We are given tribulations so that God might show us His mercy and providence, and extend us grace that to any other person would be invisible in time of trouble.
By faith a Christian man or woman is able to see, even in the worst of distress, the many mercies of God. His trials are given him to cleanse him of pride and of sins, and to glorify God.
I am a business owner who attests to this mystery, that of living a life of ordinary Christian faith. In obtaining counsel last night in a phone call with Arthur J. Hirsch, “the Fiddle Man of Lawrence County” and devout, it came before us to consider God and our connection to Him.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1. This verse often baffles the reader.
What is “evidence of things not seen?”
Evidence is “any species of proof, or probative matter, legally presented at the trial of an issue, by the act of the parties and through the medium of witnesses, records, documents, concrete objects, etc., for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or jury as to their contention.” Black’s Law Dictionary 4th ed.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
When God enlivens a soul with the Holy Spirit and converts a man from an enemy into a son, He gives him faith — faith to believe the gospel, to believe in Christ, to have hope in this life and for eternity. This faith is a substance, the solid part, that is given us by God upon which we can rely.
The Holy Spirit gives us this holy material “inducing belief in the [mind],” as Black’s puts it.
Evidence brings people to Jesus
Consider those in the gospel record who were moved, on scant evidence, to approach the Lord Jesus.
➤ The man “full of leprosy” had heard tell of Jesus. Reports and oral testimony (evidence) of others led him on; when he “saw” Jesus, “he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean’” (Luke 5:12). After being healed, “the report went around concerning Him” (v. 14) — again, evidence. And great multitudes came together “to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.”
➤ When a “certain centurion *** heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him” to ask for healing of his servant. The centurion had heard parol evidence, and was induced to believe. Public report warranted personal action in favor of the servant, and Jesus says no Israelite had such great faith as that of this foreigner (Luke chapter 7.)
➤ The sinful woman “knew that Jesus sat at the table” of the Pharisee and wept under conviction of sin and poured her alabaster flask of oil on His feet. She knew more than his location that hour; she acted on evidence of His power as the Son of God to forgive sin. “Your faith has saved you,” the Lord tells her. “Go in peace” (Luke 7:50).
➤ The woman healed of the issue of blood “came from behind” and touched his garment, having faith that accrued in her breast based on evidence burbling all around her, news and information, probably oral testimony, about the Savior. “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke chapter 8).
And so with many instances in the gospels of people acting in faith on report of others, of accounts of Christ’s words and healings, so noised about that people came in crowds.
It is a maxim of law, “One eye witness is better than ten ear ones.” So said: “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it” (Luke 10:23, 24).
We have today documentary evidence of the Lord Jesus, His person, claims and ministry. It’s not just a stray document, but a library of 66 books compiled in the Bible. That plus histories and personal testimony inducing faith yesterday and today.
Evidence is “that which tends to produce conviction in the mind as to existence of a fact,” Black’s says, citing a case. Other cases tell more (cites omitted):
“Facts admitted upon trial of cause become ‘evidence.’” “Inference arising under doctrine of ‘res ipsa loquitur’ is evidence” (“speaks to the thing itself”). “Reasonable inferences drawn from affirmative facts proven are ‘evidence.’” “That which demonstrates, makes clear, or ascertains the truth of the very fact or point in issue, either on the one side or on the other.” “That which furnishes or tends to furnish proof. It is that which brings to the mind a just conviction of the truth or falsehood of any substantive proposition which is asserted or denied.”
Evidence is apart from rhetoric, verbiage, argument or assertion by a partisan in a dispute or his agent/attorney.
“That which is legally submitted to a jury, to enable them to decide upon the questions in dispute or issue, as pointed out by the pleadings, and distinguished from all comment and argument.”
Claiming God’s promises
Mr. Hirsch and I talk about tribulation in a long phone call tonight, and he is praying for my business — a commercial radio station — and that by God’s providence we will come through difficult times, as before.
I have a calling to be witnesses of the truths that arise from scripture that I hold dear. God has not taken my 7-year-old business this far to just dump us on the side of the street, or flush seven years of work “down the toilet,” as a business partner says.
Mr. Hirsch brings to mind the work of George Mueller, as described in Arthur T. Pierson’s biography. Mueller ran an orphanage entirely on donations, given to him without his asking. The orphans would sit at table, bow and pray, their plates bare and the pantry empty, the bank account at zero, confident with Mueller that God would provide. And God provided abundantly, continually, to this 1830s ministry based on faith alone.
I am claiming God’s promises to me personally in the parable of the minas in Luke 19. “So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’”
I am doing business, as it were, ’til the master comes. I am counting on His promises that, if He wills it, I will get the mina of the wicked servant who kept his mina in a handkerchief, and that as reward my enterprise will be given “authority over 10 cities.”
The promises of God are to be understood as general. God is not bound by us to do anything according to our will or expectations. His promises are not hydraulic or mechanical operations that sinners control. But they are claimable, reliable and real. While events are adverse or unexpected, we count on God’s blessings and His turning evil dealings among markets or enemies to the good for those who love Him.
On a precipice, standing an hour away from ruin or dissolution, as it were, we hope for God’s provident hand, and see it even if we are at the end of what we can do, even if we have to close up shop and change careers, perhaps to selling hotdogs or minding somebody’s store and no longer called to serve in an area of gift (writing, speaking, reporting).
God’s children are to thank Him not just in adversity, but for adversity.
And why? So that we can testify of His goodness, give testimony, give evidence written, parol, documentary, object-related, of His good government of the human race. The trials of business or of conflict are intended to be evidence about which we testify of Him, and induce others to believe in the Savior, and to live according to His word.
➤ “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” Psalm 50:15 .
➤ “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation” Psalm 91:14-16.
➤ “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” Mark 11:24.
➤ “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” James 1:2-4.
➤ “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” 1 John 5:14, 15 .