Evidence of Faith
Faith is usually associated with belief. It is the confidence a person has in what they believe. It also implies assurance, conviction, reliance and trust. In a religious context it means having absolute confidence that God is the supreme, divine power and authority whose word is law and that He can accomplish what He has promised.
The Bible defines faith as “…the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). By this definition faith is evidence of what is believed. Some may be satisfied with faith as evidence, but others will not. To them the concept of faith is just as intangible as the “things not seen”. They seek more substantial evidence of God.
Things not seen
Those who doubt are challenged by God to consider the creation as evidence of His existence,“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Romans 1:20). The complex and amazing creation with its life sustaining processes and diverse but interdependent species is no accident. Something so intricately designed indicates a designer (Isaiah 40:12, 26). It required a creator! The universe is governed by laws of nature that signify a lawgiver. The things seen are evidence of that which is not seen.
On the other hand, the challenge for those who do believe is that their faith is evidence of that God whom they cannot see. If it is to be credible as evidence then faith must have substance. Mere belief or religious emotion is not enough to convince non-believers. To be effective evidence faith must be discernable in the life of the believer.
Conclusive and undisputable proof of God will of course come to all in the resurrection, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29). All doubts will be dispelled when everyone comes to stand before God, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God;” (Revelation 20:12). Faith will determine how we stand, “…for by faith ye stand.” (II Corinthians 1:24). Those without faith will not please God, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6). Those who have it will be rewarded.
Things hoped for
A reward has been prepared, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”(I Corinthians 2:9). He wants mankind to become sons and daughters (II Corinthian 6:18), joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), who is the image of his Father (II Corinthians 4:4). He is creating man in that same image (Genesis 1:26), with the same divine nature that is common to both the Father and son so that they all, “… may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21). He wants believers to partake of His divine nature so they are perfected to the fullness of Christ to live forever in God’s Kingdom (Ephesians 4:13). These are the rewards - the things that are not seen but for which believers hope.
That divine nature that God wants to share with His sons and daughters is described as love, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:16). When activated love gives substance to faith, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (I John 5:3). How believers live and worship is determined by law, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40). The law is an expression of God’s mind and to live by it is to partake of His nature which sets those who do apart from the world, “…ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world...” (II Peter 1:4).
More than Belief
Faith obviously involves a lot more than mere belief - it is a way of life that is evident to others by the conduct of the believer. Belief is the initial foundation from which one progresses to perfection, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.” (Hebrews 6:1). They go from faith to faith as more is revealed, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17).
The Apostle Peter provided a list of virtues culminating in love, that when added to faith ensures salvation,“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:4-11).
Through faith believers are saved by grace. That is God’s gift to mankind, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Ephesians 2:8). But if that faith is not perfected it comes to naught, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:2). Love is the outcome of faith perfected, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (I Corinthians 13:13).
Faith not substantiated by love is of little value. It must be substantiated by the way believers worship God and in how they treat others. Consequently love becomes more noticeable in their lives as they grow from strength to strength - from faith to faith. Then their faith becomes credible evidence of the hope they have for what God has prepared - the evidence of things not seen.