2 Corinthians 5:7
The apostle Paul boldly declares, “We (believers) walk by faith, not by sight.” The phrase “We walk” is in the indicative mood, which means it is a fact. According to Paul, how we walk is by faith. The concept of faith for many people is somewhat of an abstract concept. Therefore, before we go any further, let us try to get a better understanding of what faith is and how it works.
The writer of the book of Hebrews states, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (NIV). The clause “being sure” means to believe and “certain” means to trust without doubting. In essence, before we can have faith, we must believe. Belief is the seedling from which faith sprouts. As we see with our own eyes what we thought or what we were told actually is the case, our belief is confirmed. If we take it one-step further, each time we hope for something and we get what we hoped for, our belief is reinforced and we develop faith. Through this process, we move from being sure to being certain. Faith, then, is the result of belief that has been confirmed.
A mentor of mine put it this way; take a chair that you have never sat in before. Prior to setting on that chair, we believe that the chair will be able to support us. Once we have sat on the chair and it actually supported us, we got what we hoped for and the next time we think about sitting in that particular chair we are certain that it will support us. In fact, we do not hesitate because we have faith, from previously confirmed belief, that the chair will do the job.
OK, so now, what does Paul mean when he says, “We walk by faith.” Paul is by no means being flippant, but rather he is stating a fact of the Christian experience. Let us refer back to the writer of Hebrews. The two most important words in Hebrews 11:1, for me, are being sure and certain. To be sure means to believe and to be certain means to trust without doubting when we bring these ideas together, it would appear that Paul is saying, believer’s should walk by believing and trust without doubting. The next question is what should we believe and whom should we trust? It is clear that Paul was thinking of believing and trusting in someone bigger and greater than us. While it is important to believe and trust ourselves and our abilities, in the larger scheme of life there are too many variables that we cannot control. Since we have no idea what the future holds and life situations and circumstances change from one moment to the next, I believe Paul was referring to the one who oversees and superintends all of life – God.
To put this in perspective and help us to incorporate the principle of walking by faith into our daily living, we need to revisit scripture. There are two who the scriptures state “Walked with God” Noah and Enoch. The phrase “Walked with God,” means they agreed with God and allowed God to take the lead in their lives. Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together, except they agree?” The truth is we do not walk with people, at least not in close proximity, we do not agree with. David said in the opening line of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.” As we go through the labyrinth of life, Paul says, we are to walk by faith. With each step we take, we must believe God has us on course to reach our destination and when the road begins to twist and turn and we find ourselves changing direction we need to trust and depend on God our shepherd to lead and guide us. Walking by faith then is to walk with God trusting and believing that God will provide the direction for our lives.
Trusting what we see is a challenge, trusting what we do not see is an exponentially greater challenge. God recognizes that on our own we cannot build our faith. To help us God allows life to present us with opportunities to develop and grow our faith. Some of the opportunities God presents us with are things like trials, problems, pressures and tough circumstances. From God’s perspective these are opportunities to stretch, pull and develop our faith muscles. Muscles need work in order to develop, if we do not work our muscles they become weak and when we need to use them we are not able to summon the strength we need to match the demands of the situation. Faith is the same way. That is why, walking by faith is an exercise in building spiritual muscle. There are times when God has to custom make a problem to get our attention.
Jonah had a custom-made problem – it was not until it swallowed him up that God got his attention (Jonah 2:7, “When I lost all I once again turned my thoughts to God.”) Jeremiah had a custom-made problem – he became so despondent that he decided to give up on God until he realized that no matter how hard he tried he could not give up on the only source of hope he had – God.
Custom-made problems are designed to test us to see whether or not we will stay the course or succumb to the pressure and fall away. It is like working out and not seeing immediate results or changing our diet, but our condition does not immediately improve. The question is do we stay the course. Can we keep walking with God even when it seems like God is not there?
Consider Noah, God instructed Noah to build an ark in the middle of the desert where it had never rained before. God’s instructions to Noah were based on the premise that a flood was coming. Noah was a farmer, not a shipbuilder. Yet, God provided Noah with specific instructions on how to build the ark. Many scholars believe that between the time God informed Noah about the flood and Noah completed building the ark approximately 120 years passed. That is an exercise in faith building. How did God build Noah’s faith, God delayed sending the flood. Noah had to follow through on his assignment and wait on God to fulfill what God said He would do. God builds our faith and teaches us to exercise our faith muscles by putting us in positions where we have to trust God in the in-betweens. As we learn to trust God in the in-betweens, in between the recognition of a problem and its resolution, our faith grows greater and our faith muscles grow stronger.
We will know we have matured in the faith when we come to the place where we can say, God, while I feel uncomfortable and even unpleasant about what I am going through, I trust that however this situation works out it will be according to your will and I am OK with that – Thy will be done.
So far we have uncovered that walking by faith means walking with God and walking by faith is an exercise in building our spiritual muscles. Walking by faith is also a lifestyle. Hebrews 10:38 sums it up best, “The just shall live by faith.” How do we life by faith? We live by faith when we trust God in both the big and the small things. A lifestyle of faith is best realized during periods of hardship, trials and testing. It is during these times the substance of our faith emerges. As life presents challenges and difficulties believers who live by faith employ the principles of faith to get through difficult times.
1. Remember – Moses commanded the Nation of Israel prior to entering the Promised Land, “Remember the LORD thy God.” David prior to facing his giant, remembered and recounted the past victories God gave him. We must remember and recall past victories God has given us as well as remember and recall those times when God made a way when it seemed like there was no way.
2. Accept – When God forbid Moses, who spent 80 years of his life serving God, from entering the Promised Land. Moses was discouraged, dejected and probably depressed, but he got over it and accepted his fate. When Joseph was falsely accused and imprisoned he too was not a happy camper, but he accepted his situation and never lost hope. Just like we revel in good times, we must also accept that life will serve up some pain, sorrow and heartache as part of God’s will for us.
3. Never lose hope – No matter how bad things look, seem or we feel, when a believer assumes a lifestyle of faith – they cling to the hope that this thing will get better. They hold on to the belief that God will turn it around or work it out. If by chance it does not get better, God will make us better for enduring it and God will empower us to get through it.
Walking by faith is antithetical to everything we have been taught. I believe this is one of the reasons it can be so difficult to do and intellectually grasp. However, if we want to be pleasing to God and to experience the depths and fullness of God’s love, grace and mercy walking by faith is the only way to walk.
February 7, 2010