“Seeing is believing” is an idiom that we hear a lot. As defined by The Free Dictionary, it is “something that you say which means you can only believe that something surprising or strange is true if you see it yourself; e.g., “I’d never have imagined my parents could dance, but seeing is believing” (quote source here). And it is diametrically opposed to faith. Faith, as defined in Hebrews 11: 1, 6, is as follows:
Now faith is confidence
in what we hope for
and assurance about
what we do not see . . .
And without faith
it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him
must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those
who earnestly seek him.
Too often, we (the believers among us) don’t really believe what we cannot see or have not personally experienced, even though we may say otherwise. We may say we believe in God, but until some tragedy comes along to test that faith that we claim we have acquired, we may actually be believing in our own skills or paycheck or connections/contacts to get us by instead of God who operates way beyond anything we can see or do on our own, or accomplish on our own or with our connections. Way beyond . . . as in “out of the ballpark” beyond.
Hebrews 11 is filled with people who lived out their faith by believing in God and what He could (and can) do without seeing the results beforehand. That list includes Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. Regarding them and others, verses 13-16 state:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Doesn’t sound too much like our “Success ‘n More” model of Christianity in many corners of our society today; however, God’s requirements have never changed and they certainly don’t change regardless of the surrounding culture with all of its temptations and excesses. Faith goes way beyond the obvious. Way beyond . . . .
Charles Spurgeon writes:
One person may say, “I cannot see how simply trusting Christ and believing God’s witness of Him would save my soul.” To which I would reply, “My dear man, are you never to believe anything but what you can see, and how are you to see this thing till you have tried it? You must believe the gospel on the evidence of God, and not otherwise, or have faith in the record God has given concerning His Son—a faith that takes God at His word. Believe, then, on the Lord Jesus Christ and you have believed God to be true; refuse to trust in Jesus Christ, unless you get some other evidence beyond the witness of God, and you have practically said that God’s testimony is not enough—that is to say, you have made God a liar.”
But God is not a liar. Within Him is all truth and justice.
Faith has it’s beginning with belief in God through His Son, Jesus Christ. That is (and He is) the foundation stone. And without faith, it is, indeed, impossible to please God. And faith requires action–“doing” what God wants us to do without question, regardless of what it looks like to others. The action part of the doing in on us, but the actual “doing” is totally on God. For example, Moses didn’t part the Red Sea in his own power, but it was his belief that God would do it that exercised his faith and God did it through him. The same can be said of Noah, who for over 100 years built an ark before any rain had ever touched the earth, much to the laughter and mocking of his generation, yet it was because of his faith in God that he built it despite of all the odds and jeering of his surrounding culture, and he and his family were saved from the disaster that fell on the rest of the earth at that time.
Rahab is yet another of many examples in the Bible. She believed in the God of the Hebrews she had heard about through her association with other men, and when two Hebrews spies showed up at her doorstep, she exercised her faith (against the odds of her culture and possible imprisonment and death) and kept them safe when the men of the city came looking for them. As a result, when the city was destroyed through an act of God, she and her family escaped, and she eventually married one of the spies and became the mother of Boaz, who was the great grandfather of King David and is in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ.
We hear a lot about “coincidences” when a “remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection” takes place (quote source here), but in God’s economy, there are no such things as “coincidences.” Nothing happens by chance, and God uses everything–good and bad–to accomplish His purposes. As in the story of Job, whose life took a very sudden and tragic turn yet was used for his good in the end to bring about absolute and total dependence on God and His ways, we must remember that we have a powerful adversary at work in this world and in our own lives in ways we cannot imagine just as it was in the case of Job (see Job 1). It was not a question of what Job did wrong to bring about the tragedy that happened to him (as he had done nothing wrong). It was about bringing Job into total submission to the will of God, and his understanding of just how big and omnipotent God is, and how small he was in comparison (see Job 38-42). When Job realized this, he responded with the following words (Job 42:1-6):
Then Job replied to the Lord:
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
God uses the person who is humbled–not haughty, or prideful, or full of him or herself. In Job 32:1-2, we discover that Job was righteous in his own eyes and justified himself instead of God. It was not a question of whether or not Job did anything wrong in the beginning that caused his tragedy as from the information given to us he did not do anything wrong before tragedy struck, but he did have a problem with self-righteousness (see article on “Job, Self-Righteousness, and Humility” at this link). And God has His ways of bringing that to the attention of any of us who believe in Him but who try to justify ourselves instead of humbly submitting to God.
The Lord said to Job:
“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”
Then Job answered the Lord:
“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.”
It is an enormously humbling experience to be humbled by God. We often don’t even realize how self-righteous we have become because it is so easy to hide it behind a veil of false humility (a lot of “churchiness” is a part of this veil). We can even fool ourselves into believing we are humble when we are not, and this was the case with Job. He had not done anything wrong before tragedy struck him, but God sees the heart, and He knew what was in Job’s heart that even Job was not aware of. And it was not good and needed to be dealt with in ways only God knows how to bring about. The response, of course, was up to Job (and up to us, too), and Job offered the right response when he realized his grave error and humbled himself before God.
After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part . . . .
Once Job saw the truth about himself, he took the right path and humbled himself before God. In our world today and especially in America where we take pride in so much and often give the credit to others or ourselves instead of God, God is calling out to each of us to acknowledge Him and not to hide behind a self-righteousness of our own, no matter how “spiritual” it may look to others. God knows our heart, and he knows how to set in motion circumstances and events that must take place in order for us to be made aware of the fact that we have veered down the wrong path, no matter what we may look like or act like on the outside (e.g., pastor, lay person, missionary, Christian celebrity or successful business person, our careers, our families, etc., and all the other “trappings” in our society that point to us instead of to Him). We may go on for years without recognizing it for what it is, but just as suddenly as it happened to Job, circumstances can suddenly and dramatically change the course of our own lives in order to get our attention.
Nothing happens by chance. God is orchestrating our lives around His mission statement and timing as stated in 2 Peter 3:9-10:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
The door is still open for use to come to Him and repent of our self-righteous ways, but there will come a day when it will close forever. Second Corinthians 6:2 states:
For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
The last words of Jesus Christ stated in the New Testament are recorded in Revelation 22:12-21:
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
Let’s examine ourselves to make sure we are right before God . . . .
Now is the time of God’s favor . . .
Now is the time of salvation . . . .
YouTube Video: “God is God” by Steven Curtis Chapman: