Derek Prince - Faith Is The Assurance of Things Hoped For
Can you believe it, we're going to begin chapter 11. This is a fantastic chapter. What I will do now is translate the first six verses and then we'll turn to our note outline. Now faith is a substance of things hoped for, a proof [or a conviction] of things that are not seen. For by this the elders were attested [to testify]. I think we use the word attest. Don't we? Which is the same root. Were attested. By faith we understand that the ages have been fitted together by the spoken word of God... I think yours says "the world," or "the universe" probably. That's correct, but the word originally refers to time, not space. It's the regular word that's used for an age. It's very interesting. The Bible, in many ways, has anticipated the theory of relativity because it uses time and space in a way that there's no conflict with contemporary physics, as far as I know. ...the ages [or the universe] have been fitted together by the spoken word of God...
The word spoken there is the one that's so popular today, rhema. It's usually means a spoken word. Nothing happened until God spoke. When He spoke, then the action started. The word "fitted together" is used somewhere in Timothy of being equipped for the service of the Lord. It's the same word. "A workman that needeth not to be ashamed". Is that right? ...so that with the result that that which is seen came into being [or has come into being] not out of things which appear. I think I better go back and do verse 3 again. By faith we understand that the ages have been fitted together by a spoken word of God, with the result that that which is seen has come into being not from things which appear. [Verse 4:] By faith Abel offered to God a superior sacrifice to Cain, through which he obtained testimony [he was attested by God] that he was righteous, God bearing testimony of his gifts, and through it, though dead, he still speaks.
Verse 5: By faith Enoch was translated... That's the old-fashioned word, but I like it. It means "to carry over from one thing to another, carried across". You translate from English to French, you carry it across from English to French. What was totally English becomes totally French. So Enoch was translated, he was here and then he became totally there. And both men in the Bible who were translated, that's Enoch and Elijah, went entire. They didn't leave anything behind, it was total: spirit, soul and body. Going on: ...he was not found because God had moved him over... The word means "to move from one place to another". I remember the second sermon I ever heard in Pentecostal church was about Enoch. That was the text: "Enoch was not for the Lord took him".
I don't remember all the man said, but he was one of the preachers that believe in making things very vivid. This was in England in 1941. He described the situation after Enoch had disappeared and he said, "People couldn't solve the mystery, so they called for the CID," which would be the FBI in America. "And the CID came with their tracking dogs and they followed the scent just so far and then there was no more scent neither north, nor south, nor east, nor west. The logical conclusion was he'd gone up". Coming from a background of years in logic I said, "That's logical enough"! So, I've always got a special feeling in my heart for this verse. Alright... Going on in verse 5: ...for before his translation [or his transfer] he was attested that he had pleased God. How did he please God? Yes. That's right. But then in what way was his faith manifested?
Well, we're coming back, but... By walking with God. It pleases God when you walk with Him. It pleases me when my wife walks with me. We walk together, we have a good time. One way to please God is to walk with Him. I've got some Scriptures on that, we're coming to that. Verse 6, one of the most important verses in the Bible. But apart from faith it is impossible to please Him... It's not very difficult, it's impossible. ...for the one who comes to God must believe that He [God] is [or exists], and that He becomes a rewarder to those who diligently seek Him. Do you believe that? Good. Now, let's go to our outline which you'll find on Page 11/1. This was the most exciting chapter to make an outline of of all the chapters I've done. I got so excited, there are six pages of the outline! Guess how long it'll take us to get through those! To make it a little less lengthy, I've used two standard abbreviations which are explained there at the top. E for example and P for a principle. Wherever you see E, that's an example.
There are in this chapter more than sixteen, because there's a long list at the end which isn't numbered. There are sixteen individual examples of faith in this chapter. Going to the outline, chapter 10 closes by emphasizing the necessity of faith. What did it say at the end? We are not of those who draw back, but of those who believe to salvation, have faith for salvation. The key closing thought was having faith for salvation. Now the writer in this chapter explains in tremendous detail what faith is. As I've indicated, I was at one time a logician. My specialty was definitions. I wrote a thesis on definitions. Most people imagine if you can't define something you don't know what it is. That's not correct. You can't define the chair you're sitting on, but you know what it is. It's very hard to define a chair, extremely difficult. Don't let anybody tie you down that if you can't define something, you don't know what it is.
