Believing Is Seeing
We walk by faith, not by sight,2 Corinthians 5:7
In the middle of a beautiful description of heaven, Paul reminds us that our confidence in God’s promises must be the product of faith in His trustworthiness to fulfill His promises, not visual observation. When we enter the gates of heaven, our bodies will be transformed. The bodies we dwell in today will be destroyed. In their place, we’ll have strong, healthy, beautiful bodies (2 Corinthians 5: 1-8). The change will be so dramatic that we can hardly conceive it!
We have a taste, though, of the heaven to come. When we trust in Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our bodies. As we grow in our relationship with God, we give more attention to the Spirit’s presence is a down payment for the future and a guarantee that God’s promises will be fulfilled one day.
We live by our five senses in this world. Every attraction, every activity, and every meal comes through our God-given sensory organs. But spiritual life is different. It operates in the unseen realms and is based on faith, not feelings. It’s focused on God’s promises, not tangible things.
Spiritual growth comes as we pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s activity reminding us that God’s promises are true and that we can trust Him to do what He says He will do. Some of us are like Thomas, who said he wouldn’t believe unless he could touch Jesus’ wounds (John 20:24-25), but as we grow in our faith, we gradually become more aware of the presence of an unseen world that is just as real as what we can touch, taste, smell, hear, and see.
Sight is not faith neither is feeling faith; but believing when we neither see, hear, nor feel is faith, and everywhere the Bible tells us our salvation is to be by faith. Therefore we must believe before we feel and often against our feelings, if we would honor God by our faith.
Hannah Whitall Smith
Often we hear the expression, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” but that isn’t the way it works in the Kingdom of God. Like almost else, faith is upside down. As a matter of fact, the kingdom way is in most cases the exact opposite of what we find in the world.
For example, in the world we are told that it is the great people who are served by the lessor ones, but in the kingdom, Jesus said that those who are the greatest are those who serve others. In the world we are told to work hard to accumulate for ourselves, but in the kingdom, Jesus said it’s more blessed to give than to receive and those who choose to give will receive back “full measure, shaken down, and running over.” In the world we are told to return evil for evil, but Jesus said if they sue you for your coat, give them your garment, if they mistreat you, bless them, and if they strike you, turn the other cheek. In the world we are told that when we are forced to do a task, do it grudgingly and with minimal effort, but Jesus said that when we are forced to carry a burden one mile, carry it two. I think God has designed it this way so that we become more aware of our dependence upon Him and that He is our source.
We talk a lot about faith. We talk about our need to have faith and more faith. Many of us doubt that we have any faith, especially when we are facing adversity. We want to have faith-great faith and we strive to do so but often find ourselves falling short of the mark. We want to see the works of God and we want to experience His power, but often we fail to do so. We look at ourselves and wonder what’s wrong with us. We question our relationship with God and wonder if He’s holding our past or mistakes against us. Many times the devil will whisper that the reason we’re in adversity is because we’ve offended God in some way and He is punishing us. There are those who will say that we have sickness and disease and trouble because we have incurred the wrath of God.
I want to help us today believe so we can see the wondrous works of God. First of all, the Bible teaches us that God gives to each of us “the measure of faith.” And that measure is sufficient to help us believe and trust in God. In the same way God has given each of us muscles and those who exercise those muscles increase their strength, the faith He has given us becomes stronger the more we exercise it. And adversity is a great place to exercise our faith. To be sure, like the bodybuilder, we have to nourish our soul with spiritual food-prayer and the Word- for strength building burns calories. Strengthening muscles is a painful, tiring, and repetitive process and so is faith building.
Paul tells us in Ephesians that God even gives us the faith necessary to believe for our salvation ( by grace you are saved through faith, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God). So there we have it. We don’t have to search for faith or try to create faith, we just accept the gracious gift from God and then we use it. Every time we use our faith, it grows stronger.
Second of all, the Bible teaches us to grow our faith. The disciples came to Jesus one day after observing how the Holy Spirit was working through Him and made this request, “Lord, increase our faith.” That would be a good prayer for us to pray daily. The disciples also observed that the prayers of Jesus produced incredible results so they also asked Him to teach them to pray. Jude, in his little letter tells us that one way to build up our faith is by “praying in the Holy Ghost.” In other words, Jude is saying that we would be wise to invite the Holy Spirit to aid us in prayer.
Most of the things that God promises requires believing before seeing. The entire chapter of Hebrews 11 is given to defining faith and then providing examples of those who lived by faith. Living by faith is not a pie-in-the-sky thing. It is listening to God, trusting His words, and acting on those two things even when we don’t fully understand or know the outcome. Abraham heard from God to move and packed up and started on a journey. He placed Isaac on an altar of sacrifice trusting God to keep His promise of a son. Abraham and Sarah “hoped against hope” even though they both were long past childbearing. David trusted God when facing Goliath. And the writer of Hebrews continues with the stories of how faith brought success. We might stop there and conclude that faith always produces our desired outcome but the writer of Hebrews says that there were those of faith who suffered and yet in the midst of suffering still believed the promises and the goodness of God.
There is perhaps no better example of trust than the story of the three Hebrew children. As they stood before the king facing the fiery furnace, their carefully chosen words reflect what it means to have faith.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to answer you on this point. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up!”Daniel 3: 16-18Take a look again at their words:First they said confidently that they knew God was able to deliver them from the furnace. There seems to be in their minds the question of God’s abilities. That’s where we begin believing before seeing. We begin believing in the nature and character. We acknowledge that He is the Sovereign Lord over the universe and all that is in it. Jehoshaphat said it this way:“ Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord in front of the new courtyard, and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven? And do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand, there is no one able to take a stand against You.”2 Chronicles 20: 5-6The writer of Hebrews says:“But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.Hebrews 11:6
The second thing the Hebrew children said is they didn’t if God would deliver them. Now some may call that lack of faith or doubt. They will insist that we are confident God will act for us just as we wish. But the Hebrews took faith to the level of absolute trust. They said to the king that the outcome for their lives was completely in God’s hands and nothing the king did was going to change that. They declared that no matter what happened they would yield their hope and confidence in God. You see believing doesn’t require seeing but seeing requires believing.
Jehoshaphat said it much better than I could say it:
“O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless against this great multitude which is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”
2 Chronicles 20: 12
Let’s put it in plain language. We confess to God, ourselves, and others that what we are facing is beyond our abilities. “We are powerless against……”
Then let us say that even if we somehow had the power against the adversity, we have no clue as what to do. Truthfully that’s the issue most of the time. Life can come at us in such a way that it leaves us numb and confused. But just because we don’t know what to do ought not leave us in despair for when we turn it over to the Lord, we trust His wisdom and knowledge. If we will then listen we might just receive instructions from the Lord that will clear the way.
The final piece of believing is seeing hinges on where we place our attention. Jehoshaphat, even though he could probably hear the advancing armies chose to focus his attention on God. Someone said that faith is placing God beside the problem and then deciding which one is bigger. Jehoshaphat tells us that we are to keep our eyes on God and not let anything distract us from that. If we were to ask Peter he would confirm the truth of that. Scripture says that as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked over the waves in the storm. As soon as he began to focus on the storm, he begin to sink. Careful reading of the story tells us that once he cried out to Jesus and Jesus reached out His hand, he and Jesus walked back to the boat in the midst of the storm that was still raging.
You and I can experience the same things when we choose to believe that God is, that God can, and that God will. Once we begin to believe, God will confirm by helping us see. And as Paul said, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has in store.”
Just because we’ve never seen something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or can’t happen.
Dr. John Thompson