God is God. God created the universe and everything we know of. God did it through His word. God just said it and it happened. We don’t see God but we see what He created. He did it through His Son Jesus.
The fundamental fact [evidence] of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the [substance] firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors [witness], set them above the crowd. By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see. | Hebrews 11:1-3 (The Message Bible)
Faith is: substance, evidence, and witness. The word translated “substance” means literally “to stand under, to support.” Faith is to a Christian what a foundation is to a house: it gives confidence and assurance that he will stand. So you might say, “Faith is the confidence of things hoped for.” When a believer has faith, it is God’s way of giving him confidence and assurance that what is promised will be experienced.
The word evidence simply means “conviction.” This is the inward conviction from God that what He has promised, He will perform. The presence of God-given faith in one’s heart is conviction enough that He will keep His Word.
Witness (KJV, “obtained a good report”) is an important word. It occurs not only in verse 2, but twice in verse 4, once in verse 5, and once in verse 39. The summary in Hebrews 12:1 calls this list of men and women “so great a cloud of witnesses.” They are witnesses to us because God witnessed to them. In each example cited, God gave witness to that person’s faith. This witness was His divine approval on their lives and ministries.
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that faith is a very practical thing, in spite of what unbelievers, God-deniers and atheists say. Faith enables us to understand what God does.
Faith enables us to see what others cannot. As a result, faith enables us to do what others cannot do! People laughed at these great men and women when they stepped out by faith, but God was with them and enabled them to succeed to His glory. Dr. J. Oswald Sanders put it perfectly: “Faith enables the believing soul to treat the future as present and the invisible as seen.”