Usually we carry the burden of our past mistakes and the weight of our present realities. They remind us of the question 'what is left before you for your future?' Sometimes that question frightens us and sometimes disheartens us. The inspiration that we received from someone and the relief that we gained from somewhere, disappear like mist on a bright day. Can we overcome our present failures and walk into greatness? The answer is a definite "Yes!"
Success and greatness largely depend on one's capacity to visualize the future- that we can doubtlessly call 'faith'. The epistle to the Hebrews 11: 1 beautifully explains this thought. There are 5 simple but great principles hidden in five words of this verse that define what faith is. They give us a clear picture of greatness and guarantee success!
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen"
What really is faith?
Every day we do numerous things based on our faith. We have a certain amount of faith in people, government, transportation, the market and almost everything connected to our day to day life. Once we lose faith or trust in something or someone, it becomes terribly disturbing or painful.
The word 'faith' comes from the Greek word 'pistis'. The meanings in Strong's Greek (4102) contain belief, trust, confidence, fidelity and faithfulness. It is the guarantee or warranty that something that it will come to pass. Our Bible verse says,
Faith (a guarantee that it will come to pass) = The substances of things hoped for + the evidence of things not seen.
The verse mentions five concepts associated with faith:
5) Not seen
To understand more clearly, let us examine these words and principles, but in a different order.
1. Vision (Not seen )
The Greek concept "not seen" means something that we cannot see, perceive with our senses or understand with our experience. Faith is something which travels beyond our present reality to form a vision of our future.
"Vision is seeing a future state with the mind's eye.
Vision is applied imagination"-
(Stephen R. Covey (2013). "The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness",p.70, Simon and Schuster).
What you are should be determined by what your vision is. We need to develop a big and long term vision without being restricted by the boundaries of our present limitations. It should excite us with its majesty, scare us a bit with its magnitude and satisfy us with its magnanimity. It should be directly connected to our passion. By our mind's eye we see what we are in the future and what is going to be the impact of our actions. It is going to be our mission and life. All our actions, thoughts, decisions are going to be based on this.
The 11th chapter of Hebrews talks about heroes of faith, whether it is Noah, Abraham, Moses or someone else, all the accounts talk about the great impact they made through their vision, passion and mission. They walked into greatness by having vision in their lives. Vision, when it comes from God, transforms the one who carries it, the people he or she is connected with and the history of the world.
Gist: We need an exciting vision
2. Living in the future (Evidence)
The word for "evidence" is elegchos. This means "a proof that by which a thing is proved or tested'. A vision should be tested and proved, first in the mind. A vision is not a wild dream or a mere fantasy. A dream becomes a vision only when it is tested in our mind and by life. We need to go through and experience the joy, the pain, the obstacles and the advantages before vision becomes a reality. We see it from different angles and evaluate its worth compared with the challenges. As someone said,
'the death of a dream is the birth of a true vision'
It surpasses the temporary emotions and exists within as a burning desire. Instead of us carrying a vision, the vision will start carrying us. It grows larger than life. Gradually we start living in it as it becomes the reality of today. We start to look upon ourselves as agents who execute what has already happened in our minds. It becomes evident through our decisions, talk and actions. In that condition, we call it, "faith".
Hebrews 11:2 says,
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God,
so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
God created the universe first in His mind and then He formed it outside - Exnihilo - out of nothing. God created human beings in His own image and likeness. Our only limitation is we are not able to produce something out of nothing. But the process is the same. We create anything and everything first in our minds and then form them with what we have outside. Our vision and future are also created in the same way. We form them first in our minds and then shape them by several small steps and choices.
When God created the universe, the circumstances were totally against it. There was absolutely nothing. No chance of the formation of a beautiful universe. The power existed in the omnipotent nature of God. In our situations also the same thing happens. Our circumstances may be totally against doing something and we may not find a single ray of possibility for it. But the power exists in our immense potential (that we receive from God) to create first in the mind and then shape things out into a physical form. That is the "evidence" of "not seen". Once faith grips us, we start talking, walking and behaving totally according to the 'faith' that we have, because we have already seen that 'not seen' and 'experience' that future.
William Barclay illustrates it beautifully through a story.
