By Robert F. Turner (Plain Talk, June 1981)
Some years back I received word that a dear friend and brother in the Lord was dying with cancer. I wrote a letter to him, which said in part:
“They say you are going to die—like the rest of us. What have “they” ever known about anything? WE say you are going to live—and we are going to live with you. And we have an empty tomb near Jerusalem that says our hope will become a reality.”
I visited my brother just before his death, and he thanked me for what he called “much needed honesty, in a time like this.” Then he added, “This is when we learn what faith is all about.” I don’t suppose I have yet learned the full meaning of that, but as the years increase, and I see other friends slipping away, it is getting through to me.
The Hebrew writer said, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). “Substance” is from “sub” plus “stano”—that which stands under, or upholds. That theme is repeated over and over in the chapter: “things seen were not made of things which appear” —or — “Noah, warned of things not yet seen” — or — “Abraham went out, not knowing whether he went” —or — “these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off.” Faith moves a man on, when his senses fail him.
We do not refer to self-reliance, or “faith” in oneself. That is but a weak derivative of positive thinking, irrevocably tied to our “this world” existence. Nor do we refer to a faith of despair, a blind “leap of faith” which is no faith at all. Bible faith is based on evidence (Rom. 10:13-17). God’s word has been confirmed by demonstration of its divine source, so that we have reason to believe in the reliability of the message (Mk. 16:17-20; Heb. 2:1-4; 1 Cor. 2:4-5). And our hope of life after death rests upon an empty tomb and reliable witnesses.
The Hebrew writer says, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” But faith sees more than a physical beginning in this. Accepting a Creator not only removes the theory of a “chance” beginning, it gives creation a purpose. We are here because an all-wise God had a reason for our existence. Life is not an exercise in futility. In faith we have goals, we accomplish predetermined ends. It is faith that tells us what this life is all about.
We say we “believe”—and surely we do to some extent. That is tested in an elementary way by our willingness to obey initial commands of God. Then, when to further live by divine authority we must part with friends and earthly gain, our faith gets a more severe test. We talk and write about faith, and hope; and we quote words of comfort—to believers, who are bereaved or troubled. But the real test, the “moment of truth,” comes when we are about to turn loose of this life and the ties that have identified and made us what we are. When I am the one who steps into the unknown, and must trust in that which is not seen, I will go in despair, or I will know what faith is all about.