"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
-- Hebrews 11:1
So, what can we see about faith in this verse?
First, faith is now. It says "Now faith is". There is some debate over whether or not the word "now" was actually in the original Greek text. So, let's say that it wasn't. That leaves us with "Faith is..." The last time I checked, the word "is" is present tense. So, even without the word "now" faith is still obviously rooted in the present.
Why is this important? Because a lot of people believe that God will fulfill their needs and desires some day -- even if it's only in the sweet by and by. So, here's our problem: if we believe that God will answer our prayers at some point in the future, then when we use our faith to pray, we are putting the answer off into the future.
Let me see if I can explain this a little better. If you believe that tomorrow God will answer your prayer, and tomorrow never comes (because it's always today), then when will you receive your answer?
If this is still a bit muddy, take a look at this scripture from Mark:
"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."-- Mark 11:24
Jesus didn't say "believe that you WILL receive it." He said, "Believe that you HAVE RECEIVED it." Because faith is NOW, it is in the present.
The second thing that jumps out at me in Hebrews 11:11 is, faith is the substance of things hoped for. I'm going to give away my age a bit, but this reminds me of something from my childhood.
When I was a kid, Mattel came out with this great toy called "The Thing Maker". Inside the box came a little oven, several little molds, and bottles of "goop". You could make a variety of "things". They came out with add-on packs so that you could make "girly" things or "boy-oriented" things or somewhat generic things. They had a hit on their hands with a fairly wide appeal.
Well, that "goop" was the substance. By itself, it wasn't much. But, when you poured the goop (substance) into a mold (hope) and baked it in the little oven you got your insect, creature or whatever you had created.
Did you follow that? So, the substance itself has no form. The thing that most people don't seem to realize is, that like money, power, or pretty much anything else, this substance, this faith, can be used for good or evil. Don't believe me? Check this out:
"For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me."-- Job 3:25
Fear is faith in the negative. Job's fear, or negative faith, was the substance. His thoughts and words were the mold. His harvest was reaping exactly what he was afraid of.
The third thing I notice in Hebrews 11:1 is that faith is the evidence of things not seen. What is evidence? It's proof. When you go to court, a case is won or lost depending on the proof that is presented. You can't usually bring the actual thing itself into a courtroom, so you do the next best thing -- you bring in something that proves what you are saying is true.
Well, the Bible is full of God's promises to us. What we need to start doing is realizing that these promises (all His promises are yes and amen!) are all the proof we need. This is how we walk by faith, and not by sight.
Remember the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his sick servant? Jesus said he would come immediately to heal him. But, the centurion said he wasn't worthy enough for Jesus to come to his home, but that he could just speak the word and his servant would be healed. (Matthew 8:5-13)
In the natural, we rely on evidence all the time. I have a title to my car that says I own it. The title isn't my car, but it's the proof, or the evidence of that car. What we need to do is transfer this same faith and trust to the supernatural and believe that what God has promised, he is faithful to perform.
I may not have my car in front of me, I may not be able to show it to you, but I have the title to that car, I know it's mine, and I can prove it's mine.
So, what is faith? It is the substance and the proof or the title of the promises God has made to me in his Word, the Bible.
It is what we walk by.