In the early days of persecution they brought a humble Christian before the judges. He told them that nothing they could do could shake him because he believed that if he was true to God, God would be true to him.
"Do you really think," asked the judge, "that the like of you will go to God and His glory?"
"I do not think", said the man, "I know."
Gist: We should experience the vision in mind and start living in it
3. Clarity (Substance)
The word "substance" (hupostasis) is generally considered as "assurance", "reality" and "an underlying confidence" and even "steadiness of mind". The root word is connected with the meaning 'standing under a guaranteed agreement (Title Deed) or legitimate claim". We are making an agreement about our future. It is guaranteed. The agreement includes the works to do, the benefits and the policies. Faith is not merely having a vague hope. It brings great clarity about the future vision. The agreement considers all the details and the possibilities including the violation of the policies.
When we have a vision, we need to be very clear about it, each and every detail concerning it. How clear we are determines how much easier it is to make it into a reality. Can we see all the nook and crannies of it? Can we visualize all the results, issues, obstacles and threats? This determines the ease of achieving it. It is said that,
'Clarity brings mastery'
Clarity helps us to be prepared and that gives us immense confidence. When God created the world, He had all the details in His mind. Before He created it, He even established the end of it. He designed every single cell, the basic unit, with so much detail that human beings still wonder with each new scientific finding.
Gist: The vision should be very clear and precise (Writing the details of the vision will help so much)
4. Perseverance (Thing)
The simple meaning of "thing" (pragma) is a thing done, a deed or an action (mainly business deed or law suit). It also has the meaning of 'accomplishing by regular practice' and the 'habit needed to accomplish what is necessary'. Another way of seeing this word is, according to Strong's Greek Dictionary, Pragma is the everyday business which always has incalculable eternal worth when done in faith.
Faith is not simply a prayer for one day or an earnest desire for a few days. It is an accomplishment of things by regular doing or by a habit. As people say, our habit explains our destiny. What we do regularly will definitely decide what we will get. Faith creates a new set of habits in our lives for the new vision. We work steadfastly for something which has incalculable eternal worth. We discipline ourselves to repeat the necessary actions even if they are NOT in agreement with our emotions.
Generally our emotions ask us to look for immediate gratification, the pleasure. Our vision or hope asks us to look beyond the immediate things and discipline ourselves for long term joy and fulfilment. The choice is ours. We can break the agreement or we can stand under it. We should discipline ourselves with the agreement to keep the agreement alive. We cannot break the agreement and expect good results. We need to be steady in mind and must have the confidence about the future impact of the agreement.
Why should I avoid today's pleasure for the future? That is faith and it belongs to God!
We are sure about the future
The future worth our today's sacrifices
When visions are not self-centered, they make a great impact on others' lives
After a while, we start reaping the benefits of what we have sown
One of the best examples of this, I read in a book,
Emperor Nero (a man who believed in immediate pleasure) once condemned the Apostle Paul (one of the highest examples of perseverance). But the years have passed on and the time has come when men call their sons Paul and their dogs Nero.
Gist: We must keep on working for the vision by practicing self discipline
5. Result oriented (Hope)
"Hope" (elpizo) means "expect", and "anticipate". It is the driving force of man to live. Without hope, man is of course dead, even when he is alive. Hope is seeing the result before it starts to appear. Faith is not doing something without expecting anything. Faith has a clear expectation of its results. We do actions selectively for a definite result. We do actions repeatedly so that they become our habits. Those habits give us accomplishment.
It is like watching a movie twice. The first time we travel with the story and are uncertain about the end. The second time, it is different. We know the end result and each step is considered progress towards that climax. As directors of our vision we have great freedom to choose what type of climax we need and we discipline ourselves with actions for that climax.
Gist: We know the end result and need to take every step toward it with focus and concentration.
Faith is not a mere wish or continuous prayer without hope. The root words in their contexts clearly tell us that,
We need to,
1. Form a clear vision regarding what we need
2. Have maximum clarity of that vision
3. Make an agreement with it
4. Be self - disciplined for regular practice of it
5. Start living in it.
Then it is guaranteed that it will happen. That is faith!
Let us not be part of history, but make history!