The Bible says, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1). But what does this mean? How can you have evidence of something you cannot see or experience? According to science, facts are based on observable, repeatable data. You have to see it to believe it.
Sometimes faith is said to be contrary to science. This idea assumes that there is no evidence to back up faith or that faith contradicts the evidence. But that’s the exact opposite of what this verse is saying.
So…what is faith? Let’s break it down into four basic components: hope, trust, belief, and action.
Hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” However, as we see in Hebrews, faith isn’t simply crossing your fingers and wishing for something to be true. Faith turns hope into reality.
Trust is defined as “the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” If you have faith in someone, you trust that you can rely on that person to do what he says he is going to do. This person has proven to be reliable in the past, so you know you can count on him in the future.
Hope and trust go hand-in-hand. When your hope is consistently fulfilled, you begin to have trust because you have assurance that you will not be let down. However, sometimes faith has to come before the evidence. This doesn’t mean the evidence isn’t there; it just means that you can’t see it yet.
This is where belief comes in. A belief is “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.” Belief does not equal knowledge. Sometimes beliefs are wrong, just like sometimes trust is misplaced. When you believe in something, you step out on faith, hoping and trusting that this thing is true.
However, when it comes to faith in God, it isn’t enough to stop there. It isn’t enough to simply believe that God exists or that the Bible is true. James 2:19 says, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” Even demons believe in God, but clearly, they do not have faith. So, what’s missing?
In the next verse, James goes on to say that “faith apart from works is useless.” You can’t claim to believe in God, then go off and do whatever you want, and call that faith. As one author puts it, “Biblical faith means believing God and acting accordingly.” This means actively trying to follow God and considering what He would want you to do in any given situation.
To summarize—when you have faith, you accept something to be true (belief) because you have confidence based on past experiences (trust), so you expect and want it to be true again this time (hope). Then you back up this faith with action, living out what you claim to believe.