Difference between faith and hope
The difference between faith and hope is the timing in which they happen. Hope is always “It’ll happen someday”. Faith is always now. Hope always looks to the future, but faith brings hope into present-tense reality.
This is why the writer of Hebrews said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
The writer of Hebrews said that faith brings substance to things hoped for. Another way of saying it is faith brings our hope into natural reality.
This is exactly why we don’t hope for salvation but put faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
If all we did is hope we would never get saved and that is because we would have never appropriated Jesus’ work on the cross to us personally. We would have always viewed our salvation as some day.
Imagine if you were listening to the Gospel for the first time.
You hear of the fact that you are in a fallen world because of some guy named Adam, and that you are a sinner, and because of this fact, you are heading to hell.
Now imagine hearing this for the first time and believing it. You would be hoping with all that is in you that there would be something that can happen to save you so that you could be free from sin and not go to hell.
But when the person finally shares with you that something did happen and His name is Jesus. That He died on the cross to pay for all of your sins and rose from the grave so that you can be set free.
And that this is a free gift and all you have to do receive it is turn away from your sin and put your faith in Jesus, you would be through the roof!
Because your hope turned into faith!
You see, before the answer (Jesus) came you couldn’t do anything. All you could do is hope, or even wish, for something to take place.
But when the Answer finally did come and told you exactly what you should do to receive this gift, you can now do something. You can now receive the free gift of salvation. You’re no longer hoping something happens but you are now believing that something has already happened!
The thing that you were hoping for has come into present-tense reality. This is what it means to bring substance to our hope.
Can you have faith without hope?
By definition, faith brings the things we hope for into substance, so for faith to operate apart from hope would be impossible.
To have faith for something we must first hope for it. Then once we have a firm hope on a promise from the word of God, we then release our faith in God to bring that hope into our present-tense reality.
This is the very definition of faith.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Faith is the substance, tangibility, or reality of what we hope for.
Now it’s important to understand that even though faith is the reality of our hope, faith and hope are not the same thing.
Many people use faith and hope interchangeably but they are not terms that should be used in replace of one another.
In fact, hope can often be contrary to faith. Hope has an important role to play in our life with God but it cannot replace the role of faith.
This is exactly why the Bible says that Abraham “believed against hope.”
“Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” (Romans 4:16-18)
Notice this passage says that Abraham “contrary to hope, in hope believed”.
Now how can you believe contrary to hope but then believe in hope at the same time?
Because there is a proper place for hope in our lives. If hope ever replaces the role of faith we will never get our answer and we will never see God’s promise come to pass. We must believe contrary to hope before we can believe in hope.
What does it mean to believe “contrary to hope”?
To believe contrary to hope means to understand that faith is always now. Faith never says, “I’ll have it sometime.” Faith always says “I’ll have it now”. It is the literal force that brings our hope into our present-tense reality.
This is exactly why God told Abram to switch his name to Abraham, which means “father of many nations” and He told him to do this before even had one child!
Now that’s faith!
Abraham believed God the moment He spoke to him. He didn’t wait for God to give him a child before he took on the name that God gave Him. He took on the name first, believing contrary to hope, that what God has said is so sure to happen that it in all practical senses it had already been done. (Related article: The Faith of the Centurion & How to have it).
This is true biblical faith and only true biblical faith manifests the promises of God.
What comes first faith or hope?
Hope comes before faith because faith simply brings hope into substance or into our reality. We must first hope for something if we are to have faith for it.
When we read a promise of God from His word faith rises up in us just as Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” [Related articles: What a Mustard seed of Faith Means (& How to Have it) and How to grow in Faith].
But how exactly does faith come?
Well, since faith is the “substance of things hoped for” the word of God first produces hope in us. It does this by opening our eyes to what God’s word actually says about a subject.
For example, a paralytic may be reading through the Bible and he comes to James 5:14 where it says,
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” (James 5:14-15).
And as our paralytic reads this he goes “oh my! It’s possible for me to walk again.”
Hope entered him. He just realized that he doesn’t have to sit in a chair for the rest of his life, but that he could actually be free from his affliction.
Our paralytic reads the passage again. “the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.”
Suddenly he realizes that he needs to call the elders so that they could pray the prayer of faith in the name of the Lord so he can walk again.
You see, true faith is not released until he acts on that passage of scripture.
He can have hope for his healing all day long but until he obeys the scripture, calls for the elders of the church, and lets them pray over him he will remain in hope and he’ll never step into faith, and therefore will never be healed.
(Unless of course another believer steps out on their own according to Mark 16:18 to see him healed).
How do I know this?
Because faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 2:26). He does not have faith unless he acts on the word of God.
So, in short, hope comes from the realization of the promise of God and faith begins when we decide to act on the promise to make it our reality.
[Related article: How to activate your faith (Step by Step)]
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