An hour from now I may lose my life wrestling with an escaped bear. I know, it sounds unlikely (I’d win for starters), but bear with me in my point. As human beings we experience the now and can remember (to some degree) the past but we are always blind to the future. After all, the future is very resistant to prediction. The twists and turns of our lives make complex patterns that we can never fully follow, predict or anticipate. For Christians, as we deal with the ups and downs of life, we face an added layer of struggle which is the battle between sight and faith.
We all know this fight well. Something bad happens and sight, that is our immediate experience of the event, says: “I can see no good in this.” while faith quotes Romans 8 v 28 and says: “ALL THINGS FOR GOOD!” Faith being unnatural to us, we will by default place greater store on sight. It is an interesting condition: being limited finite creatures unable to see how the future will pan out, we place greater trust in our own limitations than we do in God. Oh the folly of unbelief!
For what we are prone to forgetting is that faith is always the wisest option, it presents to us the most accurate picture of what is going on, it presents to us certainty while sight presents to us mere predictions of uncertainty.
In the book of Hebrews faith is described in the following way: ““Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is a sure and certain thing! While sight is not so sure and most definitely not certain.
Perhaps an example would be good at this point. Remember the story of Joseph and how he ended up stuck in prison for a crime he did not commit. As he sits and stares at his prison walls for year after year then we can imagine what sight was saying to him:
“Now Joseph, look at those walls, pretty thick aren’t they? There’s no getting through them and no escape. The cupbearer has forgotten you, you’re going to be stuck here for the rest of your short and miserable life. No Joseph, God isn’t going to help you, he’s forgotten all about you! Where was he when your brothers talked about killing you? Where was he when you were wrongly imprisoned? Yes, you thought he was a God of justice but look at where you are! All your much vaulted faith has got you is a life spent wasting away in prison! So much for your silly dreams!”
We’ve had similar conversations with our sight before, trusting in sight invariably means not trusting in God. To invest our hope in what we think will happen means not hoping in what God has promised will happen. I’m sure we can agree that Joseph’s sight made some pertinent points, humanly speaking, Joseph was likely to rot in prison for the rest of his life. Such it is with us, our sight will present to us what seems to be reasonable, rational, logical arguments as to the most likely outcome. And it may well be right!
But, lest we forget, sight was proved wrong and faith was proved right in the case of Joseph. God had not forgotten, forsaken or neglected him. God was with him and continued to be with him and in his gracious providence Joseph became Prime Minister of Egypt. Sight could never foresee such an outcome. But faith places no limits on the power of God to rescue his people from their distresses!
Faith rests in the promise of God, not the vagaries of what we think is, might or could happen, but in the iron clad, rock certain, promises of a promise keeping God. How many promises has God ever broken? None! And he’s not going to start breaking them either.
When troubles come upon us then faith says: “All things for good.”; it says: “ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” (Hebrews 12v7) and it says: “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” (Lamentations 3 v 31 – 33). In other words, faith paints for us an accurate picture of what is happening and gives us hope for what will happen.
“For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5 v 7). Paul writes as he talks about looking forward to heaven, and the joys that await us there. And it is so true, when it comes to salvation then we know it is by faith alone. Not one of us has seen Jesus but by faith we trust that he died for us and in his promise that those who believe in him will have eternal life. The entire Christian walk rests on faith so why are we so quick to doubt? When bad times come how do we prevail through them but by the way we do anything in the Christian life, through faith?
Sight is nothing: the vain, probably inaccurate, imaginings of petty, finite, sinful creature. Faith is glorious, a gift from God, a gift that grants certainty in a uncertain world and hope where none has the right to exist. Faith takes our eyes and fixes them heavenwards, it fixed them on our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and on every promise in the treasure vault of God's word. Faith brings us joy in sorrow, hope in despair and comfort in trouble. Sight robs us of these things.
Even when sight is right in its predictions about the future it is still wrong. For faithless sight is blind to the sovereign hand of God and his control over all aspects of our lives. Let us say we predict the worst and the worst happens - we are still wrong! For God has not forgotten us, he has not forsaken us, he still hears our prayers, the gospel is still true, Christ is still risen, heaven is still our destination and God’s promises are still being kept.
Let us hold up the shield of faith against all the flaming darts of the Evil One. Let us hold it in front of us and face down our fears, worries and troubles for faith tells us what is certain, good and true: namely, of our great and glorious God who loves us with everlasting kindness!
There’s a beautiful hymn by John Wesley about looking by faith to heaven and the hope which such an act can grant us. Here it is in full:
Give me the wings of faith to rise
Within the veil, and see
The saints above, how great their joys,
How bright their glories be.
Once they were mourners here below,
And poured out cries and tears:
They wrestled hard, as we do now,
With sins, and doubts, and fears.
I ask them whence their victory came:
They, with united breath,
Ascribe their conquest to the Lamb,
Their triumph to his death.
They marked the footsteps that he trod,
His zeal inspired their breast;
And following their incarnate God,
Possess the promised rest.
Our glorious Leader claims our praise
For His own pattern given;
While the long cloud of witnesses
Show the same path to heaven.