This question gets to the heart of the matter and thus more time was necessary here.
2) What is faith?
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen - Hebrews 11:1
First thing we notice is that the word "faith" is sandwiched between two present tense words (Now & is). This means that Bible faith operates in the here and now...the present tense. Many people mistakenly believe they are in faith when all along they are expecting something to happen in the future. Such people will have difficulty convincing God they are living by faith when all their so-called faith is somewhere out in the future. The future is always beyond the grasp of the present so we never have it now. Yet according to the Bible...faith is now...not future! This means a lot of people do not understand Bible faith and have confused it for something else. That something else is hope.
A few years ago some of us had hope that the White Sox would win the World Series - and they did. All the while they were playing in the post-season we had hope that they might win. But then when the final out occurred in the final game and the White Sox were world champions we stopped hoping as our hope had materialized. We had experienced the substance of what we hoped for and after we rejoiced for awhile we moved our hope to the next season. This is because hope is always future.
Too many people think they are in faith when they are really in hope. They may have strong hope and that hope may have anchored them...but because it is in the future it is not biblical faith...it is hope.
Look at the verse again: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for." Now faith is...not soon faith will become. Faith is always now. If it is not now then it is not faith.
In addition to being present tense we are even told what faith is...it is a substance of sorts. Now to understand this better we will go back to the original Greek word. The word translated substance is hupostatis. This Greek word is really the combination of two other Greek words. Without getting too wordy here we have one word that means "to stand" combined with another word that means "under." So together this is translated as substance or the nature of something or the assurance of something. In other words, it is the essential ingredients or underlying components that makes something real.
So then faith contains all the necessary ingredients to turn hope into a reality.
Faith takes hope out of the future and brings it into the here and now and in the process of doing so it gives it substance.
Sometimes people confuse Bible faith with its counterfeit metaphysical belief system. Some that cannot differentiate between the two end up viewing them as one and the same. This confusion keeps them and those they influence from learning about real faith.
This is a real shame as such a failure to differentiate the true from the false cripples the effectiveness of those that claim to be believers. It is kind of ironic that such people end up as doubting believers rather than believing believers.
It seems those that do not understand, will always criticize those that do. They often resort to name calling and bad-mouthing us and they claim to be God-fearing Bible-believing Christians! What a shame. They call us names like "Word of Faith" or "name-it-and-claim-it," and write books about how we are deceived and to avoid us. Though they avoid us like a plague, we forgive them and just keep on trucking for Jesus and keep on loving them.
Such people will be surprised when they get to heaven and meet the God that can only be pleased by faith. The Apostle Paul said that he too preached the "word of faith" (Romans 10:8). I'm fine being in the Word of Faith group with the apostle Paul.
Faith is more than a flowery bouquet of religious smelling roses...it has to have real substance to be real faith and that substance is the substance of things hope for. Faith is also the evidence of things not seen. Faith is supposed to be our evidence.
A lawyer understands that with sufficient evidence he will win his case. Evidence decides the matter. Insufficient evidence and the case will be dismissed. The understanding of the evidence determines the role that the evidence will play in the outcome.
For the Christian genuinely interested in pleasing God faith is supposed to be his evidence. Yet so many misunderstand the evidence faith provides because they are looking elsewhere for other evidence.
For example: In America most sick people view how they feel as their evidence...but biblically we are supposed to make faith the evidence. While we know this is a hard thing to do, for many it is not as hard as some make it out to be. For those genuinely interested in pleasing God we try to get them over into a place of making faith their evidence rather than their symptoms.
It is not that the symptoms are not real, it is rather than faith is supposed to be more real. For those successful at this - faith works. We always encourage people to go to the doctor if it is serious. For those with more concerns than faith the doctor is their best hope. For those in faith, the doctor can verify what you already know by faith to be true. And what a good report it would be to hear that he can't find the lump anymore or can't find the cancer anymore. Faith like this please God...it might confuse most of us...but God loves this stuff. I could tell you stories where a doctor couldn't find a lump he said was there just a few weeks earlier but you won't hear it on the news.
Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Some say they will believe it when they see it. This is out of order. We don't need faith to believe something after we see it. If you go to the doctor and he tells you that you no longer have cancer...you don't need faith to believe that...you already have the evidence of the doctor. Faith is the evidence of things not seen...faith is not necessary for the things that are seen.
Faith says "I have it now." If someone asks you to see "it" then the evidence you need to supply is your faith. Your faith must be the evidence you present and it must be convincing enough to win the case.