Faith is the substance: Hebrews 11


Today’s reading: Hebrews 11-13. 

“Why doesn’t my faith accomplish much?”

Faith is the key to everything in the Christian life: our salvation, our walk, our power to accomplish anything eternal. Hebrews 11 has been called the “faith hall of fame” and the “roll call of faith,” but before the accolades comes an account of the nature of faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

I wanted to focus on the words of one man who seemed to grasp the true meaning of faith, Manley Beasley (pictured above). The words and ideas I share in this devotional come from his Faith Workbook. Beasley was a Southern Baptist evangelist who suffered with autoimmune disease for twenty years before dying from kidney failure in 1990. Despite his long illness and close bouts with death, or perhaps because of it, he developed a deep understanding of faith that he then put to use, accomplishing much for the kingdom. Listen to some of his words.

Faith is Substance

I turned over to the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews and looked at the first verse, that says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Right in the middle of that verse, three words just popped out at me. “Faith is substance.” I said, “Lord, that’s it. I need substance.” But I still wasn’t seeing it. Faith IS substance. I said, “Lord, You know I need substance and, in fact, Lord, if You don’t give me substance I’m sunk. I’m done for.” God does not bow to sympathy. I said, “Lord, if You will give me that substance I need, I promise You I will never get in this mess again.” God does not bow to bargaining. I kept looking at those three little words, “Faith is substance” and I said, “Lord, I need substance and if You will just give me that substance I will be alright. You know I have faith.” Then He showed me that “Faith IS substance”, and I would have substance if I have faith. (Present tense) Faith IS, not was or will be. It is right now. I looked at that, and said, “Lord, You mean that when faith really is faith, it is substance?” I couldn’t feel it, smell it, taste it, or understand it. I said, “Lord, You mean that my problem isn’t really substance, that my problem is faith?” – Manley Beasley

Intellectual Faith

He showed me there are three elements of faith: intellectual, emotional, and volitional. It wasn’t hard to see I had intellectual faith. Intellectual faith believes that God can do anything. – Manley Beasley

Emotional Faith

You can wish, hope, want, and desire, (and hope, by the way, is not faith, it is just a part of it), and anticipate, but not have “substance”. I believed God could and because I believed He could, I wanted Him to, so badly I could hardly stand it. This is about as far as most of us ever get in our faith life. We get to those first two areas where we know He can, and we want Him to, so we give mental assent and pray and sometimes even fast. Then we wish and hope and very seldom anything happens. – Manley Beasley

Volitional Faith

At last I came to that third element, the volitional element. This means you have a will in your person. That will has the ability to accept or reject a given situation. Your whole human body responds to that act of the will. When your will acts, your whole body reacts. I saw that God could, and I wanted Him to. In order for God to do something, I had to act on his revealed truth. I realized that faith is intellectual, emotional, and volitional. Do you mean that faith is acting on the Word of God? I saw that faith is acting, and a consistent acting that bids the eternal truth of God to be present fact, as if it is so.

After writing down on a page in my Bible, “NOW, God is solving this problem”, I walked out of the office and told this to a preacher. If you don’t tell somebody, the devil will back you up. You must make such a commitment, that there is no way back. I said, “Today God is solving this problem.” Immediately God took over. I saw that faith in intellectual, emotional, and volitional. Faith is “acting”. Mark 11:24 says, “Therefore I say unto you, what things so ever you desire, when ye pray, believe (act) that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Faith is acting as though a thing is so, when it is not so, in order for it to be so, because it is so. – Manley Beasley

Acting in faith on the word of God

Now, we come to the point of the Word of God as the basis of our faith. The Bible says, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” When we come to this type of faith that we are talking about, there are only three things which are necessary for a man to enter into Bible faith. One is, that he has a need. The second, that he has a Bible promise to stand on. The third, that he simply makes a choice of faith. This brings the need and the Bible promise together. Out of that, he will experience reality…In the word of God he will find promises, and in these promises he will find revelation. Now, do not underestimate the fact of the revelation. The revelation is where the Holy Spirit just opens up the truth of God, promises about the facts of God, until the believer knows His mind. God is speaking to me, this is for me and this particular situation I am in…Then we come to the matter of persuasion. Somehow, some way, through the desires of the heart, the pressure of the need, the Holy Spirit, the warfare of Satan, a person would come to the place where they feel that regardless, they must take God at His word. To not take God at His word is to call God a liar, and refusing God the ability to get in on the scene. Not to act on the word is to say that God is inadequate. In fact, it is calling Him a liar. In this area you will have a normal struggle, a real struggle. This struggle will war until you come to the place that, sink or swim, live or die, you are going to take God at His word…Persuaded means, that we are to the point now in our steps of faith whereby we are GOING TO ACT. This brings us to the point of embracing, action, acting. Be a doer of the Word, so we act. When we act, there is a choice of the will. A choice of will can be totally, intellectually informed as to the ability of God, the supply of God, and the will of God. There could be pressure because of our needs from the outside, and because of our inward desires to please God from inside. Yet, we must come to the place of embracing the promises, stepping out on the promises and bidding those things which be not, as though they are by our action. Faith is acting on the revealed truth. – Manley Beasley


