“Now faith is the substance (…) the evidence of things…”, Heb.11:1

Many years ago, a word of Jesus puzzled my heart. We read about it in Mark 9:23: “If you can believe…”. In other words, one must be able to believe. This puts us before a multitude of issues and questions, and I can’t mention them all here. Let’s stick to the fact that some can and some can’t believe; some should believe because God has spoken and some shouldn’t try to believe unless God has said something. One cannot ‘believe’ above what God has said and neither less than what He meant. However, it all amounts to the kind of heart one has, to be able to do what needs to be done or as one ought to do. The way things are done matters a lot to heaven. “On earth as it is done in heaven”. One may be able to do things that way or not. Doing and believing are strongly linked to one another.

One cannot deny the fact that there is a great deal of truth and of heart-truthfulness involved in genuine believing. We are not called to believe, but to believe in the truth. And no one is able to believe in the truth unless truthfulness of heart exists – or, at least, starts to exist. Sort seeks sort and truthfulness is able to believe in the truth. It accepts it and even desires after it. A liar’s heart believes lies. Many believe lies and it cannot be accounted as faith, even though they believe. Perhaps, they cannot believe truth or simply wish to believe according to their own pretensions driven by own motives or own powers. If so, they shall listen to false prophets and be one with their ideas, lies and ideals. Only vultures gather around a dead body. Sheep gather around green grass in the garden of God. “They went out from us because they were not of us”, 1 John 2:19.

Faith which does not rely upon a truthful evidence of what has been spoken by God cannot be held as faith. There must be substance in believing or it cannot be regarded as faith. We must be talking about a kind of faith that can cause us to become pleasant to God, not only by being able to trust and to believe accordingly, but by what that kind of faith is able to accomplish in the heart, it is, its genuine conversion and transformation. That faith must be able to turn someone into the kind whose heart pleases God continually from then on. Without faith, unless it is through faith, it is impossible to become pleasant to the Lord.

If the evidence is not there, doubting can be justified, or, at least, explained. If faith is not grounded upon genuine substance, if it is not substantiated in a genuine way by a word from God which is made alive, as well as by a compelling evidence worked by the Holy Spirit Himself, one should rather doubt, or, at least, sit still and wait. For what other reason would the Spirit assist us in prayer? Whatever is not evidence is not faith and “if it is not of faith, then it is sin”, Rom.14:23.

In the same way that someone may eat meat sacrificed to idols and be condemned because it is not done in faith, one may attempt to believe without substance. We cannot live by fleshly, unjustified faith. The flesh may take someone to believe without that testimony of the Spirit within. One may be driven to believe through the arm of the flesh the way one may be driven by impulse to eat sacrificed meat. The arm of the flesh (whether it is our own or someone else’s, or a preacher’s), its strength and its heart, may drive someone to jump over the wall to sit at the table of faith in an unworthy way. Let us remember that Jesus once spoke of someone who caught in the feast of the saints and had not the proper garment. “Friend, how did you come in here without having a wedding garment? (…) Bind him hand and foot and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness” Mat.22:12. Let us also remember that outer darkness is where it was said the hypocrites are thrown. They have the same portion because they are equally hypocritical. One cannot afford to believe unless it is lawful to do so. Faith must be fruit of the Spirit and not fruit of the flesh. The responsibility to believe steps in when worked by the Spirit of God; and the responsibility to shun it off when it is known to come from the flesh. To doubt when God has worked it or to doubt that it is fleshly when the arm of the flesh has been working it out, is equally sinful. However, one should calmly make sure and not panic towards one direction or another, since there are weapons of light to assist us anywhere, anytime towards a heavenly goal or accomplishment. It is important to make sure and to have the heart conciliating itself with the Spirit’s moving – as long as it the Spirit indeed. By becoming one, the two may act and walk together as one.

There are general things which are lawful for anyone to believe at all times. Faith in God is justified because He indeed exists; all may believe God has created heaven and earth, because it is true; everyone must believe Jesus saves indeed from all sin because it is truly so; one may believe sin’s salary is death because it is indeed so. However, no one may afford to believe he is saved unless sin has lost its grip over him and unless the evidence of holiness is there – and it must be a holiness that comes from God, worked by Him through faith. If sin has not lost its grip, what is such a person saved from? Why should such a person believe he is saved? Saved from what? Holiness must be easy and must become a normal living. One must be able to live in all holiness as if he has never lived any other way before. Old things must have indeed passed away. The life and the walk must be there as evidence, not only to those outside, but to self. One must be and one must be doing in a way that pleases God whatever was impossible to be and to do before the way it ought to be done. It means, now, one can do as heaven does. The way is not restricted anymore. Whatever was a mirage or an impossibility has now become the attained normality. It has become the normal Christian life. As, before, grace was not found to be able to live that way, now, grace is heartily sought as if it were gold and evidently found to accomplish what God has meant for saved ones.

