in God.
Faith, as Paul says, is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I like the New King James Version, with its use of the word "substance."
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, substance is essential nature or essence, also, the "ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change," as well as "the physical material from which something is made or which has discrete existence."
Wow. Faith is a perception of reality, or acknowledgement of a reality, that can be perceived with the senses of the spirit, no less real than the things we know by our other faculties. The things that we hope for in faith already have a discrete existence, an ultimate, unswerving reality, despite the changes of the unpredictable world around us.
Faith springs from trust-- not only believing in God, but having trust in his intentions toward us, or "faith in His faithfulness," with a reciprocal faithfulness toward him. It's not just a matter of belief--after all, even the demons believed Jesus to be the Holy One of God. They were faithless, and they were terrified of him.
When we hope without faith, we're just indulging in wishful thinking. I can "hope" to win the lottery, but the odds are 20 million to one. I know the reality, the stuff, the actuality of things hoped for in faith because of God's steadfast faithfulness.
I hope to see God's face and I know that one day I will, because in faith, I seek Him with all my heart. I pray for the sick in the hope that God will respond because I have faith in His will to heal. And even though healing doesn't always occur in the manner or timing that I might expect, it always happens.
Like Abraham, I will follow Him into strange and unknown lands because He asks me to and that's enough to know. I trust the future to Him.
Following Him doesn't mean life becomes easy or struggle-free. Look at the apostles--they lived lives of hardship and died painful deaths for following Him. But there is an "ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change," and it is that ultimate reality that the faithful seek. Call it the Kingdom of God, communion with God, experiencing the presence of God. We obey his voice because it is this reality which gives us hope and upon which we hang our hopes. It makes all the hardships bearable. It brings joy in the midst of adversity, moments of bliss into the struggles of life.
I hear your voice in the garden. I can't hear you clearly because of all the noise around me and in me. But I hear You and know the sound of your voice. It speaks to me intimately, tenderly; it convicts me of your love for me.
I mostly can't see you, either. Sometimes the wind lifts the veil of fog and I get a glimpse of you.
I want to see your face. I want to sit with you in the garden, basking in your presence. I want to walk with you in the cool of the evening.
I want to tell you how much I love you, I adore you and want you above all others, above anything else. I want to thank you for the beauty that you put into the world, and for giving me the ability to experience joy.
I want to thank you for the universe you spoke into being. I want to thank you, master of the whole universe, that you do not forget someone as insignificant as me. Thank you for creating me and loving me. Thank you for the means of grace and the hope of glory.
I hope to tell you all this one day, as we walk together in the garden.