If I say, "Sit on the chair," and you sit on it, you know what a chair is. The test is practical, rather than theoretical. Most things in the Bible are not defined. This is very real to me because I was a student of Plato who was a disciple of Socrates. Socrates' whole emphasis was on defining things: righteousness and so on. Socrates took the line, "If you can't define it, you don't know what it is". I have to say that that is not really correct. But, definitions, nevertheless, are very illuminating and they can be very helpful. Basically, most of the key concepts of the Bible are not defined in words. That doesn't mean we can't know what they are. There are other ways of knowing besides being able to define. A child can't define, but it learns language and proves it by the way it acts.
However, what I'm leading up to is in the inscrutable wisdom of God, the Bible does define faith. It's probably the only key concept which is defined. We have the definition here in verse 1. Before we go into the definition, I want to deal with this general principle and it's so general I didn't mark it every time we came across it because it applies to every example. One general principle that applies to every example: faith must be accompanied by appropriate action. As we go through, note the various kinds of actions prompted by faith in the examples that follow. It's very important that we don't get a stereotyped idea of what faith is. Faith can be expressed in many ways and as Brother Ed said the other day, "In America you can have faith for prosperity. Thank God for that. But behind the Iron Curtain, Christians are persecuted. That takes faith, too".
Don't imagine that faith can only be expressed in owning a Cadillac. That's not so. The people that don't own Cadillacs behind the Iron Curtain may well have more faith than some of the people that do own Cadillacs in the United States. What I'm trying to say is don't get set in a mental mold that you can't recognize faith when it comes out in a rather surprising way. Let's look at James 2 because it's a very important chapter. James 2:14–16. How many of you can say "Praise the Lord" for James? I mean, it's rather easy to say "Praise the Lord" for Paul than it is for James. I'm told that Martin Luther said, "The epistle of James was a thing of straw because," to his way of thinking, "it conflicted with his great discovery 'by faith alone.'"
However, I side with both Paul and James. I believe they're both right, because they're both in the Bible. If we can't make room for both of them, then we have a rather little mind. We're going to read now James 2:14–26 in the NASB. What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? Yes or no? Obviously, the answer is no. Faith without works doesn't save. If a brother or sister is without clothing, and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? That's an example of mere verbal faith. "Be warmed and fed, but don't ask me for anything". It's rather a vivid example, isn't it? Verse 17: Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works".
That's a really good pattern to follow. Don't argue faith, demonstrate it. Verse 19: You believe that God is one. [That's the standard confession of the Jewish people. It's very orthodox.] You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. It's not enough to believe. Okay? I've seen demons shudder so many times, that's very vivid. When they're confronted by the authority of the gospel in the name of Jesus, many times they will shudder. They believe, but they're on the wrong side. Verse 20: Are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow [of course, that's not addressed to anybody here!], that faith without works is useless? Isn't it interesting James goes to exactly the same examples to prove that you must have works that Paul goes to to prove you must have faith. That's no accident, the Holy Spirit arranged it.
You see, truth is not static. You probably heard my example about the grandfather clock with the pendulum? Everybody likes to see truth like the pendulum, right down the middle where you can see it through the little piece of glass. But when the pendulum is static, the clock is not going. That's people who have got a set theology and their clock is not going! What happens when the clock goes? The pendulum swings from one side to the other all the time. As long as it goes on swinging, everything's all right. If it stops, everything's all wrong. You'll find in your life God will emphasize one thing and just when you say, "Now I've learned the lesson," He'll emphasize something that seems totally opposite. The pendulum has swung. If you don't move with the pendulum, you'll get behind. Verse 21: Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? He had to do something to prove that he believed God. And if you read on in the 11th chapter of Hebrews (which we'll not get to this time), he believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead. You know the evidence of that?
Turn to Genesis 22, and he said to the young man, "We will go up the mountain, and worship and we will come back". He not only believed it, he confessed it. He had to go all the way. It wasn't enough to say at the foot of the mountain, "We'll come back". He had to go right up the mountain, lift the knife and be poised to kill his son. God said, "Now I know". So, it was what he did that perfected what he believed. Verse 22, that's my version of that. You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," and he was called the friend of God. You'll notice that that's the same verse that Paul uses in Romans 4 to prove it's by faith. Here's James proving it's by works. Is that fair? Well, it's all the Bible.
