What is This Thing Called Faith?

Faith is not a leap off a cliff

Hans took this picture while standing pretty much at the edge of a cliff overlooking Cook Inlet.  That’s his shadow in the lower right corner.  He made a point of showing me this picture (smiling), knowing I would experience significant after-the-fact-terror.

Despite the photo, faith is not a leap off a cliff.  It is a gift based on facts.  And though Hans’ shadow in this photo is good evidence for the existence of a person I cannot see, true faith – thankfully – is not a shadowy thing.

On May 11 of this year, when I opened an email containing the daily Bible verse from You Version, I was encouraged by Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Since Hans went home to be with the Lord on 1/11/16, whenever I see the numbers 1 and 11 together, it catches my eye.  For me, it is a set of numbers that are hard to forget.

I thought on Hebrews 11:1 for a few minutes, finished my email/Facebook rounds, then started my day.  Later that morning, I was organizing a shelf of Hans’ old high school stuff, deciding which of his text books our youngest son would use next Fall for his senior year.  From between the pages of Exploring Creation with Chemistry, Format Writing, Easy Grammar Plus, and Exploring Government, scraps of memories, on college-ruled notebook paper, slipped through my fingers and drifted silently to the floor.

So many memories.

I picked up one of the Bible study workbooks Hans used his junior year and started flipping through it, smiling at his easily recognized, hurry-up handwriting.  The book fell open to Lesson Thirty-Five – The Life of Faith, Part One.  There at the top of page one hundred twenty-three, was the question:

What is Faith?

And then, Hans’ answer: the evidence of things not seen. 

There was space available to expand on the answer, but he added nothing profound or original.  Hans was definitely a get-to-the-point and get-it-done kind of guy.

Then, down the page to question six:

What two things should you keep in mind in order to help you endure the afflictions of this life? 

Hans’ answer: (a) remember God’s past blessings, and (b) keep in mind the rewards you have coming.

I am taking this as counsel straight from Heaven.  It is often how I get through difficult moments.  To have it in Hans’ own handwriting is a treasure.

Back up to question two:

What makes faith great? 

Hans’ answer: It’s object.

Which brings me to the point of this post:

What is Faith?

I am not a theologian.  I am just an average mom with a very bruised heart.  My memory is shot, I find it difficult to make conversation, and my word-finding ability has declined considerably.  So I will not get technical here.  But, I will give you what I know and understand faith to be.  If you are so inclined, scroll to the bottom for more capable teaching on What Is Faith?

Disclaimer: An unregenerate person – one who has not been born again from above – cannot and will not be able to know true believing faith as presented in God’s Word the Bible.  However, if you honestly desire to grasp the substance of a living, saving hope-filled faith and to personally know the only One who, based on evidence of things seen and unseen, can deliver you from sin, death, heartbreak and hopelessness, then do this: Ask Him to reveal Himself to you.  Lay aside your sin, your self and all the junk that you know is not working for you and come to Him – just as you are.  He is waiting and is able to transform you, to live inside of you and to save you – forever.  Only then can the concept of true faith, of sure hope, become real to you.

So here we go.

What faith is not…

Faith is not confidence in one’s merit, ability, religion or support group.  Faith placed in anything other than the person and work of The Lord Jesus Christ will not get the job done.  I could fool myself into a state of “peace and safety” by inventing any number of nice comforting theories and adopting them as my personal dogma, but that would be self-deceptive idolatry, an ineffectual fabrication and an abomination to God.

Faith is not something I muster up as needed.  It is not an attitude or a way of thinking, though my attitude and thinking are certainly affected by faith.

Faith is believing what God has said.

Faith is not wishful thinking or a vague sense that everything will work out for the best because “I have faith.”  Faith in what?  In myself?  In my own power to determine my destiny?  Believe me, that would not get me very far.  Faith in my friends? my husband? my children? my pastor? priest? rabbi? education? will? strength? credentials? credit cards? political connections? the harmony of the universe?

Let me tell you, when you stand next to a hole in the ground into which they are about to lower your son, NONE of those things will do the job.  When they are throwing shovels-full of dirt on your heart; when clods of frozen earth splatter onto the box that contains your son – you need the real deal.  You need something powerful – more powerful than the crushing pain sucking the marrow from your bones.  More powerful than this thing called death – this irreversible, unmerciful, soul-hammering death.  You need substance.  You need evidence.  You need hope.  You need Something to keep you breathing.   You need faith – real, trusting Faith.

You need God.

Nothing and no one else is big enough.  Faith must have as its object something bigger than self.  Bigger than anyone or anything.  Faith must be in something bigger than death.

There is no point in having a lot of faith in something little.

Apparently, there are some who believe they can do Death of a Child without God, without faith, and keep functioning.  I am not one of them.  Not possible.  Not me.  I would not want to even if I could.  I would not, could not bear purposeless on top of hopeless on top of Godless, on top of My Son Is Dead.



I could never, ever scratch together enough faith to live without Faith.

And neither, if you are honest, can you.

“The evidence of things not seen.” In the Greek the word is elegchos. It is a legal term meaning “evidence that is accepted for conviction.” When I was studying classical Greek in college, I observed that this word is used about twenty-three times in Plato’s account of the trial of Socrates. Evidence is something you take into court to prove your case.

Faith is not a leap in the dark. Faith is not a “hope so.” Faith is substance and evidence — substance for a scientific mind, and evidence for a legal mind. If you really want to believe, you can believe. You can believe a whole lot of foolish things, but God doesn’t want you to do that. He wants your faith to rest upon the Word of God.

—From Edited Messages on Hebrews by Dr. J. Vernon McGee

The Substance of Faith (Hebrews 11:1-3) John MacArthur from Grace to You on Vimeo.

Matthew Henry on Hebrews 11


The Bible in Your Language

More on Faith:

11 thoughts on “What is This Thing Called Faith?

  1. Marci

    Beautifully written. I lost my son Joe 11 years ago but seems like yesterday. If not for the promises of God and His everlasting love, I could not have lived after Joe’s death. I prayed to God to see me through the hardest of times and I am still surviving and here for my other son and grandchildren. Thank God for His goodness.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Veronica McCooey

    I remember feeling so guilty that I was still living the day after my son passed,that I could arrange the funeral, sort his clothing, for leaving this earth, for talking, breathing for just being here. I do believe God was with me,helping me along, carrying me. I never would have done it without Him. I miss Conor so much. God bless all us grieving parents.


    1. Veronica, I am so very sorry for the loss of your Conor. It is truly amazing what a mother can do, with God’s help, when her heart is shattered in a million pieces. You did what needed to be done for your boy. That’s what mothers do. The tremendous upheaval our hearts and minds go through are especially painful that first week when arrangements must be made and it is all you can do to just breathe. But God is there with us and gives us whatever we need to make it through those stormy days. Please, please don’t carry guilt on top of your grief. It is much too heavy a burden. Ask the Lord Jesus to take it from you, so you can remember your dear son, the good times and sweet memories. Don’t let guilt take those things from you.


  3. Oh, how I love this post! The verses, the exposition and the fact that you found such treasure in Han’s notebook and in his own handwriting. Thank you, friend, for speaking truth and courage to my heart tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

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