Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1, NASB
“When I use a word,” said Humpty Dumpty, “it means just what I choose it to mean, nothing more, nothing less.” That’s the way it often is. Words mean different things to different people. One man has faith in his country, another has faith in his wife. A third may say, “I have faith in God.” All three have a certain kind of faith, but if any one of these three tried to explain it to you, the object of their faith would be so intertwined in the definition that in each case faith would seem to be something entirely different.
How do you explain faith in God? Charles Spurgeon once said, “You may think that it is very easy to explain faith, and so it is; but it is easier still to confuse people with your definition.” He is correct.
Many centuries ago, one of the writers of the Bible wrote, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB).
Another version puts it, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Behind those translations are two words. The first word, hupostas, was used as a legal term in the first century, according to linguistic authorities. It stands for “the whole body of evidence,” something like “a title deed to what you own.” In this sense, Scripture is saying that believing God is better than a promissory note; it as good as a title deed to a piece of real estate.
The second word says that faith is the evidence of that which is unseen. The word used here, elegchos, means proof, hence, concrete reality. Possibly you may be thinking, “All right, I concede this much, but how do you know that the object of your faith, namely God, even exists? Have anyone ever seen God?”
Before I answer your question, let me ask you a question. “Do you disbelieve everything you have not seen with your own two eyes?” Have you ever seen a neutron or a proton? Of course not, yet electricity is made of these smaller-than-microscopic particles. Science in recent days has produced all kinds of evidence for the reality of unseen objects. Would you call that faith? Again, have you ever seen a note of music? No, but you have heard one. Whose heart does not thrill to the beautiful song of a bird, or the lilting strains of an orchestra, or the beauty of Bach and Bethoven? Actually, a sound is only a series of vibrations which are not seen with the naked eyebut are heard.
Faith in God is based upon certain empirical facts. It is no leap in the dark, no more so than walking across a street in midday. That deals with present realities, but faith in God is based on the past. The Apostle Paul said this himself when he wrote to the church at Rome, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, NKJV).
Paul is saying that the Bible is a record of God’s meeting the needs of people in the past, something which is a matter of historical record. He says that on the basis of what God has done in the past, He will meet you now.
God plays no favorites. He is just as interested in your life today as He was in meeting the needs of those who heard Christ in person. If faith in God is only academic to you, go to the source itself. Remember, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by reading the Bible. It is the only textbook on the market designed by God to meet the needs of men and women on the go.
Resource reading: Hebrews 11:1-10.