“When a child of God has a need, it is the evidence that the supply is already there.”

“True faith bids eternal truth to become present reality.”

“Faith does not always take you out of the storm but it will calm you in the storm.”

“Faith enables the believing soul to treat the future as the present and the invisible as the visible.”

6 thoughts on “Faith is the substance: Hebrews 11

  1. What a beautiful, powerful exposition on faith. Thank you for that.

    In chapter 12 we read:

    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”

    Who are these witnesses?

    The Greek word for witness is martus, from which we derive the word martyr.

    From Protestant scholar Marvin Vincent we read:

    ‘Witnesses’ does not mean spectators, but those who have borne witness to the truth, as those enumerated in chapter 11. Yet the idea of spectators is implied, and is really the principal idea. The writer’s picture is that of an arena in which the Christians whom he addresses are contending in a race, while the vast host of the heroes of faith who, after having borne witness to the truth, have entered into their heavenly rest, watches the contest from the encircling tiers of the arena, compassing and overhanging it like a cloud, filled with lively interest and sympathy, and lending heavenly aid.

    From Protestant scholar A.T. Robertson we read:

    ‘Cloud of witnesses’ (nephos marturon) . . . The metaphor refers to the great amphitheatre with the arena for the runners and the tiers upon tiers of seats rising up like a cloud. The martures here are not mere spectators (theatai), but testifiers (witnesses) who testify from their own experience (11:2,4-5,33,39) to God’s fulfilling promises as shown in chapter 11.

    So the image becomes a powerful metaphor, saints in heaven watching over us, interceding on our behalf. This is why Catholics pray to saints and believe in the communion of the saints. Pray to God? Always. Pray to saints? Why not?

    • Pray to saints? Why not?

      So, I don’t think there’s any actual harm in talking to dead Christians. I think the Protestant objection is primarily with the expectation that there’s any benefit in doing so.

      Say I talk to Stephen the Martyr. Is Stephen listening to me, specifically, in this moment in time? I don’t know – Paul doesn’t say that any particular witness is omnipresent. If he is, does Stephen even understand English? I don’t know – Paul doesn’t say that the witnesses are omniscient. If he is able, can Stephen take any action on my behalf? I don’t know – “witness” is not an active descriptor. If he can do so, is Stephen more able to act than any other dead Christian? I don’t know – Paul doesn’t go into that. If he is most efficacious, is this still more efficacious than speaking to God directly? Almost certainly not.

      So the problem is that, for all we know, a conversation with a dead Christian is actually just a monologue with the air. The only omnipresent, omniscient, efficacious Witness we know is God – so when we want to be guaranteed of being heard, we talk to Him.

      • Actually, we know a great deal more than that. Because there are more stories than can be counted, of Christians who have prayed to the saints, and had demonstrable miraculous results.

      • Because there are more stories than can be counted, of Christians who have prayed to the saints, and had demonstrable miraculous results.

        Suppose I came to you and said, “I’ve made a medical breakthrough! I have countless people who have recovered from this disease while wearing the color yellow. We now know that yellow cures the disease!”

        Wouldn’t you object that this was bad statistics: that, unless we could show people who didn’t wear yellow didn’t recover, my “breakthrough” didn’t mean anything?

        No doubt many have prayed to the saints and seen miracles. Others have called to Buddha, or Vishnu, or Allah, or to no one at all, and seen miracles. Atheists fall out of planes without parachutes and survive. Muslims are found alive, buried in ruined buildings. Hindus see inexplicable remissions.

        What can we say but that God gives gifts to us all as he wills – and that his gifts, in themselves, are not proof of theological correctness?

  2. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – Faith is the substance: Hebrews 11 | ChristianBlessings

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