With the coming of spring and gardening time, I am always awestruck at the beauty of nature and the power of growing things. You put a seed in the ground, give it some water and sunlight, protect it from the elements and watch it grow. Suddenly you have many seeds and food to eat. You can’t explain how it happened, you just know that from a tiny seed grew a fruitful plant.
In much the same way, I am often led to ponder the concept of faith. How does it work? How can I use its power more effectively in my life? It is true, I have witnessed many miracles, and have been blessed by the power of faith, but to really understand it, I am still in the infant stages. It is like trying to understand the intricate workings of the Internet, a remote-control device or the energy of electricity. You know there is power there. You can feel it, and see the results, but trying to explain it and invent new ways of using it, is another matter. Such it is with faith.
Paul, in an epistle to the Hebrews, describes faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Now that is a beautiful definition, with the fancy Biblical phrasing, but to my finite mind, it is a little foggy. I went to the dictionary to gain insight on a couple of words, hoping to understand faith a little better. There were several meanings of substance on the Internet dictionary: http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn
• The real physical matter of which a person or thing consists; “DNA is the substance of our genes.”
In this instance, substance means something that is tangible. Faith must be centered in something that is real or physical. In other words, the power of faith must relate to something connected to the tangible world. You cannot have faith in something that does not follow natural laws. In other words, you cannot have faith that water, without some additive, is going to explode. Water is not explosive. We may not understand the laws upon which faith is based, but we can still, through God’s knowledge, tap into the power of faith. Moses didn’t understand how the Lord parted the Red Sea or caused the plagues in Egypt, but the Lord did.
• Kernel: the choicest or most essential or most vital part of some idea or experience; “the gist of the prosecutor’s argument”; “the heart and soul of the Republican Party;” “the nub of the story.”
In this case, substance means the most basic or deepest underlying elements of something. Used in this way, faith is the very basic power of the universe. It is the beginning of everything. Paul says to the Hebrews, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” If God used the power of faith to create the Earth and everything that is in it, it makes sense that faith is the basic power that runs everything. Plants grow by faith.
Electricity sizzles through the wires and emanates from remote controls and travels on the airwaves. Even we are powered by faith. If faith is the power that moves everything, then we need only to tap into the true laws that govern faith and exercise our faith to bring about miracles.
When I think of my childhood, I think about the impossibilities that have become everyday occurrences. For example, I often heard people say, “We will never walk on the moon, it is not possible. The Lord will not allow that to happen.” Yet in my lifetime, I watched the moonwalk and marveled at the glory of God in allowing men so much power.
For awhile, people thought that if you traveled at speeds exceeding 60 miles an hour, the human body would fall apart. Now we travel at the speed of sound and beyond, and do not even blink an eye. It all happened because someone believed it was possible and was not afraid to try. He/she tapped into the laws of physics that were already written in the universe, and were able to see the impossible become possible.
The other part of Paul’s definition of faith is the word: evidence. The dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evidence) describes evidence as:
• An outward sign, indication; something that furnishes proof, testimony; specifically: something legally submitted to a tribunal to ascertain the truth of a matter; or
• One who bears witness; especially: one who voluntarily confesses a crime and testifies for the prosecution against his accomplices
Evidence in this definition means testimony or obvious proof. Faith is based on evidence. The belief in a supreme creator takes faith. What evidences do we have that there is a God? We have the testimonies of prophets that have seen God. Adam, Moses, Peter and Paul, all testify that they have seen God and talked with him face to face. The people who lived in Christ’s time testified that he lived, died and was resurrected. We have the proof written in the Bible that was handed down from generation to generation by people who treasured the stories of Jesus.
Of course, we do not have to rely solely on the eyewitness accounts of those who lived long ago. We can turn to the universe, where evidences of a God’s existence are plentiful. From the tiniest atoms of our cells, to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and beyond, there is a majestic order that did not come from the disorder of chaos. Even a child can understand that tossing blocks on the ground, in random order, will never produce a tower resembling the Taj Mahal. A greater being with a superior mind had to be involved with designing and orchestrating the creation of the universe.
Finally, there is evidence that comes from the spirit inherent in all of us. Our spirits are designed to recognize truth. Jesus said, speaking of his father, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” Jesus issues a challenge that will work for anyone. If you live as Jesus has asked, you will come to know that his teachings are true. If you pray, and believe, you will get answers to your prayers. If you do unto others as you would have them do unto you, you will reap the blessings of being respected and loved by many. Jesus’ teachings are simple and without equivocation.
If you knock, you shall receive. If you cast your bread upon the water, you will get it back. In other words, what you send out into the world, whether good or evil, it will come back to you. These are some of Christ’s doctrines. He wants you to try them to see if they are true. If you put his words to the test, you will find that they are true. He wants you to listen to the evidences or the testimonies of the prophets, and put his doctrine to the test.
The test of faith is much like planting a seed. If you plant a seed in the ground, you can expect it to grow. If you plant tomatoes, you can expect tomatoes to grow. You do not plant tomatoes expecting onions to grow. Because you have had witnesses from others that if you plant a seed it will grow, you are willing to plant your own seeds. You look at the package of seeds and follow the instructions. As you do this, you exercise faith in the Law of the Harvest.
When you see the fruits of your labor, you are willing to plant again. Now if the plants do not grow, we assume that there was something wrong with the seeds, or we did not follow the instructions on the back of the package. Sometimes we decide to put Christ’s words to the test, but we do not follow the instructions set forth in the scriptures. When we do not get an answer, we say, “I knew it wasn’t true.” Of course, we know that it was not the problem with the doctrine. The fault lies in the person’s ability to exercise true faith by doing whatever it takes to get an answer.
Paul’s definition of faith is intriguing. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Putting it in language I can understand, faith is the very basic tangible hope in things that are true, based on the testimony or proofs of things that are not yet seen. Faith is a power that belongs to God. We can use our faith by acting on teachings that others have witnessed are true. We can pray and ask and we can expect the greatest being in the universe to answer. When we ask in faith, God will answer. PD