This post is the second in a series of five posts explaining the nature of saving faith. In part one, I discussed how faith gives an individual the certainty of invisible, spiritual realities of the past, present and future based upon the sure word of God. In this post I will unfold what I believe the author of Hebrews speaks of when he calls faith "the assurance of things hoped for..." (Heb 11:1). The five posts are listed here:
1. The certainty of invisible, spiritual realities: past, present and future
2. The assurance of things hoped for, both in this world and the next
3. The conviction of personal sin
4. Active reliance on Christ as all-sufficient Savior, provider, and protector
5. Reception of spiritual guidance
Faith fills our hearts with a sense of certainty that the good things promised in the Bible will most certainly come true. Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light” (Matt. 6:22). In the same way, the “eyesight of the soul” fills the soul with strong effects, and one of them is assurance of things hoped for. The author to the Hebrews defined faith as including a forward-looking disposition: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for...” (Heb. 11:1, NASB). The “assurance of things hoped for” is a settled confidence that God will bring about all the good things he has promised to us in Christ.
Faith feeds this forward-looking disposition; it causes a Christian to be happy, strong, and confident no matter what earthly circumstances are currently taking place. A Christian going through great suffering is confident that these sufferings are merely preparing us for “a glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17). A Christian experiencing great earthly success and blessing is rooted in the knowledge that no blessing on earth compares with the future heavenly blessings that are coming. An aging Christian does not need to be melancholy at the passing of time, because, no matter how great our happiness up to this point, all (not some!) of our best possessions, our best experiences, our best relationships are yet to come. We yearn for the future!
Faith looks forward to “things hoped for” in two invisible future realms: 1) future things in this present age; 2) future things in the age to come. The “things hoped for” are based on the promises of God.
Things Hoped for in the Present Age
Faith is especially bold in the presence of Almighty God when it comes to his promises. This holy boldness gives great energy to the saints in prayer and great perseverance in action. One Puritan named Thomas Manton, speaking of persistent prayer based on the promises of God said, “Show him his writing; God is tender of his word.” This is the faith of the “Persistent Widow” (Luke 18:1-5) who keeps coming and coming until she receives what she wants. It would be impertinent were it not based on the promises and character of God. By faith, we are absolutely certain that God “will never leave us or forsake us” (Heb.13:5). By faith, we are confident that, if we seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness, food and clothing sufficient for our needs will be provided for us (Matt. 6:33). By faith we trust that God “will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, but with the temptation will make a way of escape so that we can bear up under it” (1 Cor.10:13). By faith, we can know that he who began a good work in us will most certainly carry it on to completion (Phil.1:6), with the end result that Christ will not lose any of all the people God has given him (John 6:39). Thus we can be confident in Christ that he will maintain our faith and protect our salvation to the end of our days.
Along with these specific promises are generally good things that God may or may not give us, but that we can appropriate by faith-filled prayer. For example, we can pray for a person to be healed based on James 5:15, knowing that God may or may not heal that person. But the prayer is still offered “in faith.” George Mueller took care of over ten thousand orphans in England in the 19th century, learning how to ask God day after day for physical materials (food, clothing, money) that his orphanages would need based on the promise of God: “Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10).
This kind of life of faith makes us buoyant in suffering. We know that God is working everything out for our good (Rom. 8:28), and though we may suffer adverse circumstances, by faith we can see God’s goodness in it and learn to persevere (Rom.5:3-5).
Things Hoped for in the Age to Come
Even sweeter to the Christian, however, is the confidence we have that the age to come, the New Heaven and Earth, will be infinitely and eternally satisfying to us, and that we will most certainly live there and enjoy its delicacies and beauties forever. By faith, we trust that God will enable us to survive the rigors of Judgment Day, when our whole lives will stand open for God’s assessment. By faith, we earnestly hope to be delivered from God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10), to have our spirits made perfectly pure (Heb. 12:23; 1 John 3:2), to be raised in resurrection bodies (Phil. 3:11, 21; 1 Cor.15:12-58), and to be welcomed (2 Peter 1:11) into the New Heaven and the New Earth, which Peter calls the “home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).
By faith, we expect to be rewarded for earthly service, for earthly suffering, for earthly seeds planted in hope that never seemed to come to fruition while we observed them. It is this “forward looking” aspect of faith that enabled Paul and Silas to sing in the Philippian jail after being beaten. Jesus told them “rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:12). It was “looking forward” to the reward that enabled Moses to despise the alluring treasures and pleasures of Egypt and choose disgrace with the people of God for the sake of Christ (Heb. 11:26).
By faith, we search the Scriptures to learn about our future home in the New Heaven and the New Earth. It will be a place of infinite joy, of continual displays of the glory of God in Christ, of perfect beauty, and free from all death, mourning, crying, and pain (Rev. 21:4). It will have both a city and a country (Heb. 11:16). By faith, we have a high level of certainty that we will be there, and will enjoy feasting with the redeemed from every nation on earth (Matt. 8:11). Faith fills us continually with assurance that our hopes based on the promises of God will all come true in Christ.