How many times have we heard Hebrews 11:1 recited as the definition of faith? "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." And how many times have our eyes glazed over as we heard it? No, it doesn't really make any sense to me either.
I highly recomment using Webster's 1828 Dictionary as a study help for the scriptures in English, and for anything from Joseph's time. It is a wonderful dictionary, and a valuable resource to figuring out language and phrasing that is now foreign to us.
A Useful Definition of Faith
So when I started studying the Lectures on Faith earlier this year, I spent sometime looking up several of the words used in Hebrews 11:1, and came up with my own rendition of this idea: Faith is the conviction we have that things we hope for actually exist or will happen. It is the witness or testimony we can give about things we know or suspect, even though we don't currently see them.