The main cause of doubt is a separation from God. If one is not separated from God and, even so, cannot believe honestly, then the object of belief is not coming from God. However, to be able to doubt lawfully in that sense, our relationship with God must be vivid, simple and easy. If Jesus is not our friend easily, He can easily be our opponent and enemy. When a relationship with God is troublesome, uncomfortable or uneasy, we must know that even the good that God has spoken might not be fulfilled. “And the instant (in that instant) I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build it and to plant it; if it does evil in My sight, not to obey My voice, then I will repent of the good with which I said I would do them good”, Jer.18:9,10. And if God has spoken evil against us and, in that instant, our relationship with Him becomes easy, bountiful, beautiful and constant (after He has spoken), the evil that has been promised shall never be fulfilled. Nineveh was not destroyed after Jonah spoke against it. It was kept for a hundred years more and had they remained holy, I believe they would still exist today.

So, we must be aware that there are instances where faith must be exercised without the slightest feigning – because it is now possible to do so - and there are circumstances under which one may believe amiss or in unlawful ways, or by using unacceptable means and weapons, even though many take it as believing. However, even when I am able to believe amiss, I am still responsible for the circumstances I am found and which lead me to do so. I am to blame for not being able to believe as I should or when I should. If someone is able to believe the wrong thing, he is unable to believe God concerning the right things; if someone is able to believe God about the right thing at the wrong time, one must still be reconciled with God and His timing. If our timing is wrong, we have either not prepared or not waited patiently. And all those who can ‘anticipate’ things in a fleshly manner, can and shall, also, be able to delay them. Whether it is anticipated or delayed, it doesn’t matter to the devil since all that matters to him is that God’s timing is missed or misplaced. The devil still has something in the heart that he is able to influence. “For the ruler of this world comes, and he has nothing in Me”, John 14:30.

The person who exercises faith which lacks on evidence or on substance – and which, consequently, does not bear fruit – is to blame for his state of heart and circumstances. Faith has conditions that must be met. If faith is part of the fruit of the Spirit, it means one must have a kind of relationship with God which is real and unstained. The moment that relationship is darkened or harmed by some sin, a storm of doubts concerning the right things flood the heart. Then, that heart might be divided from then on in a fight between believing and not believing. It shall feel guilty because it cannot believe as before while, at the same time, honesty might be driving him to believe he shall not receive. That declining situation shall deteriorate until the committed sin is fully exposed and permanently dealt with. Perhaps, this is why James says, “For do not let that man think that he shall receive anything from the Lord”. It is important to assume one shall not receive under such circumstances. It seems James wishes to say one should not allow such a person to think he shall receive because he might think he shall. The lack of substance brings shipwreck in the faith and that shipwrecking might be a collateral consequence which, on its turn, relieves God from fulfilling the promises He has made. It is important, therefore, to keep a good conscience inside an honest heart. “…Holding faith and a good conscience, which some have put away and made shipwreck as to faith”, 1Tim.1:19. Paul is speaking, here, about many who, after having shipwrecked in the faith, carried on preaching and believing without evidence and without substance.

Let us have in mind that this kind of substance is not feeling – it is an undeniable evidence of substance. Feeling might be what a false faith holds on to or provokes in order to quench the guilt of not being able to believe and to avoid facing the remorse for the losses of selfishness which are felt deeply. Remorse feels sorry for the loss of the reward and not for having lost the Lord. It is after the reward and not after the Lord.

