Of all the regularly appearing doubts in the human experience, one seems to surface a great deal of the time in the various conversations that I have with Christians about God, spirituality, and the choices that affect the ultimate outcomes of our lives.
And just what is that doubt? Well, to put it in the form of a question, here it is: What do you do when your eyes can’t see the promised good for which you wait?
An appropriate response to that question seems to me to be at the heart of what is essential for living a victorious Christian life. Come to think of it, that’s what faith really is, isn’t it? Faith is the continued grasping for that which God has promised us, trusting that it is there before us, though the mists of a thousand doubts hide it from view.
This is perhaps why God takes such pains in chronicling the lives of men and women over the span of a couple of thousand years who wrestled with that same perplexity.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrew 11:1-3 ESV).
Faith, therefore, is all about acknowledgement of the reality of that which is unseen even if we cannot empirically discern either the substance of what God says is, or the manner in which He causes it to be.
In other words, whether we’re using just the eyeballs God gave us, an electron microscope, or the Hubble Telescope, there still comes a limit to that which we can observe and the fact that our sight is limited does not nullify the reality of those things that exist beyond our sight!
In a similar way, God has created a spiritual reality that transcends our ability to observe it. There are some things that are very real, but are very invisible to our physical faculties. Not only that, but there are things that “are as good as real” but do not (yet) exist in our present time. Men and women who place their faith in Jesus Christ live in a reality that overarches all of time from before the beginning of creation in which a Sovereign God set all the Cosmos in motion to the end of time as we can see it. Will all of creation end in a collapsing universe that cannot overcome its own gravitational pull? Not hardly. The reality of God continues, unfolding new chapters and new experiences between Creator and Created Being that will continue beyond the burning out of our sun or any earthly cataclysm that we fear may overtake our globe.
How can we know this? Do we have “proof”? Yes, in a sense. The proof isn’t in improved technology. It isn’t in a live feed transmitted across the internet via MSNBC of footage from “the other side”.
The “proof” is in the assurance of those called by God who lived faithfully, trusting in God’s promises no matter what their circumstances may have screamed at them.
“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household…. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God…. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…. As it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:7a, 8-10, 13, 16 ESV).
The biggest problem with much of so-called Christianity today is our tendency to live for the here-and-now, sacrificing the “prepared city” of joyful fellowship with God for the “earthly dwelling” of comfort and self-sufficiency that we erect for ourselves today. Instead of investing in eternal things, we settle for the “sure” things of what our eyes can see now, the ideas and philosophies that superficially satisfy our selfishness, and the comforts and pleasures that immediately gratify us. If we today, continue to bank on only what we can see benefiting us right now, we will continue to be a weak and ineffectual people. But it does not need to be that way.
“By faith Isaac … By faith Jacob … By faith Joseph … By faith Moses … Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life” (from Hebrews 11:20-35 ESV).
These lived in such a profound power that their lives were not only changed but incredibly changed the world around them also. But what were these who are mentioned living for? Was it conquest? Was it justice? Was it safety? Was it comfort, pleasure or power? Nope. That’s the ironic thing about it. These “material benefits” were the fruit of eyes that weren’t looking at all upon their material circumstances or satisfied with material gain. They were fixed on the future yet before them that made all right whatever good or bad came their way in life.
“Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about… destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:36-40 ESV).
So back to the original question. What do you do when your eyes can’t see the promised good for which you wait? Whenever your eyes are distracted by what you have, what you don’t have, what others have, or what hurts or disappointments have afflicted your life, remember that you’re not living for the “here-and-now”; you’re living for something held in reserve for you. And as you release all of your everyday worries, grief, ambitions, pride, and fear to God, you’ll find that the reality that something better awaits you will suddenly begin to give you victory in the present. There is no one so free as he who is chained to Christ Jesus in the bonds of loving faith.
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at [email protected]