The Evidence of Faith
You cannot see faith. It is spiritual. It doesn’t come by the five senses. Faith is spiritual because it is relying on a spiritual, invisible God. Hebrews 11:1 makes it plain: Faith is simply evidence you cannot see.
There are several outstanding models of living faith recorded in the Holy Bible. Noah, for example, “moved with fear” after being warned by God “of things not seen as yet” (Hebrews 11:7). Noah’s evidence, in other words, was based on faith. His decision was based solely on what God said. There was no physical evidence to suggest a flood would eventually come and destroy all of mankind.
As a matter of fact, all the physical evidence suggested he should not build the ark. People in those days were eating, drinking and marrying—they were just enjoying the “good” life (Luke 17:26-27). Why look like a fanatic and build a huge ark for 100 years in the middle of dry land while being mercilessly subjected to cruel mockings and ridicule? Because God said so. God said a flood would come, and Noah simply believed Him in faith.
Abraham also faithfully feared and obeyed God. He was 75 years old when God told him to leave all that he had and to travel to an unfamiliar, faraway place.
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Hebrews 11:8). God told him to go, and Abraham left in faith, not even knowing where he was going!
At the age of 130, nearly 55 years after leaving his homeland, Abraham faced his greatest test of faith. He was told to sacrifice his son Isaac. After God gave this instruction, the Bible relates, Abraham rose early in the morning and left for the place God had told him to go (Genesis 22:1-3).
His faith had become so strong that he didn’t even question God! When he arrived at the place God had commanded and arranged for the sacrifice, he was stopped just short of killing Isaac. “And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (verses 11-12). Now God knew that the only evidence Abraham would ever need to carry out God’s command was faith!
In all these examples, notice how faith does not require understanding. Noah was warned of things not seen. Abraham didn’t know where he was going. Yet their obedience didn’t depend on God answering their every little question.
It is not important to know why God says to do something—only that God says “do it”! That is what makes it a test of faith: because faith depends on evidence not seen.
What Is Faith?
The definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter—one of the most practical chapters in the Bible. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (verse 1). So faith is a substance—or assurance, as most Bible margins say. It’s something you have, but it is the substance of things hoped for. So faith comes before possession. You may not yet have the actual possession, but faith is the assurance that you will!
In his booklet, What Is Faith?, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “Once you have received the possession, you no longer hope for it. But even before you receive it, you have it in substance; and that substance—that assurance that you shall possess it—is faith.”
Faith is believing God. It is trusting God to do what He hasn’t yet done.
To strengthen our faith in God, we must really know what God says in His inspired Word—to understand His will (Ephesians 5:17). Faith comes by hearing, Paul said, “and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). If we know it is God’s will, then we can ask in faith.
There’s more. It is not enough just to know God’s will. “And whatsoever we ask [after knowing His will], we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22). Obedience to God is the often overlooked aspect of living faith.
If we know God’s will and are striving to obey His voice, then as Christ said, “According to your faith be it unto you.”
It is such a simple formula. Yet, as Mr. Armstrong wrote in the April 1980 Good News, “At least 99 out of every 100 earnest, surrendered Christians have not fully realized just what faith is or how to exercise it.”
Search the Bible for God’s will, strive to obey His laws, and then faithfully believe. That is the formula. But it is important to note that what God does not promise anywhere in His Word is how or when He will answer our request. That fact alone is what causes so many people to lose faith.
What many people typically do is ask God for something He has promised and then figure out for themselves how and when they would like God to fulfill that request! When that happens, faith immediately breaks down because we generally base the how and when on any available physical “evidence.”
But remember, faith is a spiritual thing. We cannot see it! We must put our trust in God alone.
Waiting on God
In the Good News article mentioned above, Mr. Armstrong challenged the reader by stating, “It is impossible for God to lie. Impossible for God to break His promise. Do you believe that?” (emphasis added throughout). It’s easy to say that God keeps His promises. But when things don’t work out the way we want them to, it’s also very easy to become disillusioned about God and His Word.
God will often test our patience by making us wait on Him because He wants to see if our faith will waver. It must not! It must remain constant, without wavering!
Abraham learned that. His faith didn’t stagger at the seemingly unbelievable promises of God (Romans 4:19-20). He was “fully persuaded that, what [God] had promised, he was able also to perform” (verse 21). That is faith. It is simply believing that what God has promised,He will do!
Through the examples of Abraham and many others in the Bible, God is trying to teach us that He considers faith to be much more important than the actual possession! That is why God hasn’t promised how and when He will answer. He wants our faith to develop most of all because, ultimately, we are saved by grace—through faith! (Ephesians 2:8).
Another reason God doesn’t promise how He will answer our request is because when He does answer, He wants us to know that He did it—not us! God often answers our prayers in a way we would least expect.
Furthermore, He doesn’t promise when He will answer, as noted earlier, because He wants us to develop patience (James 1:3). God tests our faith so that we might grow to the point, like Abraham, where we will not waver (verse 6).
In a way, faith is a substitute, because God will eventually replace it with what you have asked for, as long as He has promised it. Then, once you receive the possession, you no longer need faith!
No wonder God often makes us wait. He wants to see our faith grow and strengthen over time.
The single greatest reason people lose faith in God is that He does not necessarily answer immediately. Yet if we can focus on the faith being developed, look at how positive a trial can be! God will often try our patience. But He will never fail us.
Sometimes it is easy to read certain Bible stories that cover only brief highlights and assume these great men had some sort of superhuman faith, and that God answered their prayers almost before they finished asking. Not so! The men and women of Hebrews 11 were people of faith—but they were also people of patience. They waited on God. Noah built the ark for at least 100 years. Abraham did not have a son until 25 years after God told him to leave his homeland. By patiently waiting on God, these men and women developed lasting faith.
Read Hebrews 11:33-34 to see what many of these men and women accomplished by faith. They trusted in God and He delivered them! But many others were tortured, mocked, scourged and thrown into prison (verse 37). Why weren’t these individuals protected? Didn’t God promise it? Did God lie?
Verse 13 gives the answer: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off ….” The possession is not most important to God. Faith is! These men and women died in faith, not yet having received the promises. But they saw them afar off, by faith! Faith is the substance of things hoped for. How terribly insignificant physical things are when compared to the spiritual!
In the near future, these individuals who died in faith will be resurrected to immortal life. At the resurrection, every wrong will be made right. Psalm 37:1-2 make this abundantly clear. Notice these clear promises in verses 3-4. God doesn’t specify when or how, but if we commit ourselves to pleasing God, He will never fail us!
The entirety of Psalm 37 discusses the difference between good and evil men, and the final outcome for both. Don’t be fooled by the apparent prosperity of wicked men today, David wrote. In the end, God will make it right.
Is it worth it to have our faith tried and tested a little now? Is it worth it to patiently endure through a trial, sickness or test, until God eventually answers? He will never fail you!
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “There is not one thing I have had to rely upon God for and ask Him for in prayer, for myself and family or this wonderful work of His, which He has committed to me, that has not been answered.” Imagine that! Not one thing. God was always there for Mr. Armstrong. The fruits of his life prove that. Like Abraham and Noah, he died in faith.
If God has made a promise to you, that is all you need to know! If He delays answering your prayer, that is all it is—a delay. It doesn’t mean God has refused to answer or fulfill His promise. Don’t rely on physical evidence. Faith is not physical. Trust God. His evidence is invisible. Never quit. Forge ahead with living faith and see God come alive in your life!