Were there no substance or evidence in real faith, then trials would be useless. Why would faith need to go through trials of counteracting ‘evidence’ and cause the truth to be unseen or invisible to the eye of the flesh? Isn’t it because there is no need of visible proof when the evidence testimony is stronger than what can be seen? It means that what the heart receives from above is evidence far more convincing which carries more substance than whatever any trial contradict. “…A sign spoken against (…) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed”, Lk.2:34,35. In trials, whatever is substance in the heart shall come out and be revealed and shall hold the heart fast and close to the truthful testimony of God. The testimony of the Holy Spirit shall stand out to the one who is tried. The heart that is able to believe the right way or to exercise the right kind of faith is always carried to believe when it sees nothing happening and even when it is tried to the uttermost. It lives only by the inner testimony of the Spirit in the heart. It is able to do so because that kind of testimony stands out. Trials are meant to have that evidence and substance surpass all other testimonies and stand out above all other counteracting ‘evidences’. The heart must be able to live by it only. And no one is able to feign faith once it is tried indeed. It knows it can’t rely on what it sees or doesn’t see, but on what it has. “Oh Lord, You are stronger than I, and You have prevailed (…) Then I said, I will not mention Him, nor speak in His name any more. But His Word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with holding in, and I could not stop”, Jer.20:7. If faith is not fruit of a real relationship with God, then, it might not be faith at all.

When John mentions the fact that “we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him”; or that “we know that He hears us”; or that “we know that we are of God”; or that “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not continue to sin”; or that “we know that the Son of God has come” (1John 5:15-19); he means that there is a great conviction which comes from God and keeps the heart settled in that undeniable certainty and in the confirmation that it is truly so – an evidence that the heart is unable to deny. That testimony should, then, become the testimony of the mouth. Any other kind of testimony of the mouth should be doubted or not taken seriously. And if it is not believed that way in the heart, why should it be spoken by the mouth?

Unless the testimony is there, how can someone dare to believe as is said in Mark 11:24, “whatever you ask, praying, believe that you shall receive them, and it will be to you”? Let us take Peter as an example: he walked every day past a man who, for many years, was put in front of the temple day in and day out. We have reason to believe that even Jesus saw him there a few times because the lame man was forty years old and was put there every day. He had never been healed, not by Jesus and nor by Peter or any other of the apostles. But, on a certain day, Peter turned to Him and said, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Acts 3:6. Peter was so sure about it that, when the man hesitated, he decided to grab his hand to pull him up. Why did that happen only that day and not before? Didn’t Peter see him all those days before when he went to the temple to pray and to deal out the word of God? Or was it because Peter, after Pentecost, ceased to be someone whose time was always ready and right for anything and was reconciled with the timing and the leading of his Lord and Saviour? (John 7:6) Why was that faith there that day and not in the days before? Wasn’t it because he had been led to do it that day? That day, the genuine, unmistakable, undeterred testimony and evidence was there, in him. He obeyed it without hesitating and not even the hesitation of the crippled man caused him to waver or hesitate himself. The evidence in him was strong, undeniable and reliable enough to lift up the puzzled man from the ground. It was “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, (…) according to His own will”, Heb.2:.4.

Do you have that kind of testimony in you? Is there evidence in your faith, even when you don’t see a thing backing up what you believe? Is the inner evidence stronger than what your eyes are able to testify? Is your faith made of real evidence within of what is not seen outside? Is it stronger than you? Does it prevail over you? Can it cause you to believe even against hope because God has spoken? Is your relationship with God so clean that eternal life - constant life which has no ups and downs - from within is able to cause you to believe that way? “He who believes has eternal life in him”, John 3:36. From this statement, it seems Jesus says eternal life comes first and faith as its consequence. The egg comes from the chicken. Make sure abundant life is overflowing from your heart and that your words, faith and actions are what overflow from it. Life is genuinely responsible for faith, whether for faith in general terms or faith for certain specific occasions appointed by God in the course of a walk. “But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk”; “But the one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing separately to each one as He desires”, 1Cor.7:17; 12:11. Isn’t it God who works all according to His good pleasure? Why would those works be called the “works of God” if they were not His works at His time and through His power by a man appointed by Him? God appoints the man, the means, and the work that needs to be performed at a specified time. “…Good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them”, Eph.2:10. God’s miracles are pre-ordained and they find us. Let everyone walk as God gives and not as he wishes to do.

I agree with the fact that our members (mouth, actions, words, ways, habits and whatever else we learned to be) are, often, a hindrance to the overflowing of that life which already exists within. This is where sanctification comes in: all we are must be changed to the point of becoming new and levelled with the certainties of the heart. But, let the inner testimony be there and let all start there – in God and, then, in the heart. Before a holy work is performed, there must be a holy vessel; before a holy word, there must be a transformed heart – and that word must be given. May God bless you. Amen.

José Mateus

08 Jan 2015

Back to messages-index

José Mateus