If asked, how would you define faith? I know that you might be inclined to recite the words of the famous declaration from Hebrews 11:1. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” However, while that verse tells us the function that faith fulfills in our lives – what faith does for us - I contend that it does not define faith in a way that allows us to easily explain it to someone else in a clear, concise, actionable way.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith’s function is to provide us with the basis or foundation to claim what we want God to do for us when there is no actual proof that it is ours. I believe God will give me victory even if I cannot explain how it is going to happen. Because I believe God, I know the object of my desire is still going to be mine even though success seems improbable. Faith allows me to say it is mine, anyhow. Understanding faith’s function leads to the definition of faith. Faith is confidence in God's ability to come through for me, even in adverse circumstances.
Adverse circumstances refer to unfavorable conditions. Adverse is the word from which we get the words adversity and adversary. In other words, adverse circumstances are conditions that oppose our interests or desire.
Because of faith, the conditions may not be favorable, but I believe in God's power to give me victory. Faith gives me an expectation that everything will be alright. Sounds good, right? It sounds good in isolation. But what happens if negative evidence suggest that you will not be successful in your quest?
Negative evidence refers to repeated failure or disappointment in a particular area. Because you have suffered consistent disappointment in that area, you have a difficult time anticipating victory. If you can't expect success, your faith is being undermined, limiting your potential for victory. The miracle at the pool of Bethsaida provides an apt example of a person scarred by negative evidence.
Once a year, an angel would invest the water in the pool of Bethesda with miraculous healing power that would result in the healing of whoever bathed in the pool. There was just one problem. You could only get the miracle if you were first into the pool after the angel disturbed the water. So, when Jesus asked the man who endured his sickness for thirty-eight years if he wanted to be healed, his answer came out of his negative experiences. The man said, “I have no one to help me into the pool. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (John 5:7, NIV)