Faith = Realization and Evidence

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Brothers and sisters; Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

There is a lot of theology written about faith – what it is, where it comes from, and so on. This one sentence from the Letter to the Hebrews, though, brings the definition of faith down to the level of common experience. We do not have to be doctors of Theology to understand this formulation of faith. It is not a matter of heady theology, but is, rather, a matter of personal experience, a “realization” that suddenly sweeps over us, that suddenly makes our lives meaningful and purposeful. It is not a matter of biblical exegesis, but a matter of “evidence,” something that we experienced in the ‘flesh and bone’ of our lives. Faith is something so real that we cannot deny it without causing a psychological dissonance within ourselves. The realization and the “evidence” of faith changes us, it gives us a deepening desire to be in relationship with God, to trust the One who is the source of all that is good true and beautiful, the One who can bring meaning to life, even in and through our suffering.

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Abraham is an example of this living experience of “realization” and “evidence”. Here is a man who, unbelievably, with his wife in their old age, were given a son, Isaac, and then was told to offer up this only son in sacrifice to that same God. This would have shaken any man’s faith in God. But because of his faith, he “reasoned,” he realized, that this God who had given him this son in his old age, could raise even the dead, and so, he complied, though in deepest sorrow, with this divine request. And when he did, his son was given back to him as a symbol of the gift of faith. In this Abraham had evidence that his faith in God was true. Still, faith is not easy. Because we are weak human beings, sometimes, in the midst of our desperation and doubt, we must pray to Jesus, like the father of the boy who was possessed: “I have faith. Help the little faith I have.” (Mark 9:24) We can trust that God will reward even our “little faith.”

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.