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

Never is the nature of misguided hope more evident than when an inconclusive affirmation of assurance of salvation is given. The exchange goes something like this, "Are you sure you are going to heaven when you die?" The respondent says, "I sure hope so, nobody really knows for sure." How sad when our verse says something far different!

In fact, "hope" in common parlance has lost its biblical mooring in western society. Children and parents have fond hopes of what Christmas will be like this year. Graduates envision their dreams of success with great hope. Brides plan weddings full of hope for nothing but sunshine ahead. Nations navigate the river of politics hoping to steer toward peaceful, better days and avoid the shifting sandbars of disaster. Dashed hope dies hard.

Within the realm of human experience this lack of spiritual certainty translates into many areas of life. Why keep your word as your bond if you are not sure that God can keep His? Why cultivate a strong relationship with God and a Christian testimony before a lost world if you are not sure what your standing is with Him? Why not get what you can get in the here and now if you have no guarantees of a hope-filled hereafter?

Many men peddle flawed substitutes of impossible hopes in place of the lasting hope found only in God. An unhealthy conception of real, lasting, eternal hope will lead to misguided hope in every aspect of life both for the individual and for the nation. Marriage, careers, business dealings, and new political landscapes begin with a wealth of hope that all too often is reduced to bitter dregs; hope boils away in the heat of the clash of wishful thinking and infidelity.

Does God declare a different form of hope after which all genuine hope in human experience ought to be modeled? Our text states emphatically, "Yes!" In fact, this hope that God alone can bestow is the one hope which corrects misplacement of all human hopes and comes with a promise of a beacon of hope when all visible hope is dashed.

Let’s see what God says. Hebrews 11 is a great discourse on faith and what it produces in ordinary men yielded to God. The chapter defines faith and its relationship to hope in the very first verse. Faith is trusting dependence upon the facts of God’s nature. Though faith is a very natural human behavior (turn the key, you expect the jalopy to start), it is only as effective as the object of the faith (the jalopy may not start, no matter how strong your faith). The entire chapter is filled with illustrations of the exploits of men and women whose object of their faith was the very Word of God backed up with the full force of His character and power.

This biblical faith is the "substance" (that which stands under, foundation, one’s property). In other words it is a firm grasp of faith on unseen fact and it is the ground on which one builds all hope. Plainly, the statement, "I hope so, no one can know for sure" does not resemble what God clearly states is genuine, saving hope.

This faith is further described as "evidence" (something that underlies visible conditions and guarantees future possession, a title deed). This is akin to a young woman sporting an engagement ring—it signifies a promise upon which she willingly invests all her hopes. Hope in God is never a "hope so" arrangement, He is always faithful, can never fail, and His promises are sure. Such hope built on biblical faith clinging to divine promises of Scripture is the true hope. It is the only hope which offers a refreshing haven in the storms of life and carries you through the gate of death into the hope of the saints, not because you earn it or deserve it, but because "He is faithful who promised."

Where is your verse of assurance of salvation located in the Bible upon which you place all your faith and hope? Have you dared to substitute some inferior object of faith assuring that your hopes will be dashed (the arm of flesh will fail you)? How does biblical hope subject all other hopes you have? Since His hope can never fail, what should you hazard for your Lord today? Trust and obey.