Let me point out, there's a lesson. You say, "I believe God". Praise the Lord! One day God will say, "Go up Mount Moriah". Then you can't say, "Lord, I already believe". God will say, "I want to see your works". When you put it into practice, your faith will be perfected. When Abraham came down from Mount Moriah, he was a different man. There are people who've been through such tests that nothing will ever shake them again. When Abraham had been through that test, he didn't need to be tested anymore. "He that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin". That's an amazing statement, isn't it? I'm not offering to interpret it. Verse 24: You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. I don't want to be in any way controversial, I have many good friends who are Lutherans. But, there was such an emphasis in Luther's teaching on that, "It's by faith alone," that some Lutherans are afraid of doing anything in case it would cease to be faith alone.
I've heard of a Lutheran church that wouldn't hold prayer meetings because they were afraid that would be works. So you see, we need to balance; the pendulum has to keep swinging. Verse 25: And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers, and sent them out by another way? She risked her life, that was her works. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. I have noticed that in praying for the sick, especially certain sicknesses, particularly arthritis. Ruth will bear me witness, we've seen many examples of this. Sometimes when I pray for a person with arthritis I usually tell them, "I believe that arthritis is usually an evil spirit. My method is to tell that evil spirit to go. Your responsibility is to let it go". I say, "If you do your part, I'll do mine, and God will do His".
There have come a number of occasions when I have felt for sure that the person was delivered. Most times a person with arthritis is so used to being sick that they can't adjust to being healed. I say, faith without works is dead. If you've got faith, do something to prove it. I usually get them to stand up, and start by stamping on the devil. I say, "Stamp as hard as you can". Many times they won't believe that their knees won't hurt. Then I say, "Now, if you really believe, walk down the aisle and come back". When they've done that I say, "Run around the building and come back". Ruth will bear me witness, we've seen many people healed that way. But, if they never acted, they would have stayed sick. God had done His part, but they had to move in with works. "By works faith was perfected". This is a principle that applies all the way through and that's why I've dealt with it at the beginning so that we don't have to keep going back to it. As I said before, I suggest as we go through this beautiful chapter you take time to see the different works or deeds or acts by which faith was expressed.
Now we'll go to our outline on verse 1. 11:1, the middle of Page 11/1. We have here faith defined in relation to hope and sight. I've got to get back to Hebrews 11. Here's the definition in verse 1: Faith is the assurance of things hoped for... It's not the assurance, it's an assurance. It's "a" conviction of things not seen. The word that's translated assurance occurs in Hebrews 1. I'd like you to keep your finger in chapter 11 and turn to chapter 1 for a moment. Verse 3, speaking about Jesus in His eternal nature. He is the radiance of [the Father's] glory... [the way the Father's glory shines out is through Jesus] and the exact representation of His nature. The word nature there is the same word that's used in Hebrews 11:1 and it means "the underlying substance". Jesus is the exact image of the invisible God. No man has seen God, but when you see Jesus you know exactly what God is like, because He's the exact image of the invisible, underlying substance of God.
That's why God won't permit idolatry. Do you know why? Because He has His own image. That's Jesus. He doesn't want anybody to try to improve on that or substitute anything for it. Going back to Hebrews 11:1: Faith is the underlying substance of things hoped for. I point out here faith is in the present, hope is in the future. That's by definition. We often get them mixed up. I've had so many people say to me, "I believe God will heal me". I know what they mean is, "I hope God will heal me". It's not the same thing. God has promised results to faith that don't come to hope. Faith is so real it's a substance, it's not something imaginary. It's not a theory, it's not a doctrine; it's a substance. That's why I won't change that translation. How do you know if you've got the substance? If I could answer that question I think I'd be the most popular preacher in America!
I've heard so many preachers tell, and they've never said it all. God just doesn't divulge that one. Many times I've thought I had faith and didn't have any at all. Have you ever experienced that? Other times I didn't think I had any faith, and I was amazed at the results. In the early years of my ministry some of the most amazing miracles took place that I've never seen surpassed when I prayed for people simply because they asked me to pray for people. My son-in-law here can remember some of them; he was with me at that time. I can remember a Mr. Poole. He was well up in his 60s; he'd just got saved. He had that kind of condition of palsy that you shake all the time. He had a weak heart and I thought, Thank God the dear old gentleman got saved before he goes home. He came up for prayer! I preached a very intellectual sermon that night on Romans 8, the difference between the flesh and the spirit. It wasn't suited to a healing ministry at all, but he asked for prayer so what could I do?
I reached for the bottle of olive oil and we anointed him and he started to behave like an airplane that's about to take off! I mean, his arms flayed and he was shaking and vibrating and we stood back and watched him. What's going to happen next? This went on for ten to twenty minutes. By the end of that time, he was apparently totally healed. Why he came for prayer, on top of all his other problems was he'd fallen down some steps, and injured his arm. I think that's all he came for prayer for, actually. Anyhow, by the end of that time his injured arm was so strong he saw us all standing around and he went around the ring shaking everybody by the hand. It's a strange thing, my son-in-law is here tonight and he can remember that, it made you wince when he shook your hand. Then he got to a young man who'd been miraculously healed a little earlier whose name was James. He stretched out his hand to him and then he drew it back and said, "No, I can't shake hands with you. You're a hypocrite".
That young man went as pale as a sheet. I mean, he was. That was a word of knowledge. You could have put a word of knowledge to me on a plate at that time, and I wouldn't have known what it was! That man, Mr. Poole, he lived as long as we remained in London which was about eight more years. Our meetings were at the top of five flights of stairs. You could hear people puffing when they got to the top. After that I never saw him walk. He went everywhere at a sharp trot. Up the stairs, down the stairs, in the street. I mean, he got an injection of something that just lasted for the rest of his life. I have never had less sense of having faith than I had at that moment. But you see, faith is not feeling. When you feel so confident you may have faith and you may not. But remember, faith and humility go together. The moment you're the man with all the answers you cease to have faith. Usually, that might be an overstatement.
You want real faith? Let God put your nose in the dust. That's another experience I've had. I want to show you this is no idle word. Lamentations 3. This actually happened to me in the desert in about 1943. It's Lamentations 3:25 and following. The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently, for the salvation of the LORD. I was in the army and fed up with being in the army. I hated every moment of it. This is what the Lord gave me. It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone, and be silent since he has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope.
I remember one night going out, and I said, "God, I can take no more". I threw myself on my face in the sand and I literally put my mouth in the dust. I came back, opened my Bible, and there was that passage. You never know how real the Bible is until you're in the place where you experience it. We're going back to Hebrews 11:1. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for". Faith is a substance, it's the underlying basis of what you hope for. If you have a basis of faith, then your hopes will be fulfilled. If they have no basis of faith your hopes have no guarantee that they will be fulfilled. The only guarantee of hope fulfilled is a basis of present faith. Faith in the present; hope in the future. Then it says "a conviction about things not seen". Faith is a conviction. In the world today there's very little of real conviction. People will trade anything, compromise about anything, adjust, change...Not the person who has faith. Faith is a conviction.
I like that word. The world respects a man of conviction even if they don't share his convictions. They recognize him. It's conviction of things not seen. Bear that in mind. Faith relates to the unseen. Let's get that straight. Faith is in the present, hope is in the future. Sight relates us to this world; faith relates us to the unseen world. Those are the two basic distinctions that are made in that verse. Principle number one, principle number two, I've stated them but let's look at them. Principle number one: Faith is present, hope is future. Without faith, hope has no solid basis. It's just wishful thinking, which the world is full of. Principle number two, faith relates to the unseen. It's very, very important. Bear that in mind. There's another Scripture that brings that out so clearly.
Keep your finger in Hebrews 11, and turn to 2 Corinthians 5 for a moment. Verse 7 which is a very short verse... for we walk by faith, not by sight. Okay? By faith and not by sight. If it's by faith then it's not by sight. If it's by sight then it's not by faith. Don't ever mix them up. You don't need faith toward what you can see. You only need faith for what you can't see. That's one reason why faith is so precious is, because it's the only legitimate way to relate to the unseen world. There are illegitimate ways, which are the occult, but the only legitimate way to relate to the unseen world is by faith. Going back to Hebrews 11:2. Faith was the key to the victories of the Old Testament saints. They were very different in their personalities, their achievements, their problems, their backgrounds, but they had one thing in common. What was it? Faith. It's so important to see that.
I was thinking once about some of the great Christians that have inspired me at different times. I've been a great admirer of Mary Slesso, people don't read much about her. She used to be known as the White Queen of Calabar in West Africa. And other people like Madam Guillon and very, very different people. I said to myself one day, "What do these very different people have in common"? My own conclusion at that time was, They know how to claim the promises of God. That can be in two totally different fields that apparently have nothing in common except just that. What I want to say, and I think this is a good point to stop, the same applies to God's successful servants in all ages. You want to be successful as a Christian, there is one unvarying requirement which is faith. Don't try without. If you don't have it, don't try to make do. Seek God for it. We could look to the other great Scripture there, Romans 10:17 which I'm sure most of you know. So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. That's what got me out of hospital. Faith comes. If you don't have it, you don't need to go on without it. It comes by hearing